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QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. Many of the antisemitic beliefs that lie at the core of the conspiracy echo the dangerous lies espoused in Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This Museum program explores the echoes of antisemitism in QAnon with CNN Senior Political Analyst and Anchor John Avlon, whose new digital series Reality Check: Extremist Beat examines history behind the rise of QAnon and other recent conspiracies in the United States. Avlon will be joined by Dr. Mia Bloom and Dr. Sophia Moskalenko, the authors of Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon; and Paul Salmons, a Holocaust education specialist, curator of Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away., chief curator of Seeing Auschwitz, and consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Watch the program below.

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Sydney Yaeger (she/her): My name is Sydney Yaeger and I am the public programs coordinator at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): i'm honored to introduce today's program Q and on Anti semitism dangerous nexus joining us today are Paul salmons Dr MIA bloom and Dr Sophia Moskalenko the discussion will be moderated by john avlon.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Paul salmons who is joining us for the UK is a Holocaust education specialist curator of the groundbreaking exhibition Auschwitz, not long ago, not far away chief curator of seeing Auschwitz, and a consultant to the US Holocaust Memorial museum.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Dr MIA bloom is a fellow with new america's international security program and Professor of communication and Middle East studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Dr balloon is the author of several books, with the most recent being pastels and pedophiles inside the mind of cumin on which he co authored with Dr Sophia Moskalenko.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): and Dr Sophia Moskalenko is a subtle so kyle.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): Social psychologists study mass identity inner group conflict and the appeal of conspiracy theories she's currently a research fellow at Georgia State University and the national consortium for the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And john avalon who will be serving as our moderator today is an author columnist and commentator.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): he's a senior political analyst at CNN and his new digital series reality check extremist beat examines the history behind the rise of Q and on and other recent conspiracies in the United States during the discussion.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): He would a boss and we'll get to as many as we can, during the hour this program is being recorded and the video will be available tomorrow on the museum's YouTube channel Thank you all for being here and i'm now going to hand things over to john.

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John Avlon: Thank you very much Sydney and it's great to be with you all for what I think is a really fascinating and important conversation.

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John Avlon: I have been covering extremism in American politics, since I wrote a book called wing NUTS over a decade ago and it has metastasized much further than I ever imagined at that time.

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John Avlon: um and for the release of this new digital series we're doing on CNN called reality check extremist beat and.

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John Avlon: The first one was a look at the roots of Q and on, by which I met sort of the the older ancient conspiracy theories that it perhaps subliminally draws on.

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John Avlon: chief among which are anti semitism and even strains of anti Catholicism that have been.

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John Avlon: forgotten in the minds of many and I couldn't ask for a better conversation or a better place, I mean you know this museum is.

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John Avlon: Is such a valuable Center for civic conversation and for confronting these ancient viruses of hate and you all are great scholars, who really looked into.

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John Avlon: The contemporary trends and how they apply to history, and what that can tell us so me and Sophie I want to begin with you by really drilling down into.

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John Avlon: For the blissfully in an uninitiated what is Q and on but then, even more importantly, how it riffs off of these anti Semitic tropes of the past may let's start with you.

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Mia Bloom: keen on, is one of these baseless conspiracy theories that started in the underbelly of the Internet on these message boards, the chance.

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Mia Bloom: And the chance had previously been known to be a place where you could find pornography and hate speech and it's really sort of the worst of the worst of the Internet.

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Mia Bloom: And so what happened is from these chan's It moved across the Internet to more open sort of well known platforms, whether it was reddit or Facebook or instagram.

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Mia Bloom: And the basis of the conspiracy argues that there is a cabal of blood drinking elites, mostly democrats, but, including some prominent Republicans.

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Mia Bloom: who have been manipulating and pulling the strings of the world since time began, and that they maintain their power by trafficking and children sexually abusing children and drinking their blood.

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Mia Bloom: And so the argument was that former President trump was the only person who could break the power of the cabal and Save the Children and so that's where we ended up.

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Mia Bloom: It starts in October 2017 Almost none of the predictions that they ever made came true, and so what we end up with is.

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Mia Bloom: Several million people in the United States now that believe in sort of the most insane argument that there is a blood drinking cabal of democrats and Hollywood elites that are trafficking and children.

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John Avlon: Sofia, just to put a finer point on it, you know you don't need to be that well versed in the history of anti semitism to hear the words cabal blood drinking and child abduction and to realize that.

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John Avlon: Whether these folks know it or not, that they have fallen for some of the most ancient viruses of anti semitism that continue to perpetuate tell us a little bit about how these labels these these hate messages are trafficked and pushed on social media.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Yes, so you're absolutely right there is this veiled speech that clearly talks about anti Semitic tropes whether it's the cabal stealing of Gentile children.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Drinking their blood it all rings very true for anybody who knows history of anti semitism and, of course, the name of George Soros that is used as a euphemism for Jews that control the world.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And in that way Q and on really tapped into long standing hostilities that we're already becoming kind of aggravated in the run up to the presidential election of Donald trump in 2016 so by the time to and on rolled onto our social scene.

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Sophia Moskalenko: It was well prepared for the narratives that it was spreading, and it really.

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Sophia Moskalenko: feeds on people's darkest fears darkest anxieties, you know this idea that the world is not exactly as it seems that.

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Sophia Moskalenko: it's almost like the matrix and cumin on us this matrix movie language red pilling that really were all just being used for you know somebody enrichment and entertainment and some horrible perversions.

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Sophia Moskalenko: So Q and on is in that way, the latest incarnation of.

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Sophia Moskalenko: movements that usually happen at a time of great political and economic uncertainty when people are looking for somebody to blame looking for explanations for why things are not what they expected them to be and, very often, unfortunately, Jews become that scapegoat.

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John Avlon: You know that's One of the interesting.

