S1E2: Mask Rumors

Podcast published date: 

Jul 31, 2020

 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

masks, misinformation, people, wear, pandemic, narrative, confusion, folks, cdc, science, spread, information, virus, evidence, government, talking, world health organization, sick, conversation, scientists

SPEAKERS: Shawn Walker, Michael Simeone

 

Michael Simeone: This is Missinfo Weekly at Arizona State University. This week we're talking about masks and the controversy around mask use to stop the spread of COVID-19. So we're going to start this week with a tweet. It's a tweet about face coverings and COVID-19. It comes from the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow. And today we're going to talk about not this tweet per se, but some of the responses to this tweet and some of the responses to face masks or calls to wear face masks in general and what kind of misinformation narratives they're related to. So the tweet again, this pertains to reopening ASU campus in the fall two students, quote, please read my statement regarding the immediate requirement that students employees and visitors wear face coverings on all ASU campuses end quote, and then there is a link to the lengthy statement that we're not going to get into now. The responses are pretty interesting. Shawn, are any of them sticking out to you right now?

 

Shawn Walker :  Yeah, there's there's a bit of a narrative about masks are ineffective. Well, I guess I should note first In general, most of the responses to this tweet are fairly positive. 

 

Michael Simeone: People are really supportive of this. Yeah. 

 

Shawn Walker: In general, there are about currently, you know, about 60 or so comments on those tweet, or replies, but that kind of first narrative that's emerged is that mass are just not effective like this. This doesn't do anything. This is a vanity tool to make you feel better, although it doesn't help anyone.

 

Michael Simeone : Yes, there's a photo over here too, that says this is a mind control device. It's a picture of an N95 mask, but a N95 mask is the label that it's a mind control device. There's another one I think that I'm seeing that the masks are just going to make you sicker if you were trying to look through a couple more of these so yeah, you know, generally very supportive but peppered in here are is just that evidence that some people aren't buying it. Some people don't like masks at all. So let's think through masks a little bit and let's think through some of the misconceptions I think that people are holding onto masks and maybe where some of these misconceptions are coming from because you know, ASU is one thing but national conversation on masks is also pretty mixed. You know, there's a kind of official recommendations now about face coverings from the CDC. But anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account has probably seen, I don't know if I want to call it a conversation. How would we characterize these kinds of comments? Something's going on where people aren't buying aren't buying the whole idea that masks are helpful?

 

Shawn Walker: Well, I would say that this is just there's a lot of confusion, some legitimate confusion. And just, you know, folks entering the conversation and bringing up information from months ago, bringing up information from yesterday misinterpreting information, and all this does is really create a very muddy conversation, where a lot of folks don't know what to think because I'm hearing all this information from these different sides. So some of these tactics are used to propagate misinformation. Some of it are intentional, some are unintentional, but their impact really is just total confusion.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, so unintentional misinformation. Normally, it seems like some cases for fake news or misinformation kind of go like this right that this is what Vladimir Putin wants to think and he's gonna pay to put it on Facebook. And if you're not careful, then you're going to think exactly how Vladimir Putin wants you to think. I think I think this is the flimsiest possible description of fake news. But it's just a pretty popular way of thinking about it. How would you characterize it in a way that might be more productive to think about?

 

Shawn Walker: I would characterize it more by its impact less by its intent. Instead of thinking these are nefarious actors. I mean, some of these folks are some of these folks are trolls. Some folks actually just want to cause confusion. And they are bad actors. But the vast majority of folks are not, the vast majority of the public are trying to have conversations sort these things out for themselves and others, and they're sharing this information. And all it's doing is just causing confusion. So instead of looking at the intent of the actors, I would measure missing disinformation as the around the impact that this causes. And in general, this is just confusion, which then leads to a bit of chaos.

 

Michael Simeone : Yeah. And so it feels like you know, sometimes misinformation can straight up lie for very tactical reasons. But then sometimes the idea is to just accelerate an already natural process, which is for people to look at things and not know exactly how to interpret them, and all we have to do is amplify that process. And we've succeeded. Again, this gets into, you know, the bottom line for misinformation campaigns, oftentimes, right is to confuse people, not necessarily get them to think one very specific thing. So uncertainty is a perfectly good outcome, we need conflict in order to make that happen. Conflict is the magic ingredient. 

