Conspiracy theories!You cant help but to wonder if maybe we are in an alternate universe, if Tupac is still alive or if the government is spraying poisonous gas known as 'chemtrails'. We love these insane theories and feed on them, but why? Reading or watching the news, have you ever felt like you're not getting the full truth? Felt like you're being lied to? Well it happens way more often than you think and my class decided to investigate this and answer these following questions.
How do I find the truth in this crazy world?
How certain can I be about anything?
What is it about conspiracy theories that makes them so appealing?
So to start this project off we had to investigate a conspiracy theory and present a power point on it. MIne was about Hitler, and claims he didn't commit suicide (well-known reason of death) but actually fled to Argentina and lived the rest of his life there. Researching this was incredibly exhausting and difficult. It was hard to believe what was true with so many controversial stories and such weak evidence. One story said he fled through a boat, another through an airport. One said he fled to Argentina, another said Berlin. It was difficult but we did our best to decide what to believe based on who was sharing this information. At first I believed this whole-heartedly. Then after researched believed there was a 30% chance, now after this unit I think there is a 1% chance. The evidence was all claims, and weak.
Walking into class our teacher told us "Visit this website, tell me what you think about it and we will have a discussion". So we went to this website and read about how our school was haunted. Not going to lie, I was a little convinced. Until me and my class had something to point out. The website was made on a weebly account. Which is never used for real news and is a site we are familiar with as a school for making out digital portfolio's. This was more than enough to prove this story shady. There are more shady things about this website but by then we had seen enough and concluded our teacher was behind this unexplained website. This was our initial introduction to hoaxes, something we would familiarize ourselves with in the future.
Now that we were learning about hoaxes, it was time for us as a class to make one. So we did.... to fool the entire school! So we each came up with some ideas and mine was to have a news story where a mysterious boy is showing us in High Tech High, and nobody knows who he is. I really loved the idea of someone 'mysterious' and wanted to apply that. The backstory was that he had been kidnapped and escaped long ago and is now wandering around an found his way near here. I then paired up with someone and we further developed this hoax and presented it to the class. Writing this with someone else was amazing, there were some ideas that had to be sacrificed, because we came up with a few different things but in the end we just made a stronger hoax all together. We ended up choosing a different hoax, witch everyone loved. It was that High Tech High had a Bananadine outbreak long ago that was covered up but the police are shedding light to it now. We further developed this idea as a class and worked to make the hoax happening. A lot of difficulties came up where people struggled to see how this has any connection with our main questions. Or if the hoax was worth it and could damage the reputation on our school once it was out in public. I wrote a "My Story So Far" where I talked about this more in depth .
Murder mystery time! I was shocked walking into class the next week of our failed hoax to see a "Slip or Trip" story that looked like this...
We learned an important skill while investigating if this woman had killed her wife or not... that is backing up observations and claims with a rule! For example at first looking at this picture we pointed out the glass in his had looked weird because who falls and has a perfectly intact glass? Nobody.. therefore the wife framed him and is guilty. Now we can back it up more properly saying. The man had a intact glass cup in his hand, when falling one usually tends to grasp anything to prevent themselves from falling or if anything, position they're arms where they can protect they're head or self to cushion fall. This way we eliminate jumping to conclusions and reason better. This helps us touch on our essential project questions, how can we ever be sure of anything and how to find the truth? Well, make sure to reason and not jump to conclusions to be sure of something and to find the truth look at the (crime?)scene and look at the details, the proof can be there. Read about this proof in my police report here!
This is my work in progress essay of what threats are facing journalism today! I definitely still share my point of view but would add way more and expand more on my thinking now that I have more understanding on fake news.
It was time to think like a business. Me and my team were 'hired' to sell these pills that make you live for 300 years? Th problem is there is no research to back it up and its really shady. Well, this happens all the time and we fall for it as these ad companies have tricks up their sleeves that cause us to click on that one ad that says "Scientist hate her, this is how she looks 30 but is 70". We used a persuasion technique called pathos, where we appeal to the emotions of our audience. If you have ever seen the commercial for the sick dogs that need rescuing where they play the background music "in the arms of an angel".... That is a perfect example of pathos. Have a look at my teams attempt at that!
So now we are learning about fake news, learn its been around for centuries, how it exists to make money and the different levels of it. From this is a true event but is written with a bias to a crazy, blatant lie to get you to click on the story, share the "news" and bring money to human behind the screen sitting on a throne of lies. I was that person for a while, when our teacher had all of us write our own fake news! Immediately I wanted to do something Donald Trump related because I know people who hate him will eat up anything about him saying he did something horrible. Easy. But I wanted to do something more strange so I decided it was going to involve Pokemon GO! A very popular app that had many people talking a few months ago. And I always was a fan and tend to fall for conspiracy theories about the government doing shady things. And I mixed these ideas up and got this article, Government Spying On Millions Through Pokemon GO! I had many red flags ( Signs its a fake article) such as the "?!" in the title (articles like this are usually fake because they tend to be clickbait) also I showed extreme bias through loaded words such as "sadly, unfortunately". Reliable sources and news show now bias words like this, they are there to inform people on the facts, and let them decide what they stand for, not feeding them opinions and labeling it as news. My own story changed from too many red flags, nine to four. This is enough to grade a story as fake and unreliable
We wanted the exhibition to be a chill cafe where you can get some pastries, tea and learn about fake news. So the vision was walk into the room and have jazz music playing, someone greets you, tells you something a long the lines of "Welcome to Cafe Faux! We have learning all about fake news and how to not get fooled, we also want to help you not get fooled, if this is something you're interested in go ahead grab an article, some tea along with a cookie. Then read you're article and we will help you after that". The wall is full of our fake news articles we had been working on for weeks. Students sit next to the strangers, hand them a 'baloney detector' witch is a list with red flags we created to help people decide if news is fake. I helped as a manager make sure everyone finished their jobs, asked some people to make a sign and helped with our cafe name, Cafe Faux. I remember getting really good vibes when the cafe was in action, I could confidently say I believe everyone walked out learning something new. Weather it was that they didn't even know that fake news was so common, to a new red flag and skill to use when reading news. When I reading my article to someone I couldn't help but to feel excited to reveal to them that its fake, and what makes it fake. I hoped to send them away with a better understanding, and make sure they don't get fooled online as easily. If anybody ever does an exhibition similar to this one my advice would be to really prepare for any questions the people who walk in may have. Also to be very clear with the baloney detector and make it easy for anyone to follow.