Denialism has lived in 2021 a hatching on our screens, with messages saying that SARS-CoV-2 does not exist and vaccines are not safe, although its most notable milestone has been the assault on the Capitol by a crowd unable to accept the victory of Joe Biden.
Until a few years ago, denialism was a phenomenon known for rejecting realities such as the Holocaust, AIDS, climate change, as well as for the activity of creationists, who deny the evolution of species, and flat-earthers, that do not support the spherical shape of the planet.
However, in recent years the massive use of social networks and political opportunism have multiplied unsubstantiated claims that systematically question proven facts.
And the pandemic, which has fostered a climate of fear and uncertainty, has been especially fertile for the propagation of denialist theses.
A supporter of Donald Trump in the office of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. AFP photo
Snow is a lie
Now everything is doubted, until the fallen snow is real in central Spain during the storm Filomena, as stated in several viralized videos in January, which were echoed by the Italian press.
Denialism about covid-19, which had already manifested itself in 2020, it has evolved at the same rate as the pandemic.
If at the beginning of the year the existence of the new coronavirus was still questioned, later the number of misleading messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines increased and that denied scientific evidence.
Definitions of denial agree that it is an attitude that consists of deny relevant facts and realities.
The French sociologist Didier Fassin adds another nuance when he considers that it is “an ideological position by which one reacts systematically rejecting reality and truth.”
This is the case of the assault on the Capitol, carried out by supporters of the outgoing president, Donald Trump, that denied the legitimacy ofthe incontrovertible electoral triumph of Biden.
According to a scheme proposed by scientist and popularizer Mark Hoofnagle and cited by other authors, deniers typically use five tactics:
one.- Conspiracy theories: They dismiss data and factual evidence and point out that their opponents are part of a conspiracy to hide the truth.
2.- Interested selection (“cherry picking”): They base their arguments on poor, discredited, or outdated academic research.
3.- False experts: False experts are used to support theses and genuine researchers are marginalized.
4.- Move the goal posts: It consists of rejecting evidence presented in response to a specific claim and constantly asking for other evidence with demands that may be impossible.
5.- The use of logical fallacies: they use eloquent arguments that seem valid at first glance but in fact use false connections between the initial statements and the conclusions.
Deniers have spread their lies on a wide variety of channels. In addition to using social networks and traditional media, they have even spread falsehoods about the pandemic and vaccines on the street, through pamphlets or posters.
But there have also been more sophisticated examples, such as “The Big Reset”, a documentary of good technical invoice and riddled with hoaxes and conspiracy theories, which was published on different video platforms and shared on networks.
Spanish singer Miguel Bosé, one of the most active deniers. Photo EFE
In it, prominent voices from the denial platform Doctors for Truth take the floor, an organization that, together with Biologists for Truth, uses techniques exposed by Hoofnagle, such as the interested selection of discredited investigations and logical fallacies.
In addition, in 2021 denialism has continued to have such famous faces as spokespersons Miguel Bosé and Victoria Abril.
The assault on the Capitol
In the case of the attack on the United States Congress, Trump had made unfounded allegations of voter fraud before, during and after the elections.
Those false accusations They were amplified by social networks, where the transformation of denialist groups into increasingly violent groups was evident, to the point of becoming militias calling for an armed conflict.
Precisely, far-right militias such as Oath Keepers and Proud Boys had a special role in the attack on the seat of the US legislature, in which five people died.
The reasons why denialism finds a public that believes and disseminates its theories are varied and have been explained by sociologists and psychologists.
Cognitive biases predispose us to believe in theories that reinforce our previous ideas and, on the other hand, they prevent us from thinking clearly in situations of anxiety and fear.
Faced with this uncertainty, conspiracy theories, one of the tools of denial, are attractive because they give a sense of “control”, as the European Commission explains in a guide to identifying this type of misinformation.
That is to say, offer seemingly logical explanations for situations difficult to understand or assimilate.
“We know that there is a link between stress and the credibility of conspiracy theories, so in historical or personal moments where you feel more anxiety or anguish, you tend to be more inclined to believe this ‘information’,” explains the psychologist Sergio García in an article for EFE Salud.
We also tend to be persuaded by the arguments wielded by most of the people we surround ourselves with or the group to which we belong, as various investigations since the 1950s have shown.
But, in addition, those who defend them may have the feeling of believing themselves better than others.
This is how García explains it in his article: “Morally, we feel superior since we have been chosen to know ‘the truth’ “.
Sergio Hernandez. EFE Agency