Perspective on the popularity of conspiracy theories.

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was thinking about the popularity of conspiracy theories. You often see surveys that say things like "12%
of the population believes in some 9/11 cover up (or chemtrails"

There’s several quite popular YouTube personalities who make Flat Earth their focus. It’s not always clear if they actually believe their theories. You can rank them by their subscribers

117K Rob Skiba
86K Jeranism
51K Celebrate Truth
46K Mark Sargent
40K Mr Thrive and Survive
27K The NASA Channel (not actually NASA)
25K D. Marble
24K Flat Earth Asshole

These numbers are really not very large in terms of YouTube celebrities, but are on the same level as the main chemtrail channels like Geoengineering Watch’s Dane Wigington (57K) or the biggest 9/11 conspriacy channel, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (42K). The Flat Earthers have the other beat on views though, Rob Skiba has 14 million views since 2013, Jeranism also has 14 million since 2015, but AE911Truth only comes in at 1 million since 2010. Wigington. Dane Wigington does better at 6 million since 2014

These numbers are important because they help bring perspective to people down the rabbit hole. Your friend might think that their conspiracy theory is very important, probably the biggest issue of the day, something that lots of people are interested in.

But it’s not. There’s literally tens of thousands of YouTube channels that get more view and more subscribers. There’s channels that are devoted to odd things like dropping a red hot ball onto different things (carsandwater 835K subs) or crushing things with a hydraulic press (Magnetic Press Channel 1.8 Million subs) or playing with magnets (Magnetic Games 288K subs). One single video of a red hot ball dropped onto floral foam has had more views (16 million) than Skiba’s entire channel views in total over it’s entire lifetime.

Is this useful perspective on how popular these things actually are? Even Alex Jones at 1.5 BILLION views is still only six times the size of carsandwater (who just drop a hot ball onto things).

I feel like people in 9/11 Truth, etc, have this idea that everyone knows things like "no plane hit the Pentagon" or "freefall is impossible", when the reality is that most people have not even heard of these things. The same goes for chemtrails. The believers are in a bubble where they think they are addressing the most important issue that humanity has ever faced, but really they have failed to gather much interest.

I remember something similar from the Chemtrail conference when one the speakers, in all seriousness, called for a general strike later that year. You also get things like Truther's threatening to boycott various things - seemingly entirely unaware of the minuscule size of their movement.

So the question is, how do you show them the actual scale of the position of their theory in American society?


Related threads:
http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=219173
https://www.metabunk.org/are-there-any-professional-groups-rebutting-9-11-conspiracy-theories.t9191/
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
With opinion polls.
But polls don't tell you how many people are actively interested in the topic. The polls you linked are very broad in interpretation, only one mentions controlled demolition:
Finding a claim credible is a also rather a broad statement:
https://web.archive.org/web/2010033...content/uploads/2010/03/2010.03.17_911_US.pdf
Wayback Machine 2018-01-11 14-56-48.jpg

What I'm really interested in is how many people there are like you. i.e people who not only think that some of the above four things are true, but actively discuss them.
 

Peter B

New Member
"What I'm really interested in is how many people there are like you. i.e people who not only think that some of the above four things are true, but actively discuss them."

This is a tricky one, because what you’re asking is how to distinguish between some [large] number of people’s automatic reactions—which may not have been thought through, or well-informed, at all, and the truly dedicated [‘believing’] types.

A couple of anecdotes. A while back in New Hampshire I was going about my nefarious business and took a couple of days out to do some pistol shooting. In general chatter with the FFL range owner and his wife, she asked me what I was doing so far from home in NH anyway. So, I told her: I was about to attend a symposium on the Betty and Barney Hill ‘alien abduction’. Her response: “O wow, how could anyone think we’re the only intelligent beings in the universe?” Which doesn’t quite answer the whole of the B&BH problem. From ensuing chat, it became clear that neither she nor her husband knew anything about the Hill case and very little about UFOlore, except that UFOs must be from outer space. So there is an underlying cultural influence… And doorstepped by a Pew, Roper, whoever researcher, Mrs FFL would probably show up as a believer in ET UFOs in the stats.

Whereas. I know quite well a dedicated CTist. He can explain more or less everything by this strange calculus. He was amazed that I (secular Jewish) had never heard of what he called the “Menasheh Jews”, which upon investigation turns out to mean the hokey Khazar myth. He refuses to watch television on the grounds that someone somewhere (the PTB) can tell when you are and what you’re viewing. So he watches stuff online instead. Dunno what he does about ISPs. Won’t use the phone, only Skype. And so on. But to my knowledge he doesn’t say anything about his private religion on line, although he will happily send people to sleep over the coffee and liqueurs explaining (ha, or not) why the WTC buildings couldn’t have been taken down by a couple of airliners and a dozen mad Arabs. And approached by an opinion poll researcher, he’d probably refuse to answer (you can work out why). So he is hidden from the stats.

