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“Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread

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Conspiratorial videos and websites about COVID-19 are going viral. Here’s how one of the authors of “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook” says you can fight back. One big takeaway: Focus your efforts on people who can hear evidence and think rationally.

I recently wrote about the viral video “Plandemic”as an investigative reporter assessing the range of unsubstantiated COVID-19 allegations put forth by a controversial researcher. Lewandowsky comes at the video and others like it from a science-based perspective. He is one of the authors of “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook,” which explains the traits of conspiratorial thinking.

What’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 U.S., 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 areburning 5G cell towersbecause 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?

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.

Are you aware of any cases where the conspiracy theorists turned out to be right?

There are tens of thousands of conspiracy theories out there, so I haven’t checked them all. But if you look at actual conspiracies, Volkswagen, Iran-contra, Watergate — the real conspiracies — they were uncovered by conventional cognition. There weren’t people there who took the absence of evidence to be evidence for the theory, or who reinterpreted contrary evidence to somehow support their theory. I’m not aware of any conspiracy theorists discovering something where they turn out to be correct.

Source: ProPublica

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Behind the Lofty SDGs the Reality is People Don’t Trust Governments to Act

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Behind the Lofty SDGs the Reality is People Don’t Trust Governments to Act

By Andrew Cave, Driving Change

Michael Sani is a fervent believer in people casting transformative power with their votes. As chief executive of Bite the Ballot, a program supporting the U.K. Cabinet Office to increase voter registration, he partnered with Starbucks to create “DeCafe” debates, re-invigorating the spirit of the 17th Century coffee shop to inspire participation in elections.

 

The social entrepreneur later took this initiative to France and Colombia to support political engagement in elections and saw its methodology inspire the African Prisons Project, which held events in prisons with key social justice stakeholders.

 

Now CEO of Play Verto, which he says takes a “holistic approach” to accelerating and magnifying social impact through data-led decision-making, Sani’s new target is nothing less than generating the people power to help change the world.

 

The British-born, Egypt-based former business studies teacher recently unveiled The People’s Report, a global poll enabling 17,000 people speaking 43 different languages on the front lines of climate change to submit de-facto annual returns on how it is affecting their daily lives. The aim is for this exercise to act as a flash scorecard on progress toward achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

 

Emanating from discussions in 2019 with Catalyst 2030, a social entrepreneurship policy initiative, and run on a shoestring with a tiny staff reliant on volunteers and funded by friends and supporters, The People’s Report also wants its data to be used to formulate future policies.

 

“Social entrepreneurs want to collaborate in order to achieve the SDGs” says Sani, “but there are many different social entrepreneurs working towards the SDGs in silos across the different thematic areas.

 

“They have the same goals, but collaboration is hard to come by and what often happens is that there’s not enough funding or resources and you end up competing against those you should be working with because of the way the ecosystem has been put together.

 

“A lot of social entrepreneurs are therefore just surviving, rather than thriving, and that’s the piece of the jigsaw that most fascinates me: how do we shift the sector from survive mode and thrive.”

 

A collaboration between Catalyst 2030, the Social Progress Imperative and Play Verto, The People’s Report’s aim is to measure the reality of peoples’ lives in relation to the SDGs. Eleven questions were posed to ordinary people accessed through the partners’ networks. Eleven questions were posed to ordinary people accessed through the networks of Catalyst 2030 and other initiatives including the Social Progress Index.

 

 

 

 

They were answered by people on the world’s front lines: from the townships of South Africa, sex workers in India, Syrians in refugee camps, truck drivers in Australia, rose growers in Bogota, and office workers in Japan.

 

The inaugural survey found nearly two-thirds of respondents stating that they are experiencing the direct effects of climate change in their daily lives. Some 50% said they cannot trust their governmental leaders to address the issue. Asked whether they would choose to raise children in their communities in the current worsening environment, 34% of respondents replied in the negative.

 

The poll found that 34% of respondents under the age of 51 reported worsening mental health since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread evidence that they are living in the climate emergency, with 79% of respondents in the Indian subcontinent and 63% overall saying they had personally witnessed biodiversity loss.

 

The reality of hunger was also evident, with Africa (32%) and the Indian subcontinent (24%) reporting the highest levels, but 15% of North Americans and 14% of Europeans also saying they go to bed hungry. The impact of COVID-19 was clearly seen as 43% of respondents saying they had lost their income.

 

Lack of trust in governments emerged as a real problem, with 57% citing this in the Middle East and North Africa and one-third of all respondents stating that different views were not respected in their communities.

