My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston.

As I kept up with the news about the bombings yesterday via Twitter and Facebook, two thoughts came to mind.

The first was the unreliability of reports circulating right after a tragedy such as this one. I can’t even imagine what the immediate post-9/11 rumor mill would be like today with social media. One only has to look back a few months to the Newtown to see how inaccurate reports were and how those reports were used to construct conspiracy theories such as this one or these.

The second was how important it is to understand conspiracy thinking in order to prevent being swept up in the emotions of an event like yesterday. As someone pointed out on Twitter, this week marks the anniversary of a number of violent attacks, including Oklahoma City and Waco. Not only did the individuals responsible for those events believe in conspiracy theories, those events themselves spawned a number of conspiracy theories as people rushed to judgment because of what they wanted to believe was true.

We have a lot of fun in my conspiracy theories course discussing outlandish ideas, but as I’ve said before, what I ultimately want my students to walk away with is the ability to critically analyze evidence and claims and come to a rational conclusion and not do or say things that demonstrate their apparent lack of concern for humanity.

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