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Started by SueC, March 24, 2020, 11:48:24
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QuoteWhat's the difference between a real conspiracy and a conspiracy theory?A real conspiracy actually exists, and it is usually uncovered by journalists, whistleblowers, document dumps from a corporation or government, or it's discovered by a government agency. The Volkswagen emissions scandal, for example, was discovered by conventional ways when some engineers discovered an anomaly in a report.It was all mundane -- normal people having normal observations based on data. They said, "Hang on, something's funny here," and then it unraveled. The same is true for the Iran-contra scandal. That broke via a newspaper in Lebanon. True conspiracies are often uncovered through the media. In Watergate, it was journalists not taking "no" for an answer.A conspiracy theory, on the other hand, is discussed at length on the internet by people who are not bona fide journalists or government officials or whistleblowers in an organization or investigative committees of regulators.They're completely independent sources, individuals who self-nominate and put themselves forward as being in possession of the truth. In principle, that could be true. But then if you look at the way these people think and talk and communicate, you discover their cognition is different from what I would call conventional cognition.What are some differences between conventional and conspiratorial thinking?You can start with healthy skepticism vs. overriding suspicion. As a scientist, I'm obviously skeptical. I'm questioning anything people say. I look at my own data and other people's data with a skeptical eye.But after skeptics have been skeptical, they are quite capable of accepting evidence. Once something has withstood scrutiny, you accept it. Otherwise you're in a state of complete nihilism and you can't believe anything.That crucial second step of acceptance is absent in conspiracy theorists. That is where conspiracy theorists are different. Their skepticism is a bottomless, never-ending pit of skepticism about anything related to the official account.And that skepticism is accompanied by extreme gullibility to anything related to the conspiracy. It's an imbalance between skepticism for anything an official may say and complete gullibility for something some random dude on the internet will tweet out. It's that imbalance that differentiates conspiracy thinking from standard cognition.Conspiracy thinking is immune to evidence. In the "Plandemic" video, the absence of evidence is twisted to be seen to be as evidence for the theory. They say the cover-up is so perfect that you will never find out about it. That's the opposite of rational thinking.Usually when you think of a hypothesis, you think of the evidence. And if there's zero evidence, you give it up or say there is no evidence for it.Conspiracy theorists may also simultaneously believe things that are contradictory. In the "Plandemic" video, for example, they say COVID-19 both came from a Wuhan lab and that we're all infected with the disease from vaccinations. They're making both claims, and they don't hang together.More generally, conspiracy theorists show this contradictory thinking by presenting themselves as both victims and heroes. They see themselves as these heroes in possession of the truth.But they also see themselves as victims. They feel they are being persecuted by this evil establishment or the deep state or whatever it is.Why do you think some conspiracy theories are so popular?Some people find comfort in resorting to a conspiracy theory whenever they have a sense of a loss of control or they're confronted with a major adverse event that no one has control over.So every time there's a mass shooting in the US, I can guarantee you ahead of time that there will be a conspiracy theory about it.So you would expect conspiracy theories related to the pandemic. That doesn't make them any less harmful. Here in the United Kingdom, people are burning 5G cell towers because of this extreme idea that 5G has something to do with causing COVID-19. More than 70 cell towers have gone up in flames because of this conspiracy theory.Is conspiracy thinking at an all time high?Historical records show that there were rampant conspiracy theories going on in the Middle Ages when the plague hit Europe. It was anti-Semitism at the time. That tends to be part and parcel of pandemics. People engage in conspiracies that involve some sort of "othering" of people.During previous pandemics, people chased doctors down the street because they thought they were responsible for the pandemic. In Europe, now a lot of antagonism is directed at Asians, because the pandemic started in China. The internet is helping the spread of conspiracy theories. It's much easier now than it was 30 years ago. But it's difficult to say we have more now.Are conservatives or liberals any more likely to engage in conspiracy thinking?There is a lot of research on this and political conspiracy theories tend to be most associated with extreme political views, on the right or the left. But if you quantify it, you frequently find more on the right than the left.How do we talk to the conspiracy theorists in our lives?It's extremely difficult. In terms of strategy, the best people to talk to are people who are not conspiracy theorists. The vast majority of people are grateful for the debunking and responsive to it. That should be your target of communication if you have a choice.The hardcore conspiracy theorists are unlikely to change their minds. They will take what you say and display considerable ingenuity in twisting it and using it against you. On Twitter, I block them immediately because I'm concerned about my ability to have a rational conversation and I don't want others to violate that right.How do we prevent the spread of conspiracy theories?By trying to inoculate the public against them. Telling the public ahead of time: Look, there are people who believe these conspiracy theories. They invent this stuff. When they invent it they exhibit these characteristics of misguided cognition.You can go through the traits we mention in our handbook, like incoherence, immunity to evidence, overriding suspicion and connecting random dots into a pattern. The best thing to do is tell the public how they can spot conspiracy theories and how they can protect themselves.
QuoteShelley's protagonist finds the meaning of life not in the whirlwind of the human-made world with its simulacra of living but in the simple creaturely presence with nature's ongoing symphony of life:"Let us... seek peace... near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies. Let us leave "life," that we may live."
Quote from: undefinedThree years ago, Kelvin Smith decided to do something quite unusual -- play a piano in the most spectacular outdoor settings he could think of.Mr Smith describes himself as a pianist who just does things differently.With his passion for nature, the 41-year-old thought Tasmania was the perfect venue for his quirky quest.Originally from Gippsland in Victoria, Mr Smith was one of 11 children and the rule in their house growing up was they had to start playing the piano at the age of 10 but could quit at any time.He took it up and loved it for a couple of years before exams and theory put him off for a considerable length of time. Mr Smith's favourite performance so far has been at Coningham Beach, south of Hobart, where the waves were almost touching his feet as he played to two surprised kayakers.The response has been phenomenally positive, with thousands of views and encouraging comments posted online.Despite the project starting before the spread of coronavirus, it has caught the imagination of the general public in these difficult times.At a recent performance at Rose Bay on a chilly May morning overlooking the River Derwent, local resident Vicky Lutterell was effusive about the spirit Mr Smith's piano project inspires.I think it's fantastic, I think we need something like this, particularly at this time when everybody is probably a lot more miserable than they normally are," she said.Mary Voss, another local, was equally full of praise, listening to Smith play in his now trademark formal attire."It's lovely, it's very uplifting," she said.With more than 20 performances under his belt, Mr Smith said he is keen to keep going and, like the artist Banksy, prefers to keep the mystery of his next location a secret until the day it happens -- partly so he doesn't draw too big a crowd and breach social distancing rules.The piano mysteriously appears and then disappears, and each time Mr Thomson brings his camera gear along."I just turn up and it's there and I don't ask any questions," he laughs.