Friday 3 April 2020

Thought Picnic: Stop listening to those pandemic conspiracies

A marketplace of pandemic chimaeras
Yesterday, I had forwarded to me a WhatsApp message recording of a jumble of conspiracy theories that linked the Coronavirus, to China, to 5G telecommunications, to a new world order and the need to retain Donald Trump as the US President.
In these unsettling pandemic times, an environment of exploitation opens up for all sorts of activity, conspiracy theories are rife, peddlers of snake oil remedies makes even more outlandish claims, eschatologists reveal hair-raising visions of a precipitous end to the world, confidence tricksters engage to persuade you in a direction you’ll rather not go, you adopt new practices that contribute more to uneasiness, stress, and strain.
Tales from the crypt
Yet, what one needs is a sense of calmness and peace, the ability to relax without being overwhelmed by the terrifying news cycle, the worry about immediate issues, or the fear of an uncertain future.
The WhatsApp message was full of jumbled thoughts, bad science, stark ignorance, and too many fallacies to count. I had to upbraid my friend for not using his rational and logical thinking to consign the nonsense to inconsequential trash. Yet, to the unsophisticated, this appeals to their itching ears, it all sounds believable, it becomes their facts and it beclouds their outlook, heightening suspicion and diminishing trust.
The cult of mesmerised
When so persuaded, they expect you to be carried along with their winds of fantasy, if you resist, you risk losing the presumed respect they had for you. Having been deluded, it is almost like they have joined a cult of mesmerism and are behind a veil too thick and impervious to you being able to reason with them. They seek like minds with whom to reinforce their new insight.
In enough numbers, they can easily constitute a mob, like the arsonists who set a telecommunications tower alight in Birmingham having been implicitly instructed to go out and destroy the gathering of a menace ready to take away their view, status, standard and comforts in life. The sinister powers about to change the world into ways you cannot begin to countenance or accept. [Government slams 'baseless' conspiracy theory that 5G is linked to coronavirus – The Mirror]
They believe then commit
The words of Voltaire easily come to mind when these conspiracy theories gain traction, “They would can make you believe absurdities, will make you commit atrocities.” In times like this, one must be vigilant and sophisticated, be ready to debunk the absurd, question the assertions to the nth degree and do not let up without good answers. Mind what you believe that you will be convinced to commit.
Find incontrovertible sources, check the credentials of the purveyors, don’t be easily persuaded, read up on this not that well understood and don’t be unsettled by crazy fables that seek to capture and disable your rational mind.
Maybe it is best to give the new cycle a break, give little heed to the social media rumour mill and if you’re to be persuaded of anything, seek out the views of reputable experts, scientists, or professional. When a former director of public prosecutions said the teller at a car park thought COVID-19 was a global conspiracy, you could only resist the urge to laugh derisively, you might just muster a sense of pity too.

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