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Nowhere Girl

How to deal with covid denialists?

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Nowhere Girl

Two of my friends have developed covid denialist beliefs and I'm wondering how to talk to them to bring them to reason.

Case 1: Marianne has, by the way, had a lot of bad luck in life. She's trans, tranditioned as a middle-aged person, and still (because the Polish procedure for legal gender reassignment requires suing one's own parents for having supposedly registered the gender wrong - the Polish system is not a common law system, and yet there is no law regulating gender transition, it is seen as too much of a hot potato and this procedure is already in force for almost 30 years. Also, receiving a positive verdict does not depend on the parents' consent, but they can still hamper the procedure a lot if they want to) had to deal with her mother trying to block her transition. Then, less than a year after surgery (which is only possible after legal gender reassignment), she had a stroke and is a disabled person since then. Unfortunately, the stroke also seems to have affected her intellectual functions to some extent - she seems to have become more naive, sometimes almost childish... Now she claims that the coronavirus epidemic is a "plandemic", introduced to... caution, because it's so stupid that it almost made me laugh: to forcibly create a cash-free economy.

Case 2: Isabelle is much younger, 15 years younger than me, but I anyway curretly consider her my best friend. The problem is that she, too, started believing covid conspiracy theories. She is a communist (I'm definitely more moderate, I support reforming capitalism, not fully dismantling it) and so has a lot of distrust of the elite (in line with traditional communist insults, she uses the word "bourgeoisie", which is very misleading: after all, the financial elites are not a real "bourgeoisie" - historically, a broad class of relatively wealthy city-dwellers - but the top layer which owns more than the poorer half of the world's population, people who indeed often perform overpaid and unproductive work which parasitises the economy). So, her version is: the covid tests are actually genetic tests and the "bourgeoisie" uses them to look for their "genetic twins" whom they could later use to harvest organs. No, sorry: yes, I do believe that a lot of members of the elites are selfish and greedy, maybe even amoral, because not recognising the unfairness of the system does, in my opinion, require some problems with telling apart the right and wrong. But I do not believe that they are willing to cause mayhem and later possibly kill others only to be able to potentially prolong their lives. I also, like her, distrust our authoriatian-leaning government (it has already done bad things such as introducing restrictions without formally introducing a state of natural disaster - because it would have forced them to delay the elections and reduced their chances of successfully pushing Duda's reelection) - but no, sorry, I don't believe that it intends to put us in concentration camps or anything like this.

What I particularly hate is how conspiracy theory believers are very condescending towards people who disagree with them, perceive them as people who have been brainwashed...

 

I am myself not a staunch believer in science. When it comes to "our topic" specifically, I don't believe in the existence of "sexual desire disorders", or at least - I reject the opinion that they are disorders. I openly reject theories that "love is chemistry" because I perceive them as extremely deterministic and insulting to feelings. I disagree with mainstream psychology on some topics, first of all the idea that "thought" and "feelings" are opposing things (I cannot even see in myself a dominance of one of them! No, what dominates in my own experience is a tendency to experience "feelings" as having a strong "intellectual" aspect and "thoughts" as having a strong "emotional" aspect) and the general tendency to pigeonhole everyone, every behaviour, every phenomenon - I instead favour a more philosophical and artistic than scientific "phenomenology of experience".

But in case of covid-19 - sorry, I just don't want to take chances. Which may also be influenced by the fact that - as a freelancer, a poor person and a loner - I have already been living in relative isolation for years. I also agree with my friends in that covid-19 is not as deadly as some say - no, the real problem is that it is highly infectious and the very numbers mean that the fraction for which it is fatal reaches quite high absolute values.

And I indeed perceive the pandemic as an opportunity for deep changes, but a positive one - a case of a good result of a bad thing. It has indeed brought large parts of the economy to a standstill and can be used as an opportunity to rebuild the system as more equal and more environment-friendly. Yes, I am afraid that many deciscion-makers are afraid of such a radical change, that it may therefore only be accomplished in a small part. But the chances for such a development become yet smaller when people believe conspiracy theories.

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PorcupineOfDoom

Frankly I've found that you can't reason with people that believe in conspiracies like that; any evidence you can show them will be written off as fabricated to deceive the public and no amount of common sense or logic can persuade them otherwise. The same goes for flat-Earthers, climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers, the lot of them. It's like talking to a brick wall honestly, absolutely nothing gets through to them.

