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Teach the Conspiracies


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Renee Hobbs invites media literacy educators to explore the topic of conspiracy theories with adolescents in an address to the Media Meets Literacy in Sarajevo conference, September 22. Also read:

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Teach the Conspiracies

  1. 1. Can learning about conspiracy theories advance the media literacy competencies of adolescents?
  2. 2. LOVE HATE CONSPIRACY THEORIES We love them and we hate them Chemtrails Flouride Mary Magdalene Illuminati CIA Experiments Reptilian Elite Elvis Ebola Vaccines Global Warming
  3. 3.
  4. 4. 7% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked
  5. 5. 15% believe that the media or government adds mind control technology to TV broadcast signals
  6. 6. 42% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats believe that President Obama was not born in the United States --Economist survey, December 2016
  7. 7. Conspiracy theory: a type of belief in which the ultimate cause of an event is believed to be due to a plot by multiple actors working together with a clear goal in mind, often unlawfully and in secret
  8. 8. TERMS FOR UNDERSTANDING CONSPIRACY THEORIES disillusionment anxiety hoax paranoia ambiguity open-mindedness closure cynicism
  9. 9. Government commission concludes: Peace is not in the interest of a stable society. Even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it.”
  10. 10. Becomes a best selling book, translated into 15 languages 1972: Leonard Lewin admits he is the author & explains its purpose as dark political satire
  11. 11. 1990: Liberty Lobby publishes the report as a public domain document Right-wing websites re- distribute it online
  12. 12. Conspiracy Theories are Resilient
  13. 13. THINKING FAST AND SLOW Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. NY: Farrar Straus & Giroux SYSTEM 1 SYSTEM 2 intuitive emotional immediate creative logical linear analytical detail-oriented
  14. 14. Familiarity Equals Believability THE POWER OF A SINGLE EXPOSURE Participants who were exposed to a conspiracy video were significantly less likely to : • think that there is widespread scientific agreement on human-caused climate change • sign a petition to help reduce global warming • donate or volunteer for a charity in the next six months. --Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas, 2013
  15. 15. Critical Thinking Diminishes the Power of Conspiracy Theories Swami, V. et al. (2013). Analytical thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition 133(3), 572 – 585.
  16. 16. Media literacy educators can explore conspiracy theories to strengthen critical thinking skills
  17. 17. Screening conspiracy theory videos in the classroom risks validating them  There may not be enough time in class to examine evidence in depth  There’s too much junk information online on these topics  It’s too easy to trivialize conspiracy theories, reinforcing “us” and “them” thinking
  18. 18. Video Annotation is a Powerful Tool for Critically Analyzing Conspiracy Theories
  19. 19. Media Literacy: A Pedagogy of Inquiry “The thing is, Google search isn’t neutral. Like any other set of complex algorithms, search is shot through with the values of its creators.” Wohlsen, 2016
  20. 20. Should you discuss conspiracy theories in the classroom? Why or why not? TIME TO REFLECT
  21. 21. re Conspiracy theories are alarm systems that help people deal with threat. They resonate most among groups suffering from loss, weakness, or disunity. --Uscinski & Parent, 2014 Responding Critically & Sympathetically
  22. 22. Conspiracy theories are resilient: they cannot be easily disproved They resonate in an age of anxiety by offering simple explanations for complex and ambiguous realities Although even brief exposures to conspiracy theories increases their believability, analytical thinking can lower belief in conspiracy theories Video annotation tools “slow down” people’s response to video and promotes analytic & reflective thinking Teachers must wrestle with important paradoxes when deciding whether, when & how to teach about conspiracy theories
  23. 23. Renee Hobbs Professor of Communication Studies Director, Media Education Lab University of Rhode Island USA Twitter: @reneehobbs SEPT/OCT 2017 Knowledge Quest A publication of the American Association for School Librarians (AASL)