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HISTORY, POLITICAL THEORY, INTERNET

Category Archives: Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy and Democracy at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2017

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas will be arriving this October and Researchers from Conspiracy and Democracy will be hosting and contributing to a number of free public events on subjects of Conspiracy, Populism, and Truth. The Festival of Ideas, which is now in its tenth year, consists of hundreds of free events over two weeks, […]

13 September 2017
“Denial”: how to deal with a conspiracy theory in the era of ‘post-truth’

I only have a very small part in the film Denial compared to those of David Irving (played by Timothy Spall), Richard Rampton QC (played by Tom Wilkinson), Anthony Julius (played by Andrew Scott), and Professor Deborah Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz), but I like to think it’s an important one. When Irving sued Deborah […]

15 February 2017
Are you serious?: Measuring belief in conspiracy theories – Rob Brotherton

Psychologists love to measure things, and psychologists who study conspiracy theories are no exception. To understand where conspiracy theories come from, we need to be able to measure the extent to which people believe them. But measuring things is often trickier than it first appears. At first glance, it seems pretty straight-forward. Pick a few […]

25 May 2016
Are conspiracy theories a threat to democracy?

Conspiracy theories are a marginal phenomenon, a form of disreputable counter-knowledge, and therefore unlikely to bring down strong democratic governments. Nonetheless, a case might be made that they contribute to a sometimes misplaced trust in elites. By all accounts, such trust is at historic lows. Complacency and political cynicism may be at corresponding highs. As Hugo noted, […]

13 January 2016
Can conspiracies be distinguished from other forms of collective action?

Can conspiracies be distinguished from other forms of collective action? Certainly. Conspiracies are (at least partially) a subcategory of collective action. The terms covered by the collective action umbrella range from proximate categories which may, perhaps, be indistinguishable, to those that are completely distinct. Unlike ‘conspiracy theory’, ‘conspiracy’ is easy to define: conspiracies are necessarily […]

12 January 2016
How do conspiracy theories relate to non-democratic regimes?

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories are prevalent in the margins between democratic and non-democratic regimes. By their very nature, hybrid regimes are a likely site for conspiracy theorising: partially free media outlets, elections, and other democratic institutions, which may coexist with authoritarian practices. In such an environment, where expression is possible, but constrained, elections are free […]

11 January 2016
What has surprised you the most in your study of conspiracy theories?

When I joined the project I thought of conspiracy theories as part of a family of arguments that point to simple agency rather than acknowledging more complex or even random interactions. The precise ways in which conspiracy theories are different from other forms of explanation seemed (and still seem) to me more normative than substantive. […]

5 January 2016
A note on privacy

The standard definition of a conspiracy is ‘a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful’. The first working term is ‘secret’. This then raises the question of whether a collective action is protected by positive or malign secrecy. In the language of our times, secrecy is usually a pejorative term, whereas […]

23 December 2015
How do conspiracy theories relate to non-democratic regimes?

One of the striking features of ‘conspiracy theory’ in the advanced democracies is how marginal it is. Conspiracy theory is a term of derision, and political leaders tend to be wary of being associated with any claims that could plausibly be called a conspiracy theory. The anxious liberals of the 1950s who gave us terms like ‘conspiracy theory’ […]

21 December 2015
Can we distinguish conspiracies from other forms of collective action?

It is not hard to come up with some formal tests that ought to distinguish conspiracies from other forms of collective action. Conspiracies are secret, intentional, malign schemes agreed among a small group of named (or nameable) individuals. A more synoptic test might be that a conspiracy only exists where a secret scheme would unravel […]

19 December 2015