 

Finally, the survey identified a genuine fear for the future, with 42% of people in the Middle East and North Africa expressing little confidence in the future.

 

Sani and his partners are now planning much bigger Peoples Reports over the remaining eight years until the UN’s deadline. “The call to arms was ‘What’s your story?’” he says.

 

“We wanted to get the realities of as many people as possible at a particular point in time, with the goal of taking that back to the UN. It’s not about pointing out where their data is wrong and our data is right, but just to offer up our ideas so we can all work together with fresh and vivid information.

 

“We’ve got nine years to achieve the SDGs and this is the state of our realities according to the people facing them. We hope it can help form a unified voice to help better shape strategies based on need and a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not.

 

“If we’re going to set forth such an ambitious plan as achieving the SDGs, we really need to have our finger on the pulse. Now we have the data to take this forward.”

Source: Driving Change

Andrew Cave

Andrew Cave is a British business journalist who has written for The Daily Telegraph for 24 years in London and New York, rising to be Associate City Editor before switching to freelance writing in 2005. He also penned columns for Forbes Magazine for six years and has written five books on leadership and management.

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Lies Kill

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YouTube has decided to take down video channels associated with some of the key anti-vaccine activists on the Internet, people like Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr and Erin Elizabeth Finn.

This pits two core American values against each other. It pits freedom of speech against saving human lives.

By Howard Bloom

YouTube has decided to take down video channels associated with some of the key anti-vaccine activists on the Internet, people like Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr and Erin Elizabeth Finn.

This pits two core American values against each other. It pits freedom of speech against saving human lives.

Why the YouTube censorship? Just 12 people generate 65% of the anti-vaccine shares on YouTube. And anti-vaccine beliefs can kill you.

As of October 2, 701,000 Americans have died of covid. That’s more than the total number of Americans who died in all the wars of the 20th century combined. Almost all of those who died were unvaccinated.

Meanwhile Joseph Mercola, according to the New York Times, “has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines.” But Mercola is not an unbiased source of information. He has earned over $100 million selling natural health remedies he says can allow you to “take control of your health”.

Actually YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook started to police covid disinformation at the beginning of the pandemic a year and a half ago. At the end of September YouTube went beyond censorship of misinformation on covid vaccines to shut down misinformation on all vaccines. Including the claim that childhood vaccines cause autism.

At bottom this is something bigger than it seems. It is a battle of our entire society against the big lie. The idea of the big lie was invented by Adolph Hitler in the 1920s and developed as a tool by Hitler’s propaganda tsar Joseph Goebbels. The doctrine of the big lie says that if you invent a lie outlandish enough it will overwhelm your audience’s critical faculties and will trigger belief. Especially if you repeat it over and over again.

An example of the big lie is the original social media posting over a year ago claiming that Anthony Fauci was Bill Gates’ roommate at Cornell. Then, said the posting, Fauci became the first CEO of Moderna, one of the drug companies making a covid vaccine. The posting implied that Fauci stands to make millions from the vaccines.

But that’s not all. Said the posting, “It was at Cornell that Bill Gates designed the RFID (Radio-frequency identification) [chip] and patented it under US2006257852.” And, the posting claimed, Bill Gates is using the covid vaccine to implant his RFID microchips in you.

There was only one problem. None of these facts were true. Not a single one of them.

Bill Gates did not go to Cornell, he went to Harvard. Bill Gates could not have been a roommate of Anthony Fauci. Anthony Fauci left undergraduate school in 1962. Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975. The two men were 333 miles and over thirteen years apart.

What’s more, Anthony Fauci never worked at Moderna. Moderna was not founded until 2010. By then Dr. Fauci had been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 24 years.

Topping it all off, the patent number the posting gave for Bili Gates’ alleged RFID chip is not for RFID chips. It’s a chemical patent that “relates to nucleic acids and proteins from the SARS coronavirus.” And the patent was not issued to Bill Gates, it was issued to Jens P. Gregersen and David Chien.

In other words, this critical posting on which a massive conspiracy movement has been based was brilliantly written. Persuasively written. But every claim it made was a lie.

But, hey, freedom of speech means freedom to lie, doesn’t it? No, it means an obligation to give the closest approximation to truth you can muster.

Freedom of speech is central to democracy. It’s one of our checks and balances. One of our self-corrective mechanisms. One of the things that has allowed western civilization to produce material miracles like doubling the human lifetime in a mere 150 years, upping the average iq by 35 points in 100 years, and increasing peace in the world by a factor of ten in 350 years.

But the daily use of big lies in our politics can destroy freedom of speech. And it can poison our entire system of democracy.

