First things first, we try not to confuse ourselves or our listeners as we distinguish between conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies. Then we unpack a bunch of questions about why people (even some of the smart ones) are so easily suckered by conspiracy theories. Are we experiencing a spike in conspiracy theories akin to the days of the Red Scare and the Salem Witch Trials? What’s the role of science and technology in spreading such theories? Have lizard people infiltrated the government in order to hide the truth about how flat the Earth really is? Find answers and learn how conspiracy theories have us chasing our own tails, squashing our ability to think critically, and distracting us from dealing with systemic problems like climate change. Tanya Basu, senior reporter at MIT Technology Review, joins the gang to suggest healthier ways to communicate with conspiracy theorists. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Asher Miller

Hi, I’m Asher Miller.

Jason Bradford

I’m Jason Bradford

Rob Dietz

and I’m Rob Dietz. Welcome to Crazy Town where 75% of the town thinks the other 75% are lizard people. Today’s topic is conspiracy theories and our susceptibility to them. And stay tuned for an insightful interview with reporter Tanya Basu.

Asher Miller

Alright, so Rob and Jason. Hey.

Rob Dietz

Hey! Good to see ya.

Asher Miller

Good to see you, too. We were talking previously about cognitive biases. And I was thinking about confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is where basically where you’re looking for information that confirms a view you already have.

Rob Dietz

Right. I see anything that tells me I’m right. And now even more. right.

Jason Bradford

Feels so good.

Asher Miller

Yeah. I wanted to challenge myself and say, “Well, you know, what are my confirmation biases? What are the things that I believe in – really strongly? And have I really tested those?”

Jason Bradford

It’s a good thing to do?

Asher Miller

Yeah. So one of the ones that I wanted to really think about and grapple with was my beliefs around energy. You know, we talk a lot about energy here on the podcast and at the Post Carbon Institute. Obviously, it’s  kind of a core thing that we try to educate people about. Right? And so, you know, I wanted to ask myself a hard question like, “Are my assumptions about kind of the energy predicament that we have: our reliance on fossil fuels, a depleting, polluting energy source and the difficulty of transitioning away from them – Is that really grounded in reality?” And I have to admit something to you guys. I found some information to really test that assumption. And I want to share with you because I think the same thing. So I’m gonna play you something that I came across.

Rob Dietz

I’m worried about hating myself after I learned that my biases . . .

Asher Miller

We’re in this together. Okay, we can get through this together. Alright, that’s part of why I wanted to share my thoughts.

Rob Dietz

Let’s take a risk. Let’s let’s see this.

Asher Miller

Okay. So try to have a reaction to this thing

Video

My name is Foster Gamble. And I have spent nearly a lifetime trying to figure out what happened. I found a code, a pattern in nature that’s been embedded in arts and icons throughout the centuries. I believe that they’re giving us a model for accessing energy in a clean, safe, limitless way that could completely revolutionize the way all people live. Right here in this toroid, we have enough energy to transform the entire earth. And that’s not just a theoretical statement. Tt’s literally true.

Video

The energy is extracted from the fabric of the space around us, which means it cannot be metered. That is a direct threat to the single largest industry in the world. Energy.

Video

The suppression of UFO phenomenon is hand in hand with the suppression of so called free energy.

Video

An elite group of people and the corporations they run have gained control over not just our energy, food supply, education and health care, but over virtually every aspect of our lives.

Rob Dietz

Well, guys, I think we can go home now. We can hang up this podcast because our work is done. Humans are going to thrive when the free energy starts rolling through.

Jason Bradford

That just cracked my Cosmic Egg.

Asher Miller

So obviously, you know, I was kidding when I shared this with you.

Rob Dietz

What? I really wanted to go home now.

Asher Miller

But, I actually wanted to share it because I want to talk about another hidden driver. You know, this this season on Crazy Town we’re exploring these hidden drivers of what brought us to Crazy Town. And I want to talk about one that this reminded me of. That is maybe not so hidden. But I think the causes of it may be hidden or important for us to understand. And that is the belief in conspiracy theories.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, yeah. What actually struck me watching that video is how good they were at layering various conspiracy theories. You know, this is a podcast you’re not going to see it, but you could see the eye from the dollar bill and the kind of idea of the Illuminati and all these . . .

Jason Bradford

Everything is connected now. I see the patterns. I see what I couldn’t see before. It makes sense now.

Rob Dietz

Right. Right.

Asher Miller

And the reason I wanted to bring that – there’s no shortage of conspiracies, we could talk about it and hopefully we’ll get into into some of them today. But wait, the reason I wanted to bring that one up is that actually, when this film came out . . . Okay, this is a film. This is from a film called, “Thrive” okay. And it came out in 2012 or something like that. First of all, very proud of how many views we’ve gotten on our on our videos on YouTube. You know, we’ve got –

Jason Bradford

Post Carbon Institute?

Asher Miller

Yeah, Post Carbon Institute

Jason Bradford

Go to our Youtube Channel for Post Carbon Institute

Asher Miller

Our animation of 300 years of fossil fuels in 300 seconds. You know, it’s gotten probably close to 2 million views now. This film has probably gotten over 20 million views. And when it came out, there were people in our kind of camp who were sharing it. In fact, there was an organization, I’m not going to name them because I don’t want to  embarrass them, but a prominent organization in our space who included something about this in an email. They sent out a special email about this fucking film. That’s espousing UFO conspiracy theories and free energy. They sent it out. I was like, “What was going on?”

Jason Bradford

But they’ve got Tesla in it.

Asher Miller

It doesn’t just have Tesla in it. It has Amy Goodman. It has a number of people that are in this kind of broader tent, though, that we are a part of. Now, a lot of them didn’t know what they’re being filmed for. Until afterwards.

Rob Dietz

Right. They see what they’ve been stitched into. Like, they’re just trying to give a decent interview about energy.

Asher Miller

And the amazing thing about the film, too, is that, just as an aside, they had this whole kind of resource area of like, what do we do, you know, kind of like call to action stuff. And we’ll share it in the show notes. If you look at it, so much of the stuff that they’re recommending are exactly the things that we’re recommending. Relocalization, sustainable food systems, all these things. It’s like the disconnect between sort of some of the worldview being aligned, and then this crazy, crazy stuff about free energy and UFOs. And there have been people we’ve been contacted by who kind of believe in some of this stuff.

Rob Dietz

Well, one thing that I want to do is throw some kudos your way. So when we planned this season, we came up with a set of hidden drivers that have led us into this time we’re experiencing here in Crazy Town. And this is gonna hurt my hand as I pat me on the back and you guys are socially distanced. I gotta try to get there. But we picked conspiracy theory as one of those hidden drivers. And we’re recording this – we record our episodes well ahead of their release date – we’re recording this the day after the siege on the US Capitol, which was fueled in large part by conspiracy theory. So we did this last season too. We talked about global trade and the insanity of travel right ahead of the pandemic. And so I feel like we’re hitting the time right,

Asher Miller

So I just have to confess something. You want to pat us on the back for getting the time right. I actually coordinated this with Trump.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah.

