Debunking backfiring

FatPhil

Active Member
It's an well-trod area, and academics noticing more concrete examples is hardly groundbreaking news, but science likes confirmation.
-- https://scitechdaily.com/correcting-online-falsehoods-can-make-matters-worse/
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
You will almost never convert the actual peddlers of misinformation (especially those in it for the grift), or those who have adopted it to the point of identity. That should never serve as a deterrent, though, because by engaging them you can catch those in the early "this is new" stage of interest, keep fence sitters from falling, and keep the bandwagon effect from taking over.

To put it a different way: You can never bring back the dead, but you should still tell people to wear their seatbelts.
 

FatPhil

Active Member
The only way to change people is to listen to them.

There's certainly something to that, at least the converse is clearly false - shutting people up won't work at all and will typically be counterproductive. I quite like the socratic method, and it permits, invites even, the use of reductio at absurdum. A lot of people with ill-thought-out beliefs can easily be directed towards contradicting themselves. Which at least can act as a warning sign to others, but alas often doesn't cause cause many to reevaluate of their own contradictory beliefs, as these people are often equipped with fancy cognitive-dissonance-cancelling gaming headsets.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The Socratic method is a rhetorical device used to make a point, not to listen and learn. I would expect it to backfire just the same.
 

relm1

New Member
I have a friend who has recently become full on engaged in conspiracy theories...she said after November she tuned out the news and fell prey to conspiracy theories of ufo's, 9/11 truthers, and sandy hook. What's crazy is the speed that she went full all in and how much resentment she has of anything debunking. So as I try to debunk this, it pushes her deeper into conspiracy?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I have a friend who has recently become full on engaged in conspiracy theories...she said after November she tuned out the news and fell prey to conspiracy theories of ufo's, 9/11 truthers, and sandy hook. What's crazy is the speed that she went full all in and how much resentment she has of anything debunking. So as I try to debunk this, it pushes her deeper into conspiracy?
I'd avoid debunking, or anything else that's triggering, unless they actually want to talk about it. At some point they will start to question some of the claims, but until they get there you might want to focus simply on being friends with them. Establish and maintain effective communication first. Debunk later. Maybe a lot later.
 

relm1

New Member
I'd avoid debunking, or anything else that's triggering, unless they actually want to talk about it. At some point they will start to question some of the claims, but until they get there you might want to focus simply on being friends with them. Establish and maintain effective communication first. Debunk later. Maybe a lot later.
How can a trigger happen so quickly? She only got into this by starting to watch videos in November and is fully sold now. I won't engage her though she is asking me to refute claims pushed out. For example, asking me publicly for a response to the 60 minutes report last week that didn't have any counter arguments. I ignored her but she sees that as further evidence I have no valid response rather than I don't want to engage so either way I contribute to her getting deeper into conspiracy. She brings of Bob Lazar/Area 51 which I think is horrible evidence but everything is proof I'm part of the conspiracy. I guess for now I just ignore.
 

BlueGlass

New Member
Above all, I have found that you if you find the tone of the conversation getting "internetty", change the subject.

This is currently hard for me to define precisely but I'm getting good at identifying it when I see it: sorta like the person starts talking to me almost like I'm a proxy for some argument they might have taken a side in on the internet recently. They're sort of not even talking to me specifically. If I try to rebut them, I just put myself on the other side, to argue with and that seems to be what they're looking for at the moment.

Nope. Not productive and not gonna engage, I go "yeah haha well how about that weather?" or something.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
How can a trigger happen so quickly? She only got into this by starting to watch videos in November and is fully sold now. I won't engage her though she is asking me to refute claims pushed out. For example, asking me publicly for a response to the 60 minutes report last week that didn't have any counter arguments. I ignored her but she sees that as further evidence I have no valid response rather than I don't want to engage so either way I contribute to her getting deeper into conspiracy. She brings of Bob Lazar/Area 51 which I think is horrible evidence but everything is proof I'm part of the conspiracy. I guess for now I just ignore.
She thinks she's discovered the real truth about the world. And thinks of counter-evidence as being propaganda.

