Seán Moncrieff: Bad (fake) news for devoted conspiracy theorists

Are the new dark ages returning? And might we be the light?

In the US, nearly half of people who voted for Donald Trump believe that climate change is a hoax.

In the US, nearly half of people who voted for Donald Trump believe that climate change is a hoax.

 

The truth is probably not out there.

A long-term study conducted across nine western countries has found that a majority of people believe at least one conspiracy theory or doubt the veracity of information presented to them.

This is bad (fake) news for devoted conspiracists. (Not a real word. Or is it?) Traditionally, they have been marginalised due to their mining of information others are too stupid or brainwashed to accept.

But now that their numbers have been inflated by fair-weather conspiracists, the real conspiracy theorists no longer feel special. They are going to have to move on to discover conspiracies outside the now-accepted conspiracies.

Secret cabals running the world simply won’t do.

No doubt we’ll be hearing soon that the group of Jewish bankers who own everything are actually under the control of another secret group of Jewish bankers that the first group don’t know about; a group so secret that they don’t know about themselves.

Global warming is really caused by invisible inter-galactic koalas giving our planet a hug. The Matrix was a documentary. You think you’re reading The Irish Times, but you’re not. I made you up.

It’ll be interesting to see how historians describe the age we live in. If we live that long. The Golden Age of Bullshit or the Dark Ages for Truth? The second description is perhaps more apposite, especially for this country.

The study found that 47 per cent of people who voted for Brexit believe the government is concealing how many immigrants live in the UK, while 31 per cent in the same group believe there is a plot to make Muslims the majority in Britain. (The theory is called The Great Replacement and is common in far-right circles).

In the US, nearly half of people who voted for Donald Trump believe that climate change is a hoax.

But perhaps even more significant was the degree of disbelief. Distrust in mainstream journalism and government scored in the high 70s in Britain, a finding that was replicated in the US and many other European countries.

When a large chunk of voters refuse to believe verifiable facts, you get Trump and Brexit and the rise of the far-right.

Pretty much every country in Europe now has a nationalist presence, many of them sizable. And this endangers not just the political fabric of those countries, but the entire European project, one established to thwart the excesses of nationalism. Liberal democracy with largely centrist politics may be under serious threat.

Angry nutbag

One story we like to tell ourselves was that, during the Dark Ages, Ireland remained a beacon of learning and civilisation while our European cousins ate each other. That’s not entirely true; in fact it’s not true at all. But it may be true this time.

During these dark ages, Ireland seems to have moved in the opposite direction to everywhere else. We’ve become a more inclusive country, and so far there’s been little sign of any Irish version of the Front National, or whatever they call it now

There’s plenty of anonymous angry nutbags on Twitter, of course, but it’s difficult to gauge if that’s representative of anything in the real world; of real votes. The remnants of Renua seem to be attempting to claim this space, but so far this consists of being another angry nutbag on Twitter.

Seats have moved around the Dáil, but in the main it seems as if the majority of Irish voters remain moderate and reasonable. Healthy cynicism aside, there seems to be an acceptance of basic facts that we can argue over; not contradictory versions of reality.

Perhaps this is because we’re a small country, or perhaps our history of emigration makes us more sympathetic to the stranger. Or perhaps it’s because we still like to talk, to interact in the real world. Whatever the reason, what we have should be treasured. It’s becoming increasingly scarce all over this continent.

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