Covid Deniers May Pivot to Climate Denial

January 5, 2022

Or in a lot of cases, pivot “back” to climate denial. Many of these same folks have been in the climate denial game for decades.

The National:

Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), told the PA news agency that coronavirus misinformation on topics such as vaccines and lockdowns could evolve to focus on climate policy.

“‘Green lockdowns’ is a term that’s bandied about in these conspiracy communities… that’s a merging of Covid worlds and climate disinformation worlds,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said conspiracy groups “will frame” climate policy as a “loss of civil liberties and loss of freedoms”.

“If you think about the Covid protest movements – be it anti-mask, anti-lockdown, or anti-vaccines – the branding and the language that’s been used by these kinds of conspiracy units has always been around,” he said.

“This is a civil liberties argument.

“The climate dialogue, rhetoric and discussion is gonna be rolled into that kind of civil liberties discussion, I think (that) is where you’re going to see a lot of these groups go.”

Dr Jonathan Bright, an associate professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, agreed, adding that there “could be more activity” from climate conspiracy groups in 2022.

“I think people are going to be thinking about climate change misinformation quite a lot,” Mr Bright told PA.

The experts were also concerned that conspiracy groups and communities have traded mainstream platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, for Telegram – a platform with comparatively relaxed content guidelines.

“Telegram has… taken a very robust ‘we’re not interested approach’ to any media pressure to get it to moderate its content,” Dr Bright said.

Mr O’Connor added: “Telegram has become the platform of choice for far-right, extreme right wing groups, for conspiracy communities, (and) for extremist communities in general. Facebook and YouTube… they do have community guidelines, they do enforce them.

“Telegram takes largely a hands off approach to this. They have bare bones terms of service. That means that essentially they only take down threats of violence and child pornography and things like this.

“What that means is that Telegram is a safe space for conspiracy communities.”

The experts also pointed to the fact that online conspiracies are increasingly feeding real-world activity.

In February, footage emerged of a man confronting England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty on the street, accusing him of lying about coronavirus case numbers.

In October, protesters were filmed entering Colchester Hospital in Essex and serving staff with bogus legal papers accusing them of “crimes against humanity”.

And earlier in December, anti-vaxxer Piers Corbyn was arrested on suspicion of encouraging people to attack MPs’ offices.

“Online actions have offline consequences,” Mr O’Connor said.

“What we’re seeing in relation to that idea… is the increased threat especially towards public health officials, towards politicians, and even towards frontline staff, people who are working to protect people.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for the Government’s response to disinformation.

It announced a raft of measures over the past year to combat the issue, including funding training for libraries, youth workers, and teachers to help build media literacy in young people.

Tech and digital economy minister Chris Philp said: “Our mission is to make the online world a better and safer place and tackling disinformation is a vital part of this work.

“Our new online safety laws will create clear requirements for tech platforms to tackle disinfo and misinfo and our media literacy strategy will provide people with the skills they need to be able to tell fact from fiction online.”

Telegram had not responded to a PA request for comment at the time of publication.

The New Daily (Australia):

The more people believe in conspiracy theories, the worse they perform on critical thinking tests, a new study has confirmed.

This doesn’t mean that conspiracy theorists are necessarily lacking intelligence, but rather that they lack the skills to objectively analyse and evaluate a situation.

The good news is that people can be taught these skills, and to an extent be brought in from the dark side – but of course it’s complicated.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but they have greater reach and intensity with the advent of social media.

As explained by Anthony Lantian, an associate professor of psychology at the Paris Nanterre University and a co-author of the new study: “Conspiracy theories refer to attempts to explain the ultimate cause of an important event (social, political, climatic, etc.) by accusing a hidden coalition of perceived malicious and powerful people or organisations of having secretly planned and implemented these events.”

The French researchers ran two studies, where they assessed the critical thinking skills of 338 undergraduate students using a French version of a teaching and testing tool known as the Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test.

They then scored the students’ tendencies towards conspiracy beliefs and their personal assessment of their critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of a situation – and requires a number of cognitive skills.

These include the ability to think systematically, see other perspectives, change your mind when new evidence arises, identify relevant versus irrelevant information, identify and discard logical fallacies, be aware of biases and avoid them, and look beyond the obvious.

None of this is particularly easy.

What the researchers found was a strong association between lower critical thinking skills and an increased tendency toward believing conspiracy theories.


3 Responses to “Covid Deniers May Pivot to Climate Denial”

  1. Anthony William O'brien Says:

    May pivot??? How about are the same people or at least same groupings. Odds are real good if they rabbit on about how masks cause you to breath in CO2, then they are already a climate change denier. (and watch Fox News)

  2. Frank Speaking Says:

    Just for interest sake, tghe US may have some problems sooner than thought

    The Colorado River Is Dying – And It Could Crash The Economy | Answers With Joe

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Telegram has become the platform of choice for far-right, extreme right wing groups, for conspiracy communities, (and) for extremist communities in general.

    Bet your bottom dollar that all of the usual groups will be carefully monitoring that site: FBI, NSA, ATF, Right Wing Watch, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc.

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