Asher Miller

There’s actually a conspiracy there.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, this is not a theory. This is an actual conspiracy.

Jason Bradford

George Soros involved in this as well?

Asher Miller

Not this one. Other ones I got going on.

Rob Dietz

I didn’t know you were so buddy, buddy. with Trump. That’s ahh . . .

Asher Miller

Yeah, I just thought you know, this would be a win-win for both of us. Maybe not a thing for us to be joking about too much, right? As people you know, invading . . .

Rob Dietz

Hey, that’s our stick. We laugh at the darkest, worst stuff that’s happening to humanity. Haha, isn’t that funny? Haha.

Jason Bradford

Well, you know, my wife’s a physician. And it’s fascinating right now with the year we’ve gone through. I remember in January, a year ago, just being hyper alert to the pandemic. And just, I knew this tidal wave was coming. And I did not know, though, that we’d have this convergence of anti-mask and anti-vax, you know, happening. And it was culminating this time of year, right, where there’s still anti-mask folks. They’re yelling at people. And now like, that public health people are worried about, are we going to get enough vaccines into people to actually get herd immunity? And what’s amazing, though, is it’s sort of like conspiracy on the right and conspiracy on the left.

Rob Dietz

You’re talking conspiracy theory on the right and conspiracy theory on the left?

Jason Bradford

Yes, yes. That’s important. Yeah. Let’s define this.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, well, we definitely want to keep straight on there are actual conspiracies that happen out there. But there are actual conspiracy theories that are not happening as well.

Jason Bradford

How do you tell them apart?

Rob Dietz

Well, and I also want to be careful, too, because – I don’t know. Maybe we can step this back and actually just define them for our listeners.

Asher Miller

Yeah. Let’s do that.

Rob Dietz

So, a conspiracy is when two or more people get together and they design some way to achieve their nefarious purposes. Often illegal, or at least unethical.

Asher Miller

And it’s not transparent, right? It’s a it’s secret. It’s a secret thing.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, secret thing. Like a hidden driver, right?

Asher Miller

Which is distinguished from a conspiracy theory. Right. And that is a theory that people come up with to explain something that they’ve seen, which ascribes a conspiracy as a source source for that thing. And those theories could be grounded in reality, those theories could be not grounded in reality…

Rob Dietz

Yeah, some conspiracy theories could turn out to be actually descriptive of a real conspiracy. That’s rare.

Jason Bradford

It’s partially true. They’ve got elements of reality in them that kind of hide the nutty connection that’s made.

Rob Dietz

Right? And I gotta say, when I started thinking about this, I was having some trouble, honestly, in my own mind with mixing up conspiracy theory, and maybe something that’s even simpler, like a rumor, right? I was thinking about well, in my life, have I been privy to some conspiracy theories? And I thought about my high school days. And so I went to this school where a couple stories went around about masturbation and people masturbating in school and one of them even was called “the incident of the hamster-bator.”

Jason Bradford

I don’t want to know.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, I don’t want to explain what that was. Okay. But I was I was trying to think about it, and is this a conspiracy theory? And I don’t think it was. I think it was just a rumor and a story that was passed around. You know, the difference would be if that story was made up by a bunch of students who wanted to shame or embarrass a specific person.

Jason Bradford

Did the hamsters get hurt?

Rob Dietz

Let’s let’s put the hamsters out of mind right now. We don’t want PETA rating this this podcast studio.

Jason Bradford

Are they okay now?

Rob Dietz

Yeaah, yeah. No hamsters were injured in the filming of this.

Asher Miller

Those would be the oldest hamsters in history, by the way, cuz that was a while ago. Rob was in high school.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. And I hope that that wasn’t filmed. Good Lord. But so I think it’s just important to try to keep straight what we’re talking about with a conspiracy theory. So I appreciate you giving us that definition.

Asher Miller

I think it’s also important to recognize that conspiracies aren’t new. I mean, here we are talking about the timeliness of them. And I think we, you know, want to get into that and what’s happening with conspiracies now, but –

Rob Dietz

conspiracy theories now?

Asher Miller

Sorry, I’m doing it again.  Actually both. Right? Yeah. Both. So conspiracy theories are not new. And I think we could look at examples from history one that hits close to home for me and my people is the the conspiracy theory of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t know if you guys have heard about that. That was —

Rob Dietz

well it sounds really important. And it’s gotta be real. I mean, the protocols of the –

Jason Bradford

Yeah, can you list the protocols please?

Asher Miller

I know them by heart. Yeah. So I think the conspiracy theory is that there’s a cabal of these Jewish leaders originated in Russia. And this belief that there’s this kind of cabal of these powerful Jewish interests who had these grand machinations to control everything in the world. It’s something that’s persisted for actually a really long time for centuries.

Jason Bradford

Now, you’re the executive director. At Post Carbon Institute,

Rob Dietz

Which if you look up the formal name, it’s actually the Post Carbon Institute of the Elders of Zion with protocols for running the Cabal.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, he’s in charge. He’s in charge.

Asher Miller

Yeah, too long of an acronym. We had all kinds of people spreading this. We had Ford who was spreading that and he was actually sending copies of this for the automaker. Henry Ford.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, cars and Jewish cabals go hand in hand.

Asher Miller

People are still putting this stuff out. And you know, they’re different forms of it that takes, you know, with conspiracies, Rothschilds and other things. There’s also you know, one that that persisted for centuries that was actually deadly to choose, which was this idea that there’s a kind blood libel that Jews would grab Christian children on Passover, and drink their blood, you know? Like, these are things that  – so Easter was always a very scary time for Jews in Europe, because it was a time where like, this was fomented. This conspiracy theory was fomented by the church.

Jason Bradford

Right. Well, it kind of reminds me of some of this QAnon going on now.

Asher Miller

Sure. Yeah.

Jason Bradford

Ah! It’s all connected, you see? Well, I yeah, it’s been a long time. And I remember this one instance, when I was a young college freshman. This is like my first class, American – what was it called – American Studies.

Asher Miller

Wow, that’s pretty broad.

Jason Bradford

It was a cool class. And it was a general education class with like 100 people in it. And you come to this room and this professor with a bow tie gets up there. And he decides the first day of class he’s gonna do a roll call. See who’s here. You know, just want to say hi, get your name out. Never happens in college courses usually, but he went through it. He goes, “Jason Bradford,” you know, and I like raise my hand. He goes, “You wouldn’t happen to be related to the Mayflower Bradford?” And I’m like, “Well, actually I am.  He goes, “Oh, great. Your ancestors burned witches.” And then the the class kind of chuckles and laughs, and he goes, “Hey, settle down, now. It was your ancestors that they burned.”

Jason Bradford

It was pretty funny.

Asher Miller

You ran out of there very fast.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, “Now, I’m gonna hand out something to each of you. These are blue dart guns. You don’t get one Mr. Bradford, but everyone else.”

