‘Let’s Fight Conspiracy Theories Effectively’

European academics call for statist social-psychological approach to silence public inquiry and dissent

Le Monde, 6 June 2016, p. 29
English translation

The Ministry of Education must test its pedagogical tools against conspiracy culture. The wrong cure might only serve to spread the disease.

conspiracy papers files

Conspiracy theories are on many people’s minds and are the object of all kinds of initiatives, sometimes local, sometimes more ambitious. The French government is among them, evidenced by the collaboration between the Ministry of Education and France Télévisions to produce and diffuse a ‘video-kit’, available to all in the teaching profession (https ://vimeo.com/151519913). They also explore suitable responses to the worrying spread of these ‘theories’ by proposing, here and there, an intellectual defence or critical response. Ultimately, these associations come together to fight against this particular form of contemporary misinformation known as ‘conspiracism’.

As researchers and citizens concerned with the multiplication and dissemination of false information, errors in reason, even deliberate lies in a democracy that we would like to be more rigorous and rational, we welcome these steps and applaud the good intentions they represent. Conspiracism is indeed a problem that must be taken seriously, one which requires a proper response, and all the more quickly as it is on the rise, particularly in France these past few years.

The political reaction to the problem of the growth of conspiracy theories is not at all disproportionate, because it is essentially a major problem. However, the urgency of this reaction suggests undue haste, one which must give way to a reasoned political response that leans on solid scientific knowledge, and takes into account all of the facts available. One can question, for example, the scope and efficaciousness of the videos disseminated widely by the Ministry of Education: their effect, due to a lack of rigorous testing, is completely unknown. The laudable intention behind the creation of these films does not guarantee their effectiveness.

Boomerang effect

As a result, these tools, like many other educational initiatives,  may turn out to be ineffective. Even worse, research in social psychology has shown that the fight against a belief can, paradoxically, serve to reinforce it by a ‘boomerang effect’, a phenomenon widely documented in studies of rumour and misinformation. It is therefore entirely possible that the actions of ministers and associations result in an effect that is the opposite of that desired for the target audience: a polarisation of beliefs and a growth in the conspiracist mindset. The communication’s source is not insignificant when viewed through a conspiratorial lens. If, for example, the government is suspected of active involvement in a conspiracy, its attempts at communication can, at best, be ineffective, and, at worst, increase suspicion.

Taking the time for scientific research, to reflect and to analyse before taking action, will often save time in the long run. It also avoids taking part in harmful activity.  Drugs are not launched without rigorous testing;  in the same way it is risky to launch educational recommendations without basing them on solid results and prior investigations. A responsible policy begins with research and takes into account the information already available. Furthermore, these more or less random campaigns are expensive, and this investment is automatically taken from more methodical studies of the phenomenon. It is therefore urgent that we launch widespread research programmes aimed at evaluating present educational initiatives rather than continuing to promote them.

‘Confirmation bias’

Unanswered questions are still very common in conspiratorial thinking. Why is the hypercritical attitude of these adepts not extended to their own beliefs? This ‘confirmation bias’, which consists of favouring that which confirms our opinions and rejecting that which contradicts it, is well known, but has not yet been examined in the field of conspiracy theories. What is the role of the creative, entertaining component of these ‘theories’, which are often so imaginative? And must one distinguish between those who produce conspiracy theories and those who consume them?

To answer these questions is not simply to make advances towards the disengagement and suspicion that characterises conspiracism, but also to make progress in our understanding of belief mechanisms, social exchanges and ideological creativity.

Research into the psychological and social factors underlying the adherence to conspiracy theories is only the beginning. In the absence of solid scientific consensus on the question, we believe it necessary to recall that current attempts to remedy the problem will only be, for the moment, an improvisation.

Gérald Bronner, Sociologue, Université Paris-Diderot
Véronique Campion-Vincent, Sociologue, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
Sylvain Delouvée, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université Rennes 2
Sebastian Dieguez, Neuropsychologue, Université de Fribourg
Karen Douglas, Chercheuse en Psychologie Sociale, University of Kent
Nicolas Gauvrit, Chercheur en Psychologie Cognitive, École Pratique des Hautes Études
Anthony Lantian, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université de Reims
Pascal Wagner-Egger, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université de Fribourg

7 thoughts on “‘Let’s Fight Conspiracy Theories Effectively’”

  1. Nothing screams credibility like a “video kit”–a “let-us-set-you-straight” kit. But with “misinformation”, what’s the point when one government agency buys the black propaganda of another government agency? [Or, indeed, when one part of an agency buys the disseminated public disinformation of another part of said agency.] No doubt, it is sometime efficacious to feign credulity. It is expedient to swallow certain pretexts whole (not having chewed them critically one bit).

    So the French government wants to teach epistemology to the masses: “justified belief” (given what is known) vs. opinion.

    A pertinent question might be: how can one respond rationally in the eye of a propaganda storm? It would be most rational to doubt everything. But one cannot develop a working worldview without giving credence to certain “facts”.

    So the French government wants to hierarchically reimpose a one-way channel of communication with its republican subjects. It’s a rather daft attempt to quash the pluri-dimensionality of the Internet.

    Video kit. Rape kit. First aid kit.

    The DGSE and pals think your mind has been invaded. They want to reset you. They want to wash your mind. Your brain. You were educated, but not very well. It’s time for some adult education. Reeducation.

    Obviously, government make no “errors of reason”. Peak oil was going to sink us (until the uptick of 2009-2016). Now we’re at 1971 production levels in the U.S. (the previous “peak”). Shale oil was not going to have a significant impact on the U.S. energy supply. Oops…

    And “global cooling” in the 1970s was covered by Time, The Washington Post, and Newsweek. The State Dept. set up a panel under Nixon in 1973 to study this “global cooling” danger. Newsweek issued a correction on one of its stories 31 years later (in 2006). Oops?

