Baird discussed on Not Too Shabby

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That means you've got me I'm carousel Baird you have a great show lined up today we're going to be talking about conspiracy theories and the corona virus what they are who's believing them why they're being perpetuated and maybe in the end the conversation about what we can do to stop them proactively systematically but also perhaps as an individual as well I have two professors who are you know have a level of expertise in the V. conspiracy world joining us on the phone we have professor Joseph use it use in ski she's an associate political science professor at the university of Miami and the co author of Americans conspiracy theories he's a member of the university of Miami you team combating online extremist conspiracy theories hello professor used in ski hello great to be with you thanks for having me thank you very much for joining us and his colleagues also with this professor I'm Adam enders she is an assistant political science professor at the university of Louisville where he studies conspiracy beliefs misinformation and political polarization hello professor Anders glad you can join us hello thanks great to be here it's great to have you so the two of you authored an article that was in Atlantic and it it started by sort of saying the corona virus has created a perfect storm for conspiracy theories why is that so we have a situation where everybody is focused on one St and that's the pandemic so that's in all the media it's the only news story we're talking about and it has infected so to speak all aspects of our lives and on top of that there's a lot of stress uncertainty anxiety feelings of being out of control and powerless that that come with that because it's very dangerous pandemic that has helped a lot of people out of work and put strain on people so all of that together has laid the groundwork for a conspiracy theorizing is it really is the biggest piece of all that is that we're also focused in paying attention to what is happening in the world because we're all correctly impacted by the corona virus with this have a different implication if it was right the election of the United States president huge conspiracies around president Obama president trump and and all all of their elected leader colleagues but not everyone always pays attention to that and it here on the global pandemic everyone needs to be paying attention on one way or another what's happening that's exactly right you know with presidential elections which tend to be the elections the people pay most attention to even then your average person isn't really tuning in and until in a serious way until September October even early November and the exposure to a conspiratorial idea here or there is just a lot less likely in those kinds of instances but here we're sort of a captive audience we're all stuck at home we're all sort of glued to our televisions we have the state you know governor they're doing regular updates on television in the evening we have the coronavirus task force that's happening at the national level so we're all focused on this we're all constantly thinking about this we're all wondering when this is going to be over and you don't have a lot of answers to the kinds of questions that we we wish we had answers to we get into the numbers the two have you conducted a poll and that is sort of shocking and incredibly telling about where the American public is can we start with sort of a conversation of what are the conspiracies that are out there didn't do the sort of fall into two rounds one of none of this is real and another one sort of a little bit on the opposite of this oh boy this is really real this is equivalent of any intentional terrorist act so there are numerous conspiracy theories out there ranging from the wacky and zany like a dean Koontz novel predicted this virus forty years ago or you know some some the Illuminati or behind their overall gonna get chips in our brains or something like that Ellen is the Mormon Dan so there are really two types as you as you mentioned one is the more political type that the virus is being exaggerated largely as a political tool and given that it's an election year and president trump is going to be judged largely on what happens this year people are saying that oh my gosh the Democrats are jumping this up or some shadowy group is trumping this up to excuse the term other than in the coming election and then the other kind is this is some variation of a bio weapon that that was either engineered or purposely released choose to either kill people or they got it escaped by accident out of the laboratory these conspiracy theories it is it is there ever doesn't need an ounce of truth and and do you find that people have a trouble figuring out what actually is a conspiracy and what is the truth these days yes there are there are a lot of reasons why the stack we talk about that for hours and hours I think you know one important thing to note is that you we we aren't sort of blank slate that just sort of here information and then right instead we it's it's better to think of conspiracy beliefs as the product of various kinds of motivations they don't have to be sort of conscious motivations where you know I decided that I am you know a trump supporter and therefore I will go out and believe and spread the word of coronavirus being exaggerated but we do have these political concerns we do have ideological concerns we have a host of sort of psychological need Joe talked about anxiety and powerlessness and helplessness conspiracy theories can help with those things because they impose substructure on the world and make things seem less random and scary there are all sorts of social concern if you come from a lower status group that has been met with different kinds of misfortune and stuff like that sometimes conspiracy theories can be useful for helping explain why that's true so we have these motivations largely unconscious motivations