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John Avlon: Things or the puzzling things about this particular incarnation of this ancient fires.

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John Avlon: Donald trump is a lot of things, but I don't think there's ton of evidence he's anti Semitic right his daughter is Jewish, among other things.

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John Avlon: Incredibly popular in the State of Israel.

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John Avlon: Another and when he came to power in that populist revolt I understood why you'd have populist revolts in the wake of the great recession 2010.

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John Avlon: demagogues always do well and economic downturns but the economy was expanding and had been expanding for some time, when Donald trump came to power and so Paul it it.

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John Avlon: It leads me to you what are these deeper conditions and Sophia touched on some of them that creates an environment right for the the mainstreaming of these conspiracy theories over time and how do they relate to our times.

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Paul Salmons: Thanks john.

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Paul Salmons: Yes, as already touched on conspiracy theories tend to thrive at times of the anxiety public anxiety and whether that's in that time with political.

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Paul Salmons: Sorry political turmoil of economic dislocation of social upheaval, so they are at tend to thrive at times when the world feels more random and more chaotic and more unpredictable, then we are comfortable with.

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Paul Salmons: Unfortunately, that is, the world we live in right, I mean we're not leaving very good actually for seeing events as they as they even appear on the horizon, I didn't see brexit coming not very good at for telling events there are great.

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Paul Salmons: dislocations and unsettling events I also didn't see a much more positive event, in my view, the fall of the Berlin Wall things happen at unpredictable times and things can change very quickly, so if we look to I don't know a case study, for example.

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Paul Salmons: Which is seven relevant to the Museum of Jewish heritage and it's it's working Holocaust education Holocaust history, the ERA just following the First World War.

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Paul Salmons: A time when Germany, of course, was in defeat when it's such an enormous economic challenges with hyperinflation later in the 20s the Great Depression and mass unemployment.

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Paul Salmons: In other parts of Eastern European Russia that being a Communist the Bolshevik revolution, the fears about happening within Germany as well.

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Paul Salmons: And these sorts of times when people are confronted with really challenging and difficult issues simplistic explanations that somehow there is a kind of hidden hand behind all of this, that there is a secret group or cabal.

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Paul Salmons: These controlling events can somehow be reassuring and psychologically comforting thing because it does at least restore the nation of human agency.

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Paul Salmons: And I think.

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Paul Salmons: yeah sorry.

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John Avlon: No go ahead.

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Paul Salmons: Well, I think this is one of the kind of key features of conspiracy theorists his of his brother a modern phenomenon I which I mean late 17 so they meeting century on.

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Paul Salmons: hats these cumin on has pity roots, which are much older than that in terms of the blood libel and anti Semitic tropes but the conspiracy theories really.

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Paul Salmons: get a booster thing in a period again of dislocation if i'm second, which follows a kind of decline in the influence of the Church.

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Paul Salmons: a time of increasing secularization you're starting to live in a world which is more difficult to explain, if you previously relied upon the church on religious teachings to explain the world that has less way.

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Paul Salmons: And in some sense, I think we see for liberal economists, the world becomes explained by the hidden hand of the market.

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Paul Salmons: For religious people, it might be the hidden hand of God and god's divine intervention or his plan for the conspiracy theorist the hidden hand is the hand of the secret group that is somehow controlling and pulling the strings and so I think in a time of.

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Paul Salmons: anxiety and upgrades disorientation, this is the time we see these things trying.

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John Avlon: to your point, not all the economic dislocation it's not about economic dislocation exclusively, although I do recall that one of the trump campaigns closing arguments in 2016 was laden with sort of Soros ask and what many people said was anti Semitic.

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John Avlon: imagery around anxieties about the full recovery from the great recession.

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John Avlon: But me, you know you've got a number of fascinating slides I want to give you a chance to show, but in them are statistics that I I hadn't seen and they were pretty mind blowing and troubling one.

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John Avlon: was a survey in the Washington Post showing just how what in politics we something called a sometimes called asymmetric polarization applies to conspiracy theories and the adoption of Q and on.

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John Avlon: That you know 29% of Republicans.

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John Avlon: believe in the separate survey on American life publish the Washington Post that trump had been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include promised democrats and Hollywood elites that's cumin on.

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John Avlon: And then 58% believe that the deep state had been running against him, which is a variation on that theme and then less than anybody think that maybe this connection between Q and on an Anti Semitic imagery is.

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John Avlon: accidental another survey that you have shows that nearly four out of five Americans who believe in the protocols of the elders of Zion talk about you know greatest hits of anti semitism also subscribe to Q and on.

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John Avlon: that's pretty stunning, and it does show.

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John Avlon: That regardless of trump's personal beliefs, on the issue of anti semitism that there does seem to be a unfortunate partisan political.

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John Avlon: tinge.

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John Avlon: To these conspiracy theories at this point in our politics, how do you explain that.

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Mia Bloom: Well, I think it's important to recognize, first of all, Donald trump has an elevated status for many people who believe in queue and on.

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Mia Bloom: The way in which Q and on has portrayed Donald trump in almost divine like manner and we've seen some of these means.

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Mia Bloom: of you know Jesus with Donald trump or that he's been ordained or they sometimes have Jesus with a very young, Donald trump.

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Mia Bloom: But what was so fascinating from the American enterprise institute poll that was published in Washington Post was that 6% of people who believed in this.

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Mia Bloom: Worst of the tropes that there's a blood drinking cabal we're.

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Mia Bloom: Self defined as democrats and a lot of these people would have been Bernie supporters or people who were pulled in in the summer of 2020.

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Mia Bloom: Through instagram and through Q and on Save the Children campaign because we started to see it appeal to the mommy bloggers and the yogi's and the people who believed in.

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Mia Bloom: homeopathic medicine, as well as vegans and i'll be honest with you, I don't know a lot of vegan Republicans, so when we look at 6%.

