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Sense of helplessness and desire for a community may fuel people to believe in conspiracies

Conspiracy theories often exploit vulnerable people, and although it can be difficult to be empathetic toward believers, their lives can often be incredibly sad.
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Supporters of the Freedom Convoy protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. File photo.

This weekend saw several followers of the self-proclaimed "Queen of Canada," Romana Didulo, attempt to arrest Peterborough police officers for what she described as their "COVID crimes."

The event has left some wondering why anyone would believe Didulo or any of the various conspiracy theories circulating the internet.

Tim Caulfield, Canada research chair in Health Law and Policy, told The Rob Snow Show on Monday, Aug. 15, that a sense of helplessness and wanting to be part of a community play a factor.

"It gives them a purpose," he said, adding that another study recently published indicates that economic disparity — or the perception of being left behind — can fuel the desire to believe a conspiracy.

Caulfield explained that these conspiracy theories often exploit vulnerable people, and although it can be difficult to be empathetic toward believers, their lives can often be incredibly sad.

"It can be infuriating when people like her [Didulo] or you know, the Q-anon crowd…when they exploit people's vulnerability… they're exploiting the frustration that people have in their lives in order to get money to move forward a particular agenda."

He added that research has also shown a strong correlation between people who are anti-vaccination and those who support Putin and believe that the war in Ukraine is misrepresented.

"That really highlights the degree to which disinformation from big actors, including nation-states, are shaping our national dialogue," he said. "And that's kind of terrifying."

Listen to the full interview with Tim Caulfield below:

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