If you’ll be around relatives or friends — physically or virtually — who are still clinging to conspiracies about the election, Andrew Romano and I have an article that can be a resource for you. (We also did a video and written piece on the tell-tale signs of real conspiracies versus conspiracy theories, which you can read or watch here.)
The first section of this piece on election conspiracies — which discusses the way that bad actors have persuaded many people that there must be fire because they have blown so much smoke — is most important to understanding the mindset of people who have a hard time accepting established facts about the election, or COVID-19, or anything else.
As British journalist Matthew D’Ancona wrote in his 2017 book, “Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back,” the election conspiracists are borrowing from a strategy used by big tobacco companies in the 1950’s, when they created the Tobacco Industry Research Committee with the goal to create confusion. They commissioned studies and elevated so-called experts to question whether smoking really did cause lung disease. They didn’t need to win the argument. They just needed to muddy the waters.
“Their purpose is invariably to sow doubt rather than to triumph … The point is simply to keep the argument going, to ensure that it never reaches a conclusion,” D’Ancona writes.
It leaves the average person paralyzed, unsure of what to think or believe, often fearful of alienating those they know and love with differing views.
But these conspiracy theorists have it exactly backward. They tell us two contradictory things at the same time: that we can’t really know the truth for sure, but also at the same time, we are pretty sure that “out there” our enemies are able to plan and execute the most complicated of schemes to perfection, because they are almost supernaturally skilled and evil.
They say truth is unknowable and reality is black and white.
It’s just the opposite, of course, as you know full well. Truth IS knowable, and reality is complicated: full of nuance and complexity.
Those who think and believe differently from us are just as human as we are, which means they are just as much a bundle of contradictions and contradictory qualities and attributes. They are smart, hardworking, and talented, but they are also lazy, flawed and prone…