A better way to think about conspiracies

Avoid theories that seem tailored to fit a predetermined conclusion

After the November election, I spent a fair amount of time arguing with conservatives who were convinced that it had been stolen for Joe Biden, and after a while I noticed that I was often playing Whac-A-Mole: They would raise a fishy-seeming piece of evidence, I would show them something debunking it, and then they would just move on to a different piece of evidence that assumed a different kind of conspiracy — shifting from stuffed ballot boxes in urban districts to computer shenanigans in suburban districts, say — without losing an iota in their certainty.

That kind of shift doesn’t prove the new example false, but it should make you suspect that what’s happening is a search for facts to fit a predetermined narrative, rather than just the observation of a suspicious fact with an open mind about where it leads. If you’re reading someone who can’t seem to internalize the implications of having an argument proved wrong, or who constantly cites easily discredited examples, you’re not being discerning; you’ve either wandered into someone’s ideological fixation or you’re a mark for intentional fake news.