Mother has moment of truth that leads to her rejecting conspiracy theories she believed

Like millions of Americans, Karen Robertson of Iuka, Mississippi believed in conspiracy theories. But one day she had an experience that convinced her to challenge her beliefs. She spoke about that moment with student reporter Makenna Mead of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Youth Media Project. Their conversation is part of our Student Reporting Labs series on misinformation, "Moments of Truth."

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Like millions of Americans, Karen Robertson of Iuka, Mississippi, believed in conspiracy theories, until, one day, she had an experience that convinced her to challenge her own beliefs.

    She spoke about that moment with student reporter Makenna Mead, who is with Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Youth Media Project.

    Their conversation is part of our Student Reporting Labs series on misinformation, Moments of Truth.

  • Karen Robertson, Mississippi:

    It was easier to believe that there was someone, something out there to get you, and that's why my life was as bad as it was.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Karen Robertson:

    Hi. I'm Karen Robertson. I'm 30, and I'm a single mom.

    We're here to talk about the fact that I actually believed in conspiracy theories once upon a time ago.

  • Makenna Mead, Mississippi Public Broadcasting Youth Media Project:

    Can you tell me, like, a couple of the conspiracy, theories that you believed in?

  • Karen Robertson:

    There was one that I don't even know how to describe it.

    Apparently, our birth certificates look like some type of like shipping things where we're selling stuff to China. Basically, China owns us.

    And there's a movie called "Zeitgeist." They are trying to show you that, like, a lot of what you have been taught isn't factual. And then, at some point, they go on to 9/11 being an inside job. I kind of just straddled the fence on that one.

  • Makenna Mead:

    What resonated with you about the conspiracy theories?

  • Karen Robertson:

    I was in an abusive relationship that I didn't realize at the time was abusive. I was trying to make the world make sense, and it was easier to believe that it was a bad place and something was out to get you, and that's why my life was where it was at and as bad as it was than it was to realize I had made bad choices.

  • Makenna Mead:

    Can you tell me why you kind of went off and researched all of the things that you believed in?

  • Karen Robertson:

    There was a very specific night actually that caused this.

    This guy and I were talking, and he knew about all these different conspiracy theories that I did. Then, towards the end of the conversation, he was like, get this, flat Earth. And I was like, I thought he was joking. And he's like, dude, there's evidence that the Earth is flat.

    A little while later, I saw him use a very, very hard drug. It made me realize, if I am thinking like someone like that, that I should reconsider my belief system.

    So, the very next day, I actually searched how to disprove a conspiracy theory. A month, maybe even less, went by before my brain just kind of clicked, and I was like, all of this is a bunch of hogwash.

  • Makenna Mead:

    If you could go back in time and you could talk to a younger version of yourself that believed all those years ago, what would you say to her?

  • Karen Robertson:

    I definitely would tell her that things are going to get better, because I think that was part of her problem. It's hard to change minds.

    But that would ultimately be really cool if just a couple people could decide to go look up something and challenge their own beliefs. That's going to be the moral of my story, because, when I challenged my beliefs, it changed my world and it made my life better.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What a great conversation.

    And we salute Student Reporting Labs', our own reporter Makenna Mead.

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