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美国“阴谋论者”将为幻想付出代价?

美国“阴谋论者”将为幻想付出代价?

Ryan Young 2021年01月22日
在不违反美国宪法第一修正案的范围内,在符合常理的前提下,让阴谋论者为自己的幻想付出更高“代价”,将有助于控制他们带给别人的损失。

1月6日,特朗普的支持者在美国国会大厦外举行抗议活动,高举“匿名者Q” 组织(QAnon)的旗帜。图片来源:Robert Nickelsberg—Getty Images

阴谋论是引发1月6日美国国会大厦暴乱的主要原因之一。而且,至少从2008年开始,阴谋论在右派内部斗争中占的比重也越来越大。但是,人们为什么会相信“匿名者Q”(QAnon)、披萨门(Pizzagate)之类让人难以置信的阴谋论,相信2020年美国大选舞弊的说法呢?他们为什么会因为阴谋论而采取行动、甚至是暴力行动呢?

如果你把非理性看成像汽车或电视一样的消费品,就能够更好地理解人们为什么有时会说一些疯话,做一些疯事。想想看:如果汽车和电视机价格便宜,人们就会多买,贵的话则相反。

这一逻辑也同样适用于阴谋论。

在这里,代价不一定要用金钱来衡量。纸上谈道的“代价”通常很低。在网上发布疯狂的内容几乎不需要付出任何代价,最多会带来一点社会污名。但对许多人来说,这点代价早就被其他利益抵消了。对于许多边缘人物而言,如反疫苗者、地平论者和“匿名者Q”阴谋论者,拥护一种极端信仰并不一定是在维护真相。他们是在维护一种独特又令人难忘的身份,保护它免受外部威胁。

如果你是个体育迷或者是某个政治派别的拥趸,一定明白阴谋论者说些离谱的事情时感受到的高昂情绪。给自己的球队欢呼、给对方球队喝倒彩的感觉爽极了。对一些人来说,这种情绪上的快感甚至可以抵消失去朋友或工作付出的代价,所以他们会继续下去。

但如果非理性的代价突然飙升,会发生什么呢?Dominion是一家销售电子投票机和制表机等电子投票软硬件设备的公司,该公司最近宣布起诉“海妖”律师西德尼•鲍威尔诽谤,索赔13亿美元,因为她屡次在公共场合称Dominion的软件是“按照委内瑞拉前领导人雨果•查韦斯(2013年去世)的指令”开发的。她还说,Dominion使用了秘密算法来操纵2020年的美国总统大选。她提出的和Dominion有关的诉讼因为缺乏证据而被驳回。

截至目前,鲍威尔为其散播阴谋论的行为仅仅付出了很低的代价。事实上,这种做法可能还给她带来了经济利益:Dominion在诉讼中称,鲍威尔利用她新得到的名气卖书,收获了新的客户。

Dominion此前曾经威胁要对福克斯新闻(Fox News)、Newsmax和One America News等几家媒体采取法律行动,因为它们传播可以被证伪的虚假新闻。一旦“非理性”的代价上升,这些媒体对非理性的“消费”立刻变少了。Newsmax甚至播出了一段近两分钟的“澄清”,驳回了之前几乎所有关于选举结果被窃取的论断。很值得一看。

现在,鲍威尔正在左右权衡,一边是可能输掉案子的金钱代价,一边是丢脸、认错、向对手屈服的非金钱代价。但眼看现在成本已经提高了,我们几乎能够肯定,她会减少对阴谋论的消费。

参与煽动这次未遂政变的政府官员,如前总统特朗普、参议员乔希•霍利和参议员特德•克鲁兹,也在为不理性付出更高的代价。这三个人都面临要求他们辞职的呼声,政治前途都受到了长远的影响。付出的代价高了,他们有可能因此改善今后的行为。前总统特朗普甚至首次不甘不愿地承诺会进行和平的权力交接。即使这三个人不会付出更多代价,权力被削弱至少可以限制他们可能造成的危害。

许多暴徒将为他们的行为承担法律后果,他们不理性的代价因此提高了。最起码,暴徒和他们的支持者可能会因为成本的变化而减少暴力、缓和言辞。

当然,我们共同见证的这段丑陋历史可能还涉及很多其他因素。1月6日之所以会出现暴乱,原因可能还包括更宏观的社会经济因素、新冠疫情造成的幽居病、个人的不满,以及某些人可能患有精神疾病等。

