Following a line of enquiry can lead you down a rabbit hole. You pick one thread and try to find its source and along the way you may well bump into other threads connecting and communicating with one another.
I have been reflecting on how this might be the way conspiracy theories take hold online. Here is what happened to me this week. A colleague sent a video, I did not trust its content and so went looking for its source. I found plenty of material to convince me it was fake news and also substantial evidence of it being used as an instrument to build followers and connections. I doubt my correspondent had done the same, trusting instead the person they would have received it from. The place of trust seems to be central in building these pathways and even a moment of lapse and lack of vigilance can give you a ride into a foreign land that you do not and may not want to have, a passport for.
In my investigations I lost more confidence in the source, the deeper I went looking for the truth and or an explanation on why I might have been sent the video in the first place. Confidence in source material and knowing what and who to trust with news and information is fragile. Allied to this in a parallel path is information that is correct that is shared outside of process and without authority. When these two threads come together, they have a nasty habit of reinforcing one another, even though the content is not connected.
The fuel for these is fear, guilt, shame. While I want to swat it away like annoying buzzing mosquitos, both fake news and leaking confidential information are toxins to the mycelium of democracy. For generations now some of the largest media platforms from Murdoch to Zuckerberg, have been the playground of predators. These places are home to half and incomplete truths as well as to facts that are used to scare and maim.
I have been consistent in my use of social media as a place to cheer on who is doing well, to offer up positivity and play, to join and connect like minded and to find respite in humour and beauty. I am getting more and more disturbed by the platforms; the algorithms and the way information travels in these above and below ground networks. The fruits that appear on the surface, when eaten can be as harmful and dangerous as any inedible toadstool. They too bring hallucinations, delusions of grandeur, pain.
Cutting off supply has been my main technique over the years. I find these threads however are very deep, very strong and exceedingly complex. Over the years, my phone has been tapped by police (with my permission to find people who were making threats to me and my family), multiple attempts at discrediting me in public places, social media slagging and trolling, fake accounts being set up in my image is this year’s version. It is very annoying and distracting. It is also a sign I am probably at the edge, which is where I like to be, of changemaking. As a young Christian anti-racist activist in the 80s, I took the view that it was a blessing of the Holy Spirit, as a woman well into my crone years now, I still take it as a sign I must be doing something right. Even if it is AI or some mathematical algorithm at play, a human somewhere along the line has entered data.
And, if you do see something from me that doesn’t look right, check it out and take some action.
Let’s build mycelium for good and not fuel for toadstools. Seek out the truth, cut off supply, build trust and confidence by being trust worthy. Check yourself that you are not providing fodder for something nasty to pop up from underground.