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  • Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice.

  • Rob: And I'm Rob. Hey Alice...

  • I read in the paper recently that the substance called "fluoride" might be bad for our health.

  • But it's in nearly every brand of toothpaste, isn't it?

  • Alice: You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Rob.

  • Fluoride protects our teeth against decay.

  • Rob: But there's a theory that drug companies are using fluoride to affect our brains...

  • and make us all dumb...

  • Alice: That's ridiculous Rob!

  • Rob: Well... I'm not sure if I believe it or not. But it is worrying me.

  • Alice: Do you also worry that the moon landings never really happened?

  • Rob: It's funny you should mention that because... yes!

  • I wonder about this too... Apparently, in the 1960s television footage of the moon landing,

  • the American flag is fluttering...

  • and there's no air on the moon so the US government must've faked it!

  • Alice: To fake something means to make something that isn't true appear to be real.

  • I didn't realize you were so gullible Rob.

  • And that means easily persuaded to believe something.

  • Rob: I just like to question things.

  • Alice: Oh, I see...

  • Rob: I have a healthy distrust of authority, Alice.

  • And today we're talking about conspiracy theories.

  • A conspiracy theory is a belief that some organization or group of people

  • is responsible for a situation or event through secret planning.

  • Alice: We'll talk more about how healthy this type of distrust might be later on in the show.

  • But now please focus your intellectual powers on today's quiz question, Rob.

  • Around what proportion of the US population

  • believes that the assassination of President John F Kennedy was not the result of a lone gunman?

  • Is it... a) 6%? b) 16%?

  • Or c) 60%?

  • Rob: I'll go for b) 16%.

  • Alice: Well, we'll find out if you chose the right answer later on in the programme.

  • But for now let's move on. Let's talk about what types of people are thought to be susceptible to

  • or likely to be influenced by... conspiracy theories.

  • Rob: The stereotype is of a loner, maybe male, middle aged, sitting in front of the computer.

  • But in actual fact this isn't true.

  • People of all ages and from all social classes are susceptible to conspiracy theories.

  • Lots of us worry that important things are being covered up

  • and a cover-up means an attempt

  • to prevent the public from discovering information about something important.

  • Alice: Let's listen now to Professor Chris French from Goldsmiths,

  • a college within the University of London, talking more about people who believe in conspiracy theories.

  • Chris French: There are quite a few personality dimensions that seem to be related to belief

  • in conspiracy theories and not surprisingly paranoia is one of them;

  • also openness to new ideas ... people who are

  • willing to entertain ideas that are kind of off the beaten track.

  • People who believe in conspiracy theories tend to believe in the paranormal.

  • Rob: That was Professor Chris French. So he says that paranoia is a personality trait

  • Or quality that leads some people to believe in conspiracy theories.

  • Alice: Paranoia is a strong and unreasonable feeling that other people don't like you

  • or want to harm you.

  • Rob: And ideas that are off the beaten track are those which are unusual

  • and aren't shared by many other people.

  • Alice: Believing in the paranormal

  • means believing in strange things that can't be explained by science, for example, ghosts.

  • Rob: Ghosts, yes. Do you believe in them, Alice?

  • Alice: No, Rob, I don't. How about you?

  • Rob: Well, maybe.

  • Alice: Moving on. Most of the time believing in conspiracy theories is quite harmless and

  • might even be good ... because we shouldn't just accept everything that we're told.

  • But there can also be serious consequences.

  • Let's hear more from Professor French on this.

  • Chris French: Studies have shown that people are less likely to engage with the political process.

  • People who accept medically based conspiracies

  • are likely to avoid getting their kids vaccinated.

  • And even terrorist acts ... it's been shown that terrorist groups will actually

  • use conspiracy theories

  • as both a means to get new recruits and also to motivate people to carry out extreme terrorist acts.

  • Rob: So the toothpaste thing I mentioned at the beginning of the show is a medically based conspiracy theory?

  • Alice: Yes.

  • Rob: But more serious examples are parents choosing not to vaccinate their children against

  • diseases because of unsubstantiated ideas that they are harmful

  • 'unsubstantiated' means 'not supported by evidence'.

  • Alice: That's right. OK, now remember the question I asked earlier, Rob?

  • Around what proportion of the US population believes that the assassination of President

  • John F Kennedy wasn't the result of a lone gunman? Is it... a) 6%, b) 16% or c) 60%?

  • Rob: Well, I said b) 16%.

  • Alice: And you were wrong today, Rob, I'm afraid.

  • The answer is actually c) 60%.

  • And this statistic comes from a Gallup poll from 2013 that suggests a clear majority of

  • Americans still believe others,

  • besides the gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, were involved.

  • Rob: That's more than I expected. But they might have a point.

  • Alice: There you go again... Come on, Rob.

  • Now let me remind everybody what words we've heard today. They are:

  • to fake something

  • gullible

  • conspiracy theory

  • susceptible

  • cover-up

  • trait

  • paranoia

  • off the beaten track

  • paranormal

  • unsubstantiated

  • Rob: That's the end of today's 6 Minute English. Please join us again soon!

  • Both: Bye.

Alice: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice.

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B2 UK rob alice conspiracy paranoia fluoride gunman

BBC 6 Minute English May 19, 2016 - Conspiracy theories

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    Adam Huang posted on 2016/05/21
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