Pick your own truth
May 21, 2020 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for essays, articles and the like discussing or explaining the rise of people outright denying scientifically backed/evidence based things, and vehemently choosing to believe whatever they want to. contributing factors, history of such movements etc. are a megabonus.

I remember reading a really interesting one in the daily beast (?) – it was something along the lines of post-truth America – and I'd love to read more on the subject.
posted by speakeasy to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Carl Sagan was really prescient about this in his 1995 Demon Haunted World. It holds up.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There’s a recent article in The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance about the rise of QAnon that touches on this.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:36 AM on May 21, 2020

Best answer: New Jersey, other states, work to fight virus misinformation (AP, May, 20, 2020, "“We have a unique moment in time when everyone is thinking about the same thing,” said Gordon Pennycook, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Regina in Canada. “It’s the sort of thing that breeds falsehoods....People’s lives are being disrupted. You can create things that people want to believe. … so there’s a lot working towards a market for (misinformation).”")

The Worst Is Yet to Come (Farhad Manjoo, NYT Opinion, May 20, 2020 "In a book published more than a decade ago, I argued that the internet might lead to a choose-your-own-facts world in which different segments of society believe in different versions of reality. The Trump era, and now the coronavirus, has confirmed this grim prediction.")

How White Backlash Controls American Progress (Lawrence Glickman, Atlantic, "As during Reconstruction and the civil-rights era, we face once again the danger that a politics of freedom and equality may be eclipsed by the psychology of white resentment.")

The Prophecies of Q (Adrienne LaFrance, Atlantic, June 2020, part of “Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America)
posted by katra at 10:38 AM on May 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed; sharing some links is super great but I think a more formatted/sorted/curated approach will be more helpful and flood the thread less than doing a whole pile of bookmarks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:36 AM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A good search term for this area is "agnotology". Also +1 for that piece on QAnon.
posted by crocomancer at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2020

Best answer: If you're interested in a book-length deep dive, I really strongly recommend The Creationists, by Ronald Numbers. Numbers is a historian of science and tackles 20th century Creationism (primarily American Creationism) using a similar approach as he would for a scientific discipline. It's an absolutely fascinating look at the intellectual history of the movement, that simultaneously treats it sympathetically while not shying away from the fact that most of its central figures were (and are) charlatans. Personally I believe that American Creationism created a lot of the necessary intellectual framework for more modern right-wing denialist and conspiracist movements that have a lot of visibility today, and The Creationists is definitely a good read for understanding where that comes from.
posted by biogeo at 12:28 PM on May 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really like Danah Boyd's thoughts on this subject. Her take is nuanced and rejects media literacy/critical thinking as some kind of universal panacea for our current woes.
posted by toastedcheese at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I enjoyed the documentary on Netflix on people who believe that the world is flat: Behind the Curve. It's more about the experiences of specific people rather than a history, but it's very interesting and gives some insight into some of the reasons that people might believe these things.
posted by jb at 2:05 PM on May 21, 2020

Best answer: A little more broad but Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter is a good book for the broader American resistance to experts and book-learning.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 5:59 PM on May 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This podcast, Conspiracy & Pandemic, goes into the cognitive processes that lead people to believe conspiracy theory in a time of crisis. One shade off from what you're looking for, maybe, but it's highly illuminating. (Features cognitive scientist John Vervaeke, who is doing really cool work.)
posted by gold bridges at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2020

Late find.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:10 PM on May 23, 2020

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