Hard to say from afar, but it might work out best to let her do most of the talking. Her trying to convince you will make here think a lot more than her fighting against you trying to convert her.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
For example, asking me publicly for a response to the 60 minutes report last week that didn't have any counter arguments. I ignored her but she sees that as further evidence I have no valid response rather than I don't want to engage so either way I contribute to her getting deeper into conspiracy.
"Why do you want me to respond? Why is that important to you?"
Find out the motivation. *Learn* why this CT is important to that particular person. What are they afraid of? What do they really need in their life right now, that the CT is a substitute for?

"Does me responding or not change what the truth really is? How can we find out?"
Be on the same side looking for truth and doubting what you're told. Make this into a quest for knowledge, not a fight over who is right or wrong. Truth is not decided by winning a fight, truth is reality, and that just is. Acknowledge that most of the time, we're never really certain of what's true.

Obviously putting these questions directly won't work on most people. But that's the compassionate attitude you need to respect that person: they have an emotional need for these beliefs, or they would not hold them; and you can't change that by arguing. And they try to make sense of the world as best they can; we all do. Both of these can unite you and lead to understanding.
 
I have a friend who has recently become full on engaged in conspiracy theories...she said after November she tuned out the news and fell prey to conspiracy theories of ufo's, 9/11 truthers, and sandy hook. What's crazy is the speed that she went full all in and how much resentment she has of anything debunking. So as I try to debunk this, it pushes her deeper into conspiracy?

I'd suggest there is possibly something else going on in her life and that this immersion may provide a distraction that is comforting somehow.

Befriend, shut-up, listen and provide *gentle* articles that show inaccuracies she is sharing now and again, or even better, links to posts/vlogs from recovering rabbitholers, but only once in a while, and preferably female ones that come from the same political leaning she has.

Finding common ground on issues that aren't clear, and then "finding" something that could explain it later which you share with her, in a "god have you seen this, that could explain X", "WHAT DO YOU THINK" ... always "what do you think".
I spend a lot of time with people who have been sucked into political rabbitholes and find this works on some... "what do you think". Especially if they are low-info.
 
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Above all, I have found that you if you find the tone of the conversation getting "internetty", change the subject.

This is currently hard for me to define precisely but I'm getting good at identifying it when I see it: sorta like the person starts talking to me almost like I'm a proxy for some argument they might have taken a side in on the internet recently. They're sort of not even talking to me specifically. If I try to rebut them, I just put myself on the other side, to argue with and that seems to be what they're looking for at the moment.

Nope. Not productive and not gonna engage, I go "yeah haha well how about that weather?" or something.

That'll wind people up imho, and is unproductive with regard to helping a person. They will likely just stop engaging completely. Maybe it's a dude thing, but most women I know will just disengage completely with that approach.
I get why you would do it obviously, it's incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to deal with such folk.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
and probably the most important, imo.. don't embarrass her in public. Send occasional rebuttals or links (i agree.. use sources that are her own political leaning) in private messages. Most people react badly when they are shown up in public.
 
and probably the most important, imo.. don't embarrass her in public. Send occasional rebuttals or links (i agree.. use sources that are her own political leaning) in private messages. Most people react badly when they are shown up in public.

Tbh, when people do the 'owned you' approach it makes them look awful whichever 'side' they are coming from, unless it's a rebuttal to false information about the person. The 'offence' culture seems to be leaking full scale into ufotwitter right now, it's a useful tool to dismiss an argument you can't counter though obviously ;)
 

BlueGlass

New Member
That'll wind people up imho, and is unproductive with regard to helping a person. They will likely just stop engaging completely. Maybe it's a dude thing, but most women I know will just disengage completely with that approach.
I get why you would do it obviously, it's incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to deal with such folk.
I really only specifically mean when you get the "internet argument" vibe.

I'll talk to people in a friendly manner about conspiracy stuff too. But it's that kinda "internet" energy that I find to be a big red flag.

It's very hard to define like I said, but it's when the person doesn't even seem to really be talking to me. I'll let them talk but I refuse to display any specific interest in it and try to smoothly subject-change out of it by relating what they're saying to other stuff.

