There’s a lot of talk right now about Plandemic, a documentary that is spreading information that is not backed up by evidence. For every post I’ve seen on social media advocating for the documentary I’ve seen ten decrying those who share it as ‘dangerous’, ‘dumb’, or ‘crazy’. While I understand where this comes from, and I would never discourage anyone from expressing themselves – I can’t help but think that these champions of reason may not understand the harm they are doing, or they simply don’t care.
So I’m writing this series of blog posts just to get my thoughts out on the ways mainstream thinkers might be misconstruing conspiracy theorists and ultimately helping to perpetuate their worldview. In this part I’m going to define some terms and give my background that way we can all start on the same page in the next 2 parts.
I should probably explain where I’m coming from first. I consider myself a skeptic (that is to say a member of the Skeptical Movement) – I trust in reason, critical thinking and science and I also consider it to be intellectually bankrupt to dismiss an extraordinary claim out of hand. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and I believe it’s worth withholding judgement (or at least keeping an open mind) until the claims can be examined with a critical eye.
Conspiracy theories are a particular kind of extraordinary claim that centers around the idea that a group of people is responsible for something and you aren’t supposed to know about it. The Illuminati is a common conspiracy theory. So was project ECHELON. But they can also manifest in family drama, or office politics.
Fringe theories are extraordinary claims that differ from established points of view on a topic. Linking vaccines to autism is a common example. So was continental drift. But fringe theories also appear as out of the box business strategies, and they can even appear as solid science that is simply in the process of being vetted.
Personally, I think both of these concepts exist together in some capacity, that is, if one is present so is the other even if to a lesser extent.
I’ve always been fascinated by conspiracy theories, fringe theories and the paranormal. At various points in my life, mostly in high school, I dabbled in belief in these topics but only half-heartedly. I stayed in the various forums and subreddits long after I stopped buying into it, though. I find the entire culture incredible, I think the ideas are fun to engage with, and largely experience it as collaborative fiction that I get to watch unfold in real time.
It is difficult sometimes to read posts by members of these communities. Often their own hangups, shortcomings, and insecurities are very clearly influencing their points of view. It’s rare to get such an intimate peek into someone’s mind – in a lot of ways these communities are more open and willing to be vulnerable than other more “mainstream” communities.
These days I don’t visit the forums or subreddits anymore. Sometime in the 2010s the specific subreddits I enjoyed became overrun with misogyny and racism. While I still find the topics and most of the people fascinating, those are the sorts of views I find it hard to be around for too long. Nowadays I listen to podcasts, read blog posts, or dip into specific friends’ facebook feeds to catch up what the conspiracy theorists are up to.
I also listen to skeptic podcasts, and follow a number of skeptics on social media – I’ve found this to be an excellent way to keep up with the scene without having to invest as much time as I used to. And they tend to do a good job of weeding out the racism!
So there you have it. A bit of background to hopefully set the stage for this short series that – let’s face it, maybe 5 people are ever going to read!
See you next time!