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Mia Bloom: That to me is very surprising when you break it down within the Republican or people who identify as Republicans disproportionate number of people who believe in Q and on are also evangelicals.

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Mia Bloom: And it resonates with evangelicals in a way, because this awakening the storm is kind of how they you know discover Jesus, as well as this idea that there is an actual battle between good and evil.

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Mia Bloom: But we have to consider this if the other side is Satan and evil, there is no compromise there's no middle ground that you can negotiate in Congress or Senate.

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Mia Bloom: And so I think that that's very useful for Republicans to portray things in very stark and partisan fashion, but it is still surprising, we seek you and on it almost every language.

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Mia Bloom: Sofia charted an 85 different countries in the book, but also we have cumin on channels and Hebrew so we have orthodox Jews who support Donald trump who are anti vaccine and so that they also believe in queue and on.

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John Avlon: I mean that that slippery slope towards mass adaptation of Q and on is is it's fascinating and you're right, I mean the you know the the.

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John Avlon: Whole that you were citing, in fact, which was the Washington Post 6% of democrats send it believe this 29% of Republicans.

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John Avlon: But if you look at, for example, of some of the anti vax conspiracies a decade ago, those were more prevalent on what might be broadly called the left and it does illustrate what.

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John Avlon: What I sometimes referred to as the horseshoe theory, you know, sometimes you look at things, and it seems there's a right and left but they've been back to something like the same place.

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John Avlon: And indeed, in the reality check extremist beat we did on on the roots of cumin on interviewed pastors who seen members of their congregations.

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John Avlon: be overtaken and they felt, you know they said, I have an hour a week, they said these folks can be online five six hours a night and they point out that a lot of the the structural messaging of cumin on seems to eight.

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John Avlon: Basic elements of Christian faith what, of course, is so striking is that in recent decades i've been great strides among the evangelical community to make them identify with Israel, not against it.

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John Avlon: So again, it raised this question how is this become so mainstream and Sophia me and just refer to the fact that you've done so much work i'm looking at at how Q amp.

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John Avlon: has spread so prevalent and one of the big questions i've got is given how rooted, it is in domestic politics and complete paradigm nonsense, but in US politics.

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John Avlon: How do you account for its ability to go viral in different languages in different countries that presumably don't have the same sort of cultural and political touchstones as the United States heading into an election.

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Sophia Moskalenko: So I think you're making a very common mistake in paying too much attention to what they're saying.

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John Avlon: it's not the first time I met.

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Sophia Moskalenko: In their narratives which sometimes obscures the real reasons why they're in it and those reasons have maybe less to do with the justification and more to do with.

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Sophia Moskalenko: deep seated emotions, a lot of political processes that have an ideology attached to it are at the root.

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Sophia Moskalenko: emotional movements, and I think it's the case with Q and on, and so, if we look at the rate of public engagement with killing on content me and mentioned that we see the first to drop in the late 2017 but really between when the first Q drop occurred, and when we see really the contagion.

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Sophia Moskalenko: It took a long time so there's a very gradual dirty little increase of engagement online with your own content until.

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Sophia Moskalenko: covert pandemic and state mandated lockdowns that's when we see a geometric progression and the number of people who engage with the content, like it and spread by retweeting or reposting and so on.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And in that sense Q and on and the Community online that believe into it on they offered, something that was desperately needed at a time around the world when we're dealing with this virus that we knew very little about.

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Sophia Moskalenko: It was a new threat, it was a very like you know dangerous thing and deadly thing, and so we were all experiencing a lot more anxiety than normal a lot more uncertainty, we were feeling out of control, and we were being isolated so we're feeling lonely.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And all of those for psychological conditions anxiety uncertainty lack of control and isolation or luminous.

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Sophia Moskalenko: We know from psychological research all of those contribute to conspiratorial mindset in average people you and me would become more willing to entertain conspiracy theories, we were made to feel more anxious more out of control.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And more lonely and isolated and this was skipped that happening on a massive scale everywhere and, of course, you know being that emotionally unwell.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And going online, because I was doing a place where we could go very quickly through these algorithms that we now know.

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Sophia Moskalenko: They favorite things that are very emotive they favorite things that are fear inducing that keep people online right because.

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Sophia Moskalenko: If you're threatened by something you want to know more, and you want to do again, you want to find out how to prevent that from happening.

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Sophia Moskalenko: But through social media Facebook and Twitter and instagram very quickly, people would end up at Q and on content and there, it was for many like an addiction, because.

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Sophia Moskalenko: figuring things out for themselves and solving this puzzle and connecting the dots is very much like like.

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Sophia Moskalenko: A video game in that it produces a dopamine hit in the user's brain every time you feel like you've discovered a clue to how the world works you feel good about yourself, you feel smarter than the average person you feel that you're privy to some important information.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And that makes you want to go in for more and that's how people end up spending hours and days online and lose connection in the real world, which pushes them even deeper.

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John Avlon: Sophie that is such an important point and and one of the widespread theories.

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John Avlon: That gets to the root quote unquote of cumin on in terms of actually how this was orchestrated, so to speak, is that it had all the.

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John Avlon: The the heraldry of what's known as a lark a live action role playing game.

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John Avlon: And that that mechanism actually the gamification of a conspiracy theory during a kind of coven is what causes it to catch on.

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John Avlon: But thank you for clarifying for me that it was actually that that process and the circumstances and the psychological environment that that allowed it to to take off.

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John Avlon: A call tell me a little bit more about your understanding of what I mean so feel is traded some of the elements, but what accounts for the psychology psychological need for conspiracy theories and the persistence.

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John Avlon: of some of these, I mean it, you know we can get into various tributaries later, but just more broadly, what do you accounts for that psychological need for some that some people have and not others to believe conspiracy theories.