Sometimes even conspiracy stuff too, like JFK assassination or moon landings whatever. But the important thing seems to be to get them to step out of that "internet argument" state and go back to having a real human conversation with me.

Rebutting their points directly though, never works when I get that vibe.

i guess it would be easier to understand where I'm coming from with an example. There is an old lady who lives in my apartment complex who walks her dog every day in the yard next to my balcony. I haven't expressed any interest in anything weird, I just say hi, how are you etc because she has a cute dog.

But every once in a while she just randomly, out of nowhere, will start talking about vaccines and black-on-black crime statistics and stuff and it just makes me recoil in "wtf?" It feels like she just got done having an argument on Facebook and came to transplant it into me. Sometimes it's not as heavy handed but it's the same type of thing.

I'm really not interested in having that conflict in my apartment complex. I just try to move to my plants, how my cherry tomatoes are doing etc.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
will start talking about vaccines
tell her your Republican friend says (hand to God) the Moderna vaccine is safe and she needs to get it. The only people i know who had any side effects at all are younger people. Her dog likely won't die if she gives it COvid, but why take the risk. :)
 

April.

New Member
You will almost never convert the actual peddlers of misinformation (especially those in it for the grift), or those who have adopted it to the point of identity. That should never serve as a deterrent, though, because by engaging them you can catch those in the early "this is new" stage of interest, keep fence sitters from falling, and keep the bandwagon effect from taking over.

To put it a different way: You can never bring back the dead, but you should still tell people to wear their seatbelts.
I keep seeing people say this and all it does is just reaffirm what I already believe: that what I believe is the truth, and that's why people discourage non-believers from talking with me. A bit like how a cult discourages cult members from talking to outsiders.


tell her your Republican friend says (hand to God) the Moderna vaccine is safe and she needs to get it. The only people i know who had any side effects at all are younger people. Her dog likely won't die if she gives it COvid, but why take the risk. :)
If it's safe, why do the people who don't care about my health (and actively work against my healthcare) desperately want me to get it?
 

BlueGlass

New Member
ah, I see, apologies @BlueGlass, I assumed ( oh dear ) that you meant with regard to friends etc.
Thing is that she is a nice old lady and I like talking to her usually, even about some other kinda conspiracy type stuff sometimes, but it's really about that "framing". I am happy to talk about conspiracy stuff but it just feels toxic, like I'm being transplanted into an unseen Facebook argument.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
If it's safe, why do the people who don't care about my health (and actively work against my healthcare) desperately want me to get it?
because they care about other people's health and the cost to the medical industry when you (or the people you infect) get sick, take up ICU space and traumatize health care workers who have to watch you die from it.
 

FatPhil

Active Member
I keep seeing people say this and all it does is just reaffirm what I already believe: that what I believe is the truth, and that's why people discourage non-believers from talking with me. A bit like how a cult discourages cult members from talking to outsiders.
I don't see it being like that at all. Who do you think is discouraging people from talking to you - what are the reasons they give for this avoidance of dialogue? Personally, I think that very little positive can be achieved by avoiding mature respectful dialogue, and therefore it should be encouraged.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
You will almost never convert the actual peddlers of misinformation (especially those in it for the grift), or those who have adopted it to the point of identity. That should never serve as a deterrent, though, because by engaging them you can catch those in the early "this is new" stage of interest, keep fence sitters from falling, and keep the bandwagon effect from taking over.

To put it a different way: You can never bring back the dead, but you should still tell people to wear their seatbelts.
I keep seeing people say this and all it does is just reaffirm what I already believe: that what I believe is the truth, and that's why people discourage non-believers from talking with me. A bit like how a cult discourages cult members from talking to outsiders.
How do you read "by engaging them" as "discourage non-believers from talking with you"? It literally means the opposite.
Hevach is simply saying that you're not likely to change your mind as a result. (What would it take for you to change your mind on these issues?)

