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Announcing... Rabbitholes and radicalisation: the growth of the conspiracy theory ecosystem

Posted by QED on 17 August 2022, 09:23
A banner reading 'The Earth is Flat' being held aloft in a crowd of people. You can just discern the heads of the crowd in the foreground.

The QED team are busy working on our schedule for the weekend, and we’re happy to be able to announce the first panel from our panel room - Rabbitholes and radicalisation: the growth of the conspiracy theory ecosystem.

From the flat earth, to QAnon, to pandemic denialism, recent years have seen an astonishing rise of grand, all-encompassing conspiracy theories. How do so many people come to believe in such dark and sinister versions of reality, and what are the factors - social, psychological and technological - that draw them deeper and deeper into their delusions?

Our panel to discuss why people fall into conspiracy theory rabbitholes, and how to help them back out, will be:

  • Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society, President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and editor of The Skeptic. Since 2013 he has interviewed proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast, including leaders of the Flat Earth movement. During the pandemic, he spent 9 months undercover online researching the growth and increasing radicalisation of the White Rose anti-vax conspiracy group.
  • Aaron Rabinowitz is a secular moral philosophy educator at Rutgers University. His extended research interests include emerging technologies, personhood, conspiracism, and counterculture memetics, and he has written extensively on conspiracy theory and moral panics, and their use in onboarding vulnerable people into supporting and sharing extremist positions. He is the host of two philosophy podcasts, Embrace the Void, and Philosophers in Space which he co-hosts with Thomas Smith.
  • Rachel Schraer is a senior reporter for BBC News, covering health and misinformation. She led the health team’s coverage of misinformation during the pandemic, highlighting claims about fertility targeting women and unproven treatments like vitamin D and ivermectin pushed by anti-vaxxers, and was then appointed as the first specialist health and disinformation reporter within the BBC’s fact-checking team.
  • Ema Sullivan-Bissett is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. She works on issues in the philosophy of mind and psychology, in particular, belief, delusion, and implicit bias. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a research project on conspiratorial ideation and pathological belief.

There are still further panels to announce, and much more besides, so pick up your QED ticket today, and stay tuned for more information!