It’s tempting to believe that conspiratorial, tin-hat thinking is something only other people are susceptible to—especially people less educated and more credulous than we imagine ourselves to be. Which is why this piece from the New York Times’s Ben Smith is so fascinating in its depiction of a moral panic that descended on a small online community of former winners of the quiz show Jeopardy! after a contestant who had just won his third game held up three fingers on his right hand—a gesture which, the contestants quickly decided, was likely some sort of white power symbol. “The element of this story that interests me most is how the beating heart of nerdy, liberal fact-mastery can pump blood into wild social media conspiracy, and send all these smart people down the sort of rabbit hole that leads other groups of Americans to believe that children are being transported inside refrigerators,” Smith wrote. “It reflects a depth of alienation among Americans, in which our warring tribes squint through the fog at one another for mysterious and abstruse signs of malice.”
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Liberal fact-master nerds go down the rabbit hole of a social media conspiracy.
I pass on this clip from the Morning Dispatch sent by a friend. Check out the link to the NYTimes article it refers to. Ben Smith describes how hundreds of “Jeopardy!” contestants talked themselves into a baseless conspiracy theory — and won’t be talked out of it.