In the final story of his Sunday evening episode of “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver addressed the dangerous world of conspiracy theories and how they’re hurting people, particularly at a time when exact information is desperately needed.
There are the typical conspiracy theories like the Moon landing was fake or that the Earth is flat. But the dangerous conspiracy theories that are popping up are around the coronavirus. Some conspiracy theories are that the COVID-19 doesn’t exist, that it was caused by 5G internet, that a mask won’t protect you because the virus particles are smaller than the mask fibers, that the virus is caused by a biological war, and even created by the pharmaceutical industry to sell more vaccines.
#FilmYourHospital took off during the early days of the pandemic when New York hospitals were being overrun. Conspiracy theorists flocked to hospitals where there wasn’t a huge COVID-19 outbreak to prove that the entire outbreak was false. It was then discovered that a handful of conservative activists were behind the conspiracy theories.
Oliver walked through three main points: 1. Why they’re so appealing, 2. How to spot a conspiracy theory and 3. How to stop them.
First, he explained that the conspiracies are very appealing and that half of all Americans believe at least one conspiracy theory. Oliver even admitted that there is part of him that believes them too. He knows it probably isn’t true, but some part of him really believes that the royal family had Princess Diana killed. He explained that it felt like a much bigger event to be accidental. That is the part that is a huge draw to beliefs in conspiracy theories.
“They help explain a chaotic, uncertain world,” said Oliver. He explained it appeals to a human understanding of “proportionality bias, which is the tendency to assume that big events have big causes.”
He specifically cited the film “Pandemic,” which paints a woman as a cancer researcher as a whistleblower who says she was arrested, taken into custody, and her house was searched. She lies on video saying she was never charged, but she actually was. Oliver found that the SWAT team video they showed in the film was actually the first video that comes up on a stock footage video site.
Conspiracies are sometimes hard to spot. At the same time, it seems simple to pinpoint them when they’re about a flat earth or that aliens abducted Tom Cruise and singer Kesha to create a super-race of hot humans on a different planet. But some conspiracies are less obvious to others, like the president of the United States, who has been spreading conspiracies for years by saying that he “heard people saying them,” or that he’s “just asking questions.” According to him, President Barack Obama was born in Keny, Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered and that millions of fake voters supported Hillary Clinton delivering her the public vote in 2016.
Now, his latest conspiracy is that the media and the CDC are lying about the virus to hurt his reelection chances. Even Rush Limbaugh has recognized how frequently Trump spreads conspiracy theories.
Oliver compiled three basic questions to help dispel a conspiracy theory: “1. Is there a rational non-conspiracy explanation? 2. Has this been held up to scrutiny by experts? And if so, what did those experts say? 3. How plausible is this conspiracy as a practical matter?”
He noted that while some conspiracy theories turn out to be true, however, we know which ones those are and the reasons for them. Two conspiracy theories were the things Edward Snowden warned and the medical tests on the Tuskegee Airmen. The reason those two were found to be real is that so many people could confirm the reality that it was impossible to keep them secret. Faking the Moon landing, however, would have taken 411,000 people to make it happen, a PBS Newshour said. Trump couldn’t even keep calls with foreign leaders secret without a whistleblower coming forward to sound the alarm, and there aren’t 411,000 people working in his White House.
Finally, the way to stop them is to do the research, look on reputable websites for confirmation, look for comments from experts outside of your media silo, and if all else fails, as Paul Rudd. Oliver brought him as well as other stars to give tips and tricks for what to do to stop conspiracy theories. Rudd confessed that he didn’t know he was alive when he discovered on Twitter #RIPPaulRudd was trending.
Oliver unleashed the website TheTrueTrueTruth.com with videos from Rudd, Catherine O’Hara, Billy Porter, Alex Trebek and John Cena stripping his clothes off.
See the video below:
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