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Critical thinking: Conspiracy theories, urban legends, and moral panics

If you’re teaching critical thinking and looking for timely and engaging material, why not try a conspiracy theory?


Dentith, M R. The Truth about Conspiracy Theories.. iai news. 8/26/2020

Every States Most-Searched Conspiracy Theory. USDirect.

DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory. New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media. 4/19/21.AAAS EurekaAlert.

Bergengruen, Vera. QAnon Candidates Are Winning Local Elections. Can They Be Stopped? Time. 4/16/2021

Friedberg, Brian. The Dark Vitality of a Hollywood Blood-harvesting Conspiracy. Wired. 7/31/20

Holub, Christian. The Department of Truth comic wants you to think about who benefits from belief in conspiracy theories. 3/31/21

Hofstadter, Richard. "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Harper’s Magazine 1964: 77-86.

Tangherlini, T. R. An AI tool can distinguish between a conspiracy theory and a true conspiracy – it comes down to how easily the story falls apart. The Conversation.1/13/20

Farago, J. How Conspiracy Theories Shape Art (Published 2018). The New York Times. 11/1/20

Fisher, M. Why Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Flourish. And Why It Matters. The New York Times. 4/8/20

Robb, Amanda. “Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal.” Rolling Stone (blog), Nov. 16, 2017.

Trilling, David, Journalist’s Resource June 16, and 2017. “Seen a Fake News Story Recently? You’re More Likely to Believe It next Time.” Journalist’s Resource (blog), June 16, 2017.

Bardon, A., & Bardon, A. (2020, February 1). Humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview. Fast Company. 2/1/20

Cohen, R. The Silurian Hypothesis. The Paris Review. 1/23/20

PolitiFact - "Why Do Some People Think Mass Shootings Are Staged Every Time?” Aug. 8, 2019 @politifact. 

The Atlantic. “Shadowland.” Ongoing series by several authors.

The Conversation. “Conspiracy Theories News, Research and Analysis.”   

The 9/11 Lies Are Out There: Editor’s Notes.” Popular Mechanics, February 4, 2005.

Wong, Julia Carrie. Down the rabbit hole: how QAnon conspiracies thrive on Facebook. The Guardian Jul. 25, 2020.  

Wolf, Jessica. How Conspiracy Theories Emerge – and How Their Storylines Fall Apart. UCLA Newsroom. June 26, 2020.

Alter, Charlotte. How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy. Time 9/10/20

Conger, K. (2020, July 24). Twitter Takedown Targets QAnon Accounts. The New York Times.

Ortutay, Barbara. YouTube follows Twitter and Facebook with QAnon crackdown. ABC News. October 15, 2020

Wong, Q. Facebook intensifies its crackdown on QAnon conspiracy theory. CNET. August 10, 2020

Tiffany, Kaitlyn. The Boom in Fireworks Conspiracy Theories. June 24, 2020. The Atlantic.

Zaveri, Mihir; Allie Conti and Sandra E. Garcia. Fireworks Conspiracy Theories: Why You Should Be Skeptical. June 25, 2020. New York Times

Ongoing series

On March 1 2021, NPR began an ongoing series called Untangling Disinformation. It's about disinformation generally, including conspiracy theories. One installment discusses a new HBO documentary about QAnon.

The Shadowland series from The Atlantic began in 2020 and is ongoing.

The Media Manipulation Casebook is apparently not ongoing but a very interesting set of case studies with icons for different forms of manipulation. Topics include a few conspiracy theories.