If it's safe, why do the people who don't care about my health (and actively work against my healthcare) desperately want me to get it?
Because they make money from it.
Thankfully, the health system is regulated to the point where most snake oil salesmen can't sell ineffective/unsafe products and label them as medicine.

You don't have to care about motivation, the numbers of coronavirus cases in countries all over the world are going down as result of the vaccination campaigns, and there is no spike in all-causes mortality (as there was for Covid-19 last year).
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
How do you read "by engaging them" as "discourage non-believers from talking with you"? It literally means the opposite.
i think s/he is saying their conspiracy theorist friends tell him/her not to engage with debunkers. I know, the writing style is a bit confusing.
 

April.

New Member
I don't see it being like that at all. Who do you think is discouraging people from talking to you - what are the reasons they give for this avoidance of dialogue? Personally, I think that very little positive can be achieved by avoiding mature respectful dialogue, and therefore it should be encouraged.
It's in what I quoted. See: "You will almost never convert the actual peddlers of misinformation (especially those in it for the grift), or those who have adopted it to the point of identity." saying that people like me will "almost never be converted"? How can that be? The only possible way I could take that is if I'm actually correct in my beliefs? This part "by engaging them you can catch those in the early "this is new" stage of interest, keep fence sitters from falling, and keep the bandwagon effect from taking over. To put it a different way: You can never bring back the dead, but you should still tell people to wear their seatbelts. " seems to be saying to discourage people who are new to conspiracies from talking with such people. Maybe I read it wrong?

i think s/he is saying their conspiracy theorist friends tell him/her not to engage with debunkers. I know, the writing style is a bit confusing.
The opposite. The people I find who aren't willing to chat tend to be the ones who aren't conspiracy-minded. It appears they have the notion stated earlier of "it's pointless since conspiracy theorists will never change their mind". Also I'm a girl, so it'd be she :)
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
It's in what I quoted. See: "You will almost never convert the actual peddlers of misinformation (especially those in it for the grift), or those who have adopted it to the point of identity." saying that people like me will "almost never be converted"? How can that be? The only possible way I could take that is if I'm actually correct in my beliefs?
I hope we both agree that arguing with con men ("in it for the grift") is fruitless.

Remain those who call themselves "truth seekers", but by their mindset are actually belief defenders. Rational discourse is a tool of truth seeking, and therefore it does not work on belief defenders; it can only effect other truth seekers who are watching the dialogue.

So the general idea of "I'm going to convert this believer by talking rationally to them" is not going to achieve anything except to make both sides feel smug.

You can be "converted" by helping you consider where your beliefs came from, why you trust the sources, and why you want these things to be true. But that wouldn't be rational argument, that would be empathetic dialogue, presumably in private.
 

Scaramanga

Member
For me the process of questioning conspiracies ( in particular UFOs ) was a slow one. It started with reading an excellent debunking of the infamous Yukon UFO. Then an excellent debunking of the Japan Airlines UFO in Alaska. These were 'best ever' cases, the very sort that uphold the entire genre, and to see them falling by the wayside started a sort of domino effect....I finally started to wonder were there any genuine cases. Though I still 'believe' in UFOs, the final point where disbelief outweighed belief was Mick West's excellent analysis of the 'go fast' Pentagon video showing its speed was just a parallax effect. So, a confirmed UFO fanatic like myself can indeed become a skeptic. I think the real issue is that people are too much taken in by all the 'best ever' documentaries that present 'experts' whose expertise is questionable.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
For me the process of questioning conspiracies ( in particular UFOs ) was a slow one...
FWIW, during my High School days I was pretty into UFOs, Lake Monsters and the Bermuda Triangle. At some point I had read what there was to read, that I could get my hads on (this was WAY before everybody could find all sorts of information and misinformation on the Internet. After a hiatus of a year or two, I found a book called "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved" which went through the famous cases (up until that time, of course) and popular works on the mystery, and showed that many of the events I knew well did not happen as reported, did not happen in the "Triangle" or in a few cases did not happen at all. That was about the same time I read "Shark Attack" by David Baldridge, which took all the data in the Navy's shark attack files, and subjected it to analysis, and introducd me to the concept of control data and,more indirectly, that you have to be very careful about seeing patterns in data where they mey not exist, and of the unreliability of eyewitnesses.