So my point is: that whereas the stats will give only a vague impressionistic picture of the (equally vague and impressionistic) belief in alien visitation, they will give you at best only an indication of proportions (vs the general population) of true believers, but not reliable numbers, of CTers. I suspect the latter is also true of ‘preppers’, who used to be called survivalists, who are no strangers to CTs either.
 

Leifer

Senior Member
You can rank them by their subscribers

117K Rob Skiba
86K Jeranism
51K Celebrate Truth
46K Mark Sarget
40K Mr Thrive and Survive
27K The NASA Channel (not actually NASA)
25K D. Marble
24K Flat Earth Asshole
Total = 300k


but....
NASA (official) 1.66M subs
JustinBieberVEVO 33.3M subs

Of the top 50 most-subscribed YT channels, nearly all of them fall into these 4 categories...
Music
Entertainment
Comedy
Games (gaming related)

It's likely many of those people are subscribing to more than one of those channels, so actual # of "people", is under 300k.
The population of Plano Texas is 270,000.
The population of the entire USA is 308,000,000.

It's hard to escape the fact that YT is mostly for entertainment, but obviously not always.
I suspect that a FE related channel's "view-count" includes people looking to be entertained.

These are just numbers though, and it IS difficult to assess how many are hard-core believers.

One thing that never makes sense to me is....
....If these YT subscribers of outrageous Conspiracy Theories REALLY believed what they were promoting, why aren't more of them protesting in the streets, gathering irrefutable evidence, and revolting with small armies ?

I know I would - if I had hard evidence of say, a staged 911 attack, or if Jets were spraying me and my loved-ones with toxic chemicals. I'd probably quit my day job to pursue justice.
For this reason alone, I suspect most of them know that the evidence is weak "less-than-strong", and that it's just not enough to motivate them any further than engaging in YouTube group-play and finger-pointing (often anonymously).

But I'm not in their shoes. I'm an outsider, and often a critic.
What we need are SPIES ....(jokn)
In some sense, posting anonymously online can be a sort of truth-detector, where fears and taboos can be played-out without affecting their immediate lives after they log-off the internet. This could be used somewhat to gauge the magnitude their feelings.
On the other hand, anonymous on-line chat behavior can encourage hostility, venting, lies, gaming, and dogmatism.

What about many phone interviews, recorded, identity hidden..... Not about "what" the conspiracies are, but how does it affect them, their lives, their internet involvement, what results they want, is it fun, ...etc ?
 

John85

Member
What I'm really interested in is how many people there are like you. i.e people who not only think that some of the above four things are true, but actively discuss them.
Yes, more difficult to measure. Maybe what we need is a small poll (a few of thousand) asking narrower questions, not necessarily as intrusive as:

how does it affect them, their lives, their internet involvement, what results they want, is it fun, ...etc
Have a google of 'think tank conspiracy theory' to see whether there have been relevant studies related to more than just simple, privately-held opinions.

An interesting, though Eurocentric, example is this briefing document from the European Parliament called 'Understanding conspiracy theory'. Doesn't talk about numbers of believers, but does talk about the social reach of conspiracy theorie.

A survey in France specifically on conspiracy theories.

As referenced elsewhere, a survey of British Muslims including conspiracy theory opinions. This survey was intended to understand respondents' lives.

A more important question would be what evidence is there that talking about numbers reduces interest in conspiracy theories?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
A more important question would be what evidence is there that talking about numbers reduces interest in conspiracy theories?
I find, from talking to former conspiracists, that perspective is almost alway helpful. Many people who casually believe in erroneous conspiracy theories like chemtrails have an idea that this is something that's generally accepted, and that the evidence is all out there, and that this is all confirmed to the extent that the government has admitted it and is now just doing damage control.

The reality is that the government is barely aware of the more esoteric theories, except as an occasional irritant from what they see as the "lunatic fringe". I've talked to several geoengineering researchers, and they are aware of the chemtrail folk, but essentially think of them as a few "well meaning nutters".

