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UK Think Tank Wants School Teachers to Address “Conspiracy Theories”



UK Think Tank Wants School Teachers to Address "Conspiracy Theories"

Here’s a very interesting BBC report on British youth learning about conspiracy theories on the internet.

Is the internet rewriting history?

Osama Bin Laden is not dead; 9/11 was an inside job; and police were slow to tackle this summer’s rioters as an excuse to lock up a whole raft of young black men.

Conspiracy theories like these are nothing new; opposing views to the official line given by authorities are in fact crucial in exposing deceptions.

However, independent think tank Demos says that young people do not know how to navigate this information when it appears on the Internet.

“We have something like a Wild West on the internet,” says Jamie Bartlett, senior researcher at Demos.

“There’s a huge amount of very trustworthy, academic, good bits of journalism [on the internet], more than ever before, which is extremely liberating.

But at the same time, equal proportions of distortions, propaganda, lies, mistruths, half-truths and all sorts of rubbish. It can be very difficult, especially for younger people, to sort the wheat from the chaff.”


As part of their research into the influence of the internet on young people, Demos teamed up with creative agency Bold for a workshop exploring digital literacy at a secondary school in Tower Hamlets, in East London.

Pupils were asked to rate various sources of information – the government, Twitter, the Guardian newspaper, their family – according to how much they trusted it. The results were telling.

Closest to the heading ‘Trust’ the pupils placed YouTube; somewhere near the heading ‘Distrust’, they placed the government.

As part of the exercise, the pupils were asked what kind of videos they had viewed online. A lot of discussion ensued about various conspiracy theories. All the pupils had seen videos about 9/11, but were not sure who had made them.

“Those ones are true,” said Aminul Islam, 16.

“There was a documentary, I forgot the name of the guy, but he presented evidence that 9/11 was an inside job. I saw it on the internet – I don’t know what website it was,” said Rizwan Choudhury, 16.

It is the same with news surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden. Pupils said that they had found evidence showing that he was not killed when it was reported that he had been.

The pupils at this school are predominantly of Bangladeshi Muslim heritage, and stories relating to Muslim communities are a common theme in their internet research.

However, Demos say that this problem is not limited to one community, but is prevalent among deprived communities in general.
‘Digital literacy’

At another school session – this time at Shorefields Technology College in Liverpool, the class is more ethnically diverse. Videos raising questions about 9/11 are still the first examples of conspiracy theories to be discussed.

Some pupils are more sophisticated in their knowledge. They point out a need to double-check facts and sources and not take information directly from sites such as Wikipedia. But there is still confusion about the way the internet operates.

“I was searching on Google,” said pupil Faye Barkley.

“I just believed the first answer that came up, to be honest. I know I shouldn’t do it, but Google’s like a trusted website; it’s a lot of people’s home page and you just automatically put trust in it.”

Demos’ report into digital literacy brings together existing research alongside a new survey of 500 teachers across England and Wales.

The report says that students did not verify sources, had poor understanding of how search engines work, and were not good at differentiating between propaganda and accurate information.

“These are the skills now that are so central to education and to broader life for young people, but it’s just not getting taught enough.”

What is needed, according to Demos, is ‘digital judgement’. The think tank says it should be a core part of the curriculum, alongside functional skills that are already taught.

At Shorefields Technology College in Liverpool, teachers say that they are already trying to improve their pupils’ internet skills, placing emphasis on research and interpretation of information.

“We’re no longer a knowledge-based industry, we’re about developing the independent learning skills of students.”

Associate head teacher Larry Wilson says that he is very aware of the power of the internet, but argues that it should be embraced.

“The impact of the internet is colossal but we sometimes dwell too much on the negatives and not the fact that it’s been so liberating.”

“I don’t welcome that people will be taken down the garden path so we [teachers] have to skill ourselves up to ask the right questions as well.”


There is certainly plenty of confusion about who or what to trust at the school in Tower Hamlets. The pupils have recently been watching videos and reading about links between government figures and the News of the World, leaving them ever unsure about who is telling the truth.

“Why should we trust the government when everything that is being broadcast on TV could be misleading us as well… what are we supposed to believe?” said Reema Begum, 16.

A tough question, and not one that anyone in the classroom could answer completely.

“A lot of the information on the internet is radical historical revisionism,” said Jamie Bartlett.

“Without a common base of history that we all understand and accept and agree upon it’s very hard for people to have a shared understanding of where we are now.”

– Source

I wrote above that this BBC report was “interesting” – not for its content – but for the way it treated the issue. It is a classic case of double-speak as described in the novel 1984 (WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH), where the definition of critical thinking is reversed. Critical thinking implies questioning the official version of a story, seeking alternate sources of information and processing everything to come to an independent conclusion. This is exactly what some of these young people have accomplished, yet the report concluded that they have not used critical thinking because they have believed sources that are not deemed trustworthy (not mass media). Instead of praising their resourcefulness, they are almost perceived as a threat.

There is no question that critical thinking and fact checking is absolutely necessary when researching information. There is indeed a lot of garbage and propaganda on the internet. But what about the #1 source of propaganda in the world: mass media? Why isn’t critical thinking towards the biggest information machine in the world being taught?

