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The Anthill

Author: The Conversation

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The Anthill is a show for curious minds, with a mix of everything from science, history and psychology to politics and economics. We unearth new stories from the world of academia, bringing new and cutting edge research on the big issues of the day. The Anthill is produced by The Conversation, a not-for-profit media organisation which provides a platform for academics to share their expertise with the general public. It's hosted by Annabel Bligh, business and economy editor at The Conversation UK.

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A number of conspiracy theories have sprung up in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. The false idea that the virus is somehow linked to the rollout of 5G technology has led to a number of attacks on broadband infrastructure and engineers. We explore this and many others in the sixth and final part of our Expert guide to conspiracy theories.Media expert Marc Tuters talks us through the main coronavirus conspiracy theories that are doing the rounds and how they differ on various social media platforms. He tells us how they started to circulate back in January on the fringe message board website 4chan. We also discuss what social media platforms are doing to limit the spread of this misinformation – and how effective this can be.Psychologist Karen Douglas is also on hand to explain why the different coronavirus conspiracy theories gained so much traction, so quickly. She outlines the three main psychological reasons why people find solace in these alternative explanations for what’s going on. And what research tells us about how dangerous these conspiracy theories can be for public health and society.The Anthill podcast is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware for The Conversation. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. Thanks to Clare Birchall, Michael Butter and Peter Knight for support in making this podcast and the COST action COMPACT for helping to fund it. Also thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Conspiracy theories might be entertaining but they can also be dangerous. Sadly, what often starts off as a bit of fun can turn sour quite quickly – even if it’s laughing about the idea that Rihanna or Katy Perry are part of the Illuminati. We find out how.This episode delves into some of the psychology behind what makes conspiracy theories dangerous. It also explores the relationship between conspiracy theories and the radicalisation of extremists. And we find out the best ways to talk to people who believe in conspiracy theories.Psychologist Steve Lewandowsky tells us there is a strong link between people who endorse conspiracy theories and reject climate science. What makes this dangerous is the way that conspiracy theories are used by climate change deniers to justify not acting to reduce carbon emissions.We also find out more about the links between conspiracy theories and extremism. Political scientist Eirikur Bergmann tells us how populist politicians use conspiracy theories to their advantage, particularly one called the Great Replacement theory. This is the idea that white people in the west are at threat of invasion and being replaced by non-white immigrants.We also learn how to engage with conspiracy theorists and how difficult it is to convince hardline believers that they are wrong. Psychologist Karen Douglas tells us that it's easier to inoculate people against believing in conspiracy theories in the first place.And anthropologist Ela Drazkiewicz shares insights from her research into attitudes toward HPV vaccination in Ireland. She explains how mistrust of the health authorities led to a dramatic 30% fall in vaccination uptake between 2014 and 2017. But she also offers hope, describing how the Irish health service managed to turn this around and restore trust in the vaccine.The Anthill podcast is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware for The Conversation. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. Thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. Special thanks to Clare Birchall, Michael Butter and Peter Knight who helped bring this podcast into being, and to the COST Action COMPACT for funding it. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Part four of the Expert guide to conspiracy theories from The Anthill podcast explores whether the internet has been a game changer in helping conspiracy theories go viral. First, though, we find out how conspiracy theories spread before platforms like Facebook and YouTube came along and gave everyone the power to broadcast their thoughts to the world.It’s important to differentiate between the producers of conspiracy theories and the consumers, which philosopher Quassim Cassam talked about in part one of the series. The producers often push a political ideology. They are also very good at dressing up their theories in academic language. This can make it difficult for the non-expert to recognise a conspiracy theory as bogus and is important for their initial spread.But what makes these ideas really take hold is the people that buy into them – the consumers. Annika Rabo, an anthropologist from Stockholm University in Sweden, tells us how people enjoy spreading conspiracy theories because it can make them seem funny or clever. Most people don’t just spout a conspiracy theory as they hear it, they will often adapt it to their situation – and their audience.Michael Butter, American studies scholar at the University of Tübingen in Germany, gives us some insight into the history of how conspiracy theories spread in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some were preached from pulpits and incited riots. Then, advances in printing technology made it easier for conspiracy theories to spread. Publishers made money selling fanciful stories – some that were openly fictional, others that were fake exposés.We also delve into the world of conspiracy theories as entertainment. Clare Birchall, reader in contemporary culture