Should you respond to conspiracy theories?

This article is part of Conspiracy theories

If you encounter a conspiracy theorist, it can be tempting to enter into debate immediately in order to convince them of the truth. But that’s not always a good idea. Discover when it’s best (not) to respond to conspiracy theories.

Choose your battles

Those who believe in conspiracy theories often have a host of reasons and arguments to do so. Even if those arguments aren’t water-tight, a conspiracy theorist won’t be easily convinced. On the contrary: they are likely to try and convince you of their so-called truth.

In other words: choose your battles, and ask yourself whether this is worth investing energy in. 

When should you respond?

  • Did you see the conspiracy theory on social media?

Having a constructive conversation on social media is a difficult task, especially when you hardly know the conspiracy theorist, or not at all. If you do want to respond, it’s best to simply link to a fact-checking source that debunks the story.

  • Did someone you know spread the conspiracy theory?

Does someone close to you believe a conspiracy theory? In that case it can be a good idea to enter into conversation. Because this person knows you well, they might be open to your ideas. Make sure to read these tips on talking to a conspiracy theorist.

“When you want to talk to a conspiracy theorist, make sure to avoid the words ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘conspiracy theorist’. Don’t attack the person, but focus instead on evidence: ask questions and provide your own arguments.”
Piaa Varis
Prof. dr. Piia Varis
Tilburg University

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Published on 18 October 2023