Whenever someone uses the term “doesn’t fit the narrative”, such as “You won’t see that on CNN because it doesn’t fit the narrative”, that person is expressing a conspiracy theory.
This is a dangerous conspiracy theory because that person believes that all mainstream media are lying to us. This is regardless of how thorough and sound the reporting is or how many years that media outlet has been building integrity.
The theory goes that there is a Deep State controlling our government behind the scenes that directs the mainstream media to feed the United States populace a false narrative as a means of controlling what we think and do. Further, the more outside a source is from the mainstream media, the more reliable the information to the conspiracy theorist.
Thus, an average (unknown) person on YouTube spouting angry conjecture is more reliable than the New York Times, regardless of how impeccable the reporting at the Times has been, or how thoroughly the editors post retractions or corrections when there are inevitable errors, or how balanced the Times is by giving all sides a voice.
This is the same mentality that is coming from the anti-vaxxer movement, where the more outrageous or “natural” the remedy the more reliable it will be, regardless of whether it has been tested for safety or efficacy. Both the Narrative and Anti-vaccination conspiracy theories are hinged on the belief that the government is hiding the truth, that mainstream media is lying to us, and that corporate power-brokers control everything.
"Digital technology empowers real-seeming fictions of the ideological and religious and scientific kinds. Among the web’s 1 billion sites, believers in anything and everything can find thousands of fellow fantasists, with collages of facts and “facts” to support them. Before the internet, crackpots were mostly isolated, and surely had a harder time remaining convinced of their alternate realities. Now their devoutly believed opinions are all over the airwaves and the web, just like actual news. Now all of the fantasies look real." (Andersen, 2017)
Because of the achievements in digital technology, the Narrative conspiracy main achievement is dividing us by making it difficult for people to accurately discern fact from fiction. Since humans are a social species, this conspiracy theory stimulates the need for people to belong by creating subgroup communities where their beliefs are reinforced. The echo chambers of extremely biased news, opinion, and conjecture further mar the ability of people to critically assess what they are watching, hearing, and reading.
I used to have a gentleman on my social media network who would post outrageous article. Each article posted he would add "Vetted!" as his introductory comment. Yet, whenever I read the articles and probed further, I could not determine what basis he was "vetting" the article on. In fact, it was extremely easy to dismantle the conclusions of the articles by vetting the source of the article and the sources that the article referenced. Pointing out these discrepancies brought on some lively debates (friendly and respectful, but also impassioned) and a few retractions from my friend. The point is that my friend believed he was vetting the article by conducting biased research (searching for sources that support the article, which he already agreed with). The need for social acceptance from like-minded people drove him to seek-out their help (and the act of discovery was assumingly exhilarating for him).
Sadly, I had to let my friend go as Trump’s presidency raged on, he became more radicalized and less willing to discuss things logically, let alone respectfully. Likewise, I have had friends from school block me for being openly Socialist, speaking out against Trump, conveying opinions about race relations and the LGBTQ, and most recently for siding with scientists regarding the COVID-19 safety protocols.
Increasingly, I have encountered the “doesn’t fit the narrative”, especially since COVID-19 reared its ugly head. I have found that people saying this phrase will shut-down all discussion or become hostile and in extreme cases, violent.
Thus, the moment someone says, “doesn’t fit the narrative”, you can immediately discount any argument that person has because they are effectively radicalized. This person has discarded critical thinking. This person will not accept or assess new information beyond refuting it as another lie. Furthermore, 99.9 percent of the people who use this term are Trump supporters, which makes sense because he has been feeding the anti-media and anti-science movements for years.
Although it will be difficult to come back from this, it is not impossible.
Andersen, K. (2017, September). How America Lost Its Mind. The Atlantic. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/how-america-lost-its-mind/534231/