I remain hopeful that at some point before I die we will now something about life elsewhere in the Universe, and keep up with UFO reports on the off chance something convincing will cross my desk. But for me, flirting with the edge of the Rabbit Hole, taking a break for a bit and then fortuitously coming across information I had not had before, at just the right moment, saved the day!

I think that's the value of keeping communications open, if you can, with friends or family who fall in all the way. Not to try to talk them around today, but to maybe be there if and when the moment comes when a it of information pointing to a new way of ooking at things will be helpful.
 

Scaramanga

Member
FWIW, during my High School days I was pretty into UFOs, Lake Monsters and the Bermuda Triangle. At some point I had read what there was to read, that I could get my hads on (this was WAY before everybody could find all sorts of information and misinformation on the Internet. After a hiatus of a year or two, I found a book called "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved" which went through the famous cases (up until that time, of course) and popular works on the mystery, and showed that many of the events I knew well did not happen as reported, did not happen in the "Triangle" or in a few cases did not happen at all. That was about the same time I read "Shark Attack" by David Baldridge, which took all the data in the Navy's shark attack files, and subjected it to analysis, and introducd me to the concept of control data and,more indirectly, that you have to be very careful about seeing patterns in data where they mey not exist, and of the unreliability of eyewitnesses.

I remain hopeful that at some point before I die we will now something about life elsewhere in the Universe, and keep up with UFO reports on the off chance something convincing will cross my desk. But for me, flirting with the edge of the Rabbit Hole, taking a break for a bit and then fortuitously coming across information I had not had before, at just the right moment, saved the day!

I think that's the value of keeping communications open, if you can, with friends or family who fall in all the way. Not to try to talk them around today, but to maybe be there if and when the moment comes when a it of information pointing to a new way of ooking at things will be helpful.
I think the real issue is that any phenomenon gets so conflated and tangled up that believers are always able to say ' but what about case XYZ ?', under the illusion that no matter how many cases have been debunked the remainder somehow glues everything together. That was certainly my own stance at one point. It is only when one treats every case entirely on its own merits and removes the entangled house of cards that one gets a true perspective. The variety of UFO reports then appear less self supported by other cases and the whole house of cards starts to fall apart. So the key to getting people to have a more skeptical approach is precisely that dis-entanglement.
 

April.

New Member
I hope we both agree that arguing with con men ("in it for the grift") is fruitless.

Remain those who call themselves "truth seekers", but by their mindset are actually belief defenders. Rational discourse is a tool of truth seeking, and therefore it does not work on belief defenders; it can only effect other truth seekers who are watching the dialogue.

So the general idea of "I'm going to convert this believer by talking rationally to them" is not going to achieve anything except to make both sides feel smug.

You can be "converted" by helping you consider where your beliefs came from, why you trust the sources, and why you want these things to be true. But that wouldn't be rational argument, that would be empathetic dialogue, presumably in private.
I read this and the only thing I can think is: people who don't believe conspiracy theories can't refute the arguments put forward, so they must make emotional appeals. Isn't that a logical fallacy? I'm someone who has an open mind, and have changed my views on things numerous times. So it seems odd that as soon as refuting conspiracy theories is concerned, that's no longer an option.

