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Photo: Bias in the Information Age
Conspiracy in the Information Age
We have all heard or seen incredible things in our daily lives with all the world’s information right at our fingertips. Ever since the creation of the radio, we have been able to spread information faster than ever. Once television came around, everything was also in our faces visually. In our information age, we can watch just about anything, from some kid doing science experiments to a mortar being shot through a cement wall. If you can think of it, you can find it.
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As a society, we should all be getting more intelligent now that we have access to all this information from anywhere we get a cell signal. Unfortunately, the internet is like the CIA: disinformation can be the mission when hiding the truth. When someone goes down the bunny hole of conspiracy theories, they can find it hard to loosen the grip of that black abyss.
What would cause someone to get into the Earth being flat, sasquatches being real, or that UFOs are holographic projections from the government? The answer is crystal clear: you are what you watch. These days more and more people are falling for the traps that conspiracies litter us with.
A Burrito of Bias and Dissonance
There are a lot of biases that get wrapped into the burrito of conspiracy theories. Confirmation bias might be the biggest downfall of those that trend toward this type of media. This is the bias that refers to the way you ingest your material. You will only find things that support your point of view, at least that is all you will look for. This creates a one-sided argument with your own mind causing you to review only material that is subjective to your personal thought.
This process in itself can cause something referred to as cognitive dissonance. This basically refers to having two contradictory ideas inside your head. This can create a fracture in your thinking. Imagine thinking the sky is blue and green. When you look up, what actual color do you see? It would not be hard to tell if your entire life everyone said it was green. You would then think it is green. There are no tell-tale symptoms of this issue because even human’s self-awareness does not have the ability to recognize dissonance. Cognitive dissonance can cause people to put an opposing person’s ideals down by humiliation or defeat. Making the opposite side feel small is a trait that most carry when in this state of mind.
If you jump on Rokfin and scour the films on flat Earth you can find yourself in one of two spots toward the end. One spot is choosing your belief system based on fact and science or one based on personal bias. If you only watch pro-flat-Earth content, the chances are you opened that very dark portal to more pro-flat-Earth information. NASA becomes fake, science becomes altered, and your education spikes from the misinformation you take in.
We Are What We Watch
The doctor says you are what you eat, right? Well, we are what we watch as well. The media we take in can directly affect us in so many ways. Look at the way a famous TikTok (Dixie D’Amelio) star can sway people into doing a dance by watching a sixty-second video. Look at the films produced for the German war machine in World War II by Leni Riefenstahl. She created Nazi films for Adolf that helped fuel the negativity of the Allies in the war, pushing the soldiers to fight for their Fuhrer. Although that was considered propaganda, it was also content taken in by the public to sway opinions. This is very similar to the way theorists use their content. This is usually based on their own rules for science and persuasion.
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No wonder one can go online and catch conspiracy propaganda on a multitude of platforms. YouTube has gotten away from some disinformation as other socially impactful companies have, but there will always be access for the people who want to find it. Rokfin now has taken the lead on the platforms which supply alternative thinking to millions of subscribers. Anyone can log in to watch hundreds of thousands of hours of podcasts geared at the conspiracies in our world.
Keep Good Company
You are what you watch, and you are who you hang out with as well. They say to choose friends that would choose you as a friend. Because of our biological need to exist in social environments, people try to find like-minded individuals. This can perpetuate the ideals and beliefs of entire groups and not just a few. Why not hang out with people you know to hold the same beliefs as you? Another bias this can relate to is called the bandwagon effect. It’s all in the name. If one person in the group believes, there is a chance others hop on the wagon with them.
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Parents put child locks on certain channels and websites for a reason. If your child watches nothing but gory battles for weeks on end, they might grow up to endear the things they saw. We do not let our kids watch things that would compromise their future as they rise through adolescence into adulthood.
Why should we adults do anything differently? Although some conspiracies end up being true, most of them are clearly hearsay. Some of them do not even agree with the natural order of things or science. Science may be twisted and to be claimed as a reason for their belief, or as a persuasive measure for recruitment. We should all have our own little adult locks, blocking ourselves out of content that can poison our competence.
The Truth Can Not Be Seen
Some conspiracy theorists are so into their own belief bias that they will flat-out deny any other thoughts or facts they come across. I have personal experience with someone who believes in a lot of different alternative facts. I love the person dearly, and will not let the relationship die. I chose love and empathy for all, no matter the personal beliefs they have. I asked them one day “Dale, if I can take you into space one day to show you the Earth is round, would you go with me?” They responded very quickly with “No way, I don’t need to. I already know what’s up there.” This makes me believe their biases are so strong, that they would not want to admit the truth even upon seeing it. This would cause a ripple in their minds causing an even bigger fracture of dissonance.
The moral of this story is to keep your head above the garbage out there on the internet or you could end up meeting Slenderman’s favorite children in the long dark hallway that is conspiracy. Biases play a role in our lives in everything we do; at least most of us are self-aware enough to realize that not all biases serve the betterment of the community or oneself. Watch what you watch and don’t forget to check your biases at the door.
By Nathan Paul Pasquale
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