Jason Bradford

Yeah. Run Run. Yeah. So I mean, I hadn’t really known much about it. But of course it’s this period where people are getting sick and you know, stuff is going on. And they don’t really know much about how the world works. This is a time when it was sort of folk knowledge, right. And I think what it was just people searching for a way to find an explanation for stuff that was scary in their life. Right? And so they just made up stories about these women when tragedies happened.

Rob Dietz

So you’re saying they weren’t actually conspiring to cast spells that withered the crops?

Asher Miller

And this goes way back. Especially like targeting women? I mean, in Rome there was a conspiracy theory that women were poisoning people in Rome and like 311, or something like that, BC. And it was a disease that was ravaging the city, but they didn’t understand that.

Jason Bradford

Right. They didn’t understand.

Rob Dietz

Okay, so there’s a sort of unwritten rule in this podcast that my role is to bring us down to stupid stuff that doesn’t really matter to anyone. So let me just take on that role real quick here with a conspiracy theory that I love. And it all goes back to, of course, I guess this would be the 80s and 90s with David Stern, who was the former commissioner of the NBA. I’m gonna give you three conspiracy theories that he’s wrapped up in. One was the draft I believe of 1984 where there was a clear number one college guy, Patrick Ewing, he was just dominating this, you know, seven foot crushing center who is agile.

Jason Bradford

Georgetown?

Rob Dietz

Yeah, and good shooter.

Jason Bradford

Ah I can’t believe I remember that.

Rob Dietz

So, you know, if you follow basketball, of course, you know Patrick Ewing. And he’s going to be the number one pick. And the NBA has a lottery for the number one pick. I think the top seven teams or something all get an envelope thrown into it.

Asher Miller

Right. This is when they’re doing envelopes instead of ping pong balls.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, so the conspiracy theory is we need to make the New York Knicks one of the most popular and biggest markets and relevant again. So they got to get the number one pick there in the lottery. And yet the theory is that they took the Knicks envelope and froze it – put it in a freezer ahead of time – so that when David Stern reached in he could find the cold one, pull that, and of course, the New York Knicks got the number one pick.

Jason Bradford

The rest is history.

Rob Dietz

And they had a very poor chance of getting it, too. I think. Maybe that’s not true – I don’t know. But anyway, they got the pick. And yeah, the rest is history.

Asher Miller

Now that’s a conspiracy, not a conspiracy theory.

Rob Dietz

You decide, right? Like there’s also the idea that David Stern and others in the NBA banned Michael Jordan the year that he went off to play baseball because he was gambling and they didn’t want the whole like Pete Rose kind of incident to undermine the league. And there’s a third conspiracy theory around a famous playoff series that the Los Angeles Lakers were going up against the Sacramento Kings. Okay? And Kings are this little market.

Jason Bradford

Ah. Wonderful series.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, well, so the Kings were having a great run. They were actually a threat. And I think it was in game six, there were all these fouls called and they were all for the Lakers. So that the conspiracy theory is that the NBA wanted the big market team to win and to go on to the finals and they could make a lot more money. So they had the refs basically decide that game.

Jason Bradford

Hey, follow the money, man. That little Illuminati symbol on the top of the bills. That’ll tell you where to go.

Rob Dietz

Well, that does bring up that that issue. Like sometimes it’s pretty damn hard to decide. Is this a conspiracy theory? Or is it an actual conspiracy?

Asher Miller

Right. And in the case of basketball, there was a ref who was found to have been fixing games.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. Donaghey, right? That was that  – Yeah, he was like in the pocket of the mob guys when and . . . That was what was amazing. He didn’t have to determine the winner of the game. It just had to be the score mattered, right? So if I call this foul at the right time, this guy shoots his free throws and . . .

Asher Miller

Yeah, we’ve seen that with other sports. I mean, scandals with with FIFA and like, you know, all kinds of stuff, right?

Jason Bradford

Yeah. My sport of tennis had some issues too. I’m very sorry to report.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think no sport, except maybe curling has . . . although we’ll probably find out there was just a great scandal with curling later.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, the Canadians.

Asher Miller

Yeah, yeah. With that smile. They act so polite.

Jason Bradford

I know, no one can tell.

Rob Dietz

Conspiracies all over in the Great North. So, I just got to ask why are we so stuck on conspiracy theory. Like why are they so damn addictive?

Jason Bradford

And I want to know, like, are there more now than there used to be? Or are there patterns to this historically?

Rob Dietz

Well, I will say Asher, you shared a really good article. I can’t remember who the professors were that put it together, but we’ll get that in the show notes. But they were talking about some of the evolutionary origins of why we’re so susceptible to conspiracy theory. And I thought it was really fascinating. It was all about kind of the idea of being falsely wrong about something versus . . .  I guess it’s best to just put an example. They were talking about going back to the Stone Age days. You’re a tribe. You have a another tribe that’s outside of yours. And if you believe that tribe is coming to get you, and you’re super suspicious of them, it was really adaptive. Like you’re more likely to survive – even if you’re wrong about them. It’s better to be wrong about that tribes intentions than it is to have not been suspicious. And then one day, they come in and kill your family and you’re dead.

Jason Bradford

Okay, so like, 9 out of 10 out group tribes are not cannibals.

Asher Miller

But one of them could be.

Jason Bradford

But one of them is. Right. So you might all just keep your distance.

Rob Dietz

Right. And so the idea is that it was it was actually an adaptive thing, to be ultra suspicious, to find these patterns wherever you could, and to be really vigilant against it.

Jason Bradford

I had not heard that. But I kind of think of it as you know, the reasons are related sort of what to I mentioned before with the Salem Witch Trials, or just witches in general . . .

Rob Dietz

Those are now the Bradford Witch Trials.

Jason Bradford

Thank you. I like to be in the midst. . . But you know, what it gives you, is it gives you an order, and a way to answer why. And people really like to know, even if it’s not great, even if it’s you know, nefarious. At least they have some sense of control, and they can make some sort of – they think they can make some sort of prediction. And so that’s an important need people have, you know? Especially for when they’re scared, right? And then I think the other thing is that they bind you to your group. If you all believe this thing, and you signal to each other you do, then that makes you kind of tight with those people. So, it’s sort of this need to be part of a group and benefit from those bonds.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And I think maybe that it’s not even just being able to belong to a group, it’s the risk of being out of the group that leads people to go along to believe in things that they might otherwise rationally recognize is kind of bullshit.

Jason Bradford

Right Yeah.

Asher Miller

Yeah. That’s a stronger motivator than, you know. . .  So you convince yourself that this thing is true. That this conspiracy theory is true. Because the risk of being ostracized or pushed out of the group, if you deny it –

Rob Dietz

Yeah, and we’ve talked about that irrationality and in the human mind. Like how important it is to have others affirm what you are just saying. I also want to go back to what you pointed out, Jason, before, about that idea of, we want a simple explanation for something going on in the world that in this show, we talk about how complex things are. And how there’s nuance to a lot of the events that we see around us. There aren’t necessarily these just super simple explanations, but for some reason, we really crave those. And that’s a that’s a weird phenomenon to me, like, why can’t we just say, “Yeah, it’s pretty damn complex.”