 

I'm a big believer in science (as I would hope are most engineers), and it's infuriating listening to the utter bollocks these people will spout. All the crap about masks killing you through oxygen deprivation while simultaneously not preventing you from getting or spreading the virus really gets my goat. I was working on Islay for a few days which meant taking the ferry out to the island, which is a two hour trip during which masks had to be worn, and it was at most a slight inconvenience. If you're struggling to breath after wearing one for fifteen minutes in the supermarket then something is very wrong, and I would be much more concerned for your own health than anyone else's.

 

The bit that winds me up more than anything else is that none of them can seem to agree on who or what is behind the whole pandemic. Some say Bill Gates is somehow responsible for it all because of a TED talk he gave several years ago warning that we're overdue a pandemic, some others think that all the governments in the world (besides Sweden for reasons unknown) have secretly collaborated to control the world population, others think China created the virus in a lab to be used as a weapon of mass destruction, some think it's the banks trying to tank the global economy to write off all their debt, there's the whole 5G rhetoric, and I'm sure there are heaps more as well. The only thing that they seem to have in common is that people look for the tiniest leads to spin an entire conspiracy out of. I've heard that hospitals are being paid to put covid on death certificates to bump up the numbers, and I've also heard that they're being paid not to put it on death certificates so that it looks like our country is dealing with the pandemic better than everyone else. Seriously, at least make up your mind about which story you're all going to go with.

Edited by PorcupineOfDoom
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Iam9man
1 hour ago, Nowhere Girl said:

And I indeed perceive the pandemic as an opportunity for deep changes, but a positive one - a case of a good result of a bad thing. It has indeed brought large parts of the economy to a standstill and can be used as an opportunity to rebuild the system as more equal and more environment-friendly.

This 👍👍👍

 

I guess the trouble with conspiracy theories generally is that they start off based on selective facts from which opinions are then developed. It is very hard to change anyone’s opinion once made.

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Unleash the Echidnas
58 minutes ago, PorcupineOfDoom said:

Frankly I've found that you can't reason with people that believe in conspiracies like that

Yup. Being rational enough use reason and believing conspiracy theories are kind of mutually exclusive. Part of what makes it complicated is people are often selectively irrational, or at least variably rational, and enough stuff happens on this planet that occasionally the truth is going to be utterly wacky. Plandemic is a viral disinformation video that's mostly been disabled and Marianne's version of it seems mostly opposite the conspiracy it tried to push.

 

The conspiracy area among those I'm familiar with that's received the most attention is climate change. The findings there are generally that more information can help if someone's genuinely confused or undecided but, once they've settled on something, discussing evidence contrary to those views tends to make the views stronger. I suspect the psychology of human stubbornness isn't much different in other areas. If denial's being used as a coping mechanism it might wear off in time but these two cases don't really seem to fit with that. Something to consider might be whether it's more a need for comparatively simple explanations of complex phenomena or a way of making the situation a little more familiar by creating a villain blame can be assigned to.

 

If so, something to consider with Isabella might be trying to steer towards a series of private, constructive conversations encouraging her to examine her beliefs more closely. Not sure if that would work with Marianne, though.

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Iam9man
2 minutes ago, Unleash the Echidnas said:

I suspect the psychology of human stubbornness isn't much different in other areas.

I’ve read studies on this before (sorry forget where), but the crux of the matter is that this is one of the strongest (and most destructive) traits. Like people would literally choose death over admitting being wrong, even when 200% of the facts pointed to that.

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Iam9man

Also from a psychological perspective, I will add that getting any group labelled “something-denialist” is an absolute argument winner, regardless of who is actually right or wrong.

 

Personal opinion: I’m very concerned about climate change and the general destructive effect humanity is having on the planet. It is tempting to label anyone who disagrees as “climate change denialists” or even “climate science denialists”. But I try not to. I’m sure there were people labelled “denialists” in years gone past for not believing medical doctors who prescribed mercury (or priests who prescribed prayer, for that matter) for the cure of ailments. I reserve the right to be proven wrong, but I will not sit back as the planet is destroyed 🥰🌍 

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Nowhere Girl
15 minutes ago, Iam9man said:

I’ve read studies on this before (sorry forget where), but the crux of the matter is that this is one of the strongest (and most destructive) traits. Like people would literally choose death over admitting being wrong, even when 200% of the facts pointed to that.

