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On the origins of the conspiracies

Taxi drivers and many others tend to believe any theory as long as it does not appear in the mainstream media but on fringe websites that profit - financially or politically - from these theories

Conspiracy theories. Image:
Conspiracy theories. Image:

Last week I went to Bratislava - the capital of Slovakia - to take part in the science festival there. The wonderful organizers arranged for me a taxi and an attached driver from the airport in Vienna to the scene of the event. To make the journey pleasant, the driver made sure to share with me all his political, scientific, cultural and non-cultural opinions.

I fainted from remembering his diagnoses, which he spewed out at the rate of a well-oiled machine gun. The corona virus, of course, is nothing but a wild invention of the globalists who are trying to unite the world. There is no epidemic and there was no epidemic. The European Union is a dictatorship that imposes uniformity of thought on all countries - and Putin will bring him for his punishment when the day comes. Maybe even with a nuclear missile, which would have to fly a much shorter distance than expected, since the Earth is - of course - flat. And yes, the Deep State hides this from us as well. He knows it sounds crazy, but the truth often sounds crazy. As Galileo told the church.

How is it possible that the world is blind to all these? he asked and answered himself. Very simple: most people are sheep. They are not free thinkers like him. They do not allow themselves to explore, learn, go beyond the limits that the traditional media sets for them and acquire knowledge from unique sources.

I will not deny that I was stunned. Not because of the conspiracies, but because I heard all these things - word for word - also from the taxi driver who took me to the airport in Israel. And also a taxi driver in New York. I admit it: I like talking to taxi drivers. And of course, all these claims can also be found on social networks.

How is it possible that all those "free thinkers" believe in the same theories, quote them devotedly and fanatically and bring the same evidence?

The sad answer is that the conspiracy fanatics may not believe the traditional media of television and radio, but they certainly get their information from other centralized sources. These are media outlets from the margins, who make a living - and make a good living - from spreading sensational rumors and promoting articles of intimidation. Although there are many of them, the biggest ones are also the ones that set the 'Bon-Ton' and serve as the main sources for conspiracy theorists.

Not surprisingly, when I asked the drivers about their sources of information, the same names were repeated: the Globalization Research Center, InfoWars, Natural News, and a few others.

The "free thinkers" really shun relatively reliable sources of information such as the New York Times, encyclopedias, or government offices. But the sad fact is that they also draw their information mainly from a few large websites and news leaders. Their "freedom" is limited to flocking to those sources. And if I've learned anything from taxi drivers (and the entire Facebook population), it's that any attempt to dispute the seriousness and reliability of these sources causes the "free thinkers" to be shut down immediately.

And it's a shame, especially since the "free" sources of information make good money at their expense.

Take, for example, Alex Jones' InfoWars. He spreads conspiracies, rumors and lies - and profits well from it. According to estimates, Jones brought in more than twenty million dollars into the site's coffers in 2014, mainly from sales of nutritional supplements he marketed on air[1]. Put mildly, if the supplements were to deliver on everything Jones promised, then every one of my taxi drivers should already be an alpha male, an Olympic sprinter and a university professor.

Other media bodies - for example the Center for Research on Globalization - serve and promote precisely the authorities under whom they claim to challenge. The center was defined in 2020 as a website designed to spread false information campaigns on behalf of Russia, and the founder and director is also on the boards of other pro-Russian websites that are entrusted with spreading rumors and lies that serve Putin[2]. Another organization - the RT network - markets and spreads conspiracy theories about the damage of genetically modified plants and the 5G networks. He is doing this with the auspices and encouragement of Putin, who intelligence experts have already determined is trying to hinder the technological development of the West, while promoting the establishment of a 5G network in Russia itself. [3]

None of this means, of course, that we should believe every word on the more-reliable news sites, or everything government ministries tell us. These are also the ones who often try to profit at our expense or tilt our opinions in favor of the ideology they are marketing. Still, the more established newspapers at least try to do self-criticism and basic fact-checking on the articles they produce. And the government offices are also subject to criticism from above (the state auditor) from the side (the Knesset) and from below (the public).

So yes, even reliable sources of information must be treated with constant suspicion. But when someone tries to claim to you that you are sheep who only believe in certain sources, you should remember that the chances are that he also only follows other sources. And these, unfortunately, are much less reliable - and with economic interests just like any other commercial organization.

But be careful when you tell them this, especially if they are cab drivers with a short fuse and a tendency to hit the brake pedal when they get angry.

Next time, I'm taking the bus to Bratislava.




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