Conspiracy 101
A course on conspiracy theories and disinformation
Crisis situations, such as pandemics and wars, make us search for answers to explain difficult situations. Some people look for answers in conspiracy theories…
Conspiracy 101 is a free online course on conspiracy theories and disinformation. Lectures, podcasts and illustrated texts cover origins and impact of anti-Ukrainian narratives before and during the Russian full-scale war against Ukraine, conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 pandemic and the historical origins of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Also, we look at psychological reasons for conspiracy belief. Researchers and journalists discuss specific cultural and political features, freedom of expression and critical thinking in Ukrainian, German and Russian society.

Participants of the online course learn how to distinguish conspiracy theories from propaganda. You will practise to critically examine assumptions, to fact-check information on the Internet and gain an understanding of the nature of the origin of anti-Semitism, anti-vaccinationism and fake news.

The new course in Ukrainian was jointly created with the animation studio NEED from Kyiv. We invite all young people interested in its topics to enrol in it!
Course structure
In this section we talk about the historical roots of conspiracy theories and the long tradition of antisemitism in Europe. Current examples are when we hear about Jewish conspiracies, when George Soros is blamed for all crises or politicians of Jewish origin. Why do these conspiracy theories sit so firmly in people's heads? Where did they originate and who/what prompted their appearance? Which role does the fake document of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion play?
Section 1
History and present of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories
Ukraine-centric pseudo-scientific theories please us with involvement in something significant and important. At the same time, they are completely erasing Ukrainian history, which cannot be allowed in today's circumstances of a full-scale war. Ukrainians need to fight against Russian historical fakes, and for this they need to know the real picture of the origin and life of the Ukrainian people. Also, there are conspiracy theories around the influence of the West in Ukraine that are widely spread and could endanger Ukrainian democracy.
Section 2
Pseudoscientific theories about the origin of Ukrainians and their influence on world history
When the pandemic started, insecurities were growing while conspiracy theories related to medicine flourished, such as by the anti-vaccination movement. The spread of conspiracy theories around Covid-19 had similar patterns worldwide, however, the governments and civil societies of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Germany responded in a very different manner to this challenge. We asked experts why people distrust the medical system and believe in the conspiracy of Big Pharma. Spoiler: In fact, it is all about not understanding the full picture of the situation and the desire of our brain to end this condition.
Section 3
Fake news with fatal consequences: Conspiracy theories surrounding the pharma industry and Covid-19
In the following section at first we discuss how shadow governments allegedly work. How, where and why did this idea arise and how are the Masons involved here? Do Ukrainians believe in a shadow government and does this affect the course of the war in Ukraine? Secondly, we look at an actual government that has been fighting its self-proclaimed "information war" against Ukraine for years. In the context of the Russian war of aggression, conspiracy theories are a central part of Russian state propaganda.
Section 4
More than power. The Russian information war against Ukraine
At the end of the course, the question of the connection of democracy and conspiracy theories is raised. How and by whom are conspiracy theories being spread in democratic societies? How popular are they and who believes in them? Read about the example of German society exposing the danger of conspiracy theories and “alternative” media through radicalisation. In the latest episode of the podcast, we discuss with experts, why society cannot be completely free of conspiracy theories.
Section 5
Conspiracy theories and democracy: struggle or coexistence?
After finishing the course, you can take part in an essay contest to win a study trip to Berlin! The announcement of the competition will follow soon.
How much do you know about the spread, reasons and dangers of conspiracy theories?
Experts
Oleksandra Gorchynska is a journalist working with well-known Ukrainian media. She covers social issues in her articles.
Oleksandra Gorchynska
Petro Oleshchuk is a political scientist from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Petro Oleshchuk
Kateryna Bragina is a graduate student in psychology at Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University. She studies hubristic motivation and emotional intelligence of the elderly.
Kateryna Bragina
Mykhailo Koltsov is a philosopher and expert in cyber security, data analysis and fact-checking.
Mykhailo Koltsov
Artur Koldomasov is an expert on US politics and international information at the ADASTRA analytical center.
Artur Koldomasov
Yuriy Amir Radchenko is a PhD candidate of historical sciences, director of the Center for the Study of Interethnic Relations of Eastern Europe, Kharkiv.
Yuriy Amir Radchenko
Vyacheslav Likhachev is a public figure, historian and political scientist in the fields of ethnopolitical conflictology, nationalism, the history of anti-Semitism and revival of Jewish communities in the post-Soviet space.
Vyacheslav Likhachev
Olga Lazorko is a doctor of psychology, head of the Department of General and Social Psychology and Sociology at Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University.
Olga Lazorko
Oleksandr Symonenko is a Ukrainian archaeologist, a specialist in the history and archeology of the Sarmatians, a doctor of historical sciences, a leading researcher of the Early Iron Age Archeology Department of the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Oleksandr Simonenko
Ilya Yablokov
Ilya Yablokov, PhD, is a Lecturer of Journalism and Digital Media at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield
Partners
Citizen+ is funded by the Federal Foreign Office in the framework of the Eastern Partnership program.
Illustrations: Nadezhda Ukhanova
Learn more about the spread, reasons and dangers of conspiracy theories! (In Ukrainian)

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