Let's watch a political hopeful go down the rabbit hole in real time, shall we?
Witnessed a similar descent with a family member on Facebook. Went from occasional posts about family life to the odd post critical of the government's covid-19 response to daily posts about Bill Gates, hydroxychloroquine and underground child trafficking all within the span of a few weeks.
The usual covidiots appeared: posts from Pete Evans, Billy TK and Robert F Kennedy Jr. But also a lot of shared posts from obscure blogs and YouTube channels. You can basically see the fb algorithm kick in where this echo chamber of manic nonsense encloses her.
Interestingly the engagement with posts drops off dramatically over time as the family members who were initially commenting disappear and only two or three folk who consistently share their outage in the comments remain.
It's a sad study of not only how quickly these beliefs escalate during the uncertainty of lockdown but also how significantly this line of thinking estranges people from their real life friend and family support networks.
this is an interesting case study. it's depressing to see someone go from "why can't we humans just love each other?" to championing a divisive and hate-promoting conspiracy theory in a matter of months.
i think it's interesting that a lot of the people getting swept up in q are older-ish. it seems like boomers lack an instinct that younger people have to identify obviously false info and to fact check material that seems suspicious - e.g., it's not hard to find that info about the alleged kissinger speech and buttar's reprimands. i wonder if dr. uscinski's counterintuitive findings could be masking an age effect (i.e., older people lack social media literacy & conspiratorial beliefs are increasing among them but we don't see this pattern in the data as a whole).
...that got more tangential than i intended but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Picture this: sunday morning, fluffy duvet bliss, moccona to the right, little wonderboom to the left with sufjan stevens just keeping it chill then BAM the fucking feelers invade my head. Ha! Damn you David!
This is a great visual on what we’re all seeing - how quick to unlock politican mode these days hey?! I’ve grown up with a manic depressive dad so I’m used to this quick, intense enlightenment but it’s scary when these guys have platforms. 60,000 people watching. Happy Sunday!
Thank you for this David! I have recently been seriously considering leaving Facebook as I’m fed up of seeing exactly this kind of thing. If anyone out there wants to create an alternative which doesn’t have algorithms designed to push people down these rabbit holes I’d love to invest in that. We could call it “FactBook”.
Can I suggest a follow-up Webworm where you undertake a critical analysis of how the lyrics to Pressure Man predicted the writer’s descent into conspiratorial madness 22 years later?
“Will you suffer my reality” indeed...
I'd hate to be a fan of his music, then have him start spewing conspiritorial crap. 🙃 It's just weird how the whole world was on lockdown/ had nothing but time on their hands and some people went down the conspiracy theory path but other people didn't. I just hope common sense prevails.
I strongly object to people talking about rights when not acknowledging that responsibility is required. I agree we have personal rights - to freedom of speech, movement etc but when the people who argue the most vociferously for these rights don’t exercise responsibility...... Parenting 101
It horrifies me how people lap up the utter BS he spouts. Which simply feeds his ego and spurs him to get even more bonkers. He’d argue that point with some classic gaslighting techniques. He makes me sick.
An interesting case study indeed. And I too have watched someone follow this same trajectory in real life. It’s easy to write off as crazy, or easily manipulated by (mis) information ... and like many people posting here, I have spent many hours pondering the whys and wherefores of that.
However, on a somewhat more sinister note, I’m also concerned about the potential this all holds in terms of Information Warfare. Given the increased connectivity of the world - and the associated availability of platforms that give voice to this - my concern is the likelihood of a new psychic battlespace in which there is an army ready and waiting to follow a new messiah. Armed with a cocktail of bible/politics/conspiracy theory.
Obviously Billy isn’t that person, but it does reveal a willingness - perhaps even a desire - to be swept up in a new rhetoric that could be easily enough employed to get A LOT of people to do whatever the fuck someone wants, and quickly.
Apologies for the negative spin, but it’s an increasingly salient concern of mine.
So, David, have you had the opportunity to watch Stuff Circuit’s programme on BTKJ yet? One segment in particular reminded me of this post of yours, in that there are recollections of him spouting classic anti-Semitic conspiracy bollox a couple of years ago. Suggests someone who has been dipping his toe in that proverbial rabbit hole for a while longer than AC (After Covid), perhaps. Certainly a must watch programme on an ‘interesting’ character.
Oh no, not the feelers guy! pressure man is such a great song.
Please say no shihad members have gone down the rabbit hole...
That's such a rapid thought change.
Covid19 era really is the perfect uncertainty/emotionally-physically isolated/bored/tech-medical change breeding ground.
Awesome work David as always. I noted the one comment about blocking and thought, that's a very polite mention of a whole tranche of ironic and awful behaviour. There's a school of thought that this side of Billy always existed, and this was about timing and opportunity. I still wonder whether Facebook and other online platforms enable or create the problem?
On a personal note I got to experience my own red pill moment when I became part of his conspiracy. Yey, bucket list ticked, but it did mean some unwelcome attention from arround the globe.
Really interesting piece. The bit that resonated for me was the seductive quality of recognition and praise for what you post online. I have been a social media holdout until recently. I was a senior manager in a tourism business which put paid to my job, so I now need to be using social media for profile and prospecting etc.
I have discovered that there are certain subjects and phrases that will generate a lot more interest than others. Crazy shit really works for numbers and socmed action.
Unfortunately, my message is one of decency, harmony and being thoughtful and reflective because that's what my business practice is about. By Jesus it sure isn't a ratings winner. But what I realise is that I'm not here for the likes and retweets and affirmation for every batshit thing I can spew out.
My wee experiment in posting a blog with a controversial title but thoroughly decent content proved that I could get people's attention (albeit briefly) and damn it felt good. I can empathise with anyone who discovers the power of saying what people want to hear. That's empathise, not sympathise.
The sort of journey Billy has been on and continues to be on feels very similar to a teenaged girl who finds herself incredibly popular by posting pics of her tits. The adoration and confirmation is so intoxicating. I only hope he has the sense and decency to realise at some point that selling your soul for cheap is the road to desolation and despondency.
If I may also observe, looking in Jamie-Lee Ross's eyes and watching the way he carries himself suggests that what these two need is a big cuddle from someone who loves them and a bit of guidance about what to put on external speaker and what to just do by yourself in the privacy of your bedroom.
I wish them both well and hope the damage they do is limited in time and scope.
Do you think that the way some people are drawn in to this weird and wacky world is also similar to the way some people become radicalized e.g. how some young disenfranchised Muslim men have become radicalized? Is it the same sort of thing?
You can really see how it all goes to his head. I think a big part of his rise to delusion is simply the classic - validation from social media.
He gained more and more traction and was able to share what ever whack conspiracy he saw and he had enough of a following to reinforce his "truth".
Now what weighs on my mind is: has it gone to his head so much so that he still believes everything he's saying, or has he become aware of the fact that he's spouting misinformation but still does it because of his following and monetary gain. Sort of reminds me of Brian Tamaki.
It has been interesting to read through some of the public facebook pages parroting these conspiracies and others. Amazing to see videos like this grab so many views, being spread around as the truth. https://youtu.be/B_89bt9fs5E
There's also a fake email between the PM and others being spread about, discussing shutting down covid protests but allowing BLM ones to go forward, before marshall law will supposedely kick in in october under "operation kea". Police will then be kicking down doors to arrest or test the "non-believers". Who is creating this stuff to be spread about and why?