For me the process of questioning conspiracies ( in particular UFOs ) was a slow one. It started with reading an excellent debunking of the infamous Yukon UFO. Then an excellent debunking of the Japan Airlines UFO in Alaska. These were 'best ever' cases, the very sort that uphold the entire genre, and to see them falling by the wayside started a sort of domino effect....I finally started to wonder were there any genuine cases. Though I still 'believe' in UFOs, the final point where disbelief outweighed belief was Mick West's excellent analysis of the 'go fast' Pentagon video showing its speed was just a parallax effect. So, a confirmed UFO fanatic like myself can indeed become a skeptic. I think the real issue is that people are too much taken in by all the 'best ever' documentaries that present 'experts' whose expertise is questionable.
I don't really think this gets at the core. I see a lot of "debunks" when it comes to *individual theories* and usually the ones presented aren't ones that are involved in the grand conspiracism/truther culture/worldview. For example, there's *lots* of places I could go to get a debunk of flat earth. Yet most truthers are not flat earthers. And most flat earthers aren't truthers. Separate communities. I see a lot of debunks for "fake" conspiracy theories. IE stuff like the 5g fears, anti-vax, etc. which again aren't really a part of the general conspiracy culture. And even if a single belief is "debunked" I still don't think that gets at the core of the issue. Fundamentally, many conspiracy beliefs start with a standard view: that those in positions of power are malicious and nefarious and out to deceive and harm people. But the problem I find is that that seems to actually be a pretty standard view, both among the left and right politically. So conspiracism is really just looking at a less commonly viewed side. Perhaps this is why people can't be "deconverted"? Whenever I see stories of "ex conspiracy theorists" it's usually that they believed in a single theory, that theory was debunked, and then they moved on with life. Never people deep into the roots of it all.

I think the real issue is that any phenomenon gets so conflated and tangled up that believers are always able to say ' but what about case XYZ ?', under the illusion that no matter how many cases have been debunked the remainder somehow glues everything together. That was certainly my own stance at one point. It is only when one treats every case entirely on its own merits and removes the entangled house of cards that one gets a true perspective. The variety of UFO reports then appear less self supported by other cases and the whole house of cards starts to fall apart. So the key to getting people to have a more skeptical approach is precisely that dis-entanglement.
I used to be a ufo skeptic. What changed me to be a believer on this topic are essentially 3 core things that still hold: 1. My own eyewitness account of seeing a ufo. 2. The government declaring ufos to be real. And 3. certain videos which to me appear legitimate and unaltered, such as photos directly from the nasa website. For me to reject this I must: deny my eyes, reject the government, and reject nasa. Which then further fuels *other* conspiracy theories (ie that the government nor nasa can be trusted).
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
By UFO I assume you mean alien in origin or some other non human origin for the observed phenomena?

If in your view the government is saying "UFOs are real" and NASA openly publishes pictures them on the public website, how is it a conspiracy? At this point you are essentially saying UFOs are established fact by authorities and therefore not thinking UFOs are alien spaceships or have non prosaic explanations is the less common/supportable "fringe" belief.

There are some other possibilities

1. Your own sighting was a misidentification of some mundane object.
2. The government as an official entity has not actually confirmed UFOs are real, you have just been led to think they might have by the media and other sources, or that when say UAP/UFOs are "real" what they mean is that they have records of things that they did not identify either at the time nor after some investigation i.e. they are using the term to just mean "a thing we saw that we do not know what it is" and not in the more colloquial sense use to mean an alien craft.
3. People's interpretations of NASAs photos are incorrect and they do not show UFOs.
 

LilWabbit

Active Member
I'd avoid debunking, or anything else that's triggering, unless they actually want to talk about it. At some point they will start to question some of the claims, but until they get there you might want to focus simply on being friends with them. Establish and maintain effective communication first. Debunk later. Maybe a lot later.

Very wisely put. As the Arab proverb goes:

“Not everything that a man knows can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of the hearer.”

It's often the wisest course to engage only with receptivity, and to engage kindly. Each person's level of receptivity to a particular truth is a variable. Their receptivity must be gauged by patient listening before setting forth our 'truth'. However, even the kindest and most sensible viewpoint will be met with resistance when the counterpart is deeply attached to the emotional payoff of a particular belief (for whatever personal or psychological reasons). Unfortunately, in many cases, such a psychological attachment follows the person to the grave. And yet there are invariably other topics where the person is more receptive and where some level of authentic friendship can still be maintained.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Remain those who call themselves "truth seekers", but by their mindset are actually belief defenders. Rational discourse is a tool of truth seeking, and therefore it does not work on belief defenders; it can only effect other truth seekers who are watching the dialogue.

So the general idea of "I'm going to convert this believer by talking rationally to them" is not going to achieve anything except to make both sides feel smug.