I just experienced a little lightbulb moment. Because Isabelle and I have a mutual friend - well, currently she is resentful to him and doesn't talk to him because of how he found new friends and din't even say anything, but would simply avoid her instead. His real name is Martin, but we call him Leo or Leonidas because it's a moniker he developed in unclear circumstances and he hates it. So, Leo is just a fairly stupid person, has exhibited a lot of stupid behaviours (we call them "leonisms") over which we can laugh. (Example 1: he has lost his phones at least seven times and keys at least twice, including keys which weren't his property. Example 2, perhaps my favourite: Isabelle encouraged him to make fried potatoes, she said she really liked it when she prepared it herself; and Leo... tried to "fry" a whole!!!! raw potato!!!! So she says that she is not used to dealing with people whom you need to tell obvious things, and in case of Leo it's necessary.) So Isabelle also criticises him for this very fact: that he is very stubborn, he often quarrels with people or just does something silly due to his stupidity, but can go to great lengths to avoid admitting that he was wrong. (Maybe another leonism example... at some point Leo and Isabelle used to rent rooms at the same place in Warsaw. But it was a little too expensive for Leo and he decided to return to his home town. But he wouldn't tell it to the owner, say "Sorry, I'm just having trouble affording it" - even though she was a little harsh, perhaps she could even lower the rent for him in this situation? - no, he just escaped in the middle of the night.) So I could perhaps tell Isabelle that with regard to covid-19, she is behaving just like Leo...

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Perspektiv
6 hours ago, Nowhere Girl said:

and I'm wondering how to talk to them to bring them to reason.

Why try to change their minds?

 

If they are hell bent on denying covid, let them.

 

My only instance for forceful correction, is if you deliberately take risks that affect my life. Otherwise, I live and let live.

 

When someone is at a level of ignorance, there is no reasoning with them.

 

I.E I had a client refuse to wear a mask, and told me covid was a hoax. All while coughing in my face. I gave him a glare, and he reassured me with: "it's not covid". and ranting about the media.

 

My attitude wasn't the covid--it was the fact you didn't cover up your cough. This is not about not fearing the hoax. Its about not being a jackass.

 

What good am I going to do by trying to drill into his head the dangers, when he's clearly been reckless and feels he never caught it.

 

My attitude is, want to be reckless? Have fun--just do it away from me and we're good.

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iff

I have came across a person who thinks this is part of a plan to make z cashless society. One of their arguments was "you don't know what you've spent" 

 

I did say "I could use my card to buy something and 5 minutes later i have checked my balance and it is on it" 

 

I am not sure how to deal with these situations

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GingerRose

Denial in the face of facts clearly presented is a delusion. Refusing the facts isn't something you can reason with, without long term intervention. If they aren't a close friend or family member I don't have time or ability for long term intervention.

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natsume

Anyone who thinks this pandemic isn't going to be intentionally used to widen the wealth gap (as it already has been) isn't much more grounded than the conspiracy theorists. Your politicians run their campaigns on contributions from the wealthy, even if you believe they aren't also corrupt (they also have huge investment portfolios so you can guess which side they're on there as well).

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Nowhere Girl
8 hours ago, natsume said:

Anyone who thinks this pandemic isn't going to be intentionally used to widen the wealth gap (as it already has been) isn't much more grounded than the conspiracy theorists. Your politicians run their campaigns on contributions from the wealthy, even if you believe they aren't also corrupt (they also have huge investment portfolios so you can guess which side they're on there as well).

I still believe that agency exists. Civil society exists. The wealthy aren't the only political actors.

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uhtred

Depends on what "denial" means.  It is not unreasonble to ask questions about the risk COVID represents. We do not have good data on the statics of outcomes from the disease, or the likelyhood of an exposed person dying.    There is good data on "cases" but many infected people are never counted as "cases" because they are not tested and do not receive medical care.

 

The population fatality rates seem to top out around 0.1%, but its not clear how much that will rise in the futre. 

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Lichley

There was a video I saw on how people end up in cults that I think has some value here. I’m the video they explain that they don’t immediately start telling you that aliens are real, they start you off small, agreeing with them on small details, getting you to agree to minor life changes, and slowly but surely they use your pre-existing beliefs to manipulate you into believing theirs. 

 

In the case of Marianne they likely preyed on her beliefs that the government system is corrupt, using her own bad experiences as proof that the system is flawed, then slowly introduced the idea that there was an ulterior motive to the mass panic the pandemic caused, before finally introducing the idea that it’s for cashless money.

