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Why conspiracy theorists are great storytellers

Alex Jones

Alex Jones at his calmest (image from Mediaite)

Why do conspiracy theories hold sway over the popular imagination? Why do people still believe the Apollo 11 lunar landing was a hoax despite all of the evidence that it actually happened? One reason is that conspiracy theorists are great storytellers.

I’m not making light of conspiracy theories and theorists. Conspiracy theories have led to violence. By looking at conspiracy theories as a form of storytelling, we can debunk these stories before they can be used to manipulate the public, and we can use those techniques for more constructive storytelling.

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How to be angry

Sorry, Suey Park, but your fifteen minutes of fame have almost expired. Not only did you fail to #CancelColbert, he got promoted. Besides, when has creating Twitter hashtags become an effective agent for social change? Anyone can create hashtags (#masteringtabletopics). Real social change happens when people step away from their laptops or put away their smartphones and do something constructive.

I do sympathize with you, Suey. I was angry in my early twenties when I was poor, scared, and unsure of what to do with my life. I got active in politics and joined in protests. As I got older, I became better about determining what really should make me angry and what I should do about it. I’ve learned that before you get angry, you have to ask yourself a few questions.

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Cosmos and Inherit the Wind

Cross-examination scene from Inherit the Wind

Scene from Inherit the Wind (1960) from The Ticket Booth

I’m enjoying the new Cosmos series. However, Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to spend a lot of time attacking young earth creationism, and the creationists have been fighting back. I find this puzzling. I grew up in the 1960s when we thought this was all settled. Evolution and creationism fought as we saw in Inherit the Wind. Creationism won that battle, but evolution won the war — or so we thought. What happened? Why did creationism lose in the mid 20th century, and why is it even up for debate again?

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“Fighting the last war”

Part of the Maginot Line in France

Part of the Maginot Line in France (By John C. Watkins V from Wikipedia)

What can the Maginot Line in France teach us about problem solving? It helped me discover a flaw in my thinking, an error in the way I’ve been dealing with an important issue in my life. It showed me the danger of “fighting the last war.”

The Maginot Line was France’s response to the rising threat of Nazi Germany. The French government looked at their experiences in World War I and thought building fortifications along their border with Germany was the best way to defend themselves from attack. Their plan proved inadequate against Germany’s updated weapons and tactics. It was an example of the old adage, “Generals always fight the last war, especially if they have won it.”

This isn’t just true for generals, and the fear of defeat, not the complacency of victory, can cause us to fight the last war.

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“…Then, why are you looking for an agent for your next book?”

Offline at Barnes and NobleMatthew, you say you like independent publishing. Then, why are you looking for an agent and publisher for your new novel, The Ghosts of Reseda High?

Because, why not?

I don’t see a conflict between independent and traditional publishing. One doesn’t eliminate the other, and a growing number of authors are learning to use both successfully. As I wrote in my post, “Independent publishing is not for everyone.” It’s also not for every book. The Ghosts of Reseda High is one of those books.

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