Conspiratorially Speaking

Recently someone responded to a blog I wrote admonishing me for assuming a conspiracy where none existed. My response was to apologize for not being as clear as possible. I was not proposing a conspiracy but rather a “go along to get along” mentality. That exchange, which ended amicably as far as I can tell, came to mind when I ran across the image below.

My immediate thought was that everyone reading this would think something different. For example, someone who watches Fox News or listens to conservative talk radio would think one thing. A fan of late-night television personalities or CNN might see something else.

The same could be true of a devout Christian and an atheist. For that matter, any two strong-willed people with opposite views, politically, socially, or religiously might see posts like this differently.

Then, I pulled up the homepage for the entity sharing the meme. It is possible to interpret almost all the posts I reviewed as ambiguous, open to interpretation, or propaganda. As one might expect, comments, threads, or whatever one wishes to call the various dialogues illustrated one perspective or another. Now, one might ask, is this part of a conspiracy?

Is this a group of people coming together to sow discord or taint the thinking of those around them? Or is it the brainchild of someone simply finding amusement by pulling others’ chains? The problem with answering this question is complex.

First, if you remember the so-called telephone game, you know distortion of a communicated idea does not require a conspiracy or even conscious intent. It simply requires people willing to repeat things they heard or think they heard without verifying their understanding.

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

For instance, I hear something and repeat it to you based on my worldview or understanding. You hear what I say based on your worldview and experience. You share it with someone else, and they share what they think they heard.

Every time the information is shared, it changes. In some cases, by the time it comes back to the person who first shared the information, they cannot believe how distorted it is.

The problem today is that one person can share something such as the item above, and thousands of people will be able to read and interpret it based on their worldview, understanding, and biases. Then they can share it, or their understanding of it, with hundreds or thousands of others.

The bottom line is this. Conspiracies1 still exist, but they are no longer required to spread fear, bigotry, and propaganda. Social media lets people do that without breaking a sweat.

1For clarity’s sake, conspiracy here is not used in the criminal sense, which requires some level of criminal intent. Conspiracy through social media is often more akin to groupthink or trolling.

Β© – 2022

About S. Eric Jackson

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11 Responses to Conspiratorially Speaking

  1. Pingback: Groupthink and Social Media | An Old Cop's Place

  2. The Hinoeuma says:

    I was going to comment on your last post but, you can’t.

    • You can comment on my posts, but they will not appear until I have approved them, or I have granted the person commenting access previously. I instituted the approval process after going back and forth a couple of times with trolls. I have no problem with disagreements, feedback, etc., but I don’t waste my time on someone who is repeating messaging from another source or simply trying to stir something up. So, I’d be happy to read any comments you wish to make.

      • The Hinoeuma says:

        I moderate all my comments, too. Your last post on Memorial Day, there is no ability to comment at all. In the WP Reader, the comment “icon” is grayed out, meaning “turned off.” When I go directly to your site, there is no comment box. You might need to tweak the post & turn on comments.

        I just wanted to say that I was sorry for the loss if your brother in ‘Nam. I was almost an Army brat, with my dad heading there as a 2Lt. He was in ROTC for all four years of college and, as time passed, friends weren’t coming back and others coming back told horrifying stories. He increasingly didn’t like the idea of “commanding” men to go to their deaths. After a nasty shouting match with his CO, he resigned his commission. An older Korean-era officer begged him to stay. My dad couldn’t stomach what was going on.

        A couple of years, later, he wound up in LE as Probation/Parole. His younger brother beat him to a city cop job in our hometown (they didn’t take family members back then).

        My SO is a regular Navy & Seabee VN veteran (Da Nang/Camp Haskins/Red Beach) & retired cop. My life has been full of LE & military. I have an ex that is a USMC Master Sergeant.

      • Thanks for the heads up, and thanks for the note here. Not certain what happened, but I’ll take a look. I am building a new site. Trying to get it up, I may have screwed something up. Or, trying to get something up for Memorial Day, I may have clicked the wrong box or left something out.

      • The Hinoeuma says:

        WP press makes me say ugly words.

      • I understand.

      • The Hinoeuma says:

        Tried to respond to your comment on the previous post. Now, comments are closed and I couldn’t respond.

        God love you, dealing with that block editor. I despise that thing. Talk about complicating matters. I am a Classic Editor type (former web programmer). I understand that the “happiness engineers” intend to do away with it, soon. I upgraded and got the Classic Editor plug-in. I removed all block editor & Gutenberg plug-ins. I want nothing to do with them. I’d rather have notepad and hack out code on my own.

        Hope your website re-build goes well.

  3. Em says:

    I’m not sure memes are a conspiracy although they’re certainly an easy way to make a sale. We don’t much like to work for what we “know.” Soundbites like the one about are problematic because they’re fatuous. They’re a sentence, two at most, and people think they can represent a complicated topic. Plus, people read one or two and think they’re experts. I had to watch all of ER before I considered myself a doctor πŸ˜‰

    • I understand your comment concerning memes. Sadly, memes or other posts can be used by those who are so inclined, for less than honorable reasons. Child predators/traffickers, hackers, and people fighting Human Trafficking use pictures, memes, and other posts to identify kindred spirits, potential victims, predators, or simply stir up trouble. Many people online post comments about some of the memes that others share as being a way for hackers to identify things one might use for passwords, secret questions, and other uses. The same can be true of people wanting to identify people with similar, or opposing, biases or political leanings. I know many of them are just things people found amusing or thought might stir up a lot of comments, but social media is a minefield in some ways. Sorry to be so longwinded, but I have some experience with some of these problems, and I raise the red flag when I see a potential problem. By the way, I watched Top Gun dozens of times, and the Navy still won’t fly second-seat on a Super Hornet. πŸ˜’πŸ€£

      • Em says:

        You could be right about the “less than honourable reasons.” I stumble on this problem often, as it happens. My son finds it a little amusing.

        The Navy is being completely rude. 😁

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