Let’s take this very report and apply some critical thinking to it. Who are the authors and what message are they trying to convey?

UK Think Tank Wants School Teachers to Address "Conspiracy Theories"

Logo of Demos: Keeping an "eye" on the people.

Demos is a think tank that is said to be “independent” but is, in reality, strongly connected with corporate media and the government. In fact, the Chair of Demos, Philip Collins was the Chief Speech Writer to the Prime Minister Tony Blair until 2007. As for the BBC, it is the biggest news network and is owned by…the Crown. So, chances are, the editorial view of these entities are “pro elite”.

How is this report treating “conspiracy theories” (I hate that term and I put it in quotes because that is the term used by the media)? Are they alternative explanations that deserve some attention or ridiculous stories invented by ignorant people?

At first, the little “theorists” are shown to be mostly Muslims, subtly implying that alternate views are usually accepted by those who naturally sympathetic to terrorists. The report then goes on to state that conspiracies are not only believed by Muslims but also poor people (and therefore not educated people).

“However, Demos say that this problem is not limited to one community, but is prevalent among deprived communities in general.”

Deprived communities?

The report closes with an odd statement from a Demos researcher:

“Without a common base of history that we all understand and accept and agree upon it’s very hard for people to have a shared understanding of where we are now.”

In other words, if the youth does not fully buy and agree with the official version of History – the one that was written by the elite – we won’t have the society we’re looking for. Is the report truly promoting critical thinking or the unquestioning acceptance of official propaganda?


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That was my school they went to. Those were my classmates. The article definitely left me confused as to why they'd point out the fact that the majority of the students were Muslims- as if that would explain why they're looking up the 9/11 'conspiracy theories'. And the whole 'deprived communities' thing…that doesn't even make sense.What is the need to point that out? They try to make it out that we're being mislead by the diverse views on the internet…hey, at least we get different stories online. The stuff we hear on the news is pretty much always one-sided. And as Reema Begum asked 'what are we supposed to believe?'


what the hell is this?

Again they are trying to degrade muslims?

WTF is this?

A normal rational person will think twice before declaring bin-ladin dead because of the fact that no proof was given of his body or his appearance or his death etc……

Didn't this man blamed for wrecking havoc all over the world deserve to be humiliated in the most horrific manner in front of the world for his tyranny and oppression and his perverted interpretation of islam???

Didnt the american people want the man who caused them so much grief be brought in front of them?

How could he have been mysteriously thrown out in the occean without the u.s government showing proof of their victory?

Fact is they want to make islam the outdated, extreme religion which it is not.

When the time for the Dajjal/ Anti christ will come most people will not believe that he is evil becuase of the miracles he can perform.

But we know better!

Thanks VC, awareness must be spread the world is slowly moving towards the end…..


Since I was younger, I've always felt the need to come to my own conclusions about things. I hated people telling me what was right and what wasn't. I never blindly believe anything anyone tells me. I look into the matter by myself and form my own conclusions based on what I think is right, and not anyone else's opinion. I wish more people would do the same, especially those teenagers around my age.

I'm not saying I have all the answers and that I'm right about everything, but at least what I do know I have formulated myself. My beliefs really are MY beliefs.


I've been reading up on articles on this website, and a few others for quite some time. It's just sad what's going on currently, In school, all of our classes had a "discussion" on 9/11 and all the kids in my class believed anything the teacher or the videos they show said. Then we had to write a response on how we felt or some bull crud, I wanted to write about how I thought it was a bunch of bull. Also this article is upsetting and obviously morphing the truth. School is nothing anymore, they teach us to use "official websites" for doing research, as well as that the government does everything they can to help us. I'm 13 years old, and this isn't news to me, kinda sad isn't it?

Another teenager.

I have 8 siblings, and it frightens me that they are ALL involved in the ever-lasting game of 'Charade'.

Targetting Children? That's sick, only the lowest of scums would go there.

I hope god gives mercy to the future generation that are yet to come.

If they do come, that is.

& this is coming from a 14 year old. >_>


of course they only quote muslim students when referring to the farce that was 9/11…implying that because they are muslim they are obviously prone to believing internet "lies." not only ridiculously, but also offensive.

im not saying what i read on the internet is 100% correct but neither is anything on tv. its best to hear both alternate and mainstream points of view and make conclusions yourself.

Charles Bond

Interesting that Demos, a left-wing think tank, should choose the Guardian as their newspaper choice (why not a range of papers with a range of views?) and present people who reject views in the Guardian as easily-led.


I am a teenager living in the UK and in English we where discussing the death of the nurse that answered the prank call almost everyone in my class believed there to be more then meets the eye and our English teacher encouraged this type of thinking, also my citizenship teacher is quite the 'conspiracy theorist' and we constantly discuss conspiracy theory's in class.


