Plots and Conspiracies:
Learning To Tell The Real From The False

A video module coproduced by PREMIERES LIGNES & France Televisions supported by CLEMI, Media Division of the Ministry of Education
National launch in March 2016

Conceived by Paul Moreira, produced by Luc Hermann

Premieres Lignes investigative journalists and France Television have launched a first video module to assist in developing skills to debunk conspiracy theories and combat the distain some young people have for news media.

The work emerged from the newsroom’s own experience with a conspiracy theory that ran rampant after the release of a film documenting the team’s escape from the murderous attack on the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, which was just down the hall from their offices.

The new idea in the approach is that it is proposed by investigative reporters who themselves sometimes have the job of unraveling real conspiracies, such as the cozy arrangements of industry cartels or their secret strategies for protecting their interests. The creators argue that recognizing the existence of real conspiracies can add credibility when trying to reach young people who see conspiracies everywhere.  The goal, they say, is to sharpen their critical skills and help them avoid manipulators from all sides.

The freely available module, is based on a seven-minute video for students ages 13 and older and includes background for teachers. The video is designed to be stopped at four points for students to discuss specific questions it poses. This webpage summarizes the video and offers some additional background. The project is supported by the Ministry of Education and its media in education division (CLEMI).



Premieres Lignes legitimacy

This video first describes the real conspiracy of information perpetrated by U.S. cigarette producers. It then explores the fake conspiracy theories that emerged after the killings of journalists of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Those theories emerged after our news agency released a video we had made when our team fled from its headquarters on the same floor as the Charlie Hebdo office to the top of the building’s roof, guided by two staff members wearing bullet-proof vests.

Through a pedagogical and interactive approach, the video deconstructs all these conspiracy theories by providing simple and transparent explanations to the questions raised as shady and suspicious.

“We realized we had some responsibility in the rise of such conspiracy theorizing. Not a big one, but still. That’s because our job is to question the official version. To introduce some doubt. To sharpen critical thinking.

Some skepticism is a good thing. However it’s worrying to see that, in the name of critical thinking, some young people throw themselves into the hands of online manipulators, or compulsive liars, or into paranoia. Or all three at once.

We hope this video kit allows a discussion that helps even most skeptical to be able to tell the difference.”

Paul Moreira and Luc Hermann