 

Shawn Walker : So we can think of this in a way you know, we talked about forest fires or danger, right? In Arizona in the summer, it's very dry. So there's a high chance of forest fires, so any spark can cause a fire. So we have a similar situation where we have a lot of like kindling in this environment right now, especially around COVID. There's a lot of confusion, what scientists know about COVID and what policymakers know about COVID is changing on a daily basis. So that's basically just fuel for the fire and all that we're waiting for is someone just to throw some matches or to throw some gasoline in there. And then we just have an explosion of confusion.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, and I think we see that with masks. I think we see that with A lot of things right now, specifically, I think masks are an interesting emblem, right? You know, one side of the conversation sees them as a solution. And other narratives or other perspective see the mask as emblematic of something far more nefarious than just a way to protect yourself. And so let's kind of go through some of the different cases. So let's go with the first thing. And that's this idea that people observe people wearing masks or not wearing masks and everything kind of seems okay. We see a lot of that around Arizona right now where compliance for mask wearing, I wouldn't really describe that as even. So what do you think about that?

 

Shawn Walker: So a lot of this, I think, comes from anecdotal evidence. So someone might say a lot of folks have a high psychological distance, or they have this experience of COVID. They haven't experienced it themselves, or in their direct family or direct friends. No one has had COVID or if someone had COVID, it was a very mild case. So they're like, what's the big deal? So they come into these conversations and say, you know, I haven't seen any impact. So this is just someone being dramatic about it. We've made all these decisions that were unnecessary. I haven't seen the impact that the economic impact is affecting me. So yeah, Master unnecessary masks don't do anything. 

 

Michael Simeone: This almost seems like a positive feedback loop in the way that you've described it, where I see someone not wearing a mask, I don't see anybody who's sick. Therefore, I'm not going to wear a mask. Then if somebody else thinks like me, they're gonna see me not wearing a mask. This seems like a way for this perspective to spread, even if it's not, you know, an ideology being advocated for, you know, word for word on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Shawn Walker: Yeah, somebody and to be honest, you know, mask wearing can be an inconvenience, especially if you don't live in 110 degree Arizona heat wearing a mask outside when it's 110 degrees is not a pleasant experience. So a lot of folks are looking for reasons to not have to go through that experience because it's not so much fun. So if they haven't seen it does impact some folks who might not be very motivated to go through that unpleasant experience.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, yeah. So you know, most masks were designed to be used in a clinical environment in a facility that has air conditioning. So how a surgical mask becomes damp? And then, you know, much less comfortable than I think it was designed for it. Like we have lots of different anecdotal evidence for that lately, too. So yeah, I mean, I feel like you know, if people just look around, and if they're just gathering evidence, and the authority that they trust the most is just what they see, then it might be very easy to feel like masks are kind of frivolous.

 

Shawn Walker: Yes, we're going to see this uneven distribution of this belief, as you know, in some areas where like areas that were heavy hit, so in New York City in Chicago, also in parts of California, like LA, everyone's wearing masks versus in Arizona, we haven't been hit as hard in the past recently, that's changed, but we're still not seeing a lot of compliance with mask wearing because we actually will haven't been directly impacted.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, and I think that's a complicating thing to this now is, you know, where we were as a country with the recommendations for masks, say three months ago and where we are now. And so the CDC Some of their language and communications about mask wearing where were we, at the beginning of this,

 

Shawn Walker:  This is this the sort of second case we want to discuss here is that initially as COVID started to come into the radar, and as the CDC started discuss mask wearing and other other items, the CDC came out and said that we really want to save mass for clinical workers to protect them, because our PPE is in short supply. So let's not wear masks, they're not going to be that effective outside of a clinical setting. But that narrative has changed over time. Right?

 

Michael Simeone: Well, yeah, it seems like there's been new evidence, right. So it's interesting, right? I feel like the best guess, I guess we could, I don't know if we could call it a narrative or just a best guess that these masks are going to be effective that even if they're not as effective as a vaccine, they're not as effective as staying at home. But there is some kind of incremental improvement that, you know, observed over a huge population is something that we would rather have than not.

 

Shawn Walker: Yes. And we can see this in Crow's message, where he actually cites evidence some of the work that he has done internally, our researchers have done on the effectiveness of masks and found that they're effective. So in this instance, we have where folks are taking truth. So yes, the CDC at some point did say in the past and say that masks were not necessary for anyone who was outside of a hospital. But now they're continuing, you know, that was three months ago. So they're bringing that information into our current conversation. So it's true. Yes, the CDC say that --

 

Michael Simeone: Right. So if I'm, if I'm saying, hey, you told me three months ago not to wear a mask, you told me three months ago, I don't need this mask. But now you're telling me I need a mask? Why should I trust you at all? I'm gonna go look for other explanations as to why this is happening.