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I know. I mean, that’s the thing. For someone like me, who’s a scientist and really likes to understand reality and will work hard to try to understand reality. I don’t. I just feel like it’s laziness in some ways. Like for a lot of people, they just want an answer. They want it quick. It’s easy. And I’m not necessarily blaming them for that. Because it is hard work to try to understand what going on. Oh, my God, that’s a that’s a pain in the ass. And who has time? So I think these give you like these shortcuts, right?

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think there’s also – I mean, just going back to some of the deep, maybe adaptive evolutionary traits that we have, sort of as a species . . .  I think, as a species, we are pattern seeking. And that was an evolutionary adaptive trait. I mean, to be able to see patterns in nature was important and necessary for us, right? So you eat a poisonous mushroom, you know, you come across another one later are are like “I’m not touching that thing.” You see a pattern. Otherwise we wouldn’t exist, right? So we want to see and believe. We have a tendency to ascribe patterns to things that we see out there that may not be connected. We connect them to each other and create a narrative around them. Seeing that pattern. There’s a couple of researchers – I can’t remember their names. I think they’re these Dutch researchers. And we’ll provide a link to this paper in the show notes there, too. It also talked about a couple other things I thought were interesting. That has to do, again, with with us maybe uniquely as a species. One is what they’re calling agency detection. And that is, we have the cognitive ability to imagine what other people might be thinking. So we can envision that they have some kind of agency. That they have some kind of motivation, intent, whatever. Some of that might be mirroring our own. So if we have this maybe thoughts of wanting to form some kind of conspiracy or having a negative idea, we want to hurt somebody, we want to do something – we ascribe with other people the same kind of tendency.

Jason Bradford

Oh, it’s projection. Right.

Asher Miller

Yeah, right. And another one they talked about is alliance detection. It comes back to what you were talking about, Rob, earlier, which is that we can also kind of in the abstract recognize that alliances can be formed outside of us. And those alliances can be – by alliances we mean groups of people. So, they can be positive alliances. We’re gonna collaborate with this other city, this other tribe, this whatever, you know what I mean? But they could be also negative ones. Right? So we have this tendency to believe there are alliances being formed out there.

Jason Bradford

Right. Right. That may be a threat.

Asher Miller

And you combine that with this agency detection. We have these sometimes devious thoughts in our own minds. We’re gonna ascribe those to other people and you combine those things. And then you combine that with pattern seeking. You know, it’s no wonder we start believing in conspiracy.

Rob Dietz

I kind of did sense there was an alliance between you Asher and you Jason against me here.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, yeah. You saw right through it.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I mean mean, the patterns are – we should stop passing notes to each other while we’re recording.

Jason Bradford

Did you notice I gave him less coffee than I gave you?

Rob Dietz

I did. I noticed that too. And there were mushrooms in it as well.

Jason Bradford

I think – so there may be then certain personality traits or predispositions psychologically that make people more susceptible I’m guessing then. So that’s interesting to think.

Asher Miller

But, you know, going back to this question of like, is it happening more now? There’s another study I found that I thought was really fascinating. And I really have to admire the work that these guys put into this. Which is, there’s a group of researchers that went and collected all of these letters to the editor at the New York Times from 1890 to 2010. Okay, long period of time. And they went through about 100,000 letters that were related to some kind of, spouting some sort of conspiracy theory, okay? And what they found was that these have kind of consistency happened over that period. So it’s not like, new now, you know, and it’s not necessarily worse now. In fact, they found that there are two in that period. And again, this was up until 2010. There are two kind of big spikes. One was around the turn of the of the 19th to the 20th century, when there was a time of huge consolidation of economic power and monopolies and all this stuff. And the other was in the 1950s with the rise of the kind of the Red Scare and all that. So, there are periods of great economic upheaval and uncertainty and people seeing that there were real basis of power that were happening –

Asher Miller

When was Area 51 setup?

Asher Miller

Yeah, that was in the 50’s. It does. It makes me wonder if the prevalence of conspiracy theories actually kind of maybe lags slightly behind the prevalence of actual conspiracies. Almost like the predator prey relationship or something? Well, I want to turn to kind of the the real heart of it. We talk about conspiracy theory as a hidden driver that’s landed us in Crazy Town. And I want to hear what you guys have to say about this. I mean, Crazy Town, as we were sort of thinking about or conceiving the idea, is a time where there are too many people consuming too much. We’re undermining the life support systems of the planet. We’re responding to it in crazy ways. Like with, you see widespread inequality. You see authoritarian governments. You see us just addressing the wrong stuff. We’re not paying attention to what we should be. So how did conspiracy theory lend a hand in us arriving in this time? I mean, what do you think, Jason?

Jason Bradford

Well, I think it has to do in some ways with the chasing our own tail. So think about this: Like if, if there’s, if there’s a conspiracy theory, that is telling us some simple narrative of why we’re all – something screwed up. Like, the conditions of life are not what they should be or we want them to be. And oh my gosh, I’d like to do something about it. If all you’ve got is some conspiracy theory as your way of understanding what’s going on with you, how are you going to actually make any change? You’re just going to be spinning in a circle and not connecting any real dots, but finding these bizarre patterns. And so I think that they just screw up the ability for us, or collectively, to maybe actually go after the real conspiracy that solves the problem.

Rob Dietz

You make me think of kind of modern stuff with how the working class in the United States has taken a beating over the past few decades. And instead of, “Hey, let’s work on real policy changes that that give the working class their due and where you can aspire to have a reasonably comfortable life.” Instead of working on those policies and the institutions and the systems, we’ll just believe in it’s a cabal of pedophiles who are eating children that –

Jason Bradford

Yeah, and all of the information is on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Asher Miller

Right. And it’s, it’s brought us to Crazy Town in the sense that it has contributed to our inability to solve and address the systemic structural forces that are driving us basically off the off the cliff, right? Because we’re, like you said, we’re chasing our tails. There are also I think, actors out there. I’m gonna put out a conspiracy theory of my own here. Which is that there there are actors out there who, in a sense, want to maintain the status quo. Who are either promulgating conspiracy theories themselves, or are riding on the backs of them, right. So for example, we’ve seen, you know, the conspiracy theory, that climate change is a hoax, you know? That there’s this – It’s so laughable – There’s this group of geeky academic scientists and researchers who are all conspiring together to make up data and a whole theory of atmospheric warming of the planet. Because then they get like grants or whatever?

Jason Bradford

Well in the Chinese Communist Party if you audit all the universities, right. And the climate scientists and they’re funding you – There’s shell companies that the Chinese Communist Party is funding.

Asher Miller

Alright, so Chinese. I see I heard it was Soros. But you think they’re together on this?

Jason Bradford

I think Soros is half-Chinese.

Asher Miller

I think the Chinese are half-Jewish.

Rob Dietz

I thought Soros was an alien planted here by the lizard people.

Jason Bradford

Have you seen his tongue? Never. He never shows his tongue and that’s why. Because he’s a lizard person.

