2020 witnessed the rise of an absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory based around some anonymous internet poster. You may know somebody who believes the illogical thoughts that led to the insurrection in Washington last week and are concerned for their mental well being. If you know somebody deep into illogical and self-defeating conspiracies please check out this article from last November in the Guardian (to be clear, some conspiracies are real).
Like with most problems facing the world right now we can solve it by better educating people and applying critical thinking skills.
Finally, some conspiracy theorists greatly exaggerate debates among experts themselves. Not all epidemiologists will agree on the best measures to reduce the spread of the virus, but this disagreement shouldn’t be used to justify the idea that the whole pandemic has been engineered by the government for some nefarious end.
The tobacco industry used these tactics to great effect in the 1970s, with adverts that quoted fake experts and rogue scientists who questioned the harms of smoking.
“It’s a really persuasive form of misinformation,” says Prof John Cook, an expert in “science denial” at George Mason University. Fortunately, he has found that educating people about the history of this common deceptive tactic can make people more sceptical of other fake experts at a later point.