False Flag Conspiracy Theories: Psyche, Society, and the Internet

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So, did you hear? That whole story of Paul Pelosi being attacked was faked—another false flag operation!1 And the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building? Give me a break! That was another false flag operation, orchestrated by the FBI and those radical lefties from Antifa!2 Oh, yeah—and then there were those faked school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida…3

Baseless claims of this sort (which I have paraphrased) are easy to find on social media like Instagram and Twitter, despite some efforts to remove them by the sites. It may be tempting to dismiss such “conspiracy theories” as the ramblings of a few addled extremists—but I believe that would be a misreading of the problem. So-called “false flag conspiracy theories” (FFCTs) are not uncommon in some subcultures in the US, and represent a subset of conspiracy theories in general. Survey data show that about half of the US population believes in at least 1 conspiracy theory.4 For example, nearly 1 in 5 Americans believe mass shootings have been faked by groups trying to promote stricter gun-control laws.5

My colleague, Joseph M. Pierre, MD, and I have discussed the general features of conspiracy theories in detail,6 and I will merely summarize our conclusions here. I will then explore the “false flag” concept in detail, linking it to a variety of political, sociological, and psychological factors. I will also examine the ways in which modern technology has contributed to the viral spread of FFCTs. First, though, we need to review some foundational terms and concepts.

Content retrieved from: https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/false-flag-conspiracy-theories-psyche-society-and-the-internet.

1 comment

  1. Keys to unwinding conspiracy theories is certainly more education regarding science, but also punishing those who spread lies like Alex Jones. Lying online or off must have consequences.

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