After last week’s events, major social media companies made another attempt at saving humanity. Twitter and Facebook booted Trump and some of his enablers, Google and Apple cancelled Parler. But is censorship the right way to stem the swell of disinformation, postfactuality, dislocation from reality? I think not. Here’s a better solution. And you can even use it to earn some extra dollars.
If it were true…
Our politics and media are controlled by elites who worship Satan and run a child sex ring. According to a recent poll, 17% of Americans agree to this statement, 46% disagree, 37% say they don’t know. The 17% believers seem no big surprise. In most groups of 100 people you’ll find 17 crackpots . Or maybe 17 antisemitists, since “elites” or “globalists” are code for “the Jews”. But how is it possible that 37% “don’t know”?
You normally match a conspiration narrative with your model of reality. How plausible is it? If it were true, how would it work? How many had to be involved? How could it be hidden? Why would someone post it when it’s so secret? How trustworthy is the source? What interest has the source in spreading it? What interest have I in believing it?
It’s not too difficult to answer these questions. But if half of the US population still either wants to believe, or just doesn’t know whether their country is run by a satan worshipping, child abusing cabal, we have a problem.
The Bear Test
In the far past, alternative facts tended to correct themselves. If you propagated that cave bears are harmless and maybe don’t exist at all, sooner or later all your followers would end up in bears’ bellies. Reality check at work. But if you today believe in QAnon, chemtrails, evil elites, or China funded election stealing conspiracies, reality won’t reach out and slap you in the face. Your belief won’t put you at an immediate disadvantage. Nor your neighbors, since pogroms are out of fashion in most countries. But nevertheless it will have consequences.
The obvious one is incompetent political leadership. Representative democracies compete all the time with other forms of government. The United States, with their economical and military power, could be the natural leader in that competition. Instead, in the last 4 years they became the global laughingstock. Administration by bragging and alternative facts can please followers, but is ill suited for real challenges, such as handling a pandemic. And as US voters decided in November 2020 to terminate that debacle, they were unaware that the worst was yet to come…
There might be other, more sinister consequences of widespread conspiration belief. Real conspirations can easily hide behind the walls of disinformation. Real whistleblowers are not taken seriously because of all the crackpots. In this way, conspiration theories can become self fulfilling prophecies.
Establishing a Fact Market
Trump & Co. are not the cause, but the effect of a global phenomenon: the emergence of bizarre parallel worlds that compete with reality. In those wolds, Trump has won the election, communists invade America, and evil scientists, pedophiles, the FBI, and George Soros plot to take away citizens’ freedom, their health, and their steaks. Far-right social platforms such as Parler or Gettr are full of invented quotes or made up ‘news’ that endlessly confirm themselves. Those parallel worlds won’t disappear by voting, nor by censorship. Attempts by Twitter and others to shield users from the flood of misinformation are futile: People will always find ways of confirming what they want to believe. You cannot censor the Internet – and if you could, like China, it would be a questionable achievement. But it is still possible to fight disinformation. Not with bears, but with money.
This post, 8 weeks after the election, was obviously at odds with reality. Still, 128700 people apparently agreed to the alternative fact. But instead of the lame “Election officials have certified bla bla bla…”, or even worse, censoring the nice TV lady – dear Twitter, how about this?
If you’re really buying Christina’s brilliant analysis, just click [Buy] and invest one dollar in that post. Then you’re entitled to like or retweet it. If you’re not buying it, click [Sell] and short the post for 1 $. After a previously defined time, Twitter will evaluate the Pennsylvania outcome and distribute the stakes to the buyers or sellers, whoever were right.
The Q Opportunity
You don’t need to wait for Twitter to monetize alternative facts. There are already some platforms that show how this works – check out https://www.predictit.org/, https://polymarket.com/, or https://ftx.com/trade/TRUMPGO/USD. You can see that many conspiration believers are indeed investing money on those platforms. There are bets that Joe Biden will soon get arrested, or that Trump will soon have a comeback as president, and possibly execute some leading democrats on the way. The stakes are usually in the 80% range that this won’t happen, but a trade with 20% certain profit is still not to be sniffed at. Look out for conspiration bet opportunities! Do it before major contenders, such as Twitter or Facebook, enter that lucrative business. That will be in the interest of the common good – but it will likely reduce your profit.
In this way, just being reasonable minded can earn you some decent extra income. Admittedly, if you’re a cult follower, conspiration believer, and/or Trump fanboy, you might have to pay the price – but hey: consider it a proof of faith. And if you lost too much money with your bets, you could be motivated to check facts before buying them. This will possibly improve your grip on reality. And can end up, maybe, with better leadership of your country. So it’s a win-win situation.
That’s my comment to last week’s events, and my today’s tip for getting rich, or even richer if you’re Twitter or Facebook. Establish more fact brokerages, let more people bet on facts, and let the truth win!