Asher Miller

Well if you look closely the way . .  By the way, people, you don’t necessarily want to go down this rabbit hole. But we didn’t make that up. Just go check out David Icke and lizard people.

Rob Dietz

But you’re right about that. Like there is an exploitative group of people who will float conspiracy theories as part of an actual conspiracy to maintain their interests. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff like Naomi Oreskes wrote about the oil companies, you know, trying to hire people to float these kind of ideas so that they distract people and get them off on the wrong way of thinking about it.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I mean the podcast “Drill” did a good job of kind of going over a lot of that and the history of that.

Asher Miller

There’s people who are actively promoting, maybe even creating and then promoting, these conspiracy theories. There are others who I think have, let’s say, benefited on some level. They’re not active participants, but they’re somewhat passive. Maybe I think passive is being too kind. Yeah, they’re, taking advantage of them in different way. Which is just a purely self interest one. So for example, think about Facebook and YouTube. They have made billions of dollars playing on and basically spreading these conspiracy theories, because it creates a captive audience. It feeds something in people. And so they feed them this content. Yeah, that plays on these fears that they have, and then they profit from it.

Asher Miller

So you’re making me think of all the good ads that must run on YouTube and Facebook in association with these conspiracy theories. Like, “Buy the new lizard detector 4000.”

Asher Miller

And what’s amazing about these things, it’s like we don’t even know what these people see because the stuff that gets served to us is not necessarily that stuff.

Rob Dietz

I get your conspiracy theories all the time, Asher. I’m so sick of the damn UFO stuff. Could you just put a little pause on that?

Asher Miller

But you brought up here, Rob, that we’re recording this the day after the U.S. Capitol was under siege by people who believe in a conspiracy theory that the President of the United States was espousing that this election was stolen from him. And the Republicans had been on some level, you know, you could look at Trump and you could say he’s been actively promoting a conspiracy theory. You have others who have been sort of tacitly turning and trying to look the other way. And sort of, “Let’s ride this thing out,” you know? I mean, because it is their base of people. And it motivates them to maybe support their parties. So that they can stay in political power.

Jason Bradford

I know. What’s crazy making about the making of them is, you know, you imagine progress, you imagine, the scientific method, you imagine –

Rob Dietz

You don’t have to imagine it. Those things happened.

Asher Miller

Now that’s a conspiracy theory.

Jason Bradford

But I just like . . . And in the promise that we learn. And that there’s like encyclopedias, and then there’s, you know, there’s  colleges set up, and there’s literacy rises. Like people can read now, and they’re taught epistemological thinking.

Asher Miller

Now we actually know about viruses and bacteria, we don’t have to say –

Jason Bradford

We don’t have to burn the witches. Exactly, okay.

Rob Dietz

What the hell is the Bradford family going to do now?

Jason Bradford

There was the so called Age of Reason, right? Where it was okay to say the earth is not the center of the universe. And we’re all around the sun, and we broke the bond between the church telling us everything and literal interpretations or religious texts. Until we move beyond that. . . I don’t know. I don’t know.

Rob Dietz

I think the answer is: some have, and some have definitely not.

Asher Miller

Yeah, yeah, I would say, we have in some ways, and we haven’t in others. And that includes all of us.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. And I think that’s important not to be so arrogant to think you’re no longer susceptible to conspiracy theory just because you went to college.

Asher Miller

That’s why I brought up people who are our followers and supporters of Post Carbon Institute sending us stuff now.

Jason Bradford

No, you’re right.

Rob Dietz

Well, I think a big takeaway in this for me is, it was interesting, Asher, to hear kind of the history that conspiracy theory – the theories have been with us. It’s a human thing that may go back to evolutionary biology, you know, deep seated. And still, there’s something more heavy about it now. And I think it’s the ease with which they’re communicated, and how that communication makes them sort of clean, easier, and they can stick around. So I mean, I just imagine like back in the day, if I were a peasant farmer in medieval times and I had a conspiracy theory, you know? Like, I thought David Stern was rigging the stone throwing games or something. I could yell across to the other guy working in the field with me and say, “Hey, he’s rigging the stone throwing!” And how far would that thing spread? And how widely known would it be?

Jason Bradford

It can go a stone’s throw?

Asher Miller

Yeah. How far could it spread? And how quickly could it spread.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. And today, it’s like you drop the little firecracker and it turns into a conflagration with the ease with which we share information nowadays.

Asher Miller

And the echo chamber. So it’s very easy to share conspiracy theories now. It’s also very easy to get locked into these echo chambers that we have because of technology where that’s all you hear. And gets constantly reinforced.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, you started talking today about confirmation bias and think about how that echo chamber just, Boom, hits that confirmation bias over and over and over again.

Asher Miller

I gotta say, it’s scary. I mean, I think it even though we have to I think recognize and grapple with the fact that it’s a driver that’s somewhat deeply embedded within us. We’re probably not going to get away from this tendency that we have in us as a species. It is a really scary time. And I think that people are playing with fire here, you know? It’s like Frankenstein put together this monster, you know? And now he can’t control it anymore. The people who have actively or passively sat by while conspiracy theories have been spreading, because it might have served their interest in the near term. They could get out of control and I think we saw that with Republicans. Many whom had plans in Congress to object to the certification of the presidential candidate.

Rob Dietz

Many of them did still.

Asher Miller

Many of them did. Some of them pulled back because they got scared. But is the genie sort of out of the bottle?

Jason Bradford

Has the train left the station?

Asher Miller

How many metaphors can we come up with?

Jason Bradford

I don’t know.

Rob Dietz

Has Pandora’s Box been opened?

Jason Bradford

It’s been flung open.

Rob Dietz

Is the cat out of the bag? Is the rain falling on the plains in Spain?

Jason Bradford

Okay, I remember watching Joe Biden’s speech and then seeing what Trump did afterwards, which was kind of pathetic, right? And then I thought to myself, you know what? It’s too late. I was reminded of the movie “Fight Club” where the Ed Norton character eventually —

Rob Dietz

Hey hey. Spoiler alert, not everyone seen that.

Jason Bradford

It’s 20 freakin years old. Okay? I don’t care. Okay? Yeah. Where Ed Norton character figures out “Oh, no, I’ve created something horrible.” Now they’re, you know, we’re not just beating each other up for fun. Now there’s like terrorism happening. And he tries to reign it in. And they’re like, “Oh, no, we’re not stopping. This is bigger than you. You’ve been corrupted.” And so I think if Trump had gone on national television in the Oval Office and said, “Dear Americans, I apologize. I lost the election fair and square. We need to let this process –

Rob Dietz

You need to not be so articulate. I greatly biggly lost this election.

Asher Miller

He would never say that. “I just barely lost”

Jason Bradford

No he couldn’t. But I’m telling you, at the point, it’s come to, I don’t even think that their dear leader could reign this in. Because if he were to say anything to try to back it off that was of any significance, a new set of conspiracy theories would emerge and nullify it.

Rob Dietz

Some really good ones. Antifa were pointing guns at his face when he made that speech. Or it’s not really him.

