YANSS 245 – The Conspiracy Theorist Who Changed His Mind

I recently sat down with the great Tim Harford for an interview on his wonderful podcast, Cautionary Tales, and Tim asked me to tell a story from my new book, How Minds Change. In this episode, I play that episode in its entirety.

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Charlie Veitch was certain that 9/11 was an inside job. The attack on the World Trade Center wasn’t the work of Al-Qaeda, but an elaborate conspiracy. He became a darling of so-called “9/11 truthers” – until he actually visited Ground Zero to meet architects, engineers and the relatives of the dead. The trip changed his mind… there was no conspiracy.

His fellow “truthers” did not take Charlie’s conversion well.

David McRaney (host of You Are Not So Smart and author of How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion) joins Tim Harford to discuss what happened to Charlie Veitch; what it tells us about those who hold strong beliefs even in the face of damning contrary evidence; and why persuasion isn’t always the right answer.

Tim Harford

Tim Harford’s long-running column in the Financial Times, “The Undercover Economist,” reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences. His first book, The Undercover Economist, was published in 30 languages and sold more than 1.5 million copies. He is also the author of eight other books, including Messy, and his latest, The Data Detective.

He has hosted several radio series for the BBC, including More or LessHow to Vaccinate The World, and 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. The Times of London has rated both More or Less and 50 Things among the world’s best 10 podcasts. Tim has written for publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including Esquire, Forbes, Wired, New York Magazine, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He lives in Oxford with his wife and three children.

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Previous Episodes

The Episode at the Cautionary Tales Website

Tim Harford’s Twitter