James O'Brien on why it is so important to dismiss conspiracy theories

28 August 2020, 12:03

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien explains why it is important to dismiss conspiracy theories such as QAnon, which is growing rapidly in popularity.

Listeners asked James to talk about the QAnon conspiracy theory that is growing alarmingly in popularity with "seemingly reasonable people" subscribing to it; it is a widely-debunked theory that a cabal of left-wing elites have created a global child sex-trafficking ring and are plotting to bring down Donald Trump.

The theory also suggests that coronavirus is fake and is simply the Government's method of controlling the public.

Michael from Liverpool texted in "everywhere I go a lot of people are talking about QAnon...and saying the pandemic is being used against us, some even believe the virus is fake."

James reflected that this is the problem of our ages: "This absolute nonsense is growing in both popularity and reach, and those of us in traditional media don't know what to do.

"How do you report nonsense?...Failing to report nonsense properly explains why we got Brexit and Donald Trump.

"I know a lot of people listening to this still don't recognise they were bad things, particularly with regard to Brexit. I think you have to put in quite a shift to cling to the notion that Donald Trump isn't an utterly depraved disaster."

James likened it to the beginning of the crisis where a number of his old friends were getting in touch to ask if 5G phone masts were giving people coronavirus.

They were asking because "the kind of people they were seeing it talking it up were not the type of people who wore tin foil hats and walked around in eight pairs of socks because they were frightened of some unknown toe-eating monster.

"Then you've got the fellow who thinks the Queen's a lizard having a boost in popularity," James said about the conspiracy theorist David Icke.

He said, like with anti-vaxxers and climate deniers: "I do not know how to report things that are believed but also complete pants."