With all conspiracism, classic and new, the counterstrategy of speaking truth runs up against the wall of closed minds. With classic conspiracism—the kind that collects evidence, that tries to connect all the dots, that offers theories and explanations—speaking truth to conspiracy is often ineffective. The conspiracist’s sealed mind-set is resistant to intervention. Conspiracists categorize contrary evidence as part of the conspiracy itself, and competing evidence is especially suspect when it comes from the very sources said to be part of the plan: political officials or government commissions or the mainstream press. These qualities of mind—epistemic closure, or a self-sealing resistance to all challenging facts—also make the new conspiracism difficult to correct and contest. It is all the more difficult in the case of the new conspiracism because so often the “evidence” consists only of bare assertion, “a lot of people are saying.” In addition, there’s the tribal element of the new conspiracism: identification with a group for which conspiracist stories are a regular way of viewing the political world. The tribal element imposes a real cost on changing one’s mind. Call it the reputational obstacle to acknowledging false belief.

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