 

Shawn Walker: Yes, and in conversations, then it also spreads this confusion because someone saying no, Crow says we need to wear a mask now like no, here's a URL from the CDC where they said this, but that just means you have to spend all this time having a discussion about how that's old information. We have updated information now. So that's another way to spread confusion in that conversation, whether intended or unintentional.

 

Michael Simeone: It's almost like a trap. Like, you know, science is going to contradict itself. At some point, or, you know, I say science contradicts itself, like they're these like huge monolithic institutions, but scientists disagree, scientists can bring evidence to the table that doesn't always come to a certain conclusion, you know, in an instant way. So what do you think fuels that? Because this is, you know, your, like your wildfire example. And that that disagreement is just fuel for misinformation. So what does it take for someone to look at two scientists disagreeing? And instead of saying, Oh, look, two scientists are disagreeing seems like this is just business as usual. You know, for a while we thought it was okay to smoke cigarettes too. Instead, you say, well, it must be a false flag operation fueling global genocide, like what causes somebody to make that kind of leap?

 

Shawn Walker: Well, I guess what? Well, one possibility is there's a lack of understanding in the public and how science works. science isn't this sort of linear process where we have information we say here The latest information that we have, we want to reserve mask s for clinical situations, we don't have a lot of evidence about masks working outside of that. And then that information is kind of permanent now. And we don't move on from that we don't have updated information. We don't have updated tests. So whenever scientists come back and stay, we've got additional studies. Now we understand this is more effective, let's change our processes, that can be really difficult. And especially if you're in a situation where there's a lot of uncertainty, and there's a lot of discomfort, and hearing new information can be really uncomfortable.

 

Michael Simeone: Okay, so like where science meets convenience and a lot of ways if science is inconvenient. And this is remarkable, though, because it's not that inconvenient to wear a mask for many people. And so the amount of inconvenience that people are willing to tolerate before going off for other really imaginative explanations is again, it's remarkable.

 

Shawn Walker: Well, I think it's also more than just the inconvenience. It's also there's a very high level of uncertainty in our environment right now. In the world. We have COVID we have the economic challenges you political challenges and political disagreements in the US and worldwide. So there's a lot of uncertainty and, you know, how do I keep my family safe? How do I, you know, what happens if I lose my job by benefits my employment. So we're looking to feel fairly as stable as possible. And so this environment where scientists are giving us updated information that might contradict what we've heard, weeks or months ago, that can make people feel even more uncomfortable, and that means they grab on to some of that previous information that they already believed.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, but what really gets me on this is the Plandemic propaganda video, though I think we mentioned just a little bit in our, in our first episode, you know, Plandemic is we're probably going to have an entire episode on pandemic at some point, but Plandemic tries to create, you know, a different story about why COVID-19 is happening or why governments are responding in the way that they are to COVID-19 and that it's really much more about global control and population thinning than, you know, an actual real pandemic. that threatens people that is a wild story that has a wild narrative that this is part of a sinister effort to regulate the world's population by making them more vulnerable to the virus because this is what the allegations are right in this in this film is that if you wear a mask, it actually increases your ability to be sick, that it can activate the virus, or even staying away from different parts of the city or town or environment can hurt your immune system and make you more prone to be sick. And so in a weird way, rather than protecting you the mask as a way of slowly choking out your immune system and killing you, if you believe this, why aren't people lined up to try to overthrow whatever world order is orchestrating this, this sounds like the most dire and diabolical thing in history. Why aren't people lined up to do that? Why do we need all of this just to keep you from wearing a mask in Costco? 

 

Shawn Walker: Well, I mean there are there is a portion of the population that are sort of lined up and ready and hoping to accelerate the overthrow the government, there's some community that does believe some of the information that's in here. And

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, say more. What do you mean by that?

 

Shawn Walker: So there's a militant group of militants and militia members that believe that they need to overthrow the government, they believe that a race war is coming. And these communities are highly connected to some of these beliefs. These are highly connected to the anti vaxxer communities. So part of the narrative of the Plandemic video is that vaccines and the way that the vaccines are designed because the types of cells that they use that this makes us more vulnerable, the corona virus, so again, it's this sort of design, the masks the vaccines, everything is kind of put into place to then, you know, wait for this moment to release this virus and cause this sort of hoax to bring down society.

