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By John Cook, George Mason University; Sander van der Linden, Cambridge University; Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol, and Ullrich Ecker, University of Western Australia
The Plandemic conspiracy theory video went viral. Although YouTube and Facebook mentioned it, they upload it and watch it a million times. This is an interview with Judy Mikovits, a conspiracy theorist and discredited former virology researcher who believes the COVID-19 pandemic is a giant scam that benefits from vaccine sales.
The video is full of false information and conspiracy theories. Reputable organizations such as Science, Politifact, FactCheck and Chequeado have published checks that demonstrate the lack of seriousness in the content.
As scientists who deal with combating scientific misinformation and conspiracy theories, we believe it is necessary to demonstrate the rhetorical techniques used in “Plandemic”. As we show in our work “Conspiracy Theory Handbook” and “How to Spot COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories”, conspiracy thinking has seven special features. The video “Plandemic” is a ready selection of all.
If we know these properties, we can discover the signs that indicate that we are facing an unsupported conspiracy theory. Hopefully it will also help us to take care of this way of thinking. It is a very valuable skill in a context where conspiracy theories about the pandemic proliferate.
Common features of conspiratorial thinking (video in English).
1. Contradictory beliefs
Conspiracy theorists are so keen on questioning official information that they don’t mind contradicting themselves. “Plandemic” presents two false stories about the origin of the corona virus. On the one hand, it is said that SARS-CoV-2 came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. On the other hand, he states that we all have the coronavirus due to previous vaccinations and that the use of masks activates it. To believe both things at the same time is inconsistent.
2. Prevalence of suspicion
Those who theorize about conspiracies are very suspicious of the official information. This means that all scientific evidence that does not correspond to his theories must be falsified.
To believe that scientific information is fake means to think that any scientific organization that publishes or supports research that is compatible with “official information” must be part of the conspiracy. In the case of COVID-19, this includes the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), or the United States Food and Drug Administration Finally, every person or group who actually does something about it Science knows to be part of the conspiracy.
3. Dark intentions
A conspiracy theory assumes that the conspirators have hideous motives. In “Plandemic”, evil knows no bounds. The video suggests that scientists, including doctor Anthony Fauci, planned the COVID-19 pandemic in a conspiracy that kills hundreds of thousands of people for millions of dollars in profits.
4. The belief that something is wrong
Conspiracy theorists may be able to give up certain ideas if they are no longer sustainable. However, these reviews are insufficient to counter the general conclusion that “something is wrong” and that official information is based on deception.
When asked by Plandemic’s Mikki Willis whether he really believed that COVID-19 was created intentionally to make a profit, he replied, “In truth, I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s something that of course happened or on purpose. I have no idea “.
Willis has no idea. The only thing he knows for sure is that something is wrong: “It is too suspicious.”
Those who theorize about conspiracies see dark intentions everywhere. ALMOND NGAN / AFP via Getty Images
5. Victim persecuted
Conspiracy theorists believe they are victims of organized persecution. “Plandemic” extends it to the level of portraying the entire world population as the victim of an enormous deception that the media and even ourselves reveal as involuntary accomplices.
At the same time, conspiracy theorists see themselves as brave heroes who fight evil conspirators.
6. Immunity to Evidence
The reason it is so difficult to change a conspiracy theorist’s opinion is that his theories come close to themselves. Even the lack of evidence becomes evidence: that there is no evidence of the conspiracy is nothing more than evidence that the conspirators did a great job.
7. Reinterpret randomness
Conspiracy theorists see patterns everywhere, for them it is enough simply to “connect the dots”. Random facts are reinterpreted as products of the conspiracy and included in a larger plot. And each connection is given sinister meanings.
For example, the video “Plandemic” states that funds from the United States’ National Institutes of Health went to the Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. This is despite the fact that this laboratory is just one of many international employees involved in a project that is designed to investigate the future risk of viruses from the animal world.
If we know the characteristics that make up conspiracy thinking, we can recognize and reject conspiracy theories.
The antidote is critical thinking
In our book Conspiracy Theory Handbook you will find various strategies to respond to conspiracy theories. An alternative is to “vaccinate” yourself and our social networks by identifying and demonstrating the characteristics of conspiracy thinking. The antidote to conspiracy thinking is critical thinking that is skeptical of official reporting while carefully analyzing the evidence available.
Understanding and revealing the techniques of conspiracy theorists is key to immunizing yourself and others against deception, especially in times when we are most vulnerable, ie in times of crisis and uncertainty.
This note was translated by Inés Hercovich y Chequeado.
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.