Asher Miller

It’s a it’s a fake, fake fake video. Or he’s been replaced by one of those lizard people. That’s why you need the Lizard Detector 4000.

Asher Miller

Stay tuned for our George Costanza Memorial “Do the Opposite Segment” where we discuss things we can do to get the hell out of Crazy Town.

Jason Bradford

How you don’t have to just listen to the three of us blather on anymore.

Rob Dietz

We’ve actually invited someone intelligent on the program to provide inspiration. Hey, in our ongoing shameless attempt to get more reviews out on iTunes, this is a part where we share a particularly good review. You guys want to hear it?

Jason Bradford

Please

Asher Miller

Sure.

Rob Dietz

Okay. This is from Chaka Harta from about a year ago. That’s a great name. Chaka Harta says, “Smart topical discussion with information about staying sane and our current era: science, politics, psychology, business government, and a healthy amount of irreverent humor throughout. Most importantly, the hosts seem to really know their stuff from working in the trenches on these issues for years.”

Jason Bradford

She didn’t cover aliens.

Rob Dietz

That’s true we didn’t have aliens in the list of topics. But I like the whole idea of working in the trenches. I’ve never seen either of you in a trench.

Asher Miller

Well, Jason is always wearing muck boots.

Jason Bradford

I do have a lot of muck boots and I get out in the field and it’s muddy. And I dug a trench when I was in high school one time and I had a temporary job.

Rob Dietz

Right. I think you send other people into the trenches when necessary. You’re like one of these evil congressional guys.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I’m not gonna go fight. Well, that’s really sweet though. Thank you. I’m glad I’m glad somebody likes our podcast.

Rob Dietz

Yes, thank you Chaka Harta, for that wonderful review and please if you like this show, get anything out of it. Maybe a laugh here and there. Go over to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and drop us a review. It helps other people find it.

Asher Miller

Yep, thanks.

George  Costanza

Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

Jerry Seinfeld

If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Rob Dietz

I think the very first thing we’ve got to do or don’t do – do the, don’t do . . .

Jason Bradford

Get it straight!

Rob Dietz

In doing the opposite when it comes to conspiracy theory is we’ve got to stop granting it more airtime. So you know, obviously you don’t retweet or repost or send out conspiracy theory but even –

Jason Bradford

Wait, what did we just do on the show then?

Rob Dietz

We talked about conspiracy theory, but I think you also don’t even debunk it. You know, because if you’re going out here debunking, you’re actually just still adding more fuel to the fire.

Jason Bradford

And I think the studies have shown that engaging people on that logic level of debunking doesn’t work.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. Cuz there’s nothing logical about it, right?

Asher Miller

Yeah, it reminds me of George Lakoff’s stuff. Basically, if you repeat the language of something to kind of push against it, what you’ve actually done is reinforced.

Rob Dietz

Don’t think of an elephant. Right? Exactly.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, that’s good. I think another thing, and this is really hard to do. I mean, I’ve never given birth to a child, or a kidney stone. I’m thinking there are certain things that are very hard in life. Okay? And those might be two. And here’s the third. And that is . . . I don’t know, because we’ve had so much fun in the show, making fun of, questioning intelligence. But we also kind of said that even smart people . . . I want to let you know, very smart people can get wrapped up in these things. And so, I think, try not to vilify anybody as stupid or evil, even if that’s what they are doing. A lot of these conspiracy theories hit you as maybe like, oh, you’re a Democrat so you’re satanic, you know, worshipping pedophile.

Asher Miller

You eat children.

Jason Bradford

And you eat children. That’s pretty bad. But how do you then try to engage with somebody who has gone that far down the rabbit hole? It may be it can’t be done. There are sorts of people who have pulled out of this.

Rob Dietz

Now, let’s get back to the kidney stones. Because yeah, I’m gonna find this really difficult not to hurl some insults. For you know, a sarcastic bastard like me, that’s like what I do all day. I’m like one of judges on the Muppet Show.

Asher Miller

So maybe you’ve got your tribe of people where you  sit there together, and you mock all this stuff. And then you get it out of your system and you go out and . . . That might be a good way to think about it.

Rob Dietz

Oh, that’s good. Process it, then extend the olive branch.

Jason Bradford

And well, we want people to have a path out,

Rob Dietz

Right. Yeah. Otherwise, they’re just in their reinforced, kind of . . . I had this sort of feeling. Almost like, in some ways, the smaller the kind of tribe of people that believe in a certain conspiracy theory is, maybe the tighter the bonds are between them. Because they feel like they’re outside of kind of the ingroup of the majority or whatever.

Jason Bradford

Heaven’s Gate Cult or whatever.

Asher Miller

Right, or the Flat Earth Brigade at a conference must be a really tight group. So it’s hard. It’s probably hard to break into them. But the only way to help people break out of that is through empathy and connection rather than than ridicule. I think that’s a good one.

Rob Dietz

So then, I want the three of us to go to a Flat Earth Conference and not make fun –

Asher Miller

How would we get there?

Jason Bradford

You’re already making fun of them. This is impossible.

Asher Miller

I got one more, which is not actually it’s not a do the opposite sort of recommendation, at least not yet. But it’s a question for me. This is in some ways, even harder than what you just talked about Jason. That is, do we have to consider curtailing certain freedoms, like in the freedom of speech, and maybe even regulate online communities and discourse in order to stop or reduce the spread of these conspiracy theories? I’m deeply uncomfortable even raising that question, because that way lies, totalitarianism authoritarianism, that kind of censorship. We’ve seen some of the social media companies doing that, you know, censoring speech. And  I would rather us collectively as a societydebate this question than leave it up to these private interests.

Rob Dietz

Right, leave it to some bullshit corporate policy within a profit making firm.

Asher Miller

Exactly. These motivations are not necessarily ours. But I think it’s an important question to wrestle with, you know? We should have a conversation about it.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. I mean, free speech is limited. You can’t shout fire in a crowded theater. And I know, in Germany, they’ve clamped down in a sense. And it’s not like it’s a totally like a totalitarian society by any means. So, maybe we do have to find some sort of middle ground that is reasonable. That’s a hard thing to do.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. Part of me shudders at how crappy a job we would do with the regulations and what unintended consequences would flow off of that. Which I think is that’s kind of the point you’re making. This is a really tough thing to even like you said, you shuddered even asking the question. It’s rough.

Asher Miller

But I do think that there are ways of maybe regulating some of the stuff. Maybe we agree upon certain limits, you know? Like I think in Germany they have to do with anything that espouses violence and crosses certain boundaries. No, it’s not saying you can’t spread a conspiracy theory about the NBA, you know, tanking games or whatever.

Rob Dietz

You better not. That’s one of my favorite pastimes.

Asher Miller

Yeah, maybe here’s another one. Maybe we should come up with lots of great, really benign, innocuous pointless conspiracy theories and let people kind of obsess over those for a while.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, fill up the meme space. Exactly.