Most of what I do is showing conspiracists where their evidence does not hold up. But I think it's good to correct any misconceptions they might have, as any misconception is an impediment to approaching truth and clarity.
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
The reality is that the government is barely aware of the more esoteric theories, except as an occasional irritant from what they see as the "lunatic fringe". I've talked to several geoengineering researchers, and they are aware of the chemtrail folk, but essentially think of them as a few "well meaning nutters".
I think it would be advantageous for geoengineering researchers, at least, to do more to take notice of, and address, chemtrail claims. While it may be a fringe belief among the general public, online it is prevalent enough to show up in Google searches, which in turn means that people unfamiliar with the subject will assume the claims have some basis.
 

deirdre

Senior Member
I think it would be advantageous for geoengineering researchers, at least, to do more to take notice of, and address, chemtrail claims.
what are they supposed to say that hasn't already been said 100,000 times?. Contrails are condensation from plane exhaust. Contrails persist, and always have persisted since planes reached appropriate altitudes. SRM would not look like that. Cloud seeding doesn't look like that.

That's kinda like saying astronomers should be speaking out consistently about astrology. (at least with astrology there are bigger numbers who believe in it)
 

Leifer

Senior Member
I find, from talking to former conspiracists, that perspective is almost always helpful.
That method may be the most insightful.... Former believers who aren't too afraid to admit where they were mistaken, and openly explain how and why they (formerly) felt that way.
....similar to addiction recovery groups. It's therapeutic for those who tell their story, and also therapy (informative) to those who might hear it.
 
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John85

Member
I feel like people in 9/11 Truth, etc, have this idea that everyone knows things like "no plane hit the Pentagon" or "freefall is impossible", when the reality is that most people have not even heard of these things. The same goes for chemtrails. The believers are in a bubble where they think they are addressing the most important issue that humanity has ever faced, but really they have failed to gather much interest.
I think we can all feel some sympathy for this position. Lots of us believe that climate change is the most important issue facing humanity, or that the risk of accidental nuclear annihilation is. We may not get through the 21st century, or if we do, we will likely end up living in a world where our current, comfortable lives are no longer within reach. Huge amounts of biodiversity will be lost, important and beautiful habitats will be lost - human 'habitats' as well. Mass migration is expected. But these issues 'have failed to gather much interest'.

Taking the UK - the Green Party, which stands largely on climate issues, has 9k YouTube subscribers, less even than Flat Earth Asshole, at 24k. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has 309 subscribers. Climate change has been downgraded to weather variations in US gov discourse under Trump, and tensions with North Korea are the worst they've been in years. So we mustn't confuse level of interest with level of importance of these issues.

That's why I suspect that talking about numbers and giving 'believers' that kind of perspective is not helpful for mutual understanding. Take 9/11 - the perspective I would want to give people is that deception, dirty tricks, conspiracy, authoritarian media influence and civilian collateral damage are common aspects of military and security operations, even in the West. If western security services had a hand in events of that day, then it hardly needs to be spelled out that 9/11 represents a behind-the-scenes coup d'etat, and the subversion of the US constitution, something most people in the world would be interested to understand. And this is true even if AE 9/11 Truth has only 40k subscribers, while, say, Tiger Productions (cat videos) has 1.8 million.
 

JFDee

Senior Member
The believers are in a bubble where they think they are addressing the most important issue that humanity has ever faced, but really they have failed to gather much interest.
In my view, this is a point worthy of bringing up with believers, right at the moment when they claim "overwhelming evidence". Remind them about how Youtube suggests video after video once they click something about a conspiracy (or indeed about any issue) for the first time.

My impression is that particularly older people - who didn't grow up with the Internet or with social media - often do not fully grasp the process and the relevance of individualized pre-selection.

Ceterum censeo:
https://www.metabunk.org/posts/216776/
 

Rory

Senior Member
I feel like people in 9/11 Truth, etc, have this idea that everyone knows things like "no plane hit the Pentagon" or "freefall is impossible", when the reality is that most people have not even heard of these things. The same goes for chemtrails. The believers are in a bubble where they think they are addressing the most important issue that humanity has ever faced, but really they have failed to gather much interest.
It's nice to remember, too, that we who are interested in debunking - i.e., the genuine 'Truthers' - are also in a wee little bubble that hardly anyone knows about. :)
 

deirdre

Senior Member
It's nice to remember, too, that we who are interested in debunking - i.e., the genuine 'Truthers' - are also in a wee little bubble that hardly anyone knows about. :)
the difference is debunkers don't feel like "everyone knows". in regards to conspiracy theories anyway.

Fact check sites factcheck.com, snopes etc (which is also debunking) are more widely known...although not as wide known as we may like.
 

Rory

Senior Member
The difference is debunkers don't feel like "everyone knows"
Smart debunkers don't - but I've definitely had times where I felt "the whole world was going crazy" because of how many conspiracy theorists it seemed there were, and how their numbers were growing.

I'd like to think I'm not unique. :)
 

deirdre

Senior Member
Smart debunkers don't - but I've definitely had times where I felt "the whole world was going crazy" because of how many conspiracy theorists it seemed there were, and how their numbers were growing.