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Paul Salmons: picking up on the psychology one aspect that is that and this very deep level we are storytelling animals right we we make sense of the world through narrative.

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Paul Salmons: And we tell the stories about ourselves that we like to believe about ourselves, so we will narrate aspects about past that will create a kind of sense of identity and community and belonging.

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Paul Salmons: That will emphasize certain aspects of our history and perhaps downplay others, we will find patterns in events in order to try to make sense of these things, and I think there's a lot of.

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Paul Salmons: pathogenicity in conspiracy theories generally, and I think we see it in in queue and on, certainly where unrelated events.

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Paul Salmons: can be threaded together as if there is a compelling story or compelling narrative which gives some kind of sense of.

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Paul Salmons: order to the world, even when the story which we find deeply disturbing very upsetting but those emotional elements, of course, a part of what also make them compelling so this storytelling aspect.

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Paul Salmons: Is an easier way, we can have predisposed to this rather than a way of trying to understand the world in its deep complexity and how certain things actually happen at random some things are coincidental.

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Paul Salmons: Mostly we're not really great good at being able to kind of control events for conspiracy theory to be true.

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Paul Salmons: They often have come quite global implications and so i'll take a step back, because there are actual conspiracies in the world right, I mean there are such things as.

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Paul Salmons: conspiratorial clots these things do it have existed, sometimes people get together for their own advantage, and to do harm to others.

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Paul Salmons: And Watergate would be one example Al Qaeda is attack on the United States in September 2001 would be another conspiracy in a group of actors that quote to cause harm to others, or to.

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Paul Salmons: gain advantage for themselves.

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Mia Bloom: I mean, I think there's a difference between conspiracy theory and an actual conspiracy.

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Paul Salmons: I wanted to make it a difference, a key difference between.

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Paul Salmons: Is that a genuine conspiracy will tend to be.

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Paul Salmons: Rather.

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Paul Salmons: defined action or set of events such as Watergate bugging the offices of the Democratic Party, and then account bungled event attempt to cover that up.

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Paul Salmons: yeah attack on the World Trade Center it's the conspiracy theorists will have this kind of fantasy about kind of global reach, as if.

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Paul Salmons: A small group of people are controlling all sorts of events financial institutions, governments and the media.

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Paul Salmons: Is it's such a vast idea of a conspiracy if you stop and think about it it's clearly impossible, partly because of the huge numbers of people that would need to be involved.

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Paul Salmons: How dedicated they will need to be, and none of them really make mistakes, we all know, we mess up you know working our chops right in our lives, but not these.

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Paul Salmons: Fisk about all their cohorts everything is meticulously planned and pans out the way that they apparently intended that isn't the way the world is.

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Paul Salmons: But the storytelling aspects read this for events together as if they form this kind of common narrative is one which I think is compelling and we me find it in fairy tales and myths and literature.

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John Avlon: Certainly I mean but MIA one of the one of the striking things about all this is that.

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John Avlon: we've dealt with anti semitism.

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John Avlon: Humanity has for centuries.

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John Avlon: It is striking to me that Q and on in such a short period of time was able to proliferate with it's exaggerated cartoonish absurdity you can't even explain it with a straight face.

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Mia Bloom: Well, I mean the people who believe in it and i'm going to make the distinction between the people who profited off of it, and some of these Q and on influencers whether it's Sydney Powell, or its linwood or.

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Mia Bloom: disgrace general Michael Flynn, I want to make the distinction between the people who benefited and the people who might have been pulled down the rabbit hole.

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Mia Bloom: For actually really good and altruistic reasons and i'll give you the comparison I just finished a book on women in ISIS.

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Mia Bloom: And the way in which ISIS recruited young girls well intentioned smart girls in the West, like those girls from bethnal green academy that disappeared from London in 2015 was.

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Mia Bloom: Did you want to save the orphans in Syria and no one's going to say no, and so it when when it's phrased, as did you want to help the children.

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Mia Bloom: Very few people are going to say I don't care about the children, so what you was able to do was capitalized on people's and nate.

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Mia Bloom: Almost ultra ISM and goodness, and I think that we need to understand that, first and foremost because this is a way that we can.

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Mia Bloom: You know, reach your hand across the divide to help people out of Q and on if we're not starting from the position oh they're ridiculous and idiots and you know they believe this conspiracy with it, which is internally inconsistent.

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Mia Bloom: And I will say one thing I taught a course on conspiracy theory, while I was writing the book.

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Mia Bloom: And Benjamin Franklin had this fantastic quote where he said, you can have a conspiracy among three people if two of them are dead, in other words, I think, Joe lesinski maps.

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Mia Bloom: At what point how many people and then there's diminishing returns of how long you can keep something secret, which means that.

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Mia Bloom: The reason we found out about tuskegee the reason we found out about Watergate was that if there is an actual conspiracy.

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Mia Bloom: People are leakers but if it's a conspiracy theory then it's this assumption that they're able to contain this information and dilute everyone and keep it secret and it's involving thousands and millions of people, which again, you know really just defies any logic.

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John Avlon: Sure, Sophia what, in your experience, I mean you know there's an old quote from Jonathan Swift, which is, you cannot reason someone out of something they were not reasoned into.

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John Avlon: But how do you in your experience, what do you think are the most effective ways to reason people out.

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John Avlon: or cause them to confront reality when it comes to something like q&a that's incubated online.

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Sophia Moskalenko: So I like to say, you know when people ask me what can we do to get people out of cannon I like to say, the first thing I would like you to know is what not to do.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And what not to do is please don't argue or logic or rational, you know the person out of their beliefs.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Because you may succeed in that one conversation maybe you know you will have facts, and you will actually went over that one argument.

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Sophia Moskalenko: But we know from research that what will happen after that same day, and the days later and weeks later, is the person will keep coming back and they will come up with reasons why.

