I do my best to be a jovial barman for our customers - duty bound to be as hospitable as possible. But over the past couple of years my patience has been increasingly tested by a growing number of brain-disengaged pillocks strolling into Irie’s Bar and trying to school all comers in their latest instalment of social-media-sourced nonsense.

With a worldview centred around spoon-fed beliefs, conversations with cult converts are an exhausting torment - like talking to a stone - frustrating. Any facts offered to challenge their latest conspiracy theory, taken as proof that you are stupid, or part of the conspiracy. Give us all strength.

Nowadays, I reckon we all know a few individuals who belong to what used to be called the lunatic fringe, spending far too much time nodding along with their Twitter (X) or Facebook feed, setting themselves up as unwelcome mouthpieces for the swamp-like outreaches of the internet that more rational people prefer to avoid.

These are the same guys who banged on and on about Covid, its origin and its spread. Remember how they became convinced that Covid was related to 5G mobile phone networks until realising how profoundly bonkers was their contribution? Did they give up? Of course not.

They went on to claim that the virus was engineered; then, that it was a Chinese or United States bioweapon - the usual suspects suggested a Jewish plot to force mass vaccinations or sterilisations - others said it was spread as part of a Muslim conspiracy; a government population control scheme - a moving feast of paranoid gibberish amplified by the wild pontifications of waning celebrities desperately seeking our attention, some relevance, and your money - I give you Russell Brand, Neil Oliver, and David Icke. Bewilderingly, conspiracy theorists are convinced by these self-serving and deeply suspect sources.

The truth is that conspiracy theories are no more than a project in fundraising proliferated by latter day snake oil salesmen monetising controversies through their Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube channels - divisive messaging routinely and seductively intertwined with unrelated no-brainers such as, do you love animals? Do you care about children?

The situation would be laughable were it not for the fact that conspiracy theories have long been a breeding ground for dangerous ideologies that prey on the anxieties of the public in order to advance a political agenda. Whether it’s the demonisation of immigrants, anti-Semitic claims about globalist agendas, or the vilification of mainstream media, these theories thrive on stoking fear rather than fostering constructive dialogue. From the absurd notion of lizard people controlling the world to the more insidious falsehoods surrounding climate change denial, these are theories that sow seeds of discord, and divert attention away from genuine societal challenges.

And the self-serving willingness with which some UK politicians are prepared to deploy misinformation became clear back in 2016 when Farage and his followers enthusiastically raised the spectre of a fixed vote in the final hours of the Brexit election (remember the fuss about pencils?) right up until the moment they realised they had won. We dodged a bullet that time, but the manipulation of public sentiment through falsehoods can wreak devastating consequences. We have already witnessed a violent mob storming the US Capitol fueled by concocted theories of a stolen election.

By casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections, scientific consensus, and public health measures, conspiracy theorists jeopardise the social contract that binds citizens to their government. Therefore, as we grapple with a deluge of this misinformation, it becomes imperative for individuals, regardless of their political affiliation, to confront and excoriate baseless narratives that threaten the essence of a well-informed society. It is our responsibility to foster an environment where evidence-based discourse can prevail over the corrosive influence of unfounded conspiracies.

Hopefully, the accelerating proliferation of fake content created by artificial intelligence will effectively teach a gullible population the requirement and the knowledge of how to identify suspect sources. The silver bullet against conspiracy theorists and their ridiculous ideas will (as always) prove to be education. Clearly, too late for many, but better equipping future generations with critical thinking skills is the obvious antidote to increasing foolishness. A job not only for the education system, but for all of us who choose to think.