FAKE NEWS & CONSPIRACY THEORIES
The term ‘conspiracy theory’ describes a historical or political explanation that assumes the existence of a ‘hidden truth’. Conspiracist fake news has 6 main characteristics:
1. It involves a secretive, highly powerful group working in the shadows (lizard people, Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, NASA, Freemasons, etc.);
2. This group uses a very large number of (strategically placed) people in all parts of society – such as government, media, police, and universities – in order to keep the ‘secret’…a secret;
3. Conspiracist fake news contradicts the official version, that is, the version supported by scientific consensus or accepted by the majority of the media or government;
4. It traces an event back to a single cause. For example, the war in Iraq happened because …it advanced the lizard people’s agenda!
5. It is impossible to refute. Regardless of how robust your criticism of it may be, believers will always allege that the critics are in on the conspiracy…or they are just clueless.
6. Conflation is rampant. For example: We know that the American government lied to start a war in Iraq, so it must have lied about the moon landings. Believers in these theories may eventually develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of arguments they favour, even if none of them can prove the theories’ validity.
CASE IN POINT: A CONSPIRACY THEORY WEBSITE IN NORTH MACEDONIA
Natural News is a far-right website based in North Macedonia that is known for spreading false information that feeds various conspiracy theories.
Notably, Natural News was one of the most prolific spreaders of a conspiracy theory video that falsely claimed that a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to gain money and power. The 26-minute video, entitled Plandemic showed a discredited scientist, Judy Mikovits, who attested that her research on the damage caused by vaccines had been buried. Plandemic was put online on 4 May 2020 when its creator, Mikki Willis, posted it to social media. According to the New York Times, ‘For three days, it gathered steam on Facebook pages dedicated to conspiracy theories and the anti-vaccine movement. Then it tipped into the mainstream and exploded. Just over a week after Plandemic was released, it had been viewed more than eight million times on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’ (source : link).