This week, Teen Vogue published an article explaining how to spot a conspiracy theory and how not to get sucked in by it. Useful advice for young women, but that old phrase of “Physician, heal thyself” does come to mind. For it isn’t true that such conspiracy theories come just as weirdnesses like believing in a Flat Earth – however popular that might be on TikTok these days.
“Conspiracy theories use narratives that are meant to sound scary and stoke fear. They try to explain why bad things happen in the world by blaming some sinister plot, usually by a particular group of people, a government, or a public figure,” the article says.
That’s a good start. The real identifier is when there’s the one thing, the one bugbear, causing it all. Everything’s because “this” is both a surprisingly effective appeal to human nature and almost always wrong.
“Conspiracy communities often attract believers who feel isolated and alone in their own lives. They give people a group of like-minded individuals to talk to and make people feel like a special member of a club that has access to information they believe is hidden or unique,” the piece continues.
Nothing unites a group like believing that they, and they alone, are in receipt of the one grand truth that explains everything.
“People can become addicted to conspiracy theories because believers think they are discovering the truth about secret plots. The feeling of being part of a community working together can fuel that addiction.”
All true. The methods of beating this are as we would describe them too. Gain information from a wide variety of sources, resist – however hard it is – the temptation of the one true explanation for life and the world. Above all, cross-reference what is being said with that reality outside the window.
We don’t normally run pieces here where we just agree with a piece in some media outlet but so far we do agree. But Teen Vogue should be paying serious attention to its own advice.
There are no rich socialist societies, no place has become rich through socialism and in recent times – certainly within the lifetime of any regular Teen Vogue reader – any country that has become socialist has become poorer. Free market capitalism is, that is, where it’s at as the basic structure of an economy that gives teenage girls the leisure to be reading about fashion and pop stars.
And yet, “late-stage capitalism” gets blamed in Teen Vogue for would you believe it, fast fashion. And more, of course, for why Puerto Rico’s government-owned electricity system failed. The minimum wage applies to the young and untrained. Tornadoes. Free child care (no, really, if it’s provided by the employer then it’s well, you know). Which we think might be enough to show that the writers and editors of Teen Vogue might, possibly, be gripped by their own conspiracy theory.
Teen Vogue markets itself as educating the influencers of tomorrow. It gains some 5 million visits a month as it does so and of course it’s more influential in that target demographic of teenage girls. We even agree with the aim that education is important.
For example, the readers of Teen Vogue are the inheritors of the largest rich society the world has ever seen – late-stage capitalism is exactly what makes them the richest teens that have ever existed. Now that would be educating them. There is, of course, a certain amusement at the idea that Teen Vogue can’t see its own capture by a conspiracy theory but our actual advice here would be to read this latest article of theirs and consider it appropriately.