There are many conspiracy theories proposed or championed by President Donald Trump. We should be asking why he is so fond of this obvious nonsense, and why would anyone believe it.
Here is a list of some:
• Masks are not necessary during a pandemic.
• The pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by Democrats.
• Vaccines are dangerous.
• Joe Scarborough murdered a colleague 20 years ago.
• President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. nor did he graduate from Harvard Law School.
• Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.
• President Obama is behind a deep state conspiracy to spy on President Trump and has installed surveillance equipment in the White House.
• The Clintons are responsible for killing 50 or more of their colleagues.
• The Democrats want to take away all of your guns.
• Now we have tweets about Obamagate, but no one is sure what that encompasses.
Studies about conspiracy theories have shown that misinformation tends to spread faster than factual information, especially in the age of social media and interference in our social consciousness by hostile parties such as Russia and China. Research has also discovered that people who pay attention to conspiracy theories “scored high on measurements of odd beliefs and magical thinking.” (Journal of Psychiatry Research)
This means that these individuals make connections between things that are unrelated. Trump and his media allies target these people to manipulate them into a way of thinking that supports a desired outcome.
Conspiracy theories make susceptible people immune to factual information. These groups sees themselves as heroes, as well as victims, who must save the world from imaginary crises that they feel they will experience at some future point in their lives. Skepticism and gullibility are out of balance and evidence is not even considered.
I was pleased to see that Twitter was forced to fact-check Trump’s claim that Joe Scarborough murdered a woman in his office when he was a Republican representative in Congress 20 years ago. The husband of the deceased woman had repeatedly asked Trump to stop spreading this lie because it was painful for her family. The pressure for Twitter to fact-check Trump’s tweets on this matter finally revealed the truth.
Social media must begin to act to combat the the proliferation of dangerous conspiracy theories.