Posts tagged conspiracy

washingtonpost.com
"Even if recounts and/or continued vote tallies somehow managed to overturn Biden’s lead in these states and give them to Trump, the president would still be below 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. Biden would still be the winner. That’s why all major news organizations declared him so Saturday."
Our current authoritarian dumpster fire is a systemic Republican party problem, not a problem with particular individual Republicans. If it wasn't clear already the entire party is currently working hard to cement baseless election conspiracy theories in their followers. Calling it curious is a curious word choice.
NBC News
"The new rules, an expansion of YouTube’s existing hate and harassment policies, will prohibit content that “threatens or harrasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate,” the post read."
Never too late to do the right thing. I do wish services had consequences for spreading so much misinformation and harassment for years.
NBC News
“We have to think about the QAnon networks as the rails upon which misinformation is driven,” said Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. Like Casey Newton, it does make me wonder why now?
Gimlet Media
When you hear who Q of the conspiracy theory really is it kind of kills the mystique and makes the whole thing seem silly. PJ Vogt does some nice work here going to the origins of the mass delusion in the darker corners of the Internet.
kottke.org
Jason connects conspiracy thinking with Hannah Arendt and it is depressing.
If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.
I have to hope that some strain of American skepticism still exists somewhere but it definitely feels like it's fading in the face of social media peer groups.
TIME
"The rise in conspiratorial thinking is the product of several interrelated trends: declining trust in institutions; demise of local news; a social-media environment that makes rumor easy to spread and difficult to debunk; a President who latches onto anything and anyone he thinks will help his political fortunes."
Saying that conspiracy believers are inoculated from new information is a terrifying way to put it. But yeah, it’s a cult.

Conspiracy Thinking as Corrupted Play

I hesitate to mention conspiracy theories at all because while I think they can be entertaining to turn over in your mind they're ultimately not a rewarding way to spend your mental energy. What if humans didn't land on the moon? is a neat party trick once but you can't build a movement on it because it doesn't hold up with any scrutiny. (By the way, check out the fantastic three-episode Our Fake History podcast on this topic: Why Deny the Moon Landings?)

If you haven't been following the big consipracy theory of our day, I don't blame you. There's a good primer in The Atlantic: American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. I think it's good to be aware of it because it's starting to affect our politics and creep into our culture. You can't help but encounter these theories on social media. And unlike moon landing denial or flat-earthers, these theories have become a dangerous world view and belief system for many of the people who are snared.

One useful angle I've seen for thinking about these all-encompassing conspiracies is comparing them with alternate reality games. ARG designers Adrian Hon and Dan Hon both had great articles expanding on this connection: What ARGs Can Teach Us About QAnon and QAnon looks like an alternate reality game. I think looking at the history of ARGs can help us make predictions about how current conspiracy behavior will unfold. I especially liked this idea Jon Glover mentioned of corrupted play that describes losing the frame:
Role play is contingent on navigating between real and imagined worlds, which affords opportunities for allegorical thinking, exploration of alternate identities and universes, and creative problem solving. But when this boundary collapses, we have what Joseph Laycock calls “corrupted play,” a term that helps explain dark or weaponized ARGs.
Corrupted play describes both the appeal and danger of conspiracy thinking. The appeal is all of the good pieces of play that we need but twisting it by losing the fact that it is play at all. Here's the article by Glover: This Is Not a Game.

Another post that gave me a lot to think about this topic was Mike Hoye's Connections. He saw conspiracy thinking as similar to occult thinking and summarized C. S. Lewis' view of its ultimate futility:
Lewis saw occultism as a sort of psychological snare, a set of endlessly self-referential symbols of symbols of symbols with no ultimate referent, a bottomless semiotic rathole for the overcurious inquirer designed to perpetually confuse and distract the mind.
In computer terms, this reminds me of a Honeypot:
Generally, a honeypot consists of data (for example, in a network site) that appears to be a legitimate part of the site that seems to contain information or a resource of value to attackers, but actually, is isolated and monitored and, enables blocking or analyzing the attackers.
However, unlike a script that's trapped in a loop gathering bogus data, conspiracy adherents take their collected data and act in the world.