Conspiracy theories

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Conspiracy theories are explanations of events or situations that invokes a conspiracy by powerful actors, often political in motivation. Conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media, emerging as a cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Quotes[edit]

  • Conspiracy theory: a theory that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups.
    Conspiracy: a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal
    Theory: 1. An idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events.
  • Conspiracy: a secret plan made by two or more people to do something bad, illegal, or against someone’s wishes
    Theory: something suggested as a reasonable explanation for facts, a condition, or an event, esp. a systematic or scientific explanation
    Conspiracy theory: a belief that an event or situation is the result of a secret plan made by powerful people
  • The reality is that the US has been a nation gripped by conspiracy for a long time. The Kennedy assassination has been hotly debated for years. The feminist and antiwar movements of the 1960s were, for a time, believed by a not-inconsiderable number of Americans to be part of a communist plot to weaken the country. A majority have believed for decades that the government is hiding what it knows about extraterrestrials...
    There is a perpetual tug between conspiracy theorists and actual conspiracies, between things that are genuinely not believable and truths that are so outlandish they can be hard, at first, to believe.
    But while conspiracy theories are as old as the US itself, there is something new at work... historically, times of tumult and social upheaval tend to lead to a parallel surge in conspiracy thinking... our increasingly rigid class structure, one that leaves many people feeling locked into their circumstances... Together, these elements helped create a society in which many Americans see millions of snares, laid by a menacing group of enemies, all the more alarming for how difficult they are to identify and pin down.
  • Conspiracy theories tend to flourish especially at times of rapid social change, when we are re-evaluating ourselves and, perhaps, facing uncomfortable questions in the process... Frank Donner wrote that conspiracism reveals a fundamental insecurity about who Americans want to be versus who they are. “Especially in times of stress, exaggerated febrile explanations of unwelcome reality come to the surface of American life and attract support,” he wrote. The continual resurgence of conspiracy movements, he claimed, “illuminate[s] a striking contrast between our claims to superiority, indeed our mission as a redeemer nation to bring a new world order, and the extraordinary fragility of our confidence in our institutions”. That contrast, he said, “has led some observers to conclude that we are, subconsciously, quite insecure about the value and permanence of our society”.
  • Medical conspiracy theories are startlingly widespread. In a study published in 2014, University of Chicago political scientists Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood surveyed 1,351 American adults and found that 37% believe the US Food and Drug Administration is “intentionally suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure”. Meanwhile, 20% agreed that corporations are preventing public health officials from releasing data linking mobile phones to cancer, and another 20% that doctors still want to vaccinate children “even though they know such vaccines to be dangerous”.... Subscribing to those conspiracy theories is linked to specific health behaviours: believers are less likely to get flu jabs or wear sunscreen and more likely to seek alternative treatments. (In a more harmless vein, they are also more likely to buy organic vegetables and avoid GMOs.) They are also less inclined to consult a family doctor...
  • Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum are professors of government at, respectively, Dartmouth and Harvard... the two write at the beginning of “A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy”... it’s been out-of-power groups that have been drawn to tales of secret plots. Today, it’s those in power who insist the game is rigged, and no one more insistently than the so-called leader of the free world...
    Trump both runs the government and runs it down. The electoral system, he asserts, can’t be trusted. Voter fraud is rampant. His contempt for institutions ranging from the courts (“slow and political”) to the Federal Communications Commission (“so sad and unfair”) to the F.B.I. (“What are they hiding?”) weakens those institutions, thereby justifying his contempt. As government agencies “lose competence and capacity, they will come to look more and more illegitimate to more and more people,”
    The Internet revolution “has displaced the gatekeepers, the producers, editors, and scholars who decided what was worthy of dissemination,”
    Is it possible to make a rigorous study of conspiracy theories? ...Research into conspiracy theories “has been hampered by a lack of long-term systematic data,” Uscinski and Parent, political scientists at the University of Miami and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, write in “American Conspiracy Theories.” Fortunately, “methods are now available to better scrutinize what we think we know.”
    • Elizabeth Kolbert, What’s New About Conspiracy Theories? The New Yorker (15 April 2019)

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