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Sophia Moskalenko: They should have won the argument and you just happen to prevail, that one time because of whatever reason, and they will end up actually believing more than they did before they have the argument with you.

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Sophia Moskalenko: So it's counterproductive to try to have logical arguments about people's beliefs in something like you and I.

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Sophia Moskalenko: What are some helpful things that can be done so we know, also from research that one of the biggest reasons people stay in queue and on or even continuing on is the Community that it offers.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Yes, and so, when you try to argue with to non believers you alienate them you put them, you know, in the opposite camp and yourself as this like high and mighty and smarter than now.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And that makes them feel even more isolated than they did when they joined you're not in the first place, and so what i'd like to say is, if you feel that as possible.

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Sophia Moskalenko: To be you know socially connected with people in your life, who are your non believers without engaging with them on this logical cognitive level.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And just engaging with them on the social emotional level, then you're opening the door to a possibility at some later date when they will waiver and doubt and have questions.

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Sophia Moskalenko: For them to come to you, and then you will be able to make strides you know, in the direction that you're interested in.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And just saying to somebody like that I understand how you feel that phrase, we know from research that it makes people less defensive and less polarized in their opinions and more open to worldviews that are maybe counter to their own worldviews so.

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again.

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Sophia Moskalenko: understand how you feel just that.

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John Avlon: Obviously, there are other in this slide indicated that there are other concrete things that could be done algorithm adjustments i'm interested in psychological inoculation.

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John Avlon: I wonder what that entails from a teaching standpoint either me or Sophia you can answer that.

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Sophia Moskalenko: So this is a really interesting research it's not very new but it's just recently been applied to political polarization but we've used it with harmful behaviors like.

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Sophia Moskalenko: drinking and smoking and problematic eating with great success and what it is, is you tell a person in advance, before you think they might be exposed to harmful content that you know.

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Sophia Moskalenko: You might see messages that are directed to people like you, so you can tell them, you know somebody start getting you, for whatever which which are have to be true, so you know messages that are targeting teenagers with advertisements for cigarettes.

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Sophia Moskalenko: You know, we would say you might see messages that part of teenagers.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Because people want to make money off of your health and so you put them on alert and you actually make them suspicious of this material rather than.

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Sophia Moskalenko: catching them on aware and then falling prey to it, and so, with with messaging and disinformation, there is a possibility to preempt the harmful effects of it.

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Sophia Moskalenko: If we communicate effectively with certain populations as MIA said, for example, the instagram moms who were already suspicious of vaccinations, who were already suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry as a whole.

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Sophia Moskalenko: They were targeted by this q&a on content on those specific vulnerabilities if we know about those vulnerabilities, then it would be useful to help these people build resilience against these kinds of messages.

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Last time.

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Mia Bloom: We might have lost john.

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Mia Bloom: Sydney do you want me to take a question from the chat I see.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): That actually.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): If you could talk about actually if we could go back to the y like the slide where you had cumin on interaction and the cove it alfre could you talk about like what's on the y axis and just like a little bit more about sort of that relationship.

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Mia Bloom: you're talking about the fact that there was an uptick during okay so absolutely let me.

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Mia Bloom: Let me, let me show that slide again that wasn't originally one of the slides that I sent you, but since Sophia was talking about it, one of the things that we saw beginning in October 2017.

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Mia Bloom: As you mentioned, was a relatively flat slope in terms of the number of people who were interested in queue and on engaging in queue and on posting about Q and on.

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Mia Bloom: And there was a somewhat of an uptick and I think if it hadn't been for the global pandemic absolutely we would have seen it sort of.

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Mia Bloom: Almost not quite die out but not become a central vector of American politics, and so what happens with the with the lockdowns.

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Mia Bloom: Some of the things that So if you already said is that people were forced online whether was for work or for school or for having nothing else to do.

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Mia Bloom: And once they were online and started asking questions they were never more than two or three clicks away from q1 on content and they slowly get pulled into this, because what what was going on for many of us, and you know, again, I was in the same boat as all of you.

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Mia Bloom: There was a virus, it was novel we'd never heard of it.

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Mia Bloom: We didn't know exactly how we got it we didn't know who was more or less susceptible, for example, did the mask protect me or did it protect you from me, and so a lot of people had questions.

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Mia Bloom: And when you went online to ask questions that's where you basically were getting a lot of misinformation.

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Mia Bloom: And because people were online and they were very discombobulated and they were very anxious he became more susceptible to a conspiracy theory that offered an explanation to the world.

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Mia Bloom: And that you know the example that I give is if you're crossing the street and you get hit by a bus it's so random these things don't happen, but if you think the bus driver was aiming for you, that makes a bit more sense.

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Mia Bloom: And so that's where.

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Mia Bloom: people thought that if there's an evil plan at least there's a logic to it and it's not so haphazard over which I have very little control, and I see the john is back so.

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John Avlon: yeah i'm sorry I don't know what happened, it appears that i'm on my phone now that are I was, I was anyway, we are home wi fi seems to have crashed so as long as you can all hear me i'm back.

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John Avlon: My apologies i'm Paul, I wanted to go to you because I had it, you know, Sophia was speaking eloquently as me, it has about the need for compassion and connection and not directly trying to use logic or confrontation, to get people out of this but.

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John Avlon: as it relates, I mean to the core mission of the museum Jewish heritage.

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John Avlon: And indeed, the way I got interested in covering extremism conspiracy theories was having lived through 911 working for the Mayor of New York at the time and then seeing 911 truth is emerge and sometimes they're indisputable events they're not conspiracies this isn't behind the shadows.

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John Avlon: How do you account for the persistence of Holocaust denial and do you consider it a conspiracy theory.

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Paul Salmons: Yes, Sam thanks john um Well, first of all, the Holocaust itself is without doubt the most extensively documented most intensively studied and best understood example of genocide or mass atrocity in human history so.

