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Fake Believe – Conspiracy Theories in Aotearoa by Dylan Reeve

Why are we living in a world where plotlines from The X-Files are now accepted by many as reality? As Agent Dana Scully said, “the truth is out there, but so are lies.”

Have you recently found yourself confronted by conspiracy theories in a way you never have before?

In Fake Believe, author Dylan Reeve explores numerous conspiracy theories and their influence on today’s society. While writing during a global pandemic, Dylan says conspiracy theories have never been more prominent in our culture. “Over the last seven years, especially, I’ve been troubled to see a shift in the nature of online conspiracy theory – something that became more extreme internationally during the Trump presidency, and locally during the Covid pandemic,” says Dylan.

This is a genuinely fascinating read! Dylan introduces some of the beliefs held by people typically described as conspiracy theorists. He also challenges what it means to be a conspiracy theorist.

Fake Believe explores a number of recent high profile movements and events that have been driven by conspiracy theories. Dylan also shows how conspiratorial beliefs could potentially become a factor in future and local national elections too. He also examines disinformation or fake news too. Fundamentally he says, conspiracy theories, like many other strongly held beliefs may hold a purpose for the believer. For some, they help make sense of the world by ascribing reason to actions that may otherwise be unpredictable. Surprisingly, something as simple as watching a documentary may be enough for some to reprioritise their lives or adopt a new worldview. “We’re all just shaped by our perceptions, assumptions and, ultimately our experiences. Some of us just end up following some very different leads,” he says. The sheer breadth of theories is astounding. However, the real issue isn’t usually the theories themselves, but the worldview they introduce. For example, your cousin deciding not to get vaccinated probably isn’t a major threat to you individually, but that they now believe any conspiracy theory in the Facebook and Telegram groups they turned to for the ‘facts’. Recent research also shows that approximately half of all New Zealanders hold ‘beliefs associated with misinformation.’

“Today, as I write this, thousands of New Zealanders are regularly reading, writing and sharing claims that a global pandemic was manufactured in order to create a pretext for forcing billions of people globally to take a vaccine that was actually intended to kill them. They literally believe a global genocide is taking place right in front of them,” says Dylan. Another theme Dylan explores is the lack of borders in conspiracy theories. “Everything just sort of blurs together. If you pull at strings you often discover that the claims go something like this: Covid was a manufactured crisis to force people to take vaccines, which in conjunction with 5G technology form the basis of a population control plan, that is part of UN Agenda 2030, which is a facet of the globalist agenda to take over the world, including by manipulating world governments through the powers of the Deep State, who are also engaging in ritual child sacrifice, and that’s what Donald Trump and QAnon were fighting against…

In addition, Dylan says it's nearly impossible to argue someone out of a conspiracy theory. The foundational claims are circular and self-reinforcing to the extent that any evidence against a conspiracy theory can usually be turned into evidence supporting the conspiracy claim! As many of us will know from recent events, arguing with family and friends about the fundamental reality of the world we live in can be stressful!

Dylan Reeve is a filmmaker and writes for The Spinoff. He was raised as an atheist and skeptic. Learn more about why he wanted to write a book about conspiracy theories in Aotearoa.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Upstart Press, RRP $39.99

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