把阴谋论看作消费品并不能够完美解释一切,但可以帮助我们理解。在不违反宪法第一修正案的范围内,在符合常理的前提下,让阴谋论者为自己的幻想付出更高“代价”,将有助于控制他们带给别人的损失。这既能够优化美国的政治对话环境,也有助于防止暴力。(财富中文网)

本文作者瑞安•杨是美国竞争企业协会(Competitive Enterprise Institute)的高级研究员。

译者:Agatha

阴谋论是引发1月6日美国国会大厦暴乱的主要原因之一。而且,至少从2008年开始,阴谋论在右派内部斗争中占的比重也越来越大。但是,人们为什么会相信“匿名者Q”(QAnon)、披萨门(Pizzagate)之类让人难以置信的阴谋论,相信2020年美国大选舞弊的说法呢?他们为什么会因为阴谋论而采取行动、甚至是暴力行动呢?

如果你把非理性看成像汽车或电视一样的消费品,就能够更好地理解人们为什么有时会说一些疯话,做一些疯事。想想看:如果汽车和电视机价格便宜,人们就会多买,贵的话则相反。

这一逻辑也同样适用于阴谋论。

在这里,代价不一定要用金钱来衡量。纸上谈道的“代价”通常很低。在网上发布疯狂的内容几乎不需要付出任何代价,最多会带来一点社会污名。但对许多人来说,这点代价早就被其他利益抵消了。对于许多边缘人物而言,如反疫苗者、地平论者和“匿名者Q”阴谋论者,拥护一种极端信仰并不一定是在维护真相。他们是在维护一种独特又令人难忘的身份,保护它免受外部威胁。

如果你是个体育迷或者是某个政治派别的拥趸,一定明白阴谋论者说些离谱的事情时感受到的高昂情绪。给自己的球队欢呼、给对方球队喝倒彩的感觉爽极了。对一些人来说,这种情绪上的快感甚至可以抵消失去朋友或工作付出的代价,所以他们会继续下去。

但如果非理性的代价突然飙升,会发生什么呢?Dominion是一家销售电子投票机和制表机等电子投票软硬件设备的公司,该公司最近宣布起诉“海妖”律师西德尼•鲍威尔诽谤,索赔13亿美元,因为她屡次在公共场合称Dominion的软件是“按照委内瑞拉前领导人雨果•查韦斯(2013年去世)的指令”开发的。她还说,Dominion使用了秘密算法来操纵2020年的美国总统大选。她提出的和Dominion有关的诉讼因为缺乏证据而被驳回。

截至目前,鲍威尔为其散播阴谋论的行为仅仅付出了很低的代价。事实上,这种做法可能还给她带来了经济利益:Dominion在诉讼中称,鲍威尔利用她新得到的名气卖书,收获了新的客户。

Dominion此前曾经威胁要对福克斯新闻(Fox News)、Newsmax和One America News等几家媒体采取法律行动,因为它们传播可以被证伪的虚假新闻。一旦“非理性”的代价上升,这些媒体对非理性的“消费”立刻变少了。Newsmax甚至播出了一段近两分钟的“澄清”,驳回了之前几乎所有关于选举结果被窃取的论断。很值得一看。

现在,鲍威尔正在左右权衡,一边是可能输掉案子的金钱代价,一边是丢脸、认错、向对手屈服的非金钱代价。但眼看现在成本已经提高了,我们几乎能够肯定,她会减少对阴谋论的消费。

参与煽动这次未遂政变的政府官员,如前总统特朗普、参议员乔希•霍利和参议员特德•克鲁兹,也在为不理性付出更高的代价。这三个人都面临要求他们辞职的呼声,政治前途都受到了长远的影响。付出的代价高了,他们有可能因此改善今后的行为。前总统特朗普甚至首次不甘不愿地承诺会进行和平的权力交接。即使这三个人不会付出更多代价,权力被削弱至少可以限制他们可能造成的危害。