 

Michael Simeone: So this is different from people taking in evidence. So the seeing conflicting statements from the CDC and therefore believing that you know, you can't trust science at all because they just don't know What they're doing because they disagree with one another. This feels like we're rather than taking what appear to be good faith statements by professional scientists and just kind of twisting them into something that makes you feel like you don't have to protect yourself or that masks are somehow not worth your time. You know, I'm not sure how many scientific papers are actually part of this other narrative that we're talking about this plant damage narrative, which, you know, says that Bill Gates is trying to fund a global eugenics experiment by killing people through Coronavirus precautions.

 

Shawn Walker: I think this is the case where they're using different techniques where facts are not necessarily important to this narrative. Unlike right, sort of previous two examples, where, you know, it's my personal experience is that there's really not this virus is not that bad. Or, you know, the CDC said this three months ago, so it must still be true. This is a situation where we're using high production values, we're using emotional appeals. We're using scare tactics to then take sort of bombastic claims animals that have no basis in fact, and linking them together to try to create something that some folks might want to lock in, and in a moment of really high levels of discomfort.

 

Michael Simeone: You know, your favorite scene from that film where they have the simulated, or stock footage of the SWAT team breaking down the door to bust the crusading doctor, it looks like television, you would watch at eight o'clock at night on a major network, right?

 

Shawn Walker:  Yeah, so this is right in the beginning of the film, when they're interviewing Dr. Mikovits And she's talking about that she was arrested evidence was planted in her home. And while she's discussing this, they switch to very high quality footage of just SWAT team and like SEAL Team one coming into a house surrounding a house. And this is not actual footage of her house or actual footage of the police they interacted with her and the music and the imagery give you the sort of feeling of this information. They wanted to suppress it. You know, they use such force to suppress her but that footage is not related to anything that she's talking about.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, and I think you know what made this more credible was when YouTube took that video down. And so looking through thousands of tweets that retweeted Plandemic. Now I know that folks have looked at the Facebook sharing behavior of the Plandemic video when it first came out and it was just really resembled the behavior of bots only they were human users right just rapid sharing and rapid re sharing the story on Twitter is really similar where if you were to think about network representation of how people share stuff around Twitter as maybe a tree with a lot of branches on it, you know, the network representation of the first few days after the Plandemic video came out, just looks like you've dumped a whole bunch of boiled spaghetti onto a plate and shook it around right like there's just connection after connection after connection after connection people were sharing this thing like wildfire and people commenting frequently they took it down every posted it Oh, they wanted to keep it quiet every posted it Oh, some people are really trying to protect Dr. Fauci and it's all it's all part. part of the plan. I'm reposting it over here, deleting it actually kind of gave it more credibility in a way that I don't know if people really saw that coming. But because it was conspiracy theory video that claim that a greater power was trying to keep them down. It totally made sense. It almost became evidence of the whole video by people taking it down.

 

Shawn Walker: And as more folks are starting to talk about it, then others like, well, I really want to see this video then, if everyone's talking about it.

 

Michael Simeone: I did. Yeah, it's

 

Shawn Walker: Gone. Then people turned into Sherlock Holmes in many ways to find copies of this video or websites or created copies of this video. So even though platforms attempt to restrict access to this misinformation made it just sort of more lucrative, the latest iPhone comes out, no one can buy one. So everyone wants one now because it's like the latest Furby if you're old enough to remember furbies right? It's the fact that you can't get them before Christmas that makes them so desirable. So you can't get a copy of this video. So everybody just wants a copy of this video.

 

Michael Simeone: So Shawn you just made me think of a grim science fiction future where people are just lined up around the block to watch a conspiracy theory video. That's I don't know what to do with that,

 

Shawn Walker: Hopefully with masks and social distancing?

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, probably not. Okay. I don't want to talk too much about my feelings. So let's um, let's talk a little bit about like another case here because we could we could get into the Plandemic conspiracy for a while, but I think it's just important for people listening to understand that Plandemic is one of those things that doesn't seem to make any effort in engaging real, or engaging scientific evidence, but does seem really interested in appearing like it is based on scientific evidence. And obviously, there's a distinction there, but want to make a big difference between we talk about this a lot, right? That there's different ways that misinformation happens and being lied to on purpose is one way like in the Plandemic video, but having people just misunderstand how science works is another but we don't want to say that they're always the same thing. I still can't get over why you need to believe in Plandemic to not wear a mask at Costco. If you also believe that the worst tragedy in human history is happening at the hands of your government, the site of resistance that you choose is to just not wear a mask and you're not really going to do anything else that just that is that is an unbelievably successful mythology. So little action is taken at such a huge cost in what you believe about the world that is unbelievably successful. But then there's some people who just won't wear masks at all because they feel like this is just a civil rights thing.

