Last week I was discussing an article by Jonathan Rauch who wrote about how to lose freedom in three easy steps. The first step, described last week, is to troll. The second step is what Rauch terms "conspiracy bootstrapping."
This is where one starts and spreads a conspiracy theory, get a few people to believe it, who then call for an investigation, and then claim that there is a coverup. When you are the target of a conspiracy theory, you become caught in a no-win situation. If you ignore it, you are accused of a coverup. If you deny the claim, you are repeating it and giving it more traction. If you investigate it, you are giving it more credibility. You become caught in a web of lies and crazy thinking.
What can be done to combat this? Whenever there is a conspiracy theory, facts and common sense must be given greater weight. If there is a conspiracy claim that has absolutely no factual basis, then point that out and put the onus of proof on the other side. Although Rauch did not mention it, I think humor and satire help make the point that this is all crazy talk and contradictory to reality. Laugh at their claims. But be careful not to laugh at the person, as tempting as it might be, because that only creates "otherism" and defensiveness. I am sure we can all think of times when we believed things that were not true. Compassion mixed with a heavy dose of wisdom and criticial thinking are crucial.