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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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Sorry a loved one has gone down this hole. It happens quickly, huh? Interesting that there was a drop off in engagement - was that because most of their "FB friends" were family and friends who hadn't slipped off the edge with them?

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

All too quickly, unfortunately.

I'd hazard a guess that many came to realise the posts were more a symptom of this manic obsession with the q plot than anything based in reality.

I know several close family members are aware of the rabbit hole she's gone down but refuse to engage with her about it.

I actually did send a -carefully written- email to her where I tried, without judgement, to ask questions about why she was sharing these posts. (This was mostly to protect my mother, who she was bombarding privately with misinformation and causing her huge stress.)

I even suggested she look into the Internet Research Agency thinking an alternative meta-narrative about who is pulling the strings might appeal to her.

Long story short, she called us offensive and crazy and unfriended us both.

Although I'm sorry that she chose to respond to my words of concern this way, I'm much more worried about the effect her obsession is having on her immediate family.

This shit storm of a conspiracy theory is going to have huge ramifications for us all and, as we can see from the rising numbers of protesters this weekend, it's only going to get worse.

TLDR: Fuck BTK and the rest of the snake oil salesmen profiteering off of kiwis fears.

They can all get in the bin.

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It's tough for those in the immediate family who have to live with it day in and day out. I am so curious how much of their internet posts and vitriol end up being casually discussed around the dinner table, or in passing. When spoken out loud, this stuff seems even more outrageous, somehow.

Hey, you tried.

From what I can tell, the only hope in hell you have is in person conversations - anything written down doesn't appeal to the emotions enough, and it's treated just like a throwaway detractor on Facebook or twitter - and chucked in the bin. Not saying it wasn't worth trying - I mean, God, they are strange zany conversations to have in person. A letter at least you can write all your points in order and not get off track.

But yeah - fuck this all. Billy's into it and realising the $$$ behind it now - and how it helps him get his way - so he's gonna grift hard. Even that rant about an international assassin coming to get him - I'd bet that was just so he could appeal for money / free security.

Ugh.

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Speaking as a psychotherapist who has studied and worked with paranoia, you are right that really the only way to reach someone who has 'gone down the rabbit hole' is through face-to-face conversations. And that's plural.

While it may seem like a rational conversation to you when intervening, that's deceptive. It's a highly emotional conversation for the other person, and usually for you too. And the dominant emotion is one we don't talk enough about in the West despite it being the master social emotion.

Shame.

Being wrong is shameful.

We're all prone to this to a certain extent. Human reason evolved mostly to attack others arguments, and it's not so good when aimed at our own beliefs - a phenomenon researchers call confirmation bias. We seek out information which confirms our beliefs and avoid (or ignore) information that doesn't.

Paranoid and conspiracy theories are a dangerously amplified form of confirmation bias. Even evidence against your beliefs are turned into support for them.

The insidious part is that as humans are social animals, being ostracised is shameful.

Someone who has gone down the rabbit hole was likely shame-prone beforehand - it's why it snared them in the first place. And now it's a vicious circle - the shame of being wrong means they have too much social capital (and interpersonal losses) invested to easily quit.

Talking someone down from paranoia and conspiracy is akin to exit-counselling - the process of helping people to leave abusive cults and high control groups.

It takes times to rebuild trust and empathy and conversations in which shaming the person is carefully avoided - since more shame just pushes them deeper down the rabbit hole.

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Paul - this is so valuable. Thanks. Even just realising it's a two way thing - very obvious but good to hear it stated. You can't just lecture. If you're at all open to expanding on any thoughts for a future newsletter, drop me a line? Zero pressure. Just nice to have you here in the comments! davidfarrier@protonmail.com

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Sure, David - I dropped you an email last night.

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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)_/¯

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I honestly think it has so much to do with a certain generation raised around a very specific type of religion - playing into this big idea of battles here on earth between good and evil. I know it's not *just* that - but it's heavy in the mix.

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makes sense. christianity has just contributed so much good to the world. 🙃

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aiden! 'it seems like boomers lack an instinct ....to identify' etc. It 'seems' to me u are totally incorrect! Yes many boomers lack media literacy but correlation does not mean causation.

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idk i was suggesting a hypothesis. i tried to see if uscinski had posted any of his analyses looking at age as a moderator of the relationship between and social media use and conspiratorial beliefs and i wasn't able to.

it's also a bit premature to say anyone is totally incorrect about anything; correlation is not causation but correlation doesn't preclude causation, either.

any chance you're a boomer? :) i wasn't trying to be rude.

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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!

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Sorry to wreck your beaut morning

It was actually my intent all along (*maniacal laugh*)

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

David is, of course, a shill for Big Feelers. Follow the money.

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You got me! Fuck! :P

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I was so disappointed to hear about The Feelers guy WTAF

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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”.

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I'd leave if I wasn't there to keep an eye on things, out of a morbid sense of fascination and wanting to understand how fucked up all this is.

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I left Sammy, I was over Facebook letting this happen. Fuck them. I refuse to participate in that machine. If we can't even start with a shared reality to base our arguments on we are toast. If I was smart enough to create an alternative I would! For now I'll just have to make do with the real world.

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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...

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I need to keep *some* of my sanity intact, Graham!

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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He's overrated as a musician ;)

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I figured as much. I'll stick with my Metallica and Flight of the Conchords. 😂

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Fantastic call.

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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

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100%. Free speech of course.. but that doesn't come at the expense of a bunch of other stuff.

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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A lot of them are from a place very vulnerable to this kind of thinking. I am going to be writing about this later in the week...

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Oh yes I agree, people and communities who have been let down by the system time and time again, so trust is already lacking... I find the way he preys on that so predatory. He wanks on about not living in fear but that’s exactly what he’s doing.

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Predator is apt. He has a life so far that's demonstrated his ability to extract what he wants from others - I hope that comes out in future reporting. With this new belief (well, imagine he's always been prone) comes new support, a captive audience, and I imagine a nice flow of money (from a lot of people who probably can't afford it). I hate it all so much.

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

For the first time in a long time, he hasn’t posted a smug (or any other kind) Facebook live in over 24 hours. Between you and Hone Harawira - perhaps his cage is rattled 🤞🏼

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One would like to think he sees stuff like this and thinks "Is what I am doing.... right?" https://twitter.com/byroncclark/status/1304711619906170880

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I would hope. But billy is also fond of the phrase “ALL lives matter” 🤦🏼‍♀️

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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Oh, no doubt there are bad actors involved flinging this misinformation and disinformation far and wide. It's bleak as hell. Don't apologise, I am all here for the negativity!

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Oct 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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It was a great piece. A fan.

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Sep 12, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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Bad song! Bad!

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Surely not as bad as Come my little penis?

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Sep 13, 2020Liked by David Farrier

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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