These are all the pieces written for Webworm by therapist Paul Wilson
In addition to Webworm, one other thing I've found particularly helpful over the last couple of years is RNZ radio, in particular the Nine to Noon show with Kathryn Ryan, Saturday Morning with Kim Hill and Sunday Morning with Jim Mora.
Their interviews with actual epidemiologists, virologists and conspiracy theory researchers have been invaluable in helping me keep on top of everything that's been going on in the world and why people are prone to believing some crazy shit.
Although I've heard talk about Cognitive dissonance before, I've not really appreciated what it meant until I listened to this recent interview with Ed Coper:
To loosely quote Ed:
"The brain doesn't care if something is true or false. We think we're more rational than we actually are but the brain wants to fit all the information we see in the world into our existing world views, our existing identity and existing values.
And so when we see a piece of information we don't assess it for whether it's true or false, we go straight to the part where we file it under whether this reinforces something we think, or whether we reject it because it doesn't reinforce something we already think."
This really helped me understand why some highly intelligent and ordinarily rational people are able to fall down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes.
Also there was an amazing comment made by Bex on your last article on the Wellington riot that deserves a mention here:
"I truly think that the best thing we can do for our loved ones down the rabbit hole is not cut them off entirely. Because then they are completely at the mercy of the conspiracy grifters and alt-right crowd. They make "new friends" who "understand" (and fill their heads with more nonsense). I'm having some success with a friend who is very far down the rabbit hole by just engaging in "how are you" and then completely ignoring any conspiracy theory bullshit that comes up. If there's 3 paragraphs of conspiracy, I'll only reply to the part about how her kids are doing. She's actually started reaching out to me more for other things, and that means I'm maintaining a connection with her that she can use if she ever decides to come back from the VFF cult. It's so hard but holding the boundaries gently seems to be working."
I don't think this is something people can undertake lightly because it can be hard dealing with a wall of BS but it gives me hope for dealing with some of my own loved ones in a similar situation.
I have a cousin who has some fairly well-ensconced conspiracy views around Covid (China virus, plandemic, just another flu etc etc) and the vaccine (poison jab, killer needle, govt sanctioned mass murder). We don’t catch up as often as we once did, but when we do I’m always careful to remind her that her choice is her choice and while I made a different one, it shouldn’t dominate our conversations. I kind of minimise it for her, and remind her that there are literally a million other things tying us together. We are both mums, we share a wider whanau, we both get frustrated at grocery prices, we worry for our kids, we both lament the onset of menopause…..it just goes on and on. Our opinions on Covid and the vaccine are literally a minuscule part of what binds us, so why let it ruin us? She knows I hold different views and don’t agree with her theories, and she also disagrees with my thoughts - she is genuinely concerned I’m having the wool pulled over my eyes. But we leave it there, and focus instead on her house reno, or my new found casserole recipe. Thankfully she’s meeting me halfway, and I’m thankful for it.
Hi David, this is an amazing resource, thank you.
I'm not usually one for retrofitting 20th century academic theory to current events, but I posted this Tweet last night:
It makes sense that in a room of 100 people who are all unknown to each other, in which 90 believe the world is round and 10 believe it's flat, that individually, the flats will be less likely to volunteer their views if they perceive themselves to be in a very small minority. But given a way to identify each other without alerting the majority, then can then gather in the middle of the room. Being part of this small but tightly knit group simultaneously emboldens them with an 'us against the world' view, and perhaps also gives them the impression that their view is more widely held than it actually is.
So my question: instead of trying to argue against the views held by flat earth/anti-vax/pizza-gate types, could they be more effectively silenced by simply pointing out how few people believe what they do?
Your thoughts greatly appreciated!
I love Paul's writing and find his comments very insightful. Thanks for this list!