that make conspiracy theory seem attractive to us for various reasons so back then and and sort of figure out how widespread this is the two of you conducted a poll of Americans ask them about twenty two different conspiracy theories from March seventeenth to March nineteenth up the number that surprised me the most actually wasn't that you found the most people that you talked to thought that one of the twenty two conspiracy theories was a possibility yes we asked about twenty two conspiracy theories in our most recent poll and I think less than ten percent claim to believe in none of them so one way to think about this is that there is an incident number of conspiracy theories out there there's new ones popping up all the time we can't pull on all of them but what we find across polls is that the more conspiracy theories we ask people about the the less likely it is that that someone's going to say they don't believe in any of them so there really isn't an us and them when it comes to conspiracy theorists as we all fall victim at one time or another to one theory or another that's really just sort of overwhelming and startling when that so that makes me presume as I'm sitting here then I must believe in a conspiracy theory that I must think that there's something accurate that actually isn't really based in fact would you say that's true I mean if you're saying that less than ten percent do you agree to any of it that that all of us are still sitting here ninety percent of us are sitting here ever take a percentage point believing something that isn't true well not you know it's not a sure fire thing yeah there is still that nine percent but wisely you know most people so think about it that way we all tend to sort of stereo type throughout the day Kerio typing is a useful kind of psychological mechanism because it assumes that patterns that we you know observed in the past are probably going to be repeated in the future so it's just a nice way to help us navigate the world without thinking too hard about things and conspiracy theories are are sort of the same too right so when when when rain chance when were really sort of you know feeling uncertain with this unpredictable kind of virus that that's plaguing the world at this point and and people don't have very many answers to what's going on we might turn to something that reasonably conspiratorial right maybe maybe it's not a full blown the shadow we government or shadow we group backs you know malevolent sand and doing these horrible things to us in secret but something that at least has some elements of those things would you say so I'm gonna use your Wisconsin there's a poll the legislature has sued the governor there are two different parties one sort of focusing more on the science of closing down the stadium one side focusing more on the economics of opening up the state so and these are both both entities that have been elected by the populace of Wisconsin right so we have Democrats on one side Republicans another all fairly elected I'm so would it be conspiracy theory if if I were to say you some people are saying yeah one side they're exaggerating the science facts to keep its closed I would think that's reasonable and another type of say yeah they're exaggerating the economic harm into forces opened is is that where it gets to the were not willing to trust the faxes resale as we see them well what you're describing there is sort of a very normal human setting I mean recognizing that you know vested political interests might be biased in some way isn't a conspiracy theory in itself but it it it does lay the groundwork for once you start considering the motivations of the groups involved I mean it's clear that different parties have different constituencies and they're going to act on behalf of those constituencies it's not necessarily against the common good and it's not clear to me that either side wants to do harm to anyone and I think it's reasonable to consider both economic health and public health in you know and we can do it in the same sentence without being extreme but I think we're the conspiracy theorizing pops up is when we start saying well you know there are people with interests who have evil intent and they're operating in secret against all of us for their own good and we might even know what their full planners so when I bump into people whether it's at the grocery store check out or in and who were you know and they say well this must be China or must be Russia or it must be you know some group who wants to put vaccines with chips in them into us that's where it starts to run off the rails some of the numbers that you that came out of your polling twenty nine percent of people that you spoke with agreed that the threat of corona virus has been exaggerated to damage president trump ends thirty one percent agree that the virus was purposefully created to spread its up in America and perhaps other places as well yeah about those numbers how did we get here it isn't just about the but the political implications of that are those mostly people of one political party are holding those views or is it bipartisan so we find a correlation between partisanship and these conspiracy theories and ideologies such that conservatives and Republicans are somewhat more likely to believe them but that you know a correlation is is far from cognition and it's far from a determinative relationship so it's perhaps not particularly surprising that Republicans and conservatives are expressing higher levels of belief in the spending plan one of them it's it's pretty obvious that partisan concerns are kind of being triggered because it's about supporting president trump and president trump's reputation every election chances chances being harmed by this virus and the bio weapon one has found some support among you know sort of far right conservative voices Tom cotton has has sort of talked about this one a couple of times now and and Jordan.

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