 

Shawn Walker: Yeah. So there's another sort of final group where they say that forcing us to wear masks and not making that optional, it restricts our freedoms, a lot of folks incorrectly interpret the Constitution and saying that the health department doesn't have the power to require us to work back somewhere in public for controlling the pandemic and the general well being of the public. You know, some folks are stuck on on that when the actual health department has a lot of power to do that, to protect the general well being of the public.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, this idea that to take away individual rights, the mask changing and requiring what you wear is a really sensitive thing. You know, a whole lot of regulations Can, can be in place that it seems like people are pretty tolerant of but the mask, it's become a symbol. Lots of folks don't like the idea of there being a mandatory shutdown of businesses, for instance, or restrictions on businesses and economic activity, especially if you're skeptical about the danger of the virus in general, you feel like this is a huge infraction on your rights and that wearing a mask is an indignity and that you don't want to normalize this behavior.

 

Shawn Walker: This is also connected to some cultural norms, especially in the United States, where we only see sick people wear masks or we only see health professionals in a health professional setting. Doctors and nurses at a hospital wear masks but the general public doesn't we see maybe cancer patients were during chemo treatment, they'll wear masks when they go out into public but then forcing everyone else to wear masks that aren't sick. So we have this whole discussion of you know, asymptomatic spread versus pre symptomatic spread versus you should only wear masks. If you're sick and stay home, and then that gets connected to this narrative of restricting our freedoms, because I'm not sick, so therefore, I shouldn't have to wear a mask. If you make me wear a mask, I look like I'm sick and you're restricting my freedoms.

 

Michael Simeone: Right? So is the virus a real threat? Or is it just a pretense for taking away your freedoms? Yeah. And as you mentioned, right, this idea that there's been some recent confusion with a, I guess this was a couple days ago, when the World Health Organization came out with a statement that many people interpreted as if you don't have symptoms, you're not contagious, which wasn't exactly what they meant and they walked it back. They had studied what the spread was for folks who didn't currently have symptoms, but needed to clarify and several other kind of US public health experts and physicians kind of clarified as well or re emphasize I should say that yes, if you do not presently have symptoms, it is possible that you will have symptoms at some point and you are contagious for Coronavirus. Now neither you nor I are experts in covering Coronavirus, but the exchanges between medical experts and public health officials indicates and the walking back of the World Health Organization seems to indicate that, generally speaking, our best guess right now is that Coronavirus is can be contagious before you show symptoms, right? Again, back to what we were saying about how science is this kind of growing consensus among experts, and it's kind of a team sport. And we come to agreement over time, all that granted, right. But I think some people seized on this idea that the World Health Organization said, Nope, you're not going to spread it this way. And so you're fine. And so to them, instead of that, you know, being one point in a much larger picture of procedures about understanding the Coronavirus. Instead, they just took that as a Aha, I knew it. My own government won't tell me about the World Health Organization. They let me know. It turns out I don't need to wear a mask at all.

 

Shawn Walker: And this also connects back to our previous discussion around sort of the CDC and breeding information in a different time. So this might have been true in the past. This was the best We best evidence we had now I'm bringing that old information into a new recent conversation. So we're mixing all of these together. So that's the other piece is that it's not like, you know, these four different sort of situations and tactics that we're discussing happens separately. It's oftentimes, bits and pieces of them have come together in one space to cause even more confusion.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, I feel like the more complicated the situation is, the easier it is for misinformation to spread. I mean, that's not like a brilliant thought or anything, but it's just like, I feel like, generally speaking, if you're dealing with something like that has scientific depth and is relatively new, then that's just a really great environment for misinformation to grow. So this like a pandemic is just perfect for misinformation and misinformation and social media platforms haven't existed together for a very long time at all. And so this seems like an interesting first case of a widespread crisis that has to do with science or technology. that not a lot of people are familiar with that, that requires a lot of experts to figure out, man, all the different spaces in between those experts and pieces of knowledge just seems like a great place for misinformation to work.

 

Shawn Walker: Yeah, this is definitely the perfect storm, it kind of reminds me of sort of my favorite article that I ran into this week that a colleague shared with us around exposure to like conspiracy theory fiction, like The X Files, doesn't really persuade anyone unless they were already predisposed to, to believe,

 

Michael Simeone: What does that mean? Predisposed.

