First, a couple of assumptions:
- People are constantly bombarded by claims others want them to believe. Example: E=mc^2, a teacher wants their pupils to know.
- In many cases these claims are mutually exclusive. Examples: Party X will doom your homeland, vote for party Y which will save your homeland!; but also Party Y will doom your homeland, vote for party X which will save your homeland!
- In many cases it is very important for a person to choose correctly between such mutually exclusive claims, since the person's best interest depends on this choice. Examples: Vaccinate yourself to avoid severe diseases; but also Vaccines will ruin your health! An incorrect choice will jeopardize one's health.
- In the vast majority of cases a person cannot judge such claims oneself. All examples cited above require expert knowledge to judge, and no one can be an expert in all fields.
Therefore, it would seem that a person must choose who to trust on these matters. But who?
The most obvious answer seems to be: The consensus of experts in the relevant field.
But this answer turns out to be problematic.
Let me use an example. In the case of medicine, the relevant experts are touted to be the WHO. So should the WHO be trusted and all other opinions dismissed?
My mother is a vehement opponent of the WHO. In particular, she opposes the food pyramid. During our conversations on the subject I will often say that the WHO are the experts, they are more knowledgeable and experienced on the subject than either of us, so they should be trusted. My mother's response is: "But there are other experts! See this media report of a scientific study that contradicts the WHO's findings, see another media report of another scientific study, see doctors X, Y, Z, see this association of doctors and scientists who oppose the WHO. What is left remaining of your 'recourse to experts' argument now? The WHO tout themselves and are touted by mainstream media to be THE experts, but this is simply untrue. They cherry pick pieces of research and trumpet those that support their views and ideologies while ignoring those whose conclusions oppose WHO's tenets. You have arbitrarily chosen just the WHO to trust and are closed-minded, you keep ignoring contradictory evidence"
Indeed - my mother pointed out a weakness in my reasoning, and one I cannot respond to. Why the WHO? Because mainstream media say the WHO are THE experts?
But the situation just got even more dire. My aunt vehemently opposes vaccines. Even worse, she proselytizes this view to her father, who is a very old man and, according the mainstream knowledge, people in his age are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
According to my aunt: * It is controversial whether vaccines help or hurt the immune system; * It is likewise controversial whether vaccines were historically effective in combating contagious diseases; * But most importantly, none of this matters, since nowadays vaccines are a tool for people like Bill Gates to advance their depopulation and surveillance programs. They are poisoned with aluminum, mercury, hormones that are supposed to sterilize people, most recently they are also supposed to contain microchips that will track people's movement and allow to establish which people did not get vaccined.
All above claims are backed up by links to scientists and people who say they have proofs of the purported conspiracy.
Are the above claims outlandish? It seems so. But why? Because everyone knows that vaccine hesitation is founded on myths? Once again we have a recourse to mainstream knowledge. According to my aunt most people believe vaccines are important and safe because they have been told so by mainstream media. So once again I am being accused of repeating not what is obvious and well known, but what certain parties (mainstream media) want us to believe. Also, according to aunt, Google and Facebook censor and remove articles and posts that are skeptical to vaccines.
But there is scientific consensus that vaccines are safe! But, as my aunt points out, scientists who have a different opinion on this matter are being fired from universities.
Therefore, according to my aunt, there is no true consensus on the matter, neither among scientists nor among ordinary people. Rather, an artificial consensus has been created, by muting dissenting opinions.
So, essentially, what we have here is a conspiracy theory crafted to back up a conspiracy theory... Still, the theory seems consistent. If the richest of the rich want to advance depopulation and surveillance programs through vaccination, then the richest of the rich also have the means to control the flow of information.
Is this all outlandish? Yes. But again, why does it seem so outlandish? Because it contradicts mainstream information.
In essence, trusting such 'obvious' things like the food pyramid as per the WHO or the harmlessness of vaccines has been reduced to 'because mainstream media say so'. So we need to trust mainstream information because... it is mainstream information? Such an argumentation indeed seems weak!
How to escape this conundrum? What should we trust if there are many contradictory claims? Should we trust mainstream information or should we (which is practically impossible!) try to judge all other weird claims ourselves?