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The first rule of fighting conspiracy theories – don’t call them that

Vaccine hesitancy and distrusting authority is a live problem. But popular scepticism cannot be tackled by labelling the believer irrational or stupid, writes John Rentoul

Thursday 02 December 2021 15:03 GMT
The storming of the Capitol was driven by the belief that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’
The storming of the Capitol was driven by the belief that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ (Associated Press)
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More people say “it seems plausible” that Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed than that her death was an accident, according to new research by Ipsos MORI. Forty per cent of people agree that it seems plausible that her death was “not an accident”, while 27 per cent disagree, and the rest don’t know or have no opinion.

The study found widely varying levels of belief in conspiracy theories. Most of the 11 examples tested by Ipsos MORI found that more people disagreed than agreed that they were plausible. The idea that 5G mobile phone towers are responsible for the spread of Covid-19 was found “plausible” by just 2 per cent of UK adults, and the belief that the Covid vaccine is a cover for implanting microchips by just 4 per cent.

Theories that climate change is not due to human activity, that 9/11 was a controlled demolition and that the 2020 US election result was falsified were also rejected by large margins. Yet each of those was regarded by significant minorities as “plausible” (14, 14 and 18 per cent respectively).

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