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Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Eating of Humans

The other day, through a randomly speculative Google search, Hugo and I came across this blog entry on black babies serving as bait for alligators in the American South. The phrase ‘alligator bait’ that now operates as a racist slur refers to the purported stealing of black babies by whites in order to use them as bait to catch […]

28 June 2013
What Edward Snowden has achieved, so far

One of the things that interests me about the current fuss concerning Edward Snowden and the information that has come from him into the public domain via the Guardian and the Washington Post is the light it sheds on reasons why citizens might legitimately be suspicious of their governments.  I wrote a piece about this angle recently in the Observer/Guardian, and my […]

Hunting for Conspiracy Theories, Part Two
Hunting for Conspiracy Theories, Part Two

I finished the previous blog with two questions: if we go hunting for conspiracy theories, where should we look? And what are the actual beasts we can expect to encounter? In some ways, what follows is therefore a first stab at some kind of taxonomy of conspiracy theories. It is undoubtedly possible to build such […]

27 June 2013
Hunting for Conspiracy Theories, Part One
Hunting for Conspiracy Theories, Part One

In the draft version of their paper which circulated on the internet and was simply titled “Conspiracy Theories,” the American legal scholars Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule surveyed the field of research and in light of this came to a simple quantitative conclusion: “The academic literature on conspiracy theories is thin …” In much of […]

17 June 2013
Politics and the Paranoid Style
Politics and the Paranoid Style

We’ve had quite a lively debate about Hofstadter in the last meeting, as is witnessed by the wonderful blogs by Alfred and Andrew, who very much help in placing him in his context. What I wanted to do was to extract from the piece the abstract conceptual tools Hofstadter affords us in his analysis of the paranoid style, […]

11 June 2013
When is a coup not a coup?

This transcript of Rush Limbaugh talking about the NSA/Prism business is an interesting example of how the paranoid style has evolved.  Three things strike me about his argument here.  First, just how self-conscious – or even self-aware – it is.  Limbaugh spends a lot of time explaining that he knows how this sort of talk will […]

10 June 2013
Paranoia and Style
Paranoia and Style

This week we revisited Richard Hofstadter’s seminal piece on the “paranoid style” in American politics. The article is in one sense very much a product of its time. He follows a broadly elitist framing of democratic politics in terms of an opposition between the intellectual and technocratic elites required for the administration of complex societies […]

7 June 2013
Reflections on Alfred’s Reflections on Hofstadter’s Reflections
Reflections on Alfred’s Reflections on Hofstadter’s Reflections

Actually “reflections” might be the wrong word in Hofstadter’s case. What he delivered in his essay, which we discussed in our last meeting, was a diagnosis. Of course, Hofstadter was careful here. He states clearly in his essay that he is not talking about paranoia in a literal sense and that furthermore the “diagnosis” he […]

All the President’s (Wo-)Men?

Try this fun little Spiegel conspiracy theory quiz (in German). Martha Mitchell was the wife of the Attorney General John Mitchell, who was Richard Nixon’s campaign manager. During the Watergate scandal she repeatedly insisted it was Nixon himself who was responsible, but was dismissed as a quack. You know the rest of the story. Was Mitchell dismissed because […]

2 June 2013
Religion and conspiracy theories

I suggested in my last entry that there was a link between religion and conspiracy theories, and this is something I want to explore a little further here. My original thought had concerned the psychological make-up of people who believe conspiracy theories, namely that those who see the world in broad black-and-white categories – ‘good […]