许多暴徒将为他们的行为承担法律后果,他们不理性的代价因此提高了。最起码,暴徒和他们的支持者可能会因为成本的变化而减少暴力、缓和言辞。

当然,我们共同见证的这段丑陋历史可能还涉及很多其他因素。1月6日之所以会出现暴乱,原因可能还包括更宏观的社会经济因素、新冠疫情造成的幽居病、个人的不满,以及某些人可能患有精神疾病等。

把阴谋论看作消费品并不能够完美解释一切,但可以帮助我们理解。在不违反宪法第一修正案的范围内,在符合常理的前提下,让阴谋论者为自己的幻想付出更高“代价”,将有助于控制他们带给别人的损失。这既能够优化美国的政治对话环境,也有助于防止暴力。(财富中文网)

本文作者瑞安•杨是美国竞争企业协会(Competitive Enterprise Institute)的高级研究员。

译者:Agatha

Conspiracy theories were a major driver behind the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building. They have also been a growing part of the political right’s internal struggles since at least 2008. But why do people believe in crackpot conspiracy theories like QAnon, Pizzagate, or the narrative that the 2020 election was stolen? Why do they act on them, sometimes violently?

If you think of irrationality as a consumer good, much like a car or a television, you can better understand why people sometimes say and do crazy things. Think of it like this: People buy more cars and televisions when they are cheap, and fewer when they are expensive.

This logic applies to conspiracy theories.

Here, price is not necessarily measured in money. The “price” of armchair theorizing is low, usually. It costs almost nothing to post crazy things online, aside from mild social stigma. But this cost is more than offset by other benefits for many. For a lot of fringe figures like anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and QAnon conspiracy theorists, espousing an extreme belief is not necessarily about the truth. It’s about asserting a unique, memorable identity and defending it against outside threats.

Any sports fan or political partisan will be familiar with the emotional rush that conspiracy theorists feel when saying outlandish things. It feels good to cheer for your team and boo the other team. For some, these emotional benefits may even be worth the cost of losing friends or a job, so they keep at it.

But what happens when the price of irrationality suddenly spikes? Dominion Voting Systems, a company that sells electronic voting hardware and software like voting machines and tabulators, recently announced that it is suing “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation, seeking damages of $1.3 billion, because she repeatedly argued in public that Dominion software was created “at the direction of Hugo Chávez,” the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013. She has also said that Dominion used a secret algorithm to rig the 2020 election. Her lawsuits regarding Dominion were dismissed because of lack of evidence.

Until now, Powell paid a low price for public conspiracy-mongering. In fact, it may have been financially profitable: Dominion argues in its lawsuit that Powell used her newfound fame to sell books and gain clients.

Dominion had previously threatened legal action against several media outlets that were peddling provably false claims, such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News. Once their price of being irrational went up, the outlets immediately started “consuming” less irrationality. Newsmax even aired a nearly two-minute “clarification” retracting nearly all of its stolen-election claims. It is worth watching.

Powell is currently weighing the likely monetary cost of a case she will likely lose against the nonmonetary costs of losing face, admitting error, and caving in to her opponents. But now that the price of her conspiracy theorizing has gone up, we can almost certainly expect her to consume less of it.

Public officials who played a role in inciting the coup attempt, such as President Trump, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Ted Cruz, are also seeing a price increase for their irrationality. All three are facing calls for their resignation, and their political prospects are suffering long-term damage. The price change they face will hopefully improve their behavior going forward. President Trump even grudgingly committed to a peaceful change of power for the first time. Even without further consequences, the three men’s diminished power should at least limit the amount of damage they can cause.

Many of the rioters will face legal consequences for their actions, raising the price of their irrationality. At the very least, the rioters and their sympathizers will likely tone down their violence and rhetoric in response to the price change.

There are a lot of other factors involved in the ugly history we all witnessed on Jan. 6. Larger socioeconomic conditions, COVID-related cabin fever, personal grievances, and in some cases mental illness may also have been factors in the coup attempt.

Thinking about conspiracy theories as a consumer good does not explain everything. But it can help us understand. Raising the “prices” conspiracy theorists pay for their fantasies, within the bounds of First Amendment protections and consistent with common decency, will help rein in the costs they impose on others. That can improve the national political conversation and help prevent more violence.

Ryan Young is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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