Letters To The Editor, 17th October 2018

Why do we believe conspiracy theories? Arvind Mani, Nadi At recent Trump rallies, people have been observed publicly expressing support for “Qanon”: an anonymous person or group that claims to
17 Oct 2018 11:58
Letters To The Editor, 17th October 2018

Why do we believe conspiracy theories?

Arvind Mani, Nadi

At recent Trump rallies, people have been observed publicly expressing support for “Qanon”: an anonymous person or group that claims to have access to top-level se­curity information about a secret cabal of corrupt elites, intellectuals, left-wing poli­ticians and celebrities conspiring to ex­ploit and even enslave people. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is.

The recent case of the students in a school in Votualevu being called “political messengers” is a case in point when stu­dents were given flyers to inform the par­ents of a FijiFirst rally at the school.

When I taught at Cuvu High School in the early 70s, an official of the National Fed­eration Party (NFP) wanted the school to let the people know that there was going to be a NFP rally at the school.

So we made about 300 copies of the flyer and gave them to all the students to inform their parents.

There was a no hidden agenda – it was merely to inform. There was no “mis­use of power” by the NFP at that time as SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka has claimed in the Votualevu school incident, and he should know best what misuse of power is.

Putting aside the fact that some conspir­acy theories turn out to be true, even fact-free conspiracy theories can be followed by people who otherwise behave relatively normally.

Widespread support for conspiracy theo­ries is also not simply a symptom of our modern digital society. In the dark ages, witch hunts were based on the belief that young women gathered in the woods to conspire with the devil, and many tradi­tional societies still accuse enemy tribes of sorcery to harm or control them.

The fear that evil forces conspire to hurt good people is deeply rooted in the human psyche.

Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty also help fuel conspiracy theories. Such emo­tions function as a psychological warn­ing signal, leading people to try and make sense of societal events that frighten them.

Feelings of uncertainty, coupled with the feeling that your life is not fully in your control anymore, increases conspiracy thinking. Emotions reflecting uncertainty — such as fear or worry — can increase conspiracy beliefs.

Human brains are hard-wired to pro­tect their own group against competing groups, and therefore more easily attrib­ute the actions of competing groups to conspiracies.

To some extent, we may all occasionally perceive a conspiracy where there is none. But this makes it even more important to take this phenomenon seriously.

Going forward, helping citizens distin­guish fact from fiction is going to be an increasingly important challenge and leaders of political parties need to act in a more responsible manner.

Debunking conspiracy theories when and where they appear is helpful, but it cannot just be the media or the political leader­ship’s responsibility.

We have to understand the psychological triggers and motivations if we want to mit­igate the influence and potential dangers of this kind of thinking.

Because the truth is that conspiracy theories will always thrive when people or political parties feel like they are not in control.

Votualevu drama

Premila Singh, Suva

What’s all the drama about the Votualevu School manager’s newsletter?

Wasn’t NFP holding campaign meetings in schools in Rakiraki?

Party of denial

Dharmendra Kumar, Suva

The leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) cannot stop denying despite concrete proof of the nonsense being spewed by candidates and former candi­dates.

Apart from the Prime Minister, I am re­ally worried about the calibre of leaders in the respective political parties.

The politics of denial is profoundly dis­turbing and it’s becoming a hallmark of the NFP.

There are two kinds of denial. The kind that involves a conscious lie, as when a child denies he cheated in the exams or the husband denies he was busy at work. We expect this kind of denial.

It is as old as the world.

The other, modern kind of denial getting popularised is a symptom of angry and bitter politicians who like to condone gar­bage. Mr Biman Prasad please stop deny­ing what’s so obvious.

We want leaders who are trustworthy and those that have integrity. Sometimes deni­al is the worst kind of lie because it’s the lie you are telling yourself.

As the leader you are condoning poor be­haviour and it’s not a good reflection on your leadership.

Winning is always nice but don’t lose your integrity in the process.

Can poverty be eradicated?

Neelz Singh, Lami

Tackling inequality and corruption while promoting political will can help overcome global poverty, but how can we determine people are below the poverty line.

What tools can be used to monitor how people face challenges in everyday life to overcome poverty.

According to the United Nations, the main purpose of such days is to raise awareness, generate support, and call at­tention to unresolved problems, important and pending issues in our communities.

This awareness is intended to encour­age governments to enact polices toward achieving a determined goal, or to demon­strate support for citizens to demand the same from their representatives.

Working together as a community and helping those in need was a major focus for our Government of the day.

Now the challenges are: the cost of living and prices of basic food items and the cost of fuel and gas prices.

The abuse of government initiatives to reduce poverty and the abuse of as­sistance provided after natural disasters tends to divert attention away from those who genuinely need help.

What factors stand in the way of elimi­nating poverty, and what steps should be taken to do so?

This kind of awareness is what we need with World Food Day that is celebrated every October 16. Global food security is a major concern, especially with the in­creasing adverse impact of climate change on agriculture worldwide.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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