Asher Miller

Let’s bring back on Paul is dead stuff. But, you know, modern – Cardi B is dead. Let’s start that conspiracy theory.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, let’s get out there. That’s our new meaning. You talk about meaning and purpose in life. Let’s go float some conspiracy theories.

Asher Miller

Tanya Basu is a senior reporter at MIT Technology Review and a former science editor at The Daily Beast. Tanya, welcome to Crazy Town.

Tanya Basu

Thank you.

Asher Miller

So in this season of the podcast, we’re talking about hidden drivers that are moving us to the precipice of environmental and social breakdown, or are keeping us from acting collectively in ways that actually help. In this episode, Rob, Jason and I talked about conspiracy theories and the influence that they and that kind of mindset have on where we’ve landed, which we like to call Crazy Town. So I’ll be honest, I find it hard not to laugh or make fun of certain conspiracy theories that I hear about, like the Lizard People. I could probably name like a dozen of these things that I find sort of easy to laugh at or mock. But you know, as we discussed on our episode, conspiracy theory mindsets aren’t actually that irrational or that crazy considering the context of how we evolved as a species over the millennia. And it’s also important, I think, to recognize that we’re all prone to that kind of thinking. And I think that having that understanding can help us maybe have more empathy for people who’ve fallen down rabbit holes that are, some of them, which are kind of dangerous. Like the QAnon conspiracy theory. If we want to help people sort of get out of that. So, you wrote what I thought was a really helpful piece called “How to talk to conspiracy theorists – and still be kind,” which we’ve linked to in our show notes. So I wanted to just ask you if you could talk a little bit about what you’ve learned in writing that piece, and what advice you would give to our listeners?

Tanya Basu

Thank you. I think that conspiracy theorists, like you said, are often the subject of a lot of ridicule. And it often actually makes them burrow more into their conspiracy theories, which sort of defies the whole point of trying to talk them out of it. And so I think what I was thinking about, and this was last summer, I think, I wrote this story. So this was before the election, when QAnon was still actually becoming even bigger. I think a lot of people in the tech reporting world were really trying to figure out, well, okay, we’re reporting on QAnon. But how do we talk ethically and responsibly about the fact that these conspiracy theories are from an outside perspective, not like you said, but also remembering that not only are we in a pandemic, so cutting off ties is very difficult. But the fact that these people are often our family, our friends, our neighbors, people we know and love and care about. And I think, with respect to trying to identify the fact that this is insane, a lot of times while also being loving. That’s really where the piece came from. And the most basic and simple piece of advice, which sounds very hoo-ha and sort of hippie is to just be loving and understanding of the fact that this is another human being who is most of the time just as smart and just as educated as you but has just a different set of facts that you have to deal with. And a lot of it is just a matter of patience and learning when to stop and give up if there has to be a point where you stop and give up.

Asher Miller

So, there is no simple magical answer? Not a single thing that somebody could say to somebody in their life? There’s no quick fix here it sounds like, if we’re talking about trying to bring people in to pull them out of that rabbit hole, let’s say, that they went down?

Tanya Basu

No, unfortunately not, My piece references a Reddit group called “Change my Mind “where they basically challenge other people who might not agree with them to change their mind as the sub reddits title is. And a lot of the insight I got from them was really interesting. People are willing to listen and often change their mind. And this goes for even the most radical conspiracy theorists. You even see this after the insurrection on January 6th. There are so many people who are sort of coming out of the events and really reckoning with the fact that you know this QAnon coming is not necessarily real. That the elections are something that have, you know, passed on at this point? You know, it’s just coming to terms with these facts is one thing. And the people that I spoke to mentioned over and over again that being able to talk to people calmly and being like, okay, so you believe, for example, 5G is a way for, I don’t know –

Asher Miller

to spread COVID?

Tanya Basu

Yeah, like, just being able to like go back to the facts. COVID is something that is passed, for example, by potentially sneezing and being within six feet of each other. Well, how does 5G fall into that? And just being open and curious about where these facts come from. That person will usually figure out in their own telling of the story that something is not necessarily squaring up there. So a lot of it is just really simple conversation.

Asher Miller

Yeah, asking questions. And maybe it’s also asking, and you said, change my mind.  Maybe it’s going in and actually showing some openness to hearing kind of the rationale that they have, even if our mindset is like, “This is nuts.” I just suspect people can sniff that out. If you’re going into it, trying to pretend that you have empathy or understanding or an openness, but you don’t really. I think people probably sense that.

Tanya Basu

Yeah. And I think that to your point, it’s also taking a sense of openness on your part. So if you’re someone who’s dealing with a person who believes in conspiracy theorists or theories, to be open to the fact that this person is coming from somewhere where they’re passionate and thinking that they’re in a good, ethical place. So just being willing to listen to them, and trying to figure out where they’ve diverged.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I wonder if it’s also maybe digging at what’s actually the fear in the first place, or the concern in the first place? For a lot of people it seems like  with the QAnon election fraud thing there’s maybe a deep passion about their country, and the fate of their country and democracy. Even though, you know, in my mind, they’re acting against the will of the people if they’re trying to deny a majority vote. But in their minds, they actually think that they’re trying to preserve democracy. So maybe getting at the root of what is their motivation or their fear, which we probably haven’t caught.

Tanya Basu

That’s a great way to put it. I think a lot of people are coming at this feeling actually really good foundations of thought. They’re coming at it very ethically, and they believe that this is a democratic process that has been messed up. I mean, on its face, that’s, that’s actually a pretty legit thing to want to challenge. But yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Asher Miller

Well, I think that’s part of the challenge here, too. And I think we have to recognize in ourselves is that we can all fall for concerning conspiracy theories. There actually are conspiracies that exist that we’ve, we’ve learned about later. The Gulf of Tonkin, you know? Different things that have been done, that were dishonest or something, do you know what I mean? And so because there’s sometimes a kernel of truth. There have been efforts to de-legitimize or influence elections, irrespective of party, you could say. So, there is something there that people are playing on, you know, that that is real, and maybe acknowledging that is helpful. I think the other thing, and I’d be curious what your take on this is – Again, a lot of our audience and the people that we Post Carbon Institute interface with are people that are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and sustainability issues, concerned about the planet and the fate of other species. And what I’ve seen, and I’m guilty of this, too, is that sometimes our group can shame people who are not acting consistently with those values. And that shaming is actually counterproductive. You know what I mean? So when we shame somebody for driving a big SUV, or we shame them for flying to Disneyland or whatever. On the one hand, it can make us crazy that we have this behavior that is kind of dangerous and collectively setting us on a dangerous path. But on the other hand, making people feel bad about these – or making them feel like they are bad people because of these decisions they are making actually won’t help us. And I wonder if you feel like that might apply to some of these conspiracy theories as well?

