Erin's Journals

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Just a thought… Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely. [Agatha Christie]

As always, you can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube. 

Once in a while, you read a piece that sticks with you for a long time. When that happens, I’m lucky enough to be able to share it with you here and then, if you want more information, link to it.

These days we are inundated with conspiracy theories. Some of them are just plain wacko and lately, most of it is of a medical, shall we say, “bent.”

I’ve been ignoring the anti-vaxx, anti-mask stuff spread far and wide, most often by suspicious sources that I personally happen to think come from Russia in its interests to divide and conquer.

See, that’s my conspiracy theory: that Russia DID tamper with the 2016 US election, owned the “useful idiot” (a Russian term, not mine) they put in office and have continued to try to upset the world order to get to where we are today. “To insanity…and beyond,” with apologies to Buzz Lightyear.

Now, where was I?

See, I know how delusional that all sounds, even if I do believe it in my soul and it was backed up by Trump asking Putin for help in a TV interview Tuesday, and further backed up by a Newsweek story about a Russian TV host who suggested Russian citizens “call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. early, and to again help our partner, Trump, to become president.”

In my mind, the key word in that sentence is “again.” But I don’t stand up and scream my theory because I don’t want people sending me foil for a new Easter bonnet. But let’s talk about conspiracy theories.

David Hundsness holds a BA in Psychology from University of California and he’s posted some thoughts and video on why people get sucked into conspiracy theories – particularly about elections, Covid, the vaccine and so on.

Hundsness boils it down to 4 things that make believers of inane stories: lack of information, anxiety, following an in-group, and ego.

First, lack of information which to me can be explained in two parts: the first of which means to me lower levels of education, which not only informs us of facts (history, science and so forth) but which can also contribute to critical thinking skills. Asking good questions, listening to the answers from people who actually know them and being able to tell the difference between fact and opinion.

Next, anxiety is something we’ve all felt in the past two years and so we seek answers and darn it, Siri/ Google, we want them now! Again, you have people who are more than happy to fill that blank space, thus offering a sense of direction, even it’s to Conspiracy Town. But when those opinions are accepted by some as fact, we see where that gets us. Arguing with your uncle who just knows better. Just asking questions is all….

Three, wanting to follow your in-group, which may explain haters spreading the word on social media that our PM’s dad is actually Fidel Castro, Michelle Obama is a man, Hillary Clinton ran a child trafficking ring out of a pizza place and other such utter trash. There’s the in-group of breeding too, I’ll add: people born into a place, a family or a religion where one political party was always the one that got their votes, no matter what the other, sometimes better, options were. I was born into one of those families. Maybe you were, too.

Finally, fourth – and David Hundsness emphasizes this as the biggest reason for believing conspiracy theories – ego. When people finally begin to realize that the cause they dedicated time (or worse, money) to, which brought irrevocable harm to them and their loved ones; when it all becomes clear that their beliefs were wrong, how much courage does it take to walk back those beliefs? I mean, we’ve heard stories of dying patients still saying Covid is a hoax. Man, that is one strong ego. But I can’t be wrong! My friends on Fox said so!

Ego also steps in when people who feel inferior about their education think they know something the rest of us don’t, then they are actually smarter, right? The fringe doctors who want to make a name for themselves defend crackpot theories. And most often it takes literally 30 seconds to research that the doctor isn’t quite who he or she is touted to be.

So when people finally do see the light, provided it’s not walking towards the white one, how are we to help them? Patience. Gentle repetition. And never an “I told you so.”

As the sixth wave of the Covid variant we’ve been watching in Europe makes itself felt now in Canada, I’m quite comfortable trusting people who have earned it, not with votes or telling us what we want to hear, but with experience. With science. With caution and – most importantly of all – with facts.

Have a good first weekend of April – Rob and I are going away for a few days, but if weather and internet allow, I’ll shoot one outside near the ocean and see you here on Monday!

Rob WhiteheadThursday, March 31, 2022