 

Shawn Walker: So. So and I guess To put it another way, is that you know, Mulder, who's the star character and The X Files, we could say, despite my best efforts for us to sort of believe in extraterrestrial life and these various things, he's only going to convince those of us that already want to believe that his narrative is true. So what I mean by that of bringing into this conversation is that for each one of these, if we go back to our conversation last week, around those sort of eight steps, and one of those was to look at our biases. So we have a bias to believe some of this information. So if we already have an adversarial relationship with the government and believe that they're trying to suppress our freedoms, then we're more vulnerable to that narrative and that hook, for example, or if we don't have any experience of someone close to us who's sick, you know, we're not as predisposed to believe the narrative that COVID is something we should take seriously.

 

Michael Simeone: That was our our correspondent, Justice the dog who chipped in on that, on that, as well.

 

Shawn Walker: He has some opinions about Zoom calls. So apologies.

 

Michael Simeone: So this is this is interesting point that you raised about these predispositions. Right. So and as we talked about last week, you know, a lot of times when you think about your biases, you kind of think about just First off, I think a lot of times people have a hard time understanding what a bias is, and for good reason, right? We talk about it in different ways, but the idea that your relationship to different institutions and your opinions on different institutions, not just political positions, but your orientation to institutions can be a really great place to think about when you're thinking about your biases. And so you know, science is, you know, not monolithic, but it is certainly an institution. And so what's your orientation to that? That may affect things too. And so yeah, your orientation towards the government, towards science, even something like ASU, right? What's your orientation to ASU that's going to interfere or affect how you're going to interpret some things.

 

Shawn Walker: And also to any of our political leaders. So if you're pro Trump, you're pro Ducey, you're anti Ducey (Ducey, he's the governor of the state, Arizona) or your you know, anti President Trump, then you're predisposed to either believe their messages more readily, or to be more skeptical of the messages that you're receiving from those officials. So these all kind of hook together. And then combine that with I think your description of science as a scrimmage was perfect because there is a bit of battling between the teams so people have different theories about why the virus, you know, how its spread, how we can prevent it spread, etc. And then those teams in some ways kind of battle through this peer review process where folks do research they present that research to their peers that's evaluated and then you know, some research is published and some research is found to be problematic and not published. So there is a bit of a sort of team scrimmage while the surface science sausage is made.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, for sure. You know, we've been talking about all these different things, as if they're, you know, separate approaches or their different camps, if you will, for disagreeing with masks, or not wanting to wear a mask. Looking over the conversation now it really feels like it's really more of a buffet. I feel like looking over people's responses to calls to wear masks. People borrow from a lot of these different traditions, right? Like, it can be possible for someone to say, I don't see anybody who's sick, um, and they're not wearing masks, so I don't need to worry about it. By the way, I saw this video. I think that this has got some conspiracy. I don't believe all of it. But I you know, there's some things they really made me think. And you know, I think the government in general has been trying to take away my freedoms, right, that's three out of the four areas that we are talking about, and then they'll throw in Well, you know, it doesn't seem like the CDC really knows what they're doing. And you've got four different narratives, if you will, are four different perspectives on masks and they kind of tie together to generally create a resistant behavior.

 

Shawn Walker: Like you said, we think of misinformation. And that brings visions of Russian interference in the US election. But this is not all foreign actors or nefarious actors. This is just a whole set of techniques that end up sowing confusion. And not all of them are falsified and hoaxes. Some of them are the sort of twisting and interweaving of true information at different times, you know, anecdotal evidence, that doesn't really apply. And then that gets twisted together just to ignite confusion. And then we don't know what to believe.

 

Michael Simeone: Yeah, and this can create, you know, I don't know if this is an instance where it's created but you know, always when reviewing this stuff, we should be open to the fact that it can create really interesting configurations of ideas and opinions. So for instance, again, if the idea of misinformation is to confuse or mislead, there might not necessarily be a partisan result here. You know, I've spoken with people who genuinely like fight very hard for you know, decarbonizing the energy system because they think climate change is a very important priority, but They also believe that the trails that follow behind jets right chemtrails are designed to control people's minds. So some conspiracy theories fall along the political spectrum more often than not, but we shouldn't just assume that just because someone is participating in a misinforming narrative, or shared misinformation or retweeting other kinds of content, we can't necessarily make assumptions about their politics.

 

Shawn Walker: Yeah. So to go away these techniques, these sort of confusion and the sets of beliefs aren't owned by one political ideology, they're just spread across the entire spectrum.

 

Michael Simeone: Thanks for joining us this week. For more information, email datascience@asu.edu or visit our webpage at library.asu.edu/data