 

For Isabelle they likely preyed on her beliefs that the rich rule everything and that the poor have no control, slowly building her trust up and getting her to use terms like “bourgeois” in order to not only distance herself from the people she’s talking about, but also dehumanise them, and treat them like relics of the past. They likely showed her reports of stolen organs from illegal organ trades, or used the fact that cremation is often the preferred method for state burials, and used it to build up the idea of a coverup, before finally telling her their beliefs.

 

Spoiler

Also just a heads up the guy is very atheist and anti-religion so there will be a lot of religion comparisons in this video. 

 

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nanogretchen4

Such people cannot be reasoned with. This is why we need to have freedom of thought and freedom of speech but regulate actions for the sake of public safety. A person can believe and talk about any deranged conspiracy theories they like, but they should be legally required to wear a mask properly if they choose to leave their home.

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Skycaptain

I saw on the BBC news website that a corona-denialist YouTube influencer has died from the effects of the virus 

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Sarah-Sylvia
23 minutes ago, Skycaptain said:

I saw on the BBC news website that a corona-denialist YouTube influencer has died from the effects of the virus 

That's what they want you to believe. 😮

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aring91

My uncle doesn't deny coivd's existence but he does think it's been blown out of proportion and will somehow instantly lessen once Trump isn't in office anymore. Yeah, I find it annoying but whatever.

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Nowhere Girl
30 minutes ago, aring91 said:

My uncle doesn't deny coivd's existence but he does think it's been blown out of proportion and will somehow instantly lessen once Trump isn't in office anymore. Yeah, I find it annoying but whatever.

As if it was only an American problem...

Actually, I think that Lukashenka is even more of a covid denialist (or rather underestimater; he would say that "it's just a flu" and that the best cure is vodka and hard work in the field...). And well, in this case the effects are at least good, although so far they have lead to a stalemate because dictators don't give up their power easily: while Lukashenka has been falsifying results from the first election while he was already at power, while Belarusians have probably long been sick of him, the pandemic was the spark: they felt so outraged at how Lukashenka deals with the risk that they were willing to vote for pretty much anyone who isn't Lukashenka. This is the reason for the Tsikhanouska phenomenon: they en masse voted for her, a candidate with no political experience, simply because of her being an alternative to Lukashenka.

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Nowhere Girl

And now the real irony: Marianne contracted coronavirus.

In fact, I suspected it from the way she felt. In the end she did the right thing, a doctor came and took a test, she is now quarantined and received some medication - she already sounds much better, so I'm optimistic about the prognosis. But anyway, it certainly shook her conviction that it's all just a humbug.

One positive thing is that in her case, since she hardly ever goes out alone due to her disability (climbing down and then up the stairs is a lot of effort for her, and there's no lift in her house), there is almost 100% certainty from whom she contracted the virus: a social worker who brings her food and checks if everything is right. A bad thing is that really, whom does the social assistance office employ?! That "lady" drinks heavily, curses, smokes in the presence of people under her care, she too spreads stupid covid myths only comparable to the ones spread by Lukashenka, which I mentioned above... and wanders around spreading the virus.

Marianne has to call the social assistance office on Monday and report the situation, but I think that it shouldn't be up to the patient. In fact, given that this "lady" doesn't work on Saturday and Sunday, but may still go somewhere and keep spreading the virus, public health authorities should themselves make an effort to find her as soon as possible...

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Nowhere Girl

By the way, I've just been reading a text about how beliefs in conspiracy theories ruin family life, plus a report about the extent in which people in Poland believe in ten selected local and global Covid-19 conspiracy theories. A funny (but at the same time sad...) fragment:

Quote

Bożena: My sister not only believes conspiracy theories, but also spreads them and unfortunately infects other people with them. She has infected my parents. They are elderly, ailing people and I've been enouraging them to take a flu vaccination. But no way! My sister has told them nonsense that there are Bill Gates' chips in vaccines, and that he will control people with them, and now any vaccine is out of the question for my parents. At the same time, my father is horribly scared of the virus. Since March, he has been to his own yard maybe three times, and after all we have a house and garden. I have been encouraging him: at least go out to the garden, to breathe some fresh air. No chance, he was so afraid. But if there was a coronavirus vaccine available, he wouldn't take it, because there are chips in the vaccine! Finally I told him, because I had no more arguments: "Dad, but even if that Gates would spy on you, what would it change? What would he detect - that you went from your room to the bathroom, and then to the kitchen? And how would it benefit him?". It didn't help.

