As promised, here's my thread on "Coming into Contact with COVID Conspiracy Theorists" or "When Malleable Minds Meet Misinformation." (See ironic anti-fear, fear-mongering example below) #coronavirus #ConspiracyTheories @MelissainJax @NateMonroeTU @BachmanANjax @RenataFCNews 1/16
A couple days ago I noticed that a friend of a friend was posting aggressive #COVID conspiracy memes from an Instagram influencer named "Jake Maverick" whose claim to authority on public health seems to be that he...posts things online. 2/16
Jake is interesting. With over 24k followers, he has quite a soapbox. As you can see from his profile, he is British, of mixed descent, promotes "medical freedom," is vegan, and...masculine? Most of his posts consist of crude memes or rants. It's unclear what he does. 3/16
Recognizing the size of his audience, seeing how someone I know was sharing his "content" (read: conspiracy theories), and as someone who has sought to improve media and science literacy in my community, I decided to post this statement on Twitter: 4/16
It was NOT well received. This one tweet led to me receiving hate email, people bombing my Instagram photos with inappropriate comments, side conversations with some of his followers, and a DM interaction with Jake himself. I'm going to share a bit about the latter two. 5/16
1 side conversation was with an Irish woman. She said she had a degree in "beauty therapy." She did not grow up religious (but raised Catholic?) & only recently came INTO religion. She believes virtually every major conspiracy theory. It is not clear what she does for work. 6/16
To her, people like me are elitist sheep who are so blinded by our own biases that we cannot see the "truth" (which, of course, SHE knows). She doesn't trust ANY major institution, only accepts info from non-traditional sources, and does her own "research." She pities me. 7/16
In our DM, Jake was mostly polite (if infantile). He refused to attend a talk I co-organized on the spread of misinformation about COVID, tried to goad me into a live debate with him, and regularly posted screen caps of our chat in his IG stories. Meat for the mindless. 8/16
I did not agree to debate for 3 reasons: 1) as I am not a medical professional, I would not be speaking from a place of expertise. 2) no matter what I said, his followers would never accept it, so he'd win by default. 3) I had nothing to gain by spending time debating him. 9/16
Importantly, Jake exhibited some worrisome behaviors worth mentioning. First, he contorted what I had posted in response to him and reconstituted our exchange in the form of a meme. See the images below to observe how he added words to make my position seem more extreme. 10/16
Second, he tried to force me to confess things that he could use against me. Notably, he tried to get me to "denounce" communism. If I didn't, I was a "commie." If I did, I was biased. It was lose-lose for me. Clearly Jake doesn't interact with many intelligent people. 11/16
Third, he doesn't have even a basic grasp of concepts he likes to use. See the image below for a word salad that demonstrates how incoherent his own political ideology is. He's pro-animal rights, but also hyper-masculine, and considers communism and fascism the same? 12/16
In conclusion, here are a few things I learned about the COVID conspiracy theorists:
1) The distrust ALL major institutions (but capitalism = ok)
2) They think that "reading things online" = "research"
3) They ONLY trust dubious sources
4) Their views are incoherent
13/16
I'd also like to make a few important points:
1) Free speech is a CORE VALUE of democracy
2) No one should EVER be vaccinated w/o their consent (this is unethical & a human rights violation)
3) Misinformation can be dangerous and lead to violence (see: capitol insurrection)
14/16
If you're interested in conspiracy theories or misinformation, I have two cool things to share. 1) A new podcast episode of @inkstickmedia that talks about conspiracy theories on the Internet: inkstickmedia.com/aliens-among-u… 15/16
2) Here is an advertisement for the event I co-organized on misinformation during the pandemic, featuring Cailin O'Connor & James Weatherall @UCIrvine, which will be held on 3/12 @ 12pm. To register, visit: unf.zoom.us/webinar/regist… 16/16

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