    So maybe governments are the ones who need “video kits”. The groupthink in government is astounding. It is fed by high-level propaganda like Foreign Affairs, etc.

    So there are two classes (!) of knowledge. The elite knowledge (beyond questioning…contained within Political boundaries). And common(er) knowledge. Unfortunately for the first camp, they have the unenviable task of parsing and sifting the same open source intelligence available to us lowly simians.

    So there is no reestablishing the old order of information imperialism. The genie is out of the bottle. Every day, every minute is another blow to the bogus world order. Their perception management is like trying to mow an overgrown lawn with a nose hair trimmer.

    I guess we should just go ahead and make Cass Sunstein the Sec. Gen. of the U.N. so we can all grow a whole lot smarter.

    France is becoming as pathetic as the USA. As a Francophile, I find that disheartening (but not unsurprising).

    Here’s some logic… How’s about the French (and us Americans) not settle for the “thought-terminating clichés” of neoliberalism or (in the US) neoconservatism. France has lost its ability to think. In general, they only excel at posturing now (all shell, no pith or innards). This is attributable to the (crumbling, vestigial) EU mind control of self-righteous “green” parties and ultra-liberal lemming protests.

    That said, is Le Pen a legitimate force of creative destruction (like Marx or, dare I say, Hausmann), or is she another Dick Cheney in a dress (like Hillary). Step 1 for the French (and American liberals) will be to see the charade of domestic egalitarianism for what it is: lipstick on the pig of brutal globalization

    I’m ready for the next Derrida to really sink his or her teeth into “globalization” (as a “brisure”) and lance this stinking boil once and for all.

    Maybe that person is Chossudovsky. Also, to give credit where credit is due, Thierry Meyssan was in on the ground floor of 9/11 (so to speak). Maybe now we can repay the favor by railing against French post-existential apathy.


  2. I am currently studying Psychiatry and Psychology and how they have been historically used to force the public to do things against their best interests. This conspiracy theorist label is used to shut down questions and critical thinking clearly. Do you remember how wacky Alex Jones was acting on the Piers Morgan program about gun control? That is when He showed himself to be controlled opposition. And now Hillary trots him out in a speech and tries to equivocate him with anyone who questions. Shame on you Alex Jones for questioning Sandy Hook. Shame on you truth seekers. There really must be a lot of people questioning if she feels the need to remind people how they are supposed to think. So the Connecticut FOIA Commision feels justified in treating Mr. Halbig as a mental patient when he asks them to provide documentation of the events at Sandy Hook. It is fascinating and disturbing to watch them use Doctors and Scientists to achieve planetary political and social agendas in real time. Today I would like to urge everyone to submit public comment on a disturbing expansion of the CDC’s power by October 14th. If this regulation passes entire cities could be forced under quarantine and forced vaccinated. There is a link in this article to the site for public comment. Also please contact your representatives and the CDC oversite committee at https://energycommerce.house.gov/about-ec

    Best wishes and prayers for Mr. Haleigh, Ms. Crowley, Mr. Hamamoto and JT, as well as the other great researchers and commentators, I enjoy reading so much. Thank you for all that you do, and your love of knowledge and the truth.

    1. Remember Hillary’s blurb on a need for Parental Summer Camps? In 2013, I asked readers to look at the staged crisis not in terms of gun control but the DSM-V statistical manual and how it would become the base framework for as a backdoor approach to eliminating the constitutional and bill of rights problem the One World Technocracy. The lone wolf Lanzas and Loughners would connect the Alex Jones’ and “paranoid ideation” or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) You gotta love this one, right?

      Masters of the Human Domain, the cyber domain, and the enterprise known as Agenda 21 must include the social engineering and surveillance which will create the database for the evidence needed to indict us all. It’s not only a panoptic research tool for the Stanford to MIT engineers, but also a framework for artificial intelligence, political correctness and junk science especially in corrupted medical training and healthcare.

      It is not hard to stand back and look at the whole picture and see what priorities have dominated the actions of Congress, SCOTUS and WH. Forced vaccinations makes one believe being held down and injected while struggling. I see the ‘force’ as; if you want to have a bank account chip and be able to buy-sell, hold a job, enroll, travel or procreate, you will agree with the terms and conditions. Patents too.

      My business until 2013 was mobile Neurodiangostics (NCV – EMG – EEG etc)Our data and statistical analysis showed heavy increases in positive tests over all demographic groups. I started researching the effects of smart meters, WiFi, Military radar, EISCAT HAARP and other electromagnetic effects on health. Obamacare and HHS in 2013 slashed reimbursements for these studies and tests (60%) This drove the providers out of business. In order to keep the neurologists from screaming bloody murder, they provided the neuro’s with other incentives which amounted to DSM-V related mental exams.



      They may give us 911 conspiracy but I an certain that this conspiracy theory will migrate into everything from chemtrails to GMO, vaccinations/RX until it joins pre-crime.

  3. Confirmation bias my a–! The LAX shooter, Paul Ciancia just plead guilty and I was rewatching the infamous LAX dummy footage from CBS News. Try this one on for “confirmation bias” criminals, even before listening to the rest of the tale tale.

    -The 5’3, 115 lb Ciancia was also suited and booted with over 500 rounds of ammunition.

    -He was able to rampage unopposed for ten minutes in the TSA area of an airport with $1.6 billion of security and surveillance equipment and numerous armed agents.

    -The Times account says, “as Ciancia walked he inquired if they worked with the TSA, witnesses told investigators.” Does this make the slightest sense. Last time I heard TSA personnel were uniformed. He couldn’t distinguish? The document alleges Ciancia pre-planned his assault.

    Last but not least, the wheelchair footage:

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