Archive for the ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Category

Service of Misinformation

Monday, October 25th, 2021


Rubin Museum: Mahachakra Vajrapani, China 15th century early Ming dynasty silk and gold embroidery , coral and seed pearls

The child’s party game “Telephone” is a simple way to show kids how easily misinformation spreads. You remember: the first child whispers to the second and the last child makes everyone laugh because what she/he hears is far from the original.

Following are grownup examples.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. It was my first time so I asked if we should start on the sixth floor and walk down. The only employee on the ground floor [not counting a guard] said “No. Visit from the first floor up.” 

We saw “Gateway to Himalayan Art” on floor two; “The Mandala Lab” on three; “Masterworks: A Journey Through Himalayan Art” on five [four was closed] and “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightnment” at the top.

Having finished our tour a woman overheard us asking one another “Why was it important to follow the exhibitions up the stairs?” She asked if she could help us. We posed our question and she said, “We have reconfirgured the collection; the floors used to be interrelated. Not anymore.” Clearly this news wasn’t given to all staff. Not life and death, but incorrect and an example of how easily and innocently adults pass along the wrong information.

I thought of the “ahhas!” by some Covid-19 vaccine doubters when Colin Powell died of Covid complications. He’d been fully vaccinated. A cousin texted: “To use Powell’s death as proof that the vaccines don’t work is so much garbage!” Her husband, she wrote, “died of multiple myeloma and so did Colin Powell. They have zero immune system because the purpose of the chemo is to suppress the cancer from activating. It was explained on the news but people don’t want to listen. My husband fell in the bathroom and got some nicks and bruises and a strep infection and that was the start of his decline—nothing to fight a bacterial infection.”


Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay 

Reid J Epstein covered a spectacular misinformation campaign in Montana in his New York Times article “Where Facts Were No Match for Fear–Civic boosters in central Montana hoped for some federal money to promote tourism. A disinformation campaign got in the way.”

The perpetrator, Rae Grulkowski, made up every fact: that “the [heritage area] designation [in Montana] would forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells or use fertilizers and pesticides. It would alter water rights, give tourists access to private property, create a new taxation district and prohibit new septic systems and burials on private land.” Not a single allegation is true.

Epstein wrote: “‘Misinformation is the new playbook,’ Bob Kelly, the mayor of Great Falls, said. ‘You don’t like something? Create alternative facts and figures as a way to undermine reality.'”

It worked for Grulkowski: Montana governor Greg Gianforte “signed the bill barring any national heritage area in Montana after it passed on a near-party-line vote. A heritage area, the bill’s text asserted, would ‘interfere with state and private property rights.'”

Epstein also reported that Grulkowski “ticked through the falsehoods she had read online and accepted as truths in the past year: The Covid vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Global child-trafficking rings control the political system. Black Lives Matter was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The United Nations is plotting to control world population and seize private land. Mr. Trump was the rightful winner of last year’s election. Even in Cascade County, where Mr. Trump won 59 percent of the vote, Ms. Grulkowski argued that 3,000 illegal votes were cast.”

The harm done by deliberate distortions about serious matters isn’t like the child’s game. Repercussions can harm. Have you believed misinformation, later learning the truth, and changed your opinion?  Are we more gullible these days, more sensitive to false facts or are there more of them now?


Image by John Iglar from Pixabay 

Service of Pet Peeves III

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Photo: writingcooperative.com

I wrote the first two Pet Peeve posts in 2010 and 2011, summarized below as my feelings about them are unchanged. And although they’re not earmarked as such, many posts over years focus on irritating situations that fall in the peeve category, such as the recent ones about bait and switch sales tactics and euphemisms like “food insecurity” for hunger.

NOW

Hard to believe I have so many new ones.

Photo: posportal.com

I recently paid by credit card for bread in a bakery and dinner from a takeout-only Chinese place. In both instances an automatic tip request popped up on the tablet’s screen. Why should I give a tip to someone for putting a loaf of bread in a bag? I gave a tip for the Chinese takeout, even though I picked up my order, but friends who tip generously said they wouldn’t.

I don’t answer when surveys ask me what my income is and don’t believe that they should ask.

TV news producers: Stop showing close-ups of injecting vaccines into arms. For the squeamish who aren’t planning to get the vaccine it’s a turnoff and deterrent.

Train your vicious dog or give it away particularly if you live in an apartment house.

Respond to personal texts within 24 hours–especially if the sender infrequently reaches out and/or if they pose an important question.