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Paul Salmons: We know the fundamental detail, so there is broad consensus among scholars, despite the fact that they will be debates on aspects of when was the decision taken or why didn't be allies do more to.

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Paul Salmons: Try and rescue the Jews of Europe, the good historical arguments going on, but the basic outline and the detail of it we know beyond doubt, and yet you still have people who deny the Holocaust happened, as you say.

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Paul Salmons: In some ways, I think we should be surprised by that.

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Paul Salmons: The Holocaust has erupted into a public consciousness into a collective memory in a way that was new and unprecedented and it happened because.

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Paul Salmons: Very unusually the actors that committed the genocide.

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Paul Salmons: were themselves defeated that's unusual in human history where they tend to have a monopoly on power on violence and there'll be the ones that are left standing and they will write these elements, out of the history or present them in certain ways to chop.

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Paul Salmons: acceptable to them, but when the Nazis and their allies were defeated in the Second World War and the evidence of the.

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Paul Salmons: Holocaust and other Nazi crowds were there, and could be so a document in their world war crimes trials and this becomes beyond the speed, but psychologically, the very, very difficult things to contain.

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Paul Salmons: So we know, for instance, from the work of Greg stanton and in terms of the stages of genocide he's identified the final stage of genocide is always denied every genocide is is has it has its denies.

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Paul Salmons: there's a there's a kind of deep psychological need to avoid that now, is it a conspiracy.

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Paul Salmons: conspiracy theory, yes, in the sense that the denies core argument when you look into it will come down to the idea of this is a hoax perpetrated by Jews, for their own benefit, they sometimes call it the hollow hoax right the idea will be that.

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Paul Salmons: Jews will have invented this atrocity in order to extort reparations other monies out of Germany and other European countries and or to support that claims for a national homeland so.

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Paul Salmons: In order to believe holocaust denier you have to invest into first of all, the idea that there is a conspiracy again a Jewish Kabbalah, if you like, which is using this to manipulate the world.

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Paul Salmons: And in order to believe in those things again you have to have anti Semitic tropes that are deeply embedded in them, you have to.

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Paul Salmons: Some level believe the idea that age augments the Jews are devious to them in it, but if they're lying, and that they will do so again for their own benefit, so, is it conspiracy theory and it is always anti Semitic.

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John Avlon: Does that mean.

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John Avlon: To you, I was so struck by what you said that all genocides and denial and I suppose I can imagine the psychological need for people to deny things of that.

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John Avlon: degree of.

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John Avlon: Human horror, but given that it is the most documented mass genocide in human history.

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John Avlon: What does it say about our efforts to confront and ultimately defeat conspiracy theories and the virus of anti semitism.

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John Avlon: If it's almost being presented by you, as as inevitable.

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Mia Bloom: I mean wasn't denied and all the Germany so, for example, there were significant differences between West Germany East Germany in terms of the extent to which.

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Mia Bloom: They dealt with their past and so again i've had these conversations like in Pakistan where someone is saying to me that the Holocaust didn't happen, and I was like Okay, except for the fact that you know the Germans aren't denying it happens, so I think that that's an end.

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John Avlon: What do they say, when you say that.

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Mia Bloom: um I basically I tried to use logic and I was doing a lot of field research in Pakistan for many years.

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Mia Bloom: When I was researching one of my books on children involved in these terrorist groups and they've been kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban and they were teaching the kids to behead prisoners.

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Mia Bloom: And so, part of it is you know what's the fear was saying, taking someone on head on, or calling them an idiot or or saying you're an Anti Semite.

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Mia Bloom: you're going to go nowhere, so I would sort of try to use a different kind of logic and say well you know the Germans don't deny it happens, and they feed out reparations.

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Mia Bloom: And so, when the parties to the conflict aren't denying it so it's not like Ataturk denying the Armenian genocide or it's not like.

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Mia Bloom: Denying what he did encounter, so I think that it's important that I, it might be that Germany stands out as an exception to this idea of denial, the people who deny the Holocaust are generally not the people who were party or involved in it at the time or.

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John Avlon: What what.

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John Avlon: What what when when you.

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Mia Bloom: pointed out to that.

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John Avlon: Pakistani all assume gentlemen, that the Germans don't deny the Holocaust What did he say.

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Mia Bloom: The responses well you know is real controls everything, and so there there's always another explanation so, for example, I had before.

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Mia Bloom: An image that I posted where it according to Q and on they see all the leaders of the world.

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Mia Bloom: As being sort of in bed with this Jewish global conspiracy, and while cumin on doesn't deny the Holocaust it minimizes the Holocaust and so they'll have people like David Cole come on.

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Mia Bloom: In the videos to say well you know we're not saying it didn't happen and lots of people died during World War Two but it's not you know these.

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Mia Bloom: The cyclone be these things were created after the Russians had conquered this part of Germany, so it's not that it's a complete denial, but it's a minimization, at least for Q and on which is a little bit different than some of these institute's that are.

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Mia Bloom: Basically, just about denying the Holocaust ever happened.

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John Avlon: So show, and maybe you can take us or Sofia, but, building on the original question to Paul and maybe it's about how you confront and overcome.

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John Avlon: Anti semitism or holocaust denial is located, specifically, as opposed to something like Q and on, but what are the most effective means.

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Paul Salmons: For for.

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John Avlon: wrestling that hideous conspiracy theory and formulate.

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Paul Salmons: The differences between trying to talk someone else that deeply held belief system which may well be ideological to external identities.

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Paul Salmons: firmly connected and trying to so all your efforts, primarily directed towards the billy has I your efforts, creating within a public space and public ground.

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Paul Salmons: Widespread opportunities for those that didn't know about the truth of the past to commemorate into memorialize, it is an argument of ideas there and and contestation for space.