What’s more, lies can kill. 3,418 Americans died of covid on September 16. That’s far more than died in our 20-year-long war in Afghanistan. Dying of covid in a single day.

A huge proportion of those who died believed that vaccines are filled with microchips. In other words, because of their beliefs, almost all of those who died were unvaccinated.

So which virus really killed them, the microbe or the virus of the big lie?

References:
https://www.npr.org/2021/05/13/996570855/disinformation-dozen-test-facebooks-twitters-ability-to-curb-vaccine-hoaxes

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/24/technology/joseph-mercola-coronavirus-misinformation-online.html,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/05/21/many-are-worried-about-the-return-of-the-big-lie-theyre-worried-about-the-wrong-thing/

Howard Bloom, The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism, Prometheus Books, 2009,

 

______
Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV. One of his seven books-Global Brain—was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American. He does news commentary at 1:06 am et every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM. For more, see howardbloom.institute.

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The “Myth” of Independence (When in Reality, We are Interdependent)

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The disastrous burden of exploitation and the plundering of ill-distributed wealth is a historical burden whose influence on backwardness, misery and neglect is an indisputable argument for rejecting the claims of independence and freedom of the ruling castes, who are primarily responsible for the shameful conditions in which the future of the peoples is plunged.

Without sustainable development for all, it is not valid to boast of independence.


The Tale of Independence

Claudia Aranda
(Image by Claudia Aranda)

Independence festivals celebrate the greatest myth in history.

The dates represent only a symbolic reference in the course of history, which is why the Independence festivities, celebrated in these days of September in some countries of the continent, should become a turning point; a turning point in the right direction and the beginning of a new era for the peoples who observe, with a mixture of envy and hope, the advances in other corners of the planet.

Latin America has suffered genocidal dictatorships, foreign invasions marked by economic and geopolitical interests, devaluation and annihilation of its millenary cultures, plundering of its natural wealth and constant intervention in its development plans by financial organisations controlled by the great world powers. However, the moral strength and the yearning for freedom of their peoples are the decisive resources for consolidating that real and concrete independence for which they all yearn.

The examples of economic, industrial and cultural development in some of our nations show how a potential value can become a tangible reality, provided that the political actions of their leaders are underpinned by a firm resolve to fight for their homeland. In this sense, the defense of and respect for the constitutional rule, the consolidation of the rule of law, the recognition of the intrinsic human and cultural values of their communities and the firm purpose of achieving Latin American unity, the only possible way to face the challenges of globalisation, are essential.

To boast of independence when our political castes are capable of negotiating the future of generations with entities whose interests are totally opposed to development – such as the World Bank – and subjected to the arbitrary conditions of powerful governments, focused on making the most of their institutional and political weaknesses, is an insult to intelligence. It is therefore imperative to update concepts and to understand that a country’s freedom to decide on its present and future is a pending issue throughout the third world.

The celebration of national independence has become established as a populist device and needs to be thoroughly revised. Military parades, so typical of the image of strength and power imprinted in the collective imagination, are today one of the most serious offences against peoples who have experienced the cruel repression of military dictatorships, a dark shadow that stains the history of all our countries. Patriotic pride should not rest on weapons or violence, but on culture, traditions and unrestricted respect for human rights.

The disastrous burden of exploitation and the plundering of ill-distributed wealth is a historical burden whose influence on backwardness, misery and neglect is an indisputable argument for rejecting the claims of independence and freedom of the ruling castes, who are primarily responsible for the shameful conditions in which the future of the peoples is plunged.

Without sustainable development for all, it is not valid to boast of independence.

Source: Pressenza

Carolina Vásquez Araya

Journalist and editor with more than 30 years of experience, whose professional achievements in the development of highly successful projects endorse her qualities of leadership, creativity and public relations. She has contributed her knowledge in projects of organizations with interests oriented to the social, cultural and economic development of the country, with special emphasis on the sector of culture and education, entrepreneurship, human rights, justice, environment, women and children. She is Chilean in Guatemala. elquintopatio.wordpress.com

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Mobilized TV on Free Speech TV  takes a deep look at our world, the consequences of human activity on our planet, and how we can reverse and prevent existing and future crises from occurring. Mobilized reveals life on our planet as a system of systems which all work together for the optimal health of the whole. The show delves into deep conversations with change-makers so people can clearly take concerted actions.

Produced by Steven Jay and hosted by Jeff Van Treese.

Mobilized’s TV series Mobilized TV  premieres on Free Speech TV on Friday, October 15, 2021. All episodes appear:

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