Episode for July 14, 2021
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The Earth is flat, the World Trade Center collapse was a controlled demolition, planes are spraying poison to control the weather, and actors faked the Sandy Hook massacre …
All these claims are bunk: falsehoods, mistakes, and in some cases, outright lies. But many people passionately believe one or more of these conspiracy theories. They consume countless books and videos, join like-minded online communities, try to convert those around them, and even, on occasion, alienate their own friends and family. Why is this, and how can you help people, especially those closest to you, break free from the downward spiral of conspiracy thinking?
In Escaping the Rabbit Hole, author Mick West shares over a decade’s worth of knowledge and experience investigating and debunking false conspiracy theories through his forum, MetaBunk.org, and sets forth a practical guide to helping friends and loved ones recognize these theories for what they really are.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the most successful approaches to helping individuals escape a rabbit hole aren’t comprised of simply explaining why they are wrong; rather, West’s tried-and-tested approach emphasizes clear communication based on mutual respect, honesty, openness, and patience.
West puts his debunking techniques and best practices to the test with four of the most popular false conspiracy theories today (Chemtrails, 9/11 Controlled Demolition, False Flags, and Flat Earth)―providing road maps to help you to understand your friend and help them escape the rabbit hole. These are accompanied by real-life case studies of individuals who, with help, were able to break free from conspiracism.
Rebecca Vallas is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, where her work focuses on economic justice. Vallas joins TCF after seven years at the Center for American Progress, during which she helped to build and lead CAP’s Poverty to Prosperity Program, in a range of roles, including as the program’s first policy director and managing director, and later as vice president. During her time at CAP, Vallas also helped to establish CAP’s Disability Justice Initiative—the first disability policy project at a U.S. think tank—as well as the organization’s criminal justice reform work.
Much of Vallas’s policy and advocacy work flows from her years as a legal aid lawyer. In partnership with her legal aid alma mater, she co-developed the “clean slate” model of automated, automatic criminal record-clearing that is now law in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Michigan and advancing in additional states—while advancing national momentum for removing barriers to economic opportunity for justice-impacted individuals and families. In 2019, she co-founded the Clean Slate Initiative, a national organization supporting state efforts to adopt clean slate policies.
Vallas previously served as the deputy director of government affairs for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, working to protect and strengthen the Social Security disability programs, including as co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Social Security Task Force. Forever a legal aid lawyer at heart, Vallas spent several years representing low-income individuals and families at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, where she began her work as a Skadden Fellow, and was the inaugural recipient of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s New Leaders in Advocacy Award.
Vallas has authored dozens of policy reports on antipoverty policy, income security, disability policy, access to justice, and criminal records/reentry policy; testified before Congress and state legislatures on numerous occasions; and been cited and quoted in media outlets across the country. She is also the creator and host of Off-Kilter, a nationally distributed podcast about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with. Vallas serves on the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance and is a member of the Academy’s 2020–2021 Economic Security Study Panel. Vallas was twice named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” for law and policy, and later to Emory University’s “40 Under 40.” She received her law degree from the University of Virginia and graduated summa cum laude from Emory University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. In a past life, she was an operatically trained mezzo soprano. She’s the proud mother of four rescue kitties.