They don't wear tin foils hats anymore, you know.
It used to be easy to spot conspiracy theorists - they decked themselves out in tin foil, wore turquoise tracksuits in the case of David Icke and, just generally, stood out.
Now, however, they truly do live among us, hidden in the crowd and able to spout their drivel freely. Thanks to social media, that drivel gets shared faster than the average viral contagion, it's just a shame we can't wear a face mask and be protected from the rubbish people would have us believe.
From stories about 5G, vaccine plans, secret circles of the world's elite being involved in incredibly nasty crimes, the Illuminati, quarantine breaches and the like, the current wave of conspiracy theories makes my great granny's staunch belief the moon landing was faked look quite reasonable, in retrospect.
Without the tin foil hat identifier, it is harder and harder to sift through the information we are bombarded with on social media and sort out fact from fiction.
Luckily, the average conspiracy theorist does still use some classic, easy to spot, identifiers in their dialogue. Here are just a few to help you contain the spread.
Common themes: As mentioned above, conspiracy theories often circle the same key themes. If you read something about Bill Gates and vaccines, Tom Hanks becoming a Greek citizen, the made-up word plandemic or 5G causing Covid-19 - it's a conspiracy theory. Proceed with caution or, even better, stop reading.
CAPITALS: While all of us who have used internet chatrooms since before AOL Instant Messenger was even a thing know capital letters equal shouting in text speak, our conspiracy theorist friends seem to believe using capital letters makes their ideas more BELIEVABLE. (Spoiler alert - they don't.) If you see a long post on social media, scattered with plenty of capital letters - look out for that mention of Bill Gates and Tom Hanks - you know it's coming.
Spelling: Hands up - who is getting fed up with reading our "boarders" have been breached? While conspiracy theorists would have us believe they are more intelligent than the rest of us put together, as that is how they are spotting the hidden hand of the Illuminati in global warming etc, sadly, they still seem unable to spot the difference between a group of school students staying in a hostel and the thing separating two countries.
"I'm just asking the question": A common phrase used by conspiracy theorists across the English speaking world. (And I am sure similar is used in other countries too, I just haven't got the time to Google translate this into Mandarin, Arabic or French right now). It's a classic verbal trick used to distance the author from the actual idea - they aren't saying it's true - they are just asking, right?
Cindy / Judy / Winnie: Using a nickname for a person in a position of authority somehow reduces the mana of that person, at least in the conspiracy theorist's eyes. They abbreviate names, create nicknames and generally imply a lack of respect in the way they refer to world leaders. Trust me - the average post talking about "Cindy's approach to Covid-19" is likely to include commentary on some BOARDERS and maybe even the well known Greek citizen, Tom Hanks.
Conspiracy: Okay, this seems a tad obvious - conspiracy theories mention conspiracies - shocking. Often they don't use the word conspiracy, however, but they do use the idea that a whole load of world leaders, celebrities etc have got together and agreed to put one over the general population. The minute you even give that idea a second's thought, you can see the flaws - they can't agree on borders, trade, religion etc, but apparently, they can all agree to a mass deception with no actual gain, other than a roaring trade in hand sanitiser.
There are plenty of other identifiers, of course, so before you click share on that next post to turn up on your social media feed, do me (and the rest of the world) a favour, and think first. Read it again, is it full of misspelt wild accusations, capital letters and nicknames? Is the poster 'just asking the question?" or have they linked to a reputable news source (hint, NZ Herald is a trustworthy way to get your news). If it might be a conspiracy theory - treat it like Covid-19 and please, don't share it with me or the rest of the world.