at King’s College London, talks us through literature in the 1960s, 70s and 80s that engages with conspiracy theories in a playful way and uses them as a device to tell stories. We find out how The X-Files did something similar in the 1990s.The internet has changed the game for communication in terms of how quickly information travels and how it gives everyone a platform to broadcast their views. But Stef Aupers, professor of media culture at the University of Leuven in Belgium, explains that this doesn't necessarily mean conspiracy theories reach more people. In large part, this is because most people end up in echo chambers online. Nonetheless, these echo chambers help solidify people's views.Correction: this podcast refers to the 2019 mass shooting targeting Mexicans in El Paso, Texas, as happening in El Paso, New Mexico.The Anthill podcast is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware for The Conversation. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. Thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. Special thanks to Clare Birchall, Michael Butter and Peter Knight who helped bring this podcast into being, and to the COST Action COMPACT for funding it. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
How are the origins of the French Revolution connected with Beyoncé, Jay Z and Rihanna? The answer lies with one of the world's most mysterious – and misunderstood – secret societies, the Illuminati. The strange evolution of the conspiracy theory surrounding this short-lived secret society, mirrors the modern history of conspiracy theories. We find out how in part three of our podcast series.The Illuminati was a real secret society of intellectual elites in the late 18th century. Michael Butter, professor of American literary and cultural history at the University of Tübingen in Germany, tells us their goal was to promote Enlightenment thinking – ideas such as rational thought and the separation of church and state.The society only lasted a few years before being forced to disband by the conservative authorities of the time. But conspiracy theorists say the Illuminati never really disappeared. They were accused of orchestrating the French Revolution, which started in 1789. Andreas Önnerfors, associate professor of intellectual history at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, says it was such a violent revolution and caused so much upheaval across Europe that people looked for someone to blame.We find out how the Illuminati then became the bogeyman for dark forces at work in the world. The conspiracy theory dramatically morphed in the 20th century, particularly following the publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fake transcript of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders plotting world domination. Then, after the second world war, it was picked up by conservatives in the US and played a part in fuelling anti-communist witch hunts.Researcher Lindsay Porter explains how things take a weird turn in the 1960s when elements of the counterculture began to parody the conspiracy theory. And how today, certain pop stars are accused of being part of this secret society that rules the world.The Anthill podcast is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. Thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. Special thanks to Clare Birchall, Michael Butter and Peter Knight who helped bring this podcast into being, and to the COST Action COMPACT for funding it. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Polls show that most people believe in at least one conspiracy theory. Considering the number of conspiracy theories there are, perhaps this isn’t surprising. But research shows that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are more likely to believe in others.Part two of the Expert guide to conspiracy theories, a series from The Conversation’s Anthill podcast, discovers who these people are. We find out what psychological factors influence whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not. And how things like the time and place that you live, who your friends are and who holds political power makes you more open to certain conspiracy theories.Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor of psychology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, explains his theory that humans are hardwired to believe in conspiracy theories. He says the circumstances of hunter gatherer life meant that our ancestors adapted to be overly suspicious.Times have changed but humans are stuck with this hangover from hunter gatherer times that we sometimes struggle to shake. We speak to psychologists Karen Douglas and Aleksandra Cichocka at the University of Kent in the UK to find out why certain people today are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than others.We find out how political beliefs influence whether or not people believe in conspiracy theories. Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami in the US, talks us through his theory that people who vote for the losing side in an election are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than those on the winning side.For a slightly different perspective on who believes in conspiracy theories, we talk to anthropologist Annika Rabo from Stockholm University in Sweden. She spent many years in Syria doing fieldwork and tells us how talk about conspiracies permeates society – it’s unavoidable. There are all sorts of conspiracy theories and they relate to the US, to Israel but also their own government.Jovan Byford, a social psychologist at the Open University in the UK, explains why it’s important to understand the historical context in which certain conspiracy theories emerge and flourish. He points out that the status conspiracy theories are given in society influences how popular they are and that not everyone engages with them in the same way. Some take conspiracy theories seriously, but others don't and engage with them for fun.The Anthill podcast is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. Thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios to record. Special thanks to Clare Birchall, Michael Butter and Peter Knight who helped bring this podcast into being, and to the COST Action COMPACT for funding it. