[Doctorow-L] COLUMN: Why do people believe the Earth is flat?

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Sep 21 11:28:50 EDT 2019

I have an op-ed in today’s Globe and Mail, “Why do people believe the
Earth is flat?” wherein I connect the rise of conspiratorial thinking to
the rise in actual conspiracies, in which increasingly concentrated
industries are able to come up with collective lobbying positions that
result in everything from crashing 737s to toxic baby-bottle liners to
the opioid epidemic.

In a world where official processes are understood to be corruptible and
thus increasingly unreliable, we don’t just have a difference in what we
believe to be true, but in how we believe we know whether something is
true or not. Without an official, neutral, legitimate procedure for
rooting out truth — the rule of law — we’re left just trusting experts
who “sound right to us.”

Big Tech has a role to play here, but it’s not in automated brainwashing
through machine learning: rather, it’s in the ability for conspiracy
peddlers to find people who are ripe for their version of the truth, and
in the ability of converts to find one another and create communities
that make them resilient against social pressure to abandon their

Fighting conspiracies, then, is ultimately about fighting the corruption
that makes them plausible — not merely correcting the beliefs of people
who have come under their sway.


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