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Legitimizing Woo

Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and author or coauthor of ten books, including Bad Clowns.

Q: I was sent a link to your article about the Sandy Hook conspiracies (, and my question is: Why even give these people the time of day? I unfortunately watched the [pro-conspiracy] YouTube video before realizing what I had done: contributed to helping the creator make money off of YouTube. Why help drive traffic to these people’s business ventures?

A: You bring up a good question, one that I and other skeptics and media literacy educators struggle with. The answer is that it’s a no-win situation: If you ignore the claims (of UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, conspiracies, etc.) then believers say to themselves and others: “See? There must be something to it. . . . No one is refuting the claims or answering these questions. The skeptics can’t answer our arguments!” People will often assume that if they are not hearing a solid, categorical rebuttal that it’s not because scientists and skeptics think it’s too silly to bother with but instead that they can’t or won’t address the claims.

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Pizzagate and Beyond: Using Social Research to Understand Conspiracy Legends Becoming Fantastic Why Some People Embellish Their Already Accomplished Lives with Incredible Tales Is Eating Vegetables Truly Safe? An Examination into Contemporary Anti-Vaccination Arguments