comes the scene In Focus: A car driving on a winding mountain road at night. Suddenly, the headlights flash, then fade to black. The car stopped dead. Moonlight is all that’s left for our heroine, the owls shout, and mysteriously ominous music plays in the background.
You know things are about to go south because, as TVTropes.com notes, “only three things happen when you go on a road trip in a horror movie,” and they all involve horrors. When our heroine gets out of the car, she might be tempted to scream”Don’t go in the woods! Because nothing good comes from going into the woods at night. But she does, of course. There, she found an abandoned log cabin. You can write the rest of the story yourself.
Over time, these metaphors become highly predictable. Its predictability is employed in many purposes. Just as storytellers in movies, songs, and television use metaphors to make stories more understandable and relatable and, ultimately, to entertain us, disinformation providers use these same metaphors to make their arguments more understandable or relatable and, ultimately, to manipulate us. Knowing that, we might be able to get more of us out of the woods.
You may have seen a bunch of metaphors in memes and stories online about Covid-19. The anti-vaccine movement has relied on the same drawing devices for more than a century to make unsubstantiated claims seem familiar and convincing.
In 2012, Anna Kata, an economist at McMaster University, wrote a research paper tracking How the same metaphors are repeated, no matter what the vaccine is, in the online anti-vaccine dialog. For example, consider the general claim that “vaccines are unnatural.” Then, a sub-prompt: “They will turn you into an illusion.” In the nineteenth century, those vaccinated with smallpox vaccines derived from cowpox heard that they would turn into a human-cow hybrid. (They didn’t) Today, social media influencers are spinning tales about mRNA vaccines “that change our DNA!!!” (They are not.) The details have changed to fit the current pandemic, but the basic metaphors are the same in 2021 as they were in 1801.
This “unnatural” metaphor is a building block in the larger misleading narrative that “vaccines are dangerous.” As researchers at American University and Harvard School of Public Health, along with a co-author here, Recently documented, the anti-vaccine misinformation narratives about Covid-19 similarly consist of familiar tropes recycled from previous vaccines. Some conspired. In the early months of the epidemic, for example, Metaphors “biological weapon” It was all outrage. Anti-vaccine advocates often made these claims when new diseases (Ebola, SARS, etc.) emerged due to the fear it generates. The “disease as a biological weapon” metaphor is bought because it takes an unknown – the origin of the disease – and offers an explanation arranged with a seed of truth: biological weapons programs do exist…and we’ve all seen this movie, too.
These basic building blocks – metaphors – make conspiracy theory narratives transferable across topics. Before the pandemic, for example, the anti-vaccine movement’s primary narratives about vaccines causing all kinds of harm, and government cover-ups for said harms, were incorporated into the QAnon movement, which absorbed itself and reworked narratives from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Kimtrail’s conspiracies, and theories of the New World Order , among others. These metaphors are easily transferable due to the presence of a file The common architecture of conspiracy theories. One of the reasons people who believe in one conspiracy theory often think others may be that the same metaphor is shared by multiple theories: man behind the curtain Makes it easy to buy that guy covers up chemtrails too. And then when Jigsaw, the unit inside Google it Explores Threats to Open Societies, she interviewed 70 conspiracy theorists, each attributing to multiple conspiracy theories.
If you see a metaphor once, you are more likely to recognize it the next time. This familiarity can help shorten the critical thinking we usually use to evaluate new information. Compounding this problem, metaphors are great at simplifying complex issues, such as the origins of a vaccine or reasons for protest. As Media Literacy Expert Mike Caulfield Notes, metaphors flatten the scene into its essential parts, stripping us of detail to force us to jump to a conclusion (the heroine will get out of her car!) without all the facts at hand.
But the fact that these manipulative metaphors are so pervasive and repetitive could be the reason for their regression. If we can anticipate the metaphors that will be used to construct plot novels in the future, it is possible that we can anticipate them. Rather than addressing and validating specific claims interactivelyWhat if we instead discuss their props proactive?