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Misinformation is a pandemic that doesn’t have a vaccine

CNET – “Conspiracy theories and misinformation about QAnon, COVID-19 and 2020 election fraud took a deadly turn in 2021. As bad as things were last year, experts worry it’ll get worse in 2022. “I think we’re going to see an acceleration and expansion of the conspiracy theories,” said Mike Caulfield, research scientist at the University of Washington Center for an Informed Republic. “They’re going to go bigger, they are going to play even more loosely with the truth.” This expected ramp-up could mean a widening divide among Americans, more outlandish ideas being shared and, as shown in this past year, potentially more lost lives. We’ll see a real-world test of how bad this could get with the approach of the 2022 midterm elections, around which misinformation peddlers are expected to continue their onslaught on the truth. One reason it could get worse is that the federal governments and tech companies aren’t getting ahead of the problem.  “We are still very much in a reactive mode, and until we get ahead of some of this, we can expect each cycle to be worse than the last,” Caulfield said.  There is good news. This can be fixed, but it’ll take some effort.

In his study, The Perfect Storm: A Subcultural Analysis of the QAnon Movement, Chris Conner, visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, argues that people who support the QAnon conspiracy theory do so because they mistrust the government and public officials after social systems in the US have failed them — whether through economic hardships or a lack of proper mental illness coverage. This leaves believers feeling alienated and dissatisfied with how their lives ended up.  If these hardships aren’t addressed, many will continue to go further down the rabbit hole. Others could end up martyrs for what they believe to be a just cause.  “What’s going to be productive is listening to these people and taking them seriously about what it is they were responding to,” Conner said…”

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