We live in some wild and crazy times. In the past year, the world has witnessed a global pandemic, mass protesting and movements in the fight against the racial injustices and disparities in our society, national housing, food poverty and unemployment crises and a dramatic presidential election (to name just a few.)
In an attempt to make sense of the chaos, we will look everywhere and anywhere for answers. While the majority of us will have a pretty good filter for what’s real and what’s not, there are a small number who will be satisfied with literally any explanation that helps restore some sense of control and agency.
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The pandemic has brought with it what the World Health Organisation named an “infodemic” – an “overabundance of information, both online and offline” that includes “deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals.”
Misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theory are everywhere. On an individual level, we all have that relative who shared a Facebook post about 5G causing coronavirus (ICYMI: It doesn’t). On a global level, we all witnessed the shocking attack on the Capitol that followed a campaign of widespread conspiracy theory and misinformation around voter election fraud.
To help combat this infodemic, there are some great podcast series and individual episodes that debunk the myths and educate the public on the dangers of conspiracy theory and fake news. Whether you’re looking to sharpen up on the subject, or are just quietly fascinated by it, here’s a selection to tune into…
Best podcasts about conspiracy theories and misinformation
For a one-stop shop on conspiracy theories, look no further than The Anthill’s “expert guide…” series, brought to you by The Conversation. Across six episodes, the team speaks to a number of academics, from psychologists to anthropologists and researchers, to answer every question you ever wanted to ask on the subject.
How can we tell the difference between a theory and an actual conspiracy? How do conspiracy theories spread? Why are some people more likely to believe in them than others? It’s all here, in one ultimate and comprehensive guide.
You’re Wrong About
You’re Wrong About is a relaxed, in-depth and entertaining pop culture podcast hosted by American journalist Michael Hobbes and writer Sarah Marshall. Each week, they recap a major event or misunderstood person from modern history and debunk the myths around them, from OJ Simpson’s murder trial and the Stonewall uprising, to Marie Antoinette, Tonya Harding and Princess Diana.
It’s a podcast that examines the consequences of moral panics, prejudices and conspiracy theory, and aims to right what the public and the media got so wrong.
There Are No Girls On The Internet: Disinformed
Bridget Todd’s excellent There Are No Girls On The Internet podcast amplifies the voices and first-hand experiences of the marginalised people who build and shape the internet. The second series, “Disinformed,” created not long after the attack on the Capitol, examines the spread of online disinformation. Todd speaks to those who are leading the charge to stop it, including a trans activist using data science to fight back against Nazis and white supremacists.
Hidden Brain is a podcast that mixes science and storytelling to dig into the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour. As such, there are a number of episodes here that cover the spread of conspiracy theories and fake news, from “Fake News: An Origin Story” to “Facts Aren’t Enough: The Psychology Of False Beliefs,” which digs into the anti-vaccine movement.
While the latter was recorded before the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still worth listening to to understand the psychology behind why we rely on the people we trust to shape our beliefs, and reject data that could change our minds.
The NPR Politics Podcast
If you’re worried you’re a bit of a sucker for a conspiracy theory, never fear, we’ve got you covered. NPR’s Life Kit is a podcast dedicated to bringing you the best life advice from those in the know, including how to cope with anxiety to how to find a career mentor. In a special collaboration with NPR’s Politics Podcast, this October 2019 episode helps us understand what misinformation actually is and offers up five useful and actionable tips for how to spot it.
Images: Getty/Courtesy of podcasts