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Courageous Conversations

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The Influencers

We are living in a world where disinformation and propaganda are leading people to make new and different choices about who to trust. Learn why people trust influencers as thought leaders. People can persuade others by leveraging both their authority and their authenticity. Thought leaders and influencers can also inspire people to hate – and hate can lead to violence. We don’t have to agree with the trust decisions that others make – but everyone wins when we’re more reflective about who we choose to trust. 

How do we decide who to trust? 

Learn about why people trust influencers more than experts, authorities, and other thought leaders and discuss: 

  • Who do you trust? Who influences you? Why?

  • Who are the thought leaders and influencers you avoid? Why?

  • Which influencers & thought leaders have high levels of authority and/or authenticity?

  • OPTIONAL: Who do you influence? How do you do it? What makes you credible and trustworthy?

Listen In 

Discussion Support Tools 
Bring this discussion program to your school or community

🍎 The Influencers Lesson Plan. Learn how to help people reflect on who and what they choose to trust. 

💙 Make a copy of the Google Slide Deck for this topic.  You can then edit your copy as needed.

❤️ Video Summary. Learn how people persuade others by leveraging their authority and their authenticity, in ways that sometimes inspire others to disrespect or even hate others.

Reading and Discussion. Learn about how dehumanizing and vilifying a person or group of people can provoke what scholars and law enforcement officials call stochastic terrorism.

Planning Guide. Everything you need to offer a Courageous Conversation in your community. 

For Educators  
Address RI state standards with curated curriculum resources 

CG.P.1: Identify what political power is and who has political power in a society.

H.HP.1: Identify key people, central ideas, and the mechanisms by which stories are told and retold regarding an event or series of events, centering the voices of historical actors and groups engaged in resistance and change.

😎 Curated List of Resources.  A collection of resources for supporting educators looking to teach about how people decide who and what to trust. 

📌 Creative Expression Ideas. Engaging ideas for project-based learning and simple media production. 

What You Can Do

Keep Learning


Understand Who Influenced You

The Keller Institute has a cool exercise that encourages you to create a list  where you reflect on your whole life, in 5 or 10-year increments, on who influenced you. It is important to reflect previous influences and influencers as they play a role in shaping our behaviors, attitudes, perspectives and even our life decisions. Without knowing these, we can develop blind spots that keep us from reaching our potential.


How Fake Experts are Used to Mislead

John Cook’s video traces the history of the rise of fake experts from the 1950s to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Brainwashing a Generation”: British Schools Combat Andrew Tate’s Views

This article from the New York Times explores how teachers are addressing the popularity of anti-feminist influencer Andrew Tate, who was recently arrested in Romania on charges of rape and human trafficking. 

Stochastic Terrorism Uses Disgust to Activate Hate

Thought leaders and influencers are weaponizing disgust to fuel violence, and it’s affecting our humanity. Learn more in this article from Scientific American. 

The Most Powerful Influencer Ever

The influence of Mr. Trump is fueling anger among both  Republican and Democratic voters and turning real issues that our country needs to address into a deep and dangerous rift. How can we leverage the power of influencers to have respectful and productive debates about abortion, gun control, and the role of parents in their children’s education? 


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