Conspiracy Theories, Disinformation Panel at Truth Seekers Summit - Rolling Stone
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Truth Seekers Summit: ‘Weapons of Mass Disinformation’

D.C. Bureau Chief Andy Kroll talks to Anna Merlan, Billy Ray, Yamiche Alcindor, John Podesta, and Cullen Hoback about the hyper-polarized techno-dystopic moment we find ourselves in now

In a polarized and fractured society, the truth can be a subjective thing. In this panel, Rolling Stone Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Andy Kroll talks to Vice journalist Anna Merlan (Republic of Lies), writer and producer Billy Ray (The Comey Rule), PBS News Hour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, and writer and director Cullen Hoback (Q: Into the Storm) about how the challenges of presenting the truth have transformed in modern society, and why people have such a hard time exiting their filter bubbles and getting to a single, agreed-upon truth.

The panelists discussed how social media platforms “promote and hype” disinformation to increase their revenue stream and the erosion of privacy and “algorithms are feeding us increasingly extreme and sensational because they’re motivated to keep our attention.

And as Alcindor pointed out: “We’re living in a pandemic, where the need to be able to rely on truth, to rely on science is literally life and death. And we’re in this situation where we’re hoping our fellow citizens can understand truth and that things like vaccines and masks will not just save their lives, it will save our lives as well…”

Kroll asked Merlan to explain her understanding of conspiracy theories and the history of it in the United States. “I mean, these people are us: Most Americans believe at least one conspiracy and have for a long time … Conspiracy-mongers and ‘alternative health’ practitioners have been trying really hard to push into the mainstream for … at least a decade. We saw how effective is when you have someone who is willing to pluck things right from the fringe and thrust them into the center of the discussion.”

To find more stories about disinformation and and coverage from political and cultural events as they unfold, Rolling Stone created a new section, titled “Rolling Stone Reports.” The section includes new Rolling Stone investigative reporting; original photography; classic Rolling Stone articles from Rolling Stone greats like Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Loder, Tom Wolfe, Matt Taibbi, and more

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