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Paul Salmons: All and also the strategy of people how to prevent new people being drawn to that kind of conspiracy thinking or to those sorts of notions of photos do not.

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Paul Salmons: Focus minimization articles trivialisation hotels diminishing these a separate office to navigate some of the local celebration, and they can be connected, they can overlap that me and major element that we've neglected, I think, historically, in our educational systems is what.

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Paul Salmons: Michael young associate sociologist of education in the UK, this term powerful knowledge powerful knowledge in his articulation is not simply the knowledge of the Academy, which is presented and hand it on and then tested.

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Paul Salmons: That will be the knowledge of the powerful, to some extent, but the idea that a government would set or a state would set curriculum that.

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Paul Salmons: museum or Professor would decide on what's being taught, these are people in rather privileged position to then rates aspects of the world and.

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Paul Salmons: What Michael young costs for is how do you share the deep disciplinary understandings by which they arrive at that knowledge So how do we construct our view of the past, how is it when you study science, for example, perhaps you shouldn't just be teaching the scientific.

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Paul Salmons: theories about the load but scientific understanding, based on the scientific method, so that a way of understanding how we arrived that knowledge of vaccines or.

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Paul Salmons: Climate change are more transparent and more understood so in terms of history, we need to do more work, I think, to explain how we know what we know about the past how we interrogate sources.

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Paul Salmons: What our use of evidence is.

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Paul Salmons: And what I stand itself because there isn't enough of a culture, I think sometimes those that are drawn into conspiracy theories, they like to do the research they enjoy their some of these a prisoner going on finding out, but if you.

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John Avlon: lay down this.

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Paul Salmons: is how to way truth things against the evidence and the need to be able to change your view if strong contradictory evidence comes out if you haven't got that kind of disposition, you will be at risk of being drawn into this kind of thinking.

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John Avlon: yeah I think it is such an important point, because one of the catchphrases from coupon is do the meat do the research do your own research, and it is meaningless basically just means keep digging the whole year.

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John Avlon: And and Sophia one of the things that you had on your slide and I want to get to some questions, and time is galloping by on but is the idea of improving digital literacy and maybe that can inoculate some people from some of these rabbit holes, would you like to expand on that briefly.

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Sophia Moskalenko: yeah I think it also touches on what was just saying I think Q and on is really testing the limits of this idea of free speech this this country is built on so in Germany, for example, since we talked about Germany.

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Sophia Moskalenko: You cannot you know throw out a Nazi so you cannot wear a swastika, you cannot sing the you know the Nazi songs because all of those are forbidden by loss.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And here the limits are I mean there are limits to free speech, but I think, with the advent of social media and the Internet.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And just the proliferation of this information of every kind, we really are coming to the point where we have to have a serious thoughts about.

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Sophia Moskalenko: You know how do we deal with this exposure that that we're experiencing and you know we are one thing, but, for example, our children, our whole other thing and a lot of people.

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Sophia Moskalenko: are not very savvy when it comes to discerning which sources of information are trustworthy and which are blatantly just bad bad sources that are.

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Sophia Moskalenko: out to get them either for their money or for their votes or for their anger that they can then harvest and to political action.

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Sophia Moskalenko: I don't have an answer to that you know I came to this country for it's free speech and all the other opportunities that it has.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And I love it for it, but I think time is as you're saying galloping by and we're gonna be we're gonna have to face these.

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Sophia Moskalenko: These ideas and and figure out how best to approach them and maybe educating the new generation on media would receive one way and.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Men mandating dead, the social media giants that have become public squares essentially that they be more transparent about their methodology and maybe the db in some way responsible to us as the public so that's a longer conversation we can have another day.

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John Avlon: it's an important conversation to have me, would you like to add anything to that.

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Mia Bloom: I think that we're seeing it in real time where the testimony before Senate, as far as what Facebook new of that is algorithm algorithms were doing i'll give you an example reddit band cumin on in.

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Mia Bloom: For basically violating the terms of service and endangering the population and its users and other words it had this.

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Mia Bloom: transcendence between online to offline harms it took Facebook two years and, in fact, even a year after Christopher Ray had said that cumin on had the potential for terrorism, they still didn't D platform.

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Mia Bloom: cumin on what's interesting is that, when it was the platform first in July of 2020 and then again October 2020 right before the election.

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Mia Bloom: What they started doing is exactly what ISIS did when they were D platforms, they started using 17 and on or see you Ian on or they were you know.

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Mia Bloom: hiding their their their posts in some way or what we see now is they migrated to telegram and telegram which is run by paddle drove.

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Mia Bloom: In Russia does not care that Silicon Valley, has the platform or thinks that this is dangerous so we're still seeing it.

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Mia Bloom: And we're seeing it grow and we're seeing it become an international movement that not only endangers the US democracy as i've heard you say almost every morning when you're talking about our democracy is in peril you are 100% right john.

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John Avlon: Well, it does.

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John Avlon: I didn't think we'd be fighting for democracy, right now, but there are tools, even though we're dealing with new circumstances that we need to avail ourselves of, and you know these things can be within our power would striking to me and mailers stay with the.

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John Avlon: queue and on unofficially officially disbanded after January six.

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John Avlon: Right yeah there's been some documentaries about the people are families that may have been behind this various grifters conspiracy entrepreneurs, but.

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John Avlon: You know the queue drop stop and basically say you know don't don't you know let's just think be thankful for all the friends, we made along the way, and yet the underlying ideology persists.

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John Avlon: And do you think it really is just a matter of education algorithm changes and and being tough because i'm stunned that something can basically be revealed to be a fraud and yet still persist in the minds of some.

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Mia Bloom: mean they still believe it, and despite the fact that all of the premonitions and predictions have not come true.