 

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Gloomy

People believing in conspiracy theories is just a natural consequence of governments doing shady and oppressive things. I don’t know if this virus is a big government conspiracy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

 

The government I live under has already done things like MK Ultra. That is not a “theory”, it really happened. They performed experiments on people because they were literally trying to figure out how to do mind control. They also almost did Operation Northwoods, which was a plan to stage a terrorist attack to justify a war against Cuba, but it was rejected by JFK. These are just two examples from just one government.
 

When someone you know does something bad to you then you stop trusting them, so why am I supposed to trust a government that does things like this? Sorry, they’ve burned that bridge.

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Nowhere Girl
1 hour ago, Gloomy said:

The government I live under has already done things like MK Ultra. That is not a “theory”, it really happened. They performed experiments on people because they were literally trying to figure out how to do mind control. They also almost did Operation Northwoods, which was a plan to stage a terrorist attack to justify a war against Cuba, but it was rejected by JFK. These are just two examples from just one government.

I know. I have read a book about MK Ultra - "The Search for the Manchurian Candidate" by John Marks.

And interestingly, as for the report I mentioned - there is a very interesting discrepancy between levels of belief in "global" and "local" Covid-19 conspiracy theories. The researchers from Jagiellonian University in Cracow have selected five most common theories for each category:

Quote

G1: Coronavirus was created as a bioweapon with the intent of depopulating the planet by decreasing the number of elderly people.

G2: Coronavirus is not a natural pathogen, it was created in a Chinese laboratory.

G3: Coronavirus is not a natural pathogen, in fact it was created in the United States.

G4: Information about new technologies, such as 5G mobile network, causing coronavirus infections, is being covered up for profit.

G5: The coronavirus problem is being exaggerated in order to force people into buying medicines and possibly unsafe vaccines.

 

L1: The Polish government is hiding information about true extent of the coronavirus pandemic.

L2: In Poland large numbers of coronavirus tests are not being performed on purpose, in order to hide the true extent of the pandemic.

L3: The Polish government is using the coronavirus pandemic to suppress democracy.

L4: The Polish government began relaxing restrictions due to fighting the coronavirus pandemic mostly in order to carry out planned May 2020 presidential elections.

L5: The Polish government, under the pretext of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, is mostly protecting international business and enables mass dismissal of Polish employees and salary reductions.

The researchers have checked the levels of belief in each theory with division into demographic categories - including what parties people support. And a very interesting tendency was seen: among the right wing, belief in global covid conspiracy theories was significantly higher, among the left wing - belief in local conspiracy theories. Still, also about 1/3 of people who would vote for PiS also believe that this party has a dirty conscience when it comes to the epidemic in Poland (that is, they believe these "local" conspiracy theories) - which supports suspicions that a lot of PiS supporters are not staunch believers in the party, but instead vote for it because of social programs. Which gives hope for a return of these voters to moderate, pro-democratic parties: they just need to be credible in their social declarations and reliable about proposing something better than PiS and not just a promise that these social programs won't be discontinued.

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Gatto

 

On 10/25/2020 at 10:36 AM, Nowhere Girl said:

By the way, I've just been reading a text about how beliefs in conspiracy theories ruin family life, plus a report about the extent in which people in Poland believe in ten selected local and global Covid-19 conspiracy theories. A funny (but at the same time sad...) fragment:

 

 


“I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget.

 

“And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that.”

 

https://thirdcoastreview.com/2020/10/04/edgar-allan-poes-the-masque-of-the-red-death-a-story-of-plague-and-dissipation-for-our-day/

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Masterman
On 10/18/2020 at 3:03 PM, Nowhere Girl said:

What I particularly hate is how conspiracy theory believers are very condescending towards people who disagree with them, perceive them as people who have been brainwashed...

 

It's ironic and frustrating, isn't it? There's really not much to do in those cases, because they're completely closed to reason and they would never admit they're in the wrong.

 

There's no use arguing about self-evident truths, so it's better to put aside that kind of people. Then again, as these are people you love, that's no option either. I'm very sorry and I feel for you :(

 

Sadly, these kind of beliefs (not only about COVID, but about everything) are spreading like crazy. It's like being back to the Middle Ages.

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Gatto
7 hours ago, Masterman said:

Sadly, these kind of beliefs (not only about COVID, but about everything) are spreading like crazy. It's like being back to the Middle Ages.

http://bostonreview.net/politics/samuel-clowes-huneke-when-democracy-ails-magic-thrives

 

 

 

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