Vice: 'It Was Like a Cult': Leaving the World of Online Conspiracy Theories

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Fascinating article on Vice, about a German woman who got sucked into conspiracy thinking, then with the help of a friend, managed to get out:

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/arti...aving-the-world-of-online-conspiracy-theories

At the height of her obsession—especially when it came to chemtrails—Wittschier was part of various groups on Facebook, participated in a forum called Allmystery, and was active on YouTube. But in August 2012, her best friend in the conspiracy world started to question and oppose certain theories, and began the slow process of dissociating herself from the world she shared with Wittschier.

"She just did a complete turnaround from one day to the next. All her opinions had suddenly changed," said Wittschier. They started to discuss the merits of conspiracy theories for weeks, even months, and it wasn't till then that Wittschier eventually became more critical. "She was my best friend, you know, I couldn't just push this fact aside." Wittschier started to ask questions; she stopped sweeping contradictions to her beliefs aside. Ultimately, she dropped out of the scene: "In summer 2013, I finally renounced all this bullshit."
Content from External Source
Here perception was that it was something like a cult, at least in the forums she frequented.
Acording to Wittschier, the issue goes beyond chemtrailers who threaten the press and any former believers. "With hindsight, it was like a cult," she said. "At first it was very exciting to know secrets that others don't, and to be able to educate others. They were a close community with rules, hierarchies and so on. It wasn't until I swung around I realized the pressure they were exerting at the same time—people with different views were, in my opinion, aggresively and systematically attacked and were blocked or deleted within minutes. I was put under observation and everything I did online got recorded, collected, and noted. I can see a lot of similarities to cults like Scientology. For me they are one and the same thing."
Content from External Source
 

tinkertailor

Senior Member.
I love how this highlights the effect that one person who has seen the light can guide others. It's easy for believers to see someone online like Mick or Neil DeGrass Tyson or literally anyone who argues against the big conspiracy and dismiss their input. For all a true believer cares to know, the average Metabunk user could be a cackling shill with a solid gold money clip pinching inch-thick stacks of corrupt Benjamins. The believer sees an icon and a debunk but is blind to the person behind the screen.

I mean, Metabunk users and the debunking community at large live normally mundane lives. They deal with with mortgages, mid-week Costco runs, tax returns, minivans, budgets, in-laws, chihuahuas, boxed wine, Zoloft, everything that the "average" person has to deal with in day-to-day life. It's almost like this reverse Occam's Razor comes up where believers look at the 'evidence' from Alex Jones and AE911 and their brethren and then at the comparatively meager evidence given by the one single debunker and think 'well, either all these theories that are so clearly true about these covert operations are wrong, and therefore I am wrong, or this guy on the internet is in on it'.

But when a CT peer sees the light, it's different. The perspective is the same, the enlightened one knows how it is and can more readily help and the believer has a trusted person to guide them. It's great, so positive and optimistic. It's the reason I love the rabbit hole forum so much and Metabunk in general. Just perfect. :)
 

MikeG

Senior Member.
I thought this was an interesting insight:

"This radicalization also depends on the degree of an individual's involvement, i.e. the potential threat of the imaginary force and its opponents," he added. "Chemtrails appear to be a more aggressive threat as they might represent an immediate danger to life and limb—[chemtrail believers] see themselves facing a conspiracy of gigantic dimensions, whereas supporters of the Flat Earth theory rather believe that they are onto a scientific scandal."
Content from External Source
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I thought this was an interesting insight:

"This radicalization also depends on the degree of an individual's involvement, i.e. the potential threat of the imaginary force and its opponents," he added. "Chemtrails appear to be a more aggressive threat as they might represent an immediate danger to life and limb—[chemtrail believers] see themselves facing a conspiracy of gigantic dimensions, whereas supporters of the Flat Earth theory rather believe that they are onto a scientific scandal."
Content from External Source

I think there's more overlap there than is suggested. The chemtrailer believers also think there's a scientific scandal, with all the scientists being complicit in the cover up - ether part of the cabal, or ignoring chemtrails because they feel it would be bad for their career to speak up, or simply coerced into not speaking.

The Flat Earth believers also "see themselves facing a conspiracy of gigantic dimensions". They have the same problem with the scientists, and obviously the government.

I would agree though that there's far more perceived threat from the chemtrail theory. One simply has a read some of Dane Wiginton's post to see that. Example:
http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/death-by-ecocide/
Destroying the natural world in the relentless pursuit of power and profit is business as usual for the global elite. The military industrial complex, the energy industry, and the climate engineers, all are a part of the same malignant cancer that is controlling the world and killing our host, planet Earth. The dark and destructive agendas could never have been put into motion without the "order followers" that are so prevalent in the ranks of the human race. All those that are just "doing their jobs" without any moral consideration whatsoever.
Content from External Source
 

Strawman

Senior Member.
I coincidentally followed this woman's development on a German forum (allmystery). She was in deep, believed in the most absurd claims and came up with the most unreasonable responses. Then, a few months later, you would see her commenting sceptically about chemtrails, and showing more and more that she actually read about the science behind contrails. It goes to show that debunking can work The tone on that forum can often be a little harsh, with her, it seemed to have worked, but she also had her friend, which may have been the bigger influence.

Unfortunately, as the vice article shows, she's not out of the whole thing yet. I would even say, she is in just as deep, and in a weird way. Very committed, denigrating conspiracy theorists, giving of a vibe of "I know things better than them". She has a whole facebook page which supposedly aims at informing people about the dangers of conspiracy theories, but actually does little more than post screenshots the most absurd CT comments for everyone's amusement.
 
Top