iRadio in the Afternoon has been finding out more about conspiracy theories, disinformation and misinformation from an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

conspiracy theories

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Approach with empathy not mockery – that is the advice to people who are worried about their relatives or friends being consumed by conspiracy theories.

iRadio in the Afternoon has been speaking to Aoife Gallagher, who is an analyst at the counter-extremism think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Aoife has highlighted how the pandemic has led to a lot of conspiracy theories and movements binding together:

“In times of uncertainty, when people are feeling angry and scared and insecure, this is when conspiratorial thinking tends to rise, anyway.

“It’s kind of like things that are left in our brain from our hunter-gatherer days, like when you’re scared, your defenses are up and you’re going to question things a lot more, and you’re going to be more protective of things that are around you.”

Aoife says it is important to be aware of the difference between disinformation and misinformation.

“Misinformation is when people spread false content without realising that the content they’re spreading is false.  Disinformation is when people spread false information and they know that they’re spreading false information.”

Conspiracy theories claiming loved ones

Aoife admits it can be really tricky to know what to do if you are concerned about a loved one going down a rabbit hole of disinformation and misinformation.

She says there is no one right way of approaching the situation, but one key thing is to avoid making fun of the person:

“You have to treat people with empathy. It is very, very easy to go for the default way of calling people crazy, calling people stupid. But what that is essentially going to do is make people dig their heels in.”

Aoife points out that people in these online communities can often encourage members to cut off ties with friends and family members, so it is important to keep a line of communication open.

“What you almost need to get them to do is to examine their own belief systems. You’re not going to be able to tell them that they’re wrong…It’s a very personal approach.”