I'd like to think I'm not unique. :)
I meant debunkers don't think the whole world knows conspiracy debunkers exist. But yes, I agree there are debunkers who think CTers are a bigger phenomenon than they are (for the same reasons CTers do.. because they consciously surround themselves with it)
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
That's why I suspect that talking about numbers and giving 'believers' that kind of perspective is not helpful for mutual understanding. Take 9/11 - the perspective I would want to give people is that deception, dirty tricks, conspiracy, authoritarian media influence and civilian collateral damage are common aspects of military and security operations, even in the West. If western security services had a hand in events of that day, then it hardly needs to be spelled out that 9/11 represents a behind-the-scenes coup d'etat, and the subversion of the US constitution, something most people in the world would be interested to understand. And this is true even if AE 9/11 Truth has only 40k subscribers, while, say, Tiger Productions (cat videos) has 1.8 million.
(emphasis mine)

But surely the details are important here. There's a vast difference between funneling some money and encouragement to a terrorist organization, and having computer controlled planes flying into building pre-rigged with explosives (as AE911 believes). If the former is true, then it's getting eclipsed by the latter for all those 9/11 CD truthers. If people think of AE911 as the face of 9/11 Truth then it's not actually helping.
 

John85

Member
(emphasis mine)

But surely the details are important here. There's a vast difference between funneling some money and encouragement to a terrorist organization, and having computer controlled planes flying into building pre-rigged with explosives (as AE911 believes). If the former is true, then it's getting eclipsed by the latter for all those 9/11 CD truthers. If people think of AE911 as the face of 9/11 Truth then it's not actually helping.
Yes, the details are important, but I for one would not have found out about evidence of relatively minor misdeeds (supporting al Qaeda prior to 9/11) without seeing the evidence of major crimes (rigging the towers with explosives). AE 9/11 Truth is pretty effective at marshaling the evidence, and I believe Tony Szamboti when he says that his fellow engineers are persuaded when they decide to take a look at the evidence for themselves. Plus AE911 have had public campaigns with billboards, petitions, press conferences and the funding of the UAF study. I would say they help more than they hinder.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, the details are important, but I for one would not have found out about evidence of relatively minor misdeeds (supporting al Qaeda prior to 9/11) without seeing the evidence of major crimes (rigging the towers with explosives). AE 9/11 Truth is pretty effective at marshaling the evidence, and I believe Tony Szamboti when he says that his fellow engineers are persuaded when they decide to take a look at the evidence for themselves. Plus AE911 have had public campaigns with billboards, petitions, press conferences and the funding of the UAF study. I would say they help more than they hinder.
But that's because you've been convinced of the CD hypothesis. I think it is incorrect, and hence a distraction.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
*I've been convinced in no small part by AE911
Right, which I see as a problem, as I think they are promoting false evidence and people take it more seriously than it deserves because they think AE911 are far less marginal than they actually are. So perspective is important.
 

Peter B

New Member
Speaking of distractions, I was under the (perhaps accurate) impression that this thread was about the numbers of people entranced by conspiracy theory (believe one, and soon you'll buy them all) vs sundry more egregiously popular interests. The virtues or otherwise of AE911 seem a fair step away from that. So, I will enquire: even if you/we/anyone had accurate stats on adherence to CTs, what would you do with them? I don't think you'd convert any CTists, if only for the usual reason(s): essentially, any debunk of a CT demonstrates you've been got at (brainwashed), or have an agenda (shill for the PTB). All disproofs are proofs. Unpopularity in itself is proof that the CTists have twigged to what's what, and are among the chosen and enlightened, while the sheeple stumble blindly on.

A secondary question is why it should matter much if a relatively few people are a trifle swivel eyed on some subjects.

Which is not to say debunking CTs isn't a good thing. I remain more intrigued by how & why people get into this stuff in the first place. (The addiction thereafter is easier to understand.)
 

Leifer

Senior Member
The popularity of conspiracy theories...
Some think it's "fun".
Again, it's difficult to determine who is promoting CTs - for fun, or who is doing it based on light suspicion, or who is doing it because their life revolves around it.
Here is just one example... because it's "fun" (a random video I came across, without searching for the word "fun")....
(re: Cali fires and DEW/laser hypothesis)
....video below cued to relative point, ending @ around 6:37
 
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Leifer

Senior Member
Excuse my language, but stories are often created and targeted on the net to stimulate a "mindfuck".
These wild stories get copied and sent, with almost zero investigation by the senders.
Most often these stories are silly fodder, but sometimes . they create new beliefs and conspiracies.
 
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