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Mia Bloom: Hillary Clinton wasn't arrested Michelle Obama is not a man trump wasn't reelected they start to fabricate all these explanations for what's actually going on.

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Mia Bloom: That it's not really Joe Biden it's trump wearing a Joe Biden mask and some very serious spanks because he's lost about 150 pounds, but the other thing is.

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Mia Bloom: That we're starting to see what we would call intersection ality that the oath keepers and the far Right and the militias.

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Mia Bloom: are trying to appeal and attract the cumin on believers, so that the cumin on people who start to have doubts or start to be very disappointed that none of these predictions are coming true.

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Mia Bloom: might be fodder for the far Right and groups that are actually dangerous like militias and neo Nazis and patriot front and so on and so forth.

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John Avlon: We have one question came in through me about the connection to conspiracy theories an ISIS and you know terrorist recruitment is its own thing but online radicalization.

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John Avlon: You know what what float through is there, what lessons.

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Mia Bloom: I mean really amazed me so part of the project that we've continued the book.

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Mia Bloom: Sophie and I are working with no Lila who, who is the leading expert on jihadism and she had the lead article and Foreign Affairs for the 20th anniversary of 911.

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Mia Bloom: Is that we're actually seeing less Q and on in the Middle East, then we're seeing in almost any other part of the world, which is very strange because there is this natural predilection.

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Mia Bloom: We call it an Arabic mama got like they love conspiracy theories and yet they're not loving Q and on there's the few places in the Middle East that we're seeing queuing on.

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Mia Bloom: And I don't know if it's inoculated partly because you know this idea of false prophets or the idea of believing in something or the fact that in Arabic we really don't talk about pedophilia.

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Mia Bloom: But we do see some of the same ways and mechanisms of recruiting of trying to lure people in by appealing to their softer side they're altruistic side.

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Mia Bloom: And this is why we call the pastels and pedophiles because so much of Q and on are the women and so much of ISIS relied on women so that was where the connection was.

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John Avlon: In the few minutes we have last I want to give you each a chance to sum up.

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John Avlon: Sofia.

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Sophia Moskalenko: i'm.

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Sophia Moskalenko: Huge on is a huge social movement in the US alone over 30 million people believe this conspiracy theory.

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Sophia Moskalenko: It doesn't seem to be going away just because Q drops stop or because Donald trump didn't come back to the White House, and so we should consider how we can help all these people to find their way back to their families back to the society.

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Sophia Moskalenko: And one thing that's important we haven't talked about it, but it seems like there is a much higher than average prevalence of mental health problems among through and on followers so mental health outreach is important.

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Sophia Moskalenko: social networking is important, education, as far as social media and Internet literacy is important, and all of these needs to be on a broad social scale because of how big and how complex human on his.

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John Avlon: fault.

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Paul Salmons: I guess we shouldn't be surprised anymore that people have a very high capacity to believe things that evidently aren't true, I mean we have climate denial, we have.

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Paul Salmons: People who believe in creationism there's all sorts of things that are clearly and evidentially falsifiable and yet, people will still.

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Paul Salmons: go along with them and still believing them, often for deeply held emotional reasons and we're not just rational beings we're emotional beings as well and dp irrational.

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Paul Salmons: That said, conspiracy theories cumin on and others are obviously deeply harmful to our societies i'd say that they're harmful and at least three major ways.

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Paul Salmons: Firstly, that harmful to the people, the individuals in the groups that they target and submitted conspiracy theories are obviously how.

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Paul Salmons: To to Jews and they will sometimes need to real world funds and they will even without that violence they cause other forms of violence through discouraged discrimination and through.

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Paul Salmons: Other forms of ostracism etc they're also harmful to the people that hold those fields to the conspiracy theorists themselves.

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Paul Salmons: Because they read them from living.

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Paul Salmons: authentically in the world, you can't understand the logic living in if you're buying into these kinds of beliefs and Third and finally.

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Paul Salmons: They are deeply harmful to the rest of society, because they rewrote our foundations of truth and they prevent us from actually and if we can agree on the things that are true in the world it's extremely difficult for us to address our shared concerns and problems.

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John Avlon: that's a very profound way to sum up mayor, would you like to add anything else, before I kick setting.

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Mia Bloom: it's just that we we really wanted to do something different, with the book by offering people not just an explanation of tune on.

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Mia Bloom: but also how to help friends and family out of it, and you know we used to joke that everybody's going to know someone.

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Mia Bloom: Either among their friends or their family and then I found out my cousin was a believer in q1 on so it's literally probably touching everyone.

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Mia Bloom: If these polls are representative there could be 30 million Americans that believe in this, which is why the Institute for the study of religion place came on as.

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Mia Bloom: more popular than some religions, which means that we want to help people, we also want to understand if you want to help the children there are far better ways to do it.

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John Avlon: It is a crisis of faith in in society and democracy and our ability to reason together.

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John Avlon: But I want to thank you all, because this conversation was not only fascinating and I hope illuminating and clarifying for some people.

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John Avlon: But because I think it really highlights one of the reasons why I am such a believer in a supporter, in the Museum of Jewish heritage and because I really think this incident illustrates why anti Semitism is something that needs to concern all of us.

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John Avlon: That it's its various incarnations can be subtle and precepts pervasive but they keep emerging and we need to learn how to identify them and confront them collectively as members of a civil society which we are and we will remain Thank you so much sitting to you.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): yeah, I would like to echo what john just said, thank you all so much, and thank you to john as well, this was such a great conversation, and I personally learned so much, and thank you all for joining us today.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): And everything we do at the museum is made possible through donor support.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): To those of you watching we hope you'll consider making a donation to support the museum or becoming a member and joining us for upcoming programs, which you can check out at the link in the zoom chat.

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Sydney Yaeger (she/her): and have a great afternoon, and thank you so much again for joining us bye Thank you all.

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