You can be "converted" by helping you consider where your beliefs came from, why you trust the sources, and why you want these things to be true. But that wouldn't be rational argument, that would be empathetic dialogue, presumably in private.


I read this and the only thing I can think is: people who don't believe conspiracy theories can't refute the arguments put forward, so they must make emotional appeals. Isn't that a logical fallacy? I'm someone who has an open mind, and have changed my views on things numerous times. So it seems odd that as soon as refuting conspiracy theories is concerned, that's no longer an option.

This is a good example of what I am talking about. Rational discourse simply fails here because you are turning what I am writing into something that fits your belief system, because you don't trust that a person could actually mean what I am writing.

"people who don't believe conspiracy theories can't refute the arguments put forward" --- you can refute the arguments; that is precisely why this rational discourse can "affect other truth seekers who are watching the dialogue". Onlookers who have not made their mind up and who are observing this discourse can see arguments being refuted; but the believer, because their arguments are founded on a belief, can not. Belief defenders might perceive that they have lost an argument, but it won't affect their belief, except perhaps to reinforce it.

I did not say that rational discourse "can't refute the arguments". I said that it did, but that this does not affect the beliefs of the belief defender. Nobody can refute a belief.

The difficulty is that the "belief defender" often does not see themselves as one.
If there are truths that you do not doubt, then these are beliefs.

"I'm someone who has an open mind, and have changed my views on things numerous times" -- you change your mind on things that are not part of your core beliefs. You do that from your own motivation. And you do that as the things that happen to you in your life change your beliefs about how the world works. This is completely different from engaging with someone from the outside who has set out to change a belief of yours that they have chosen, and that you are not ready to change (yet). Self-motivated change is something that you are ready for, while externally motivated change often isn't.

"they must make emotional appeals" --- I am not advocating making "emotional appeals". I'm advocating that, if you want to change a Flat Earther's mind, you don't prove to them that the Earth is a sphere (which is easily done). I am advocating that you listen to them and find out why they need to belief that the Earth is flat, and help them think about why it helped them to adopt that belief when they did. That's not an emotional appeal, that is an investigation into the origins and conditions of that personal belief.

People don't adopt irrational beliefs for no reason. They fulfill a need in the person's life, or they wouldn't be doing it. If you only address the belief and not the need, nothing's going to change.
 

Scaramanga

Member
I read this and the only thing I can think is: people who don't believe conspiracy theories can't refute the arguments put forward, so they must make emotional appeals. Isn't that a logical fallacy? I'm someone who has an open mind, and have changed my views on things numerous times. So it seems odd that as soon as refuting conspiracy theories is concerned, that's no longer an option.


I don't really think this gets at the core. I see a lot of "debunks" when it comes to *individual theories* and usually the ones presented aren't ones that are involved in the grand conspiracism/truther culture/worldview. For example, there's *lots* of places I could go to get a debunk of flat earth. Yet most truthers are not flat earthers. And most flat earthers aren't truthers. Separate communities. I see a lot of debunks for "fake" conspiracy theories. IE stuff like the 5g fears, anti-vax, etc. which again aren't really a part of the general conspiracy culture. And even if a single belief is "debunked" I still don't think that gets at the core of the issue. Fundamentally, many conspiracy beliefs start with a standard view: that those in positions of power are malicious and nefarious and out to deceive and harm people. But the problem I find is that that seems to actually be a pretty standard view, both among the left and right politically. So conspiracism is really just looking at a less commonly viewed side. Perhaps this is why people can't be "deconverted"? Whenever I see stories of "ex conspiracy theorists" it's usually that they believed in a single theory, that theory was debunked, and then they moved on with life. Never people deep into the roots of it all.


I used to be a ufo skeptic. What changed me to be a believer on this topic are essentially 3 core things that still hold: 1. My own eyewitness account of seeing a ufo. 2. The government declaring ufos to be real. And 3. certain videos which to me appear legitimate and unaltered, such as photos directly from the nasa website. For me to reject this I must: deny my eyes, reject the government, and reject nasa. Which then further fuels *other* conspiracy theories (ie that the government nor nasa can be trusted).

