On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, the university hosted a facilitated talk on conspiracy theories in partnership with the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project. Some of the conspiracies discussed included 9/11, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, the recent Astroworld disaster, and Q-Anon.
“Our goal is to bring communities together through thoughtful discussion,” said Jennifer Roberts, the discussion facilitator representing Oregon Humanities.
The talk lasted about one and a half hours with approximately 15 students and faculty present. The facilitator led an open discussion with students to discuss the whys and hows of conspiracy theories. People broke into smaller groups to discuss the questions posed by the facilitator and then would come back together to discuss the conversations with the whole group.
“Conspiracy theories are something I have never gone into much. What is a conspiracy theory? What makes a conspiracy theory, a conspiracy theory?” said freshman Sophia Mischima. “ We learned all kinds of new stuff.,” said freshman Sophia Mischima.
The Oregon Humanities Conversation Project is a part of the Oregon Humanities; a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment of the Humanities. The group organizes community conversations throughout the year involving a variety of topics.
The discussion then turned to why people become involved in conspiracy, with each person giving individual insights into the reasons why. The main consensus was that people join conspiracy groups out of loneliness and want to be a part of something bigger.
The group also discussed ways in which one can help someone who is following into the conspiracy rabbit-hole. Many agreed that one of the solutions was to not shut out friends or family members who are involved in conspiracy theory groups. Instead, there should be a focus on gently disproving the conspiracy by asking non-confrontational questions, such as why they think that or how the conspiracy is possible?
“It was nice everyone was really engaged with the content and the discussion. I think because of that there was probably more that we can talk about,” said junior John Salisbury. “If there was another one that would happen, I would definitely go.” — Jazmine Henning