Photo: dogexpert.com

If I never hear from you for months and we are personal acquaintances send me something more than a link to an article.

If I consistently “like” your Facebook postings, every once a quarter please “like” one of mine.

THEN

I’m surprised at how many of the oldie peeves are pandemic-proof. The exception might be how miffed I feel when my hands are full and someone near a door doesn’t hold it open. These days some might be afraid of getting too close. Another that irritated me 10 years ago was someone borrowing my pen and not returning it. I wouldn’t want it back now.

Otherwise, here are many of the oldie but still valid:

You call at a scheduled time and are told “Call me in 20 minutes.” The person who changes the time should make the second call.

Repetition of misinformation so it becomes true to some.

Photo: zero2turbo.com

Drivers who don’t use their signal lights. It’s as handy a communication tool for pedestrians crossing city streets and avenues as it is for drivers.

Waste by government and corporations.

Buzzwords and jargon.

Tell me privately something that impacts me–don’t first announce it in public and if you want to give away something of mine, don’t ask me if it is OK in front of the potential recipient so I feel forced to say “yes.”

Don’t:

  • roll your eyes if I ask a question
  • offer to do something you know you won’t do
  • pull out on me causing me to slam on my brakes

Lack of traffic lights or signs at dangerous intersections drive me nuts.

 

Have your peeves stayed the same over years? Any new ones? Do people close to you know your peeves or do you keep them close to the vest?

Photo: newslit.org

 

 

Service of Conspiracy Theories to Search for Answers or to Bamboozle

Monday, November 16th, 2020

Photo: newslit.org

Conspiracy theorists claim that the Covid-19 vaccine includes a chip. People fearing this will refuse vaccination that will impact the effectiveness of the life-saving precaution on the nation’s health.

Photo: healthline.com

This one was new to me–I first heard about it Saturday morning on NPR–so I looked it up. In USA Today Elizabeth Weise wrote in June “One of the wildest [conspiracy theories] is a false story about a purported evil plan by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to use mass coronavirus vaccinations to implant microchips in billions of people to track their movements.” Gates “denied he’s involved in any sort of microchipping conspiracy.”

Weise interviewed “Matthew Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who studies the processes that influence people to accept or reject scientific messages.” She reported: “Here, people have a single issue that they have rallied behind; they don’t trust vaccinations. Conspiracy theories are then selectively embraced to justify that feeling,” he said. “That’s why people are prepared to believe ideas that seem strange and ridiculous to the rest of us. They want to believe it, so they set a very low bar for evidence.”

Vaccines aren’t the only targets. According to Angelo Fichera and Saranac Hale Spencer at factcheck.org the president re-tweeted an accusation that Joe Biden was involved in a murder. “Trump also declined to condemn QAnon — the widespread conspiracy theory movement that baselessly suggests Trump is dismantling an elite child sex trafficking ring involving high-profile Democrats,” they wrote.

Photo: arstechnica.com

Beaten to death and disproved are other theories reiterated in Fichera and Spencer’s article such as: the birther theory that President Obama was born outside the U.S.; that he collaborated with ISIS; that Ted Cruz’s dad conspired to kill President Kennedy; the president’s tweet: “I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building [World Trade Center] was coming down,” and on and on.

In The New York Times at the end of September Benedict Carey wrote: “Still, psychologists do not have a good handle on the types of people who are prone to buy into Big Lie theories, especially the horror-film versions.”

Carey reported “More than 1 in 3 Americans believe that the Chinese government engineered the coronavirus as a weapon, and another third are convinced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has exaggerated the threat of Covid-19 to undermine President Trump.”

Carey explained: “At its extremes, these theories include cannibals and satanic pedophiles, (courtesy of the so-called QAnon theory, circulating online); lizard-people, disguised as corporate leaders and celebrities (rooted in alien abduction stories and science fiction); and, in this year of the plague, evil scientists and governments, all conspiring to use Covid-19 for their own dark purposes.”

The most recent false theory millions believe is that the U.S. election was rigged in spite of President Elect Biden’s 306 electoral college number that matched what the incumbent generated in 2016. The day after the last inauguration millions of men and women protested the winner in the Women’s March. They mourned the outcome but didn’t question the election process.

Conspiracy theories have always existed but there seem to be more of late. Have you fallen for any? Do you think they are popular because people want easy answers or because bamboozlers use them to get their way, to stir the pot/exhibit power?

2017 Woman’s March. Photo: en.wikipedia.com

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