Dear reader Well, I should not say that I have the answer to everything, but as far as I know, what I believe I know almost everything about but I always say: "It is up to you to search and look not by a centered side, try to see by every spot, and also, I am not saying that it is the truth, it is only about knowledge, search and viewpoint". Also, speaking about the "real world" pressure, we are in the same boat, but in my case, the major problem here is my family. About the post subject, well… Actually only my Sociology teacher applies a kind of "think tank" during the classes, but the other schoolmates turn the whole think a boring time because they start to distract my teacher speaking about other things like the last soccer game, the daily soccer fans conflicts about teams being better. Also, while the distraction happens, the conversations get loud and loud and suddenly the whole classroom turns into a battlefield with pens and erasers flying. I have already talked with my Sociology teacher about the above thing, but the same thing always happens. Now about my family, well… My parents,… Read more »


some times i read this website and it blows my mind how people fall for such things… and then i go out into the real world and im considered the crazy one, people have told me that im paranoid and showing signs of skitzophrenia (bad spelling sorry) it just blows my mind how there is so many people on here but i know no one in real life that even acknowledges these topics… they just blow it off like its nothing its like everyone is zombies

o brien

i have not seen much here about the occupy wall street movement which is growing all over the world, so get out there and join in, this is it people, get moving, stop hypothesising, pontificating and moaning and go tell the story together, on the streets, write smart graff, print cool posters, let the truth be heard from your voice the illuminati they rule the world like a business t h e m it's time to expose them to all the sleepyheads, who have been avoiding the truth, ignoring the obvious and obscuring reality with appearances for so long, WAKE EM UP be constant, diligent and vigilant Be the truth Speak the truth We are all waking up to God now He is within us The holy spirit is in the house Occupy Wall Street with LOVE


btw by farce i dont mean that it didnt happen. ive never heard any cgi plane theories until now but thats just utter bullsh!t. it was real of course, it was just an inside job. the film zeitgiest does a greta job of explaining and provides actual evidence unlike alot of theories


hi people i agree totally with u guys…..

i have found one interesting text that all of u should read just once to understand that people like u and i arent crazy….. but in fackt that we are the ones that arent crazy…. and the ones that can see and understand…..


Great article VC. Well researched, well analyzed. It is entirely true that independent thought & critical analysis have been removed from the 'curriculum' (elite doctrine) by design. If they were genuinely trying to promote pro-active analysis they would need no such curriculum to exist


Kudos to you for catching this article! While most of my immediate family members are of adult age and "awake", if you will, I have a young sibling still in high school. While she is also "awake", she still has a ways to go regarding the critical thinking aspect of understanding conspiracy theories, however, she has well enough of a mind to relate to me the every day horrors witnessed in her school. These horrors being the general "zombification" of her peers. She feels as though she is outside looking in, observing her brainless peers and their obliviousness to the real happenings of the world. She notes the level of ignorance among them, the levels within levels of ignorance. While she has the capacity to observe and understand the bigger picture, events from subjects within politics to mass media to the New World Order, her peers busy themselves with matters as insignificant as brand of jeans. She relates to me details about her classes and the information that was given and NOT given, and I encourage her to always seek out the real truth.

She is not even 16.


And I can tell you as a former educator that internet and computer games have a detrimental and harmful effect on a minor's psychology. Since adults become obsessed with the internet and become unable to control their internet consumption, what makes you assume that minors will be able to control their online behaviour?


I have to say….I love this website. I like how vigilant citizen poses questions and in this particular article it seems like he encourages critical thinking by pointing our examples of the texts that deserve scrutiny. I read the quote and "deprived communities" and it made me question what the article was trying to convey.


My goodness, they shouldn't be so obvious…this thing is so slanted it's damn near upside down! LOL Don't trust the internet, they were saying…accept the official version, 'our' version of facts. Which is how we got into the mess we are in now! No one should EVER accept one version of a story, internet or no internet, read, listen and read again from a variety of sources to draw your own conclusion. Because people are biased, sometimes they just lie…lots of things slant the truth. That's what I tell my kids don't believe ME or anyone, look it up and do the research yourself. Use your own mind! Stop with the group think! smh!!


When teachers are brainwashed, what do you expect the students to be? Thank god i broke free…

Parents, teachers, and the media shape kids. Last night was open house, and i had to raise money for Darfur for my club and over half the parents didn't know there is a war going on, or they just didn't give a damn. Then you wonder why there kids act so damn stupid in school. It's brainwashed teachers AND parents who believe whatever the "reputable" media sources say. Its like when the media doesn't mention something people forget about it. But the war in Darfur isn't even a "conspiracy theory", and even then they don't care. It's like my generation is meant to be doomed. We need to educate and inform everyone around us! These words should be coming out of an adults mouth, but there not.


The classic reversal of order trick! These people must really think that everyone is super stupid, but if they've gotten this far with their agenda then that also says something about us as the 'masses'. Their reign will come to an end and God will establish a kingdom that will stand forever and ever. Amen people!


no-one has an hard cold facts that 9/11 was true or false, or sels there wouldn't be an arugment, so no, children to NOT need to be guided on the internet on such topics. nothing will be guided insetad of what they want to force their opinon to be, is what will happen. proper spelling, grmmar, and such make stories credible, not the fact that it is a huge money-making company or newspaper.

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