The government declaring 'UFOs' to be real is utterly meaningless. It's merely an announcement that people see objects they cannot identify....the very definition of 'unidentified'. Well of course people do ! That object whizzing by could be a bird, or a plane, or a meteor, or a balloon...but if I don't know what it is then by definition it is 'unidentified'. So the government announcing 'UFOs are real' means precisely nothing. It is not synonymous with announcing extraterrestrials are real.
 

FatPhil

Active Member
The government declaring 'UFOs' to be real is utterly meaningless. It's merely an announcement that people see objects they cannot identify....the very definition of 'unidentified'. Well of course people do ! That object whizzing by could be a bird, or a plane, or a meteor, or a balloon...but if I don't know what it is then by definition it is 'unidentified'. So the government announcing 'UFOs are real' means precisely nothing. It is not synonymous with announcing extraterrestrials are real.

Unless it's accompanied by more subversive intelligence operations designed to chum the waters and distort or distract public perceptions. You're playing only level 1 game theory here and presuming the other players are level 0, and I don't believe that's the case at all. The point of communicating something is not to get a message out, that would be level 0 thinking. The point of communicating is because you predict and desire the response of the people who receive that message, which is level 1 thinking. To analyse that requires level 2 thinking. I've seen /Mirage Men/ in the past, which demonstrated that the intelligence agencies are playing at at least level 1, and did leave me with a general impression of distrust, even of the documentary! But Doty et al. also came up in Adam Curtis' /HyperNormalisation/, which I watched last night (it's long, 165 minutes, but fascinating from start to end), and that reinforced the message from /Mirage Men/, that such announcements are being played by someone at at least level 1. Curtis didn't get into the different levels of game theoretic play explicitly, but he's clearly aware of them, as the strapline for /HyperNormalisation/ was "They know we know they lie". ("they lie" being level 1, "we know" being level 2, and "They know..." being level 3.) The fact that there might be mundane factual announcements as part of the whole message doesn't mean they are purely innocent level 0 plays.
 

Scaramanga

Member
Unless it's accompanied by more subversive intelligence operations designed to chum the waters and distort or distract public perceptions. You're playing only level 1 game theory here and presuming the other players are level 0, and I don't believe that's the case at all. The point of communicating something is not to get a message out, that would be level 0 thinking. The point of communicating is because you predict and desire the response of the people who receive that message, which is level 1 thinking. To analyse that requires level 2 thinking. I've seen /Mirage Men/ in the past, which demonstrated that the intelligence agencies are playing at at least level 1, and did leave me with a general impression of distrust, even of the documentary! But Doty et al. also came up in Adam Curtis' /HyperNormalisation/, which I watched last night (it's long, 165 minutes, but fascinating from start to end), and that reinforced the message from /Mirage Men/, that such announcements are being played by someone at at least level 1. Curtis didn't get into the different levels of game theoretic play explicitly, but he's clearly aware of them, as the strapline for /HyperNormalisation/ was "They know we know they lie". ("they lie" being level 1, "we know" being level 2, and "They know..." being level 3.) The fact that there might be mundane factual announcements as part of the whole message doesn't mean they are purely innocent level 0 plays.
I think you make too much of the whole Mirage Men thing....which was really just Doty confessing to the one rather bizarre case he was involved in. And that was a case where the UFO believer was directly 'spying' on a USAF base, and clearly some counter-measure had to be taken. So Doty was involved in deception and admits it. But that's a far cry from there being a more general deliberate policy of inserting UFO stories, especially as the more general interpretation of UFO historians is that the Pentagon, etc, did NOT want communication lines clogged up with UFO reports.

Of course the Pentagon probably didn't mind if top secret classified craft got reported as UFOs. But the Soviets were not stupid and would have grasped that even a 'UFO' story could indeed have been some classified craft. So I personally think it highly unlikely that the Soviets would have been taken in by any deliberate attempt to masquerade classified craft as 'UFOs'.
 
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