Post-election: How to stop conspiratorial thinking.

This subject has been top-of-mind for me for a while now. Friends, acquaintances, others ... so many have been infected with the conspiracy bug. People who I've admired in the past, people whose opinions I used to cherish have succumbed. It's pretty horrible, folks. We need a national deconditioning from this malady. Once you climb on the train of conspiratorial thinking, you lose the ability to reason, to be rational. It distorts everything else in one's life. So I've collected some links to help:

First off, what is a conspiracy theory? Money quote: "Conspiratorial accounts can be emotionally satisfying when they place events in a readily understandable moral context. The subscriber to the theory is able to assign moral responsibility for an emotionally troubling event or situation to a clearly conceived group of individuals. Crucially, that group does not include the believer. The believer may then feel excused of any moral or political responsibility for remedying whatever institutional or societal flaw might be the actual source of the dissonance." My emphases. This allows the conspiracy theorist a 'high ground', absolved from blame, demanding change - at any cost - because they have no interest in bearing that cost. "Them". "They" did this. We need to remove "Them." "They" must pay for the remedy.

Background. America has been in love with conspiracy-thinking for as long as it has existed. Quoting the source, one can think of it as a form of "American folklore." So we'll never be rid of it, but we may be able to minimize it.

"ImNotHere" in this forum (second entry down) covers some of the basic reasons for conspiratorial thinking. You'll recognize and understand a lot of these. Unfortunately, we can't just step in and fix some of these issues without a huge commitment of personal time, money and energy.

So, how do we fix it? It's not easy. Education in and application of scientific theory seems to be the only real solution. And without enough education, enough of the right education, it's nearly impossible. But there is hope ... see the last option below.

If your friends still have the ability to be rational, this technique might work. Similar to this.

Another method of attack, if arguing with a formerly rational being, is that conspiracism does not allow scepticism. There is only room for belief, no agnostics allowed. At that point it is religion, not a conspiracy theory. Some will climb off the horse when this is made clear.

The last, and probably best solution: social inclusion - helping them out of their perceived isolation. "The implication of all this is that fostering an inclusive culture — which means finding ways for everyone to feel they are a part of society — could help in 'limiting the spread and impact of conspiracy theories.'"

Ultimately, we come back to something sadly lacking in America today: empathy. One must exercise it for both the Hillary-haters and the thoroughly Trump-ified. To use another Taoist saying (I've been relying on them heavily this week), from Zhuangzi: "A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean."

Later: @Medley (thanks!) helpfully offers the principle of falsifiability (Useful SLYT), which is another valid strategy that I overlooked. Yet trying to agree on proofs, lies, common ground (sources of facts, etc.) is often near-impossible. "But it's self-evident!" Um, no. One could try selling Occam's Razor as a way to minimize conspiracy theories ... but you'll probably have someone say, "No, I switched to Harry's." You can laugh. I'm serious.