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there. Some are bizarre – like the idea that Elvis faked his own death. Or that Britain’s royal family are actually shape-shifting alien lizards. A growing number of people believe the world is flat.A lot of conspiracy theories relate to politics. That 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government so it could start wars in the Middle East. Or that powerful groups like the Illuminati are pulling the strings behind the scenes, plotting to establish a New World Order. Or that the new coronavirus is a bio-weapon engineered by the CIA.Part one of the series explores what these many different ideas have in common and grapples with what actually makes something a conspiracy theory. We speak to Peter Knight, professor of American studies at the University of Manchester. He says there are three important characteristics to conspiracy theories:First, that nothing happens by accident. The idea that in history, there are no coincidences, no cock-ups. The second idea is that nothing is as it seems. The suggestion that you need to look beneath the surface to detect the actions and the intentions of the evil conspirators. And the third idea is that everything is connected.One of the difficulties with defining conspiracy theories is the fact that history is littered with real plots and conspiracies. Jovan Byford, senior lecturer in social psychology at the Open University, tells us how to spot the difference. We also speak to Clare Birchall, reader in contemporary culture at King’s College London. She challenges us to consider who we label a conspiracy theorist and why. We find out how many conspiracy theories that sound outlandish make a lot more sense when you scratch beneath the surface of why people believe in them.Andrew McKenzie-McHarg, senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, explains how the term conspiracy theory evolved from simply being a neutral theory about a conspiracy to a more loaded term. And Quassim Cassam, philosophy professor at the University of Warwick, argues that conspiracy theories are always a form of political propaganda. He says we must be aware of what ideology they are pushing and we must differentiate between the producers of conspiracy theories and those that believe in them.The Anthill is produced by Annabel Bligh and Gemma Ware. Sound design is by Eloise Stevens, with original music from Neeta Sarl and audio from Epidemic Sound. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Conspiracy theories no longer feel like a fringe phenomenon, with people claiming that Elvis isn’t dead or the royal family are shape-shifting alien lizards, put down as crackpots. Now presidents push them and major events are regularly followed by a slew of sinister ideas involving dark forces at work behind the scenes. Coronavirus is just the latest.Some conspiracy theories may be harmless entertainment or a sign of healthy scepticism, but others are dangerous because they can fuel racism, violence, terrorism and chaos. With the prominence of conspiracy theories seemingly on the rise, we set out to better understand them.Over five episodes, we speak to dozens of academics who have spent their careers researching different elements of conspiracy theories. Most are part of Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories, an international network of conspiracy theory researchers, which supported the making of this podcast.Psychologists tell us why some people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than others, and why there's a spectrum ranging from the conspiracy curious to hardcore believers. Anthropologists explain why conspiracy talk is commonplace in some parts of the world but not others.Conspiracy theories have evolved over the centuries, from ancient times to the present day. We discover how conspiracy theories were at the birth of the United States and how the idea of the Illuminati – a purported secret organisation pulling the puppet strings of major organisations and governments – evolved from the French Revolution and which now supposedly counts Jay-Z and Beyoncé among its members.We find out how conspiracy theories spread and the extent that the internet has changed the game. We also investigate how dangerous conspiracy theories can be and why – whether it’s climate change denial, anti-vaxxers or political extremists.All that and much more coming up on The Conversation’s Expert guide to conspiracy theories.Original music by Neeta Sarl and sound design by Eloise Stevens. The Anthill is produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Medicine made for you is a series from The Anthill, a podcast from The Conversation. Across three episodes we're taking a deep dive into the future of healthcare – to find out how it could soon get a lot more personal.In this third and final episode of the series, we’re exploring how treatment offered by your doctor could become more tailored to you in the future.In the past, if you walked into a pharmacy and told them you weren't feeling well, the pharmacist would probably have made up a powder for you – your own personalised medicine. But with the introduction of antibiotics and modern medicine which is much more regulated, this personalised service fell away.Come the 21st century, some researchers are looking at ways to introduce more personalisation back into pharmaceuticals in the future – using 3D printing. We find out more.This episode also explores other ways researchers are looking to personalise the treatment options available to patients, from new ways of doing cancer screening trials, to social prescribing – programmes where GPs refer patients to a host of other services in the community to help improve their health and wellbeing.Featuring interviews with Professor Robert Forbes at the University of Central Lancashire, Professor Mike Messenger at the University of Leeds, Dr Alison Fixsen from the University of Westminster and Chris Dayson, principal research fellow at Sheffield Hallam University.The music in this episode is Is That You or Are You You? by Chris Zabriskie, Hallon and FB-01_#2 by Christian Bjoerklund and Serenade for String Orchestra, No 20 by Edward Elgar performed by US Army Strings. Medicine made for you is produced and reported by Holly Squire and Gemma Ware, and hosted by Annabel Bligh for The Anthill podcast. