Just because we get a new calendar and the date changes on our phones, it doesn’t magically give us a pine-fresh brand new start and solve all of society’s problems. However, even knowing this and after the humbling year that was 2020, some people had hoped that 2021 would be better. While the year isn’t necessarily doomed yet, some already feel that it is because the first week of the new year has been terrifying, surreal, and exhausting.
The entire world was glued to their screens watching the events happening in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 6. Riled up by President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the election had been ‘unfair’ and ‘stolen,’ his supporters, who had been protesting nearby, violently stormed the US Capitol building. A lot of these rioters, whom some are calling ‘domestic terrorists’ and ‘traitors,’ firmly believe in the QAnon and voter fraud conspiracy theories.
Like after other scary and difficult moments, many people reacted to the situation the only way they knew how—with dark humor and memes. Many of them focused on how 2021 is just a continuation of the previous year. Bored Panda has collected some of the most popular comedic responses to the year so far, so have a look at the internet’s reaction below and let us know what you think of the events in the US, dear Readers.
The storming of the Capitol left at least 5 people dead. The police shot a woman, 35-year-old US Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, dead. Three people died from medical emergencies. And it was confirmed on Thursday night that police officer Brian Sicknick died in hospital after he was injured. Fourteen officers in total had been injured. So far, at least 68 people have been arrested while the FBI is aiming to identify everyone who took part in the events. Meanwhile, there are growing demands for Trump to resign. Many believe he’s to blame for the events because of his claims about voter fraud and other unfounded theories.
To get to understand people's belief in conspiracy theories better and what leads to their spread, Bored Panda reached out to Joseph M. Pierre, a professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. It might sometimes seem like more people are vulnerable to conspiracy theories than at any other point in history, and there’s evidence both in support and against this. The internet may have a lot to blame for the rise and proliferation of a lot of conspiracies like the QAnon theory, but the other half of the equation is the lack of trust in authorities.
According to Professor Pierre, researchers like conspiracy theory expert Joe Uscinski would say that there’s little evidence that would suggest that more people believe in conspiracies now than back in the past. Meanwhile, Pierre’s own ‘mistrust and misinformation’ model shows that there is some evidence to support “an ebb and flow in belief in misinformation including conspiracy theories over time that tracks with new informational technologies” like the internet, TV, radio, and newspapers. Similarly, the professor said that there are ebbs and flows in (mis)trust of institutions of authority for a variety of reasons.
Pierre’s model of conspiracy theory belief is a two-component model that consists of “mistrust in authoritative sources of information leading to vulnerability to misinformation and disinformation.” So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to change a conspiracy theorist’s mind, the professor suggests talking to them about trusted sources of information. “Until you can find some common ground there, meaningful debate will probably be elusive,” he said.
“I think we can put some blame on the internet for the popularity of conspiracy theories today,” Pierre said. “Without YouTube, conspiracy theories might very well be less popular. But the other part of the blame pie can be attributed to a decline in trust, whether in government or in scientists, over the past half-century. We’re also living in a time unprecedented in our lifetimes in which American politicians have endorsed and exploited conspiracy theories as propaganda to this degree.”