The Fifth Ring: How Conspiracy Theories are Born


As we all know, there was a glitch in the Olympic opening ceremonies yesterday. But not everyone saw it:

Somehow it seemed fitting when a set of floating snowflakes suddenly transformed themselves into Olympic rings — but only four of them. The fifth snowflake never changed.

Russian television viewers, however, saw all five rings, as the show’s producer Konstantin Ernst recognized the malfunction shortly before it occurred and immediately ordered an image from rehearsals to be transmitted in its place. “It would be ridiculous to focus on the ring that would not open,” said Ernst later. “It would be silly.”

That’s quick thinking! But I suspect it’s going to give birth to a thousand conspiracy theories. After all, millions of Russians saw all five rings, so why are all the Americans and Europeans saying there were only four? It must be Photoshop trickery from Westerners designed to make Russia the butt of jokes. Right?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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