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios.Read more about precision medicine and the personalisation of health in our series of articles on The Conversation. You can sign up to get a daily digest of facts each day by signing up to our newsletter. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In the second episode of Medicine made for you we’re looking at the food we eat and how dietary advice could soon get a lot more personalised. Listen to our producer Gemma Ware go through a two-week experiment with her identical twin sister, aimed at trying to better understand which factors influence the way people react to particular foods. The PREDICT study involved eating lots of special muffins, and doing lots of blood tests. But the results are surprising – and show that everybody reacts differently to different foods, even identical twins.We also explore what role a person's microbiome has in their health and whether it will ever be possible to personalise dietary advice based on the bacteria in your gut. And we look at wider questions about what kind of personalised nutritional advice actually gets people to change their behaviour.Featuring interviews with Professor Tim Spector from King's College London and Professors Glenn Gibson and Julie Lovegrove at the University of Reading.The music in this episode is Is That You or Are You You? by Chris Zabriskie and Hallon by Christian Bjoerklund. Medicine made for you is produced and reported by Holly Squire and Gemma Ware, and hosted by Annabel Bligh for The Anthill podcast. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios.Read more about the personalisation of healthcare in our series of articles on The Conversation. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Medicine made for you is a brand new series from The Anthill, a podcast from The Conversation. Across three episodes we're taking a deep dive into the future of healthcare – and find out how it could soon get a lot more personal.In this first episode, we look at genes, clinical trials and how possible it might be for the NHS to take on a more personalised approach when it comes to our health. And we find out why Scotland, a country of 5.4 million people, with one of the lowest life expectancies in western Europe, is a pioneer of this kind of research.Taking a much more precise approach to treatment means that for some diseases, doctors can prescribe drugs based on a person’s DNA. Known as precision medicine, this kind of approach is breaking new ground in the treatment for some diseases. And it could change medicine for good.Featuring interviews with Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Dr Susie Cooke, Professor Andrew Biankin and Professor Iain McInnes at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Stephen MacMahon at the University of Oxford.The music in this episode is Is That You or Are You You? by Chris Zabriskie. Medicine made for you is produced and edited by Holly Squire and Gemma Ware, and hosted by Annabel Bligh. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios.Read more about precision medicine and the personalisation of health in our series of articles on The Conversation. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
In Medicine made for you, a new series from The Anthill podcast, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the future of healthcare – and find out how it could soon get a lot more personal.We’ll hear from leading academics about the personalisation of healthcare, how it’s changing the way we think about our bodies, and the choices we might make about our health in the future.The Anthill is a podcast produced by The Conversation, hosted by Annabel Bligh. The Medicine made for you series is produced by Gemma Ware and Holly Squire. The first episode will launch on 18 February. Listen via The Conversation, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.The music in this trailer is Is That You or Are You You? by Chris Zabriskie. A big thanks to City, University of London, for letting us use their studios. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Episode five of To the moon and beyond, a podcast series marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Episode four of To the moon and beyond, a podcast series marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Episode three of To the moon and beyond, a podcast series marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Episode two of To the moon and beyond, a podcast series marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
The first episode of a new podcast series marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
A new podcast series exploring the last 50 years of space exploration and the 50 years to come. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
A panel of academic experts assess Narendra Modi's victory in the final episode of our India Tomorrow series. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Part six of The Anthill podcast's India Tomorrow series focuses on the concerns of young Indians. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Part five of India Tomorrow takes a look at India’s economy. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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Comments (2)

Marie Helene B

I really enjoy the Anthill - unusual and smart look at a wide variety of topics, usually surprising. I always take away some interesting facts that feed my conversation. Makes me feel more intelligent :)

Aug 7th
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Marie Helene B

Fascinating podcast, especially about tbe deep ocean and the search for alien life - both topics looked at with very smart angle.

Aug 7th
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