I had the misfortune of meeting someone who believes in conspiracy theories. I knew she was critical about the corona media panic and skeptical about many government measures. To be honest I myself think that the mainstream media with it’s constant updating of infection numbers, personal tragedy stories and pictures of caskets and intensive care wards plays a significant role in shaping the emotional reaction to the COVID19 pandemic. And this role is oftentimes not a positive one. But we live in a world where everything gets amplified through mainstream and social media. So we have to deal with it and not give in.I also see many government measures critical but mostly through the lens of public choice theory. Nevertheless the pandemic is certainly concerning and for some parts of the population a dangerous situation that needs to be addressed.
So I met this woman and we talked about ourselves until she expressed some misgivings about the future. That was when it started and she practically talked non-stop about how this all ends in a dictatorship, how the infection cases are “manufactured” to implement new control measures, how masks are used to make children obedient, that masks lead to brain damage, that “they” want to control us all through digital money and lifelong IDs and so on. I will spare you further details. Yep she was a bona fide corona denier. And probably some other conspiratorial stuff too.
We were absolutely not able to have a rational conversation. I told her about some fact-checking websites to which she retorted that those were all paid off by “them”. I never found out why “they” would even want to control us. It was all a bit murky and unspecific. The thing is that her half-truths were easily proven wrong with just a few minutes of research. But then she would of course deny the validity of any source I mentioned. They were all either paid off or part of the system.
She was completely insulated in her thinking. No argument could be made. All her sources were cherry-picked so she only got anti-corona news. She lived in an echo chamber and for her there was no way out. Everything I said was either a lie and she actually pitied me for being unable “to see the truth”. Me fighting against her “arguments” was proof of the stranglehold all these mass media lies had on me and my incredulous reaction was just the first step in accepting the real “truth”.
She was pretty shocked when I ended this meeting pretty quickly. I made clear I did not want to talk about this any further. Still she send me new links and YouTube videos the next day. I made very clear that I think she is knee-deep in some kind of conspiracy world and I hope she finds her way out but that I would like her to leave me alone. She did not stop. I had to block her on social media. Thankfully we never exchanged phone numbers or email addresses.
I was pretty rattled the next day and I actually felt used by her. Used so she could vent her crazy theories. I feel she must not have many real friends left. What normal thinking person would want to spend time with someone like her. If a person denies even basic truths (like the truth about how to argue and evaluate information) conversation is no longer possible. One can only meet like minded and amplify each other. That seems rather unsatisfying.
Here is my advice: Do not put your faith in experts and politicians but listen to what they have to say. Get information from all sides and listen even if you disagree. Be skeptical of the ability of governments to control complex situations like this one but be cooperative anyway. There will be plenty of time to evaluate, criticize or praise the different policies. Do not listen to people who want to scare you or who use and evoke strong emotions. They are not interested in providing useful information but in furthering their own agenda…and sometimes this agenda is just getting more likes on social media (how sad). Despite all I said try to argue with people like her even the chances are slim to help them see through their own mess. At least try once if it someone you even remotely care about.