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Tinfoil Digest: Do You Speak Internet Edition

Tinfoil Digest: Epic Takedown Edition

Our writers' recommendations include a book about internet linguistics, a documentary about breatharianism, and a podcast about medical malpractice.



Kristina, Disinformation Researcher — The second wave of COVID-19 has brought about more pandemic-related conspiracy theories and disinformation. Recently, theorists have been accusing doctors and hospitals of covering up the “truth” about COVID-19. This Politico article focuses on an Italian conspiracy theory that turns doctors from heroes to terrorists. You can follow Politico Europe here, and Greta Privitera here.



Alice, Editorial Assistant — This week I am recommending a book: Because Internet: Understanding How Language Is Changing by Gretchen McCulloch, the resident linguist for WIRED. In this enlightening tome, McCulloch walks us through the linguistic features of the internet, explaining—among other things—WHY USING ALL CAPS MEANS YOU’RE SHOUTING, the phenomenon of separating your sentences with strings of commas or periods ,,,,,..... and the surprising patterns behind keysmash (“asdfkfjas;dfl” is more common than “tfggggggggggggggggzzz”). McCulloch’s book is not only fascinating but refreshing; it's rare for someone to write about language with such joy.

You can follow McCulloch on Twitter here, on Instagram here, and buy Because Internet: Understanding How Language Is Changing in a bookstore near you.


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Devika, Senior Fact Checker — This year started with one of the biggest protests India has ever seen: the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests. Now, it is ending with the farmers' protests. Both protests have been targeted by right-wing trolls. Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact checking website Alt News, explains what has been going on.


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Joe, Senior Researcher — Following on from Lucy Valentine’s excellent article on the pitfalls of wellness, I am recommending a fantastic documentary by the YouTube channel Atrocity Guide. The account has quietly been doing an excellent job of covering strange stories that straddle the real world and the realms of digital reality, hoax, and artifice. This particular video tells the story of Naveena Shine, who chose to vlog her journey to become a “breatharian”—the name for someone who claims to meet all their nutritional needs from the sun. Atrocity Guide charts the history of the movement, using Shine’s vlogs as a guide. Along the way, we learn about the dangers of the fringe parts of the “wellness” movement, its gurus, and its frauds.

Watch Atrocity Guide’s documentary here and follow Atrocity Guide’s Twitter here.


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Ishaana, Disinformation Researcher —  2020 will go down as the year of many things, but as a disinformation researcher, I will remember it as the year of the infodemic. Logically has witnessed disinformation wreck faith in electoral processes, medical science, and vaccines, and has also seen the rise of disinformation and misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Here is a deliciously long read on the disinformation of 2020 and how it broke the U.S. from Jane Lytvynenko of Buzzfeed.


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Edie, Deputy Editor — My recommendation this week is a hard-hitting and in places almost unbelievable story about medical malpractice. This episode of the podcast Bodies introduces us to Melynda, a woman who, alongside thousands of others, was injured by a device that manufacturers knew was unsafe but continued to market anyway. Back in May, I wrote about how exactly these kinds of real-life public health betrayals fuel belief in conspiracy theories, and how we won’t tackle those beliefs until trust in medicine is restored. Follow the host of Bodies, Allison Behringer, here.

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Tinfoil Digest: Epic Takedown Edition

Our writers' recommendations this week include a mind-bending fan video about a top Q hunter, a look at the psychology behind conspiracy theories, and some light relief in the form of a podcast about Princess Diana.