Tanya Basu

Especially in the past few years there has been an extreme polarization of thought. And so there’s often not necessarily an understanding that there is a middle ground before you can like sort of learn to be a better person. Just I guess that is essentially what we’re trying to do here. It often comes to black and white or right and wrong. And, yeah, I think if you take it from the other perspective – if you were doing something where you were maybe not doing something that is considered good for the planet or for other people and someone came up and said, “You suck.” It’s pretty abrasive, and it can often turn people even deeper into their practices. It’s just like talking to a child often. And so, I think a lot of what I’ve learned through my reporting on this piece was that there is an extent where some people actually stop talking to people. And where like, you know what, I make peace with the fact that you disagree with me. And the people that had these conspiracy theories would often come back within two or three weeks or whatever. I’m making that timeframe up, but you know, some period of time, and say, “You know, I’ve actually thought about what you said. And I think that you’re right,” or “I see where you’re coming from.” And that often is extremely powerful, to be able, again, to show yourself if you’re a conspiracy theorist believer that something is wrong here, and to come to that conclusion is far more powerful than having someone attack you and tell you, you’re wrong. And often, that just takes time and understanding that this person will still be there for you, even if they’re not on the same plane. Obviously, if it’s not a violent conspiracy theory.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s a really key thing. Just being there for them if and when they’re ready to sort of come out of where they’ve gone. Because a lot of this from my understanding is, there’s a lot of group identity stuff that happens. And especially, this gets to my last question for you, which is around the role technology, but people finding alignment with other people. Especially in a time where we’re all isolated. And if you’re asking people to step away from a tribe that they’ve joined, they need to have something else to turn to. So to of feel like you’re there for them if and when they’re ready to come sort of back out of that, you know? Otherwise, they have no nowhere to turn, right? And so I think a lot of people stay where they are.

Tanya Basu

Yeah, I think it speaks to a sort of a very natural human belief and need to belong, like you said. And so you’re also right now seeing this with people who believed in like the QAnon rising, and have seen that that’s not the case. That they’re, you know, joining support groups, and people who are just like them, and coming out of this, you know, series of events and have something that they all share. So, in the end, you just want to feel not like an outcast, but like someone understands you. And even if you’re standing on the other side of that as someone who might not believe in a conspiracy theory that someone else believes in, it often just helps to know that you’re on their side.

Asher Miller

And so my last question is less about how to talk to people who believe in conspiracy theories and more just about, you write about technology, so I’m just curious, not what the answer is, but are you seeing a lot of conversation within the technology space about sort of reckoning with the role of social media in particular? Around fostering this kind of dynamic, the tribalism that we’re seeing, the polarization that we’re seeing, the bubbles of information that people are trapped in? And particularly how that’s being balanced against the idea of, I know free speech on private platforms is a tricky matter, but you know, giving people access to be able to share information or their beliefs. So I don’t expect that there’s an answer. But I’m hoping that you’re you’re seeing that people are really wrestling with this. Because this issue, I don’t think is going to go away, right? Even if QAnon goes away.

Tanya Basu

Yeah, people are definitely. That’s the short answer of it. People are wrestling with it. And I think that there’s a real reckoning. Not only among just the tech giants, but also people who use technology. I mean, you saw that with the huge influx of users to Parlour. You saw the huge influx of users to Signal. People are really interested in privacy and the ability to express thoughts but not be harassed. And that’s not something that has an easy answer to it. So, there are a lot of platforms that are trying to address this. One that comes to my mind is Block Party by Tracy Chou, where she has developed an app to help block tweets that might be deemed harassment for people who might be women or minorities or just not necessarily a white male. But these sorts of apps and platforms are very limited in the power that they can wield and often are sometimes, you know, flagging a tweet that might be sarcastic, for example, as harassment. So, yeah. Tech, I think in the end can only do so much, right, in terms of trying to fix this. And I think there’s just going to be a widespread sort of cultural reckoning to figure out what’s next here.

Asher Miller

I just hope there’s also a recognition in that, you’re right, there’s only so much that tech can do now. But there’s a lot that tech has done to kind of foster this. And the thing is specific about Facebook. And it sounds like from what I’ve read is that there was a push to try to encourage people to join groups. And that led a number of people that are recommended to join QAnon groups and those kinds of things. Because they had an algorithm that said that they’re interested in kind of alternative police systems or whatever. So yeah, I mean, technology, there’s a double edged sword with it always. But I’m glad to hear that people are at least grappling with this issue.

Tanya Basu

Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s also important to remember when you’re saying the thing about the groups. There’s other awesome groups that you know, created masks in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. There are groups that like just come together. during crises to help people like in Texas, for example. There is a positive aspect to this, too that we don’t want to lose. So that’s a huge balancing act.

Asher Miller

Yep. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about this. I really appreciate it, Tanya.

Tanya Basu

Thank you so much for having me.

Jason Bradford

Thanks for listening to this episode of  Crazy Town.

Asher Miller

Yeah, if by some miracle, you actually got something out of it, please take a minute and give us a positive rating or leave a review on your preferred podcast app.

Rob Dietz

And thanks to all our listeners, supporters and volunteers and special thanks to our producer Melody Travers.

Jason Bradford

Okay, guys, hey, all of us here are all hooked on Adrenochrome. Right? Let’s admit this.

Asher Miller

Adrenochrome. Is that something real? I’m not gonna admit it. I don’t even know what the hell –

Asher Miller

I know what it is.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, you tell us.

Asher Miller

No, no you go Jason.

Jason Bradford

Well, Adrenochrome is this amazing substance, and it’s related to adrenaline, and you extract it from the pituitary glands of terrified children. And it’s part of the hallucinogenic rituals that we go through. And it’s a very, very powerful and necessary ingredient for our satanic rites. But, I mean, I feel kind of like shit sometimes. I mean, it feels so good. It must be right. But then there’s something pretty fucked up about having to sacrifice children and extract a pituitary gland.

Rob Dietz

Oh, oh you think? Like eating pituitary glands of children like they’re chewing gum. There’s something wrong with that? Yeah.

Asher Miller

Well, it’s not just eating their pituitary glands. It’s after they’ve been terrified. I mean that’s a tough job. It is a tough job to terrify a child like that.

Jason Bradford

Well, you know, this is why I am so excited about today’s sponsor. Because there is now a way, a nice way to get adrenochrome and fortunately, nature has the answer. It’s an all natural plant base completely vegan sourced from the rain forests of South America. And so I think I think this is it guys. We can now –

Rob Dietz

I hope it’s sustainably sourced. You don’t have to like grind up orangutans or beat down jaguars or something.

Jason Bradford

Guys, this is certified humane. It’s fair trade. It’s biodynamic. I’s organic. It’s well crafted. I mean, this has got every frickin cert you can imagine to make you feel good about your adrenochrome

Rob Dietz

Wow. Okay, well, you haven’t even described how we get this stuff.

Jason Bradford

Well, anyone with a credit card, okay? And this is coming directly from the shamans themselves. And so it’s Shamachrome. That’s the brand name and you guys are going to love it.

Asher Miller

Just make sure you let them know that we sent you.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, we get a little cut. Save the Children.

Rob Dietz

Not a cut to the children.

Jason Bradford

No, no, no.

Asher Miller

And by the way. We didn’t make adrenochrome up. Just look it up, people.