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Category Archives: Conspiracy Theories

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
How do conspiracy theories relate to non-democratic regimes?

In their now infamous paper on conspiracy theories, Sunstein and Vermeule write that ‘in a poll conducted in seven Muslim countries, 78 percent of respondents said that they do not believe the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Arabs, the most popular account, in these countries, is that 9/11 was the work on the US […]

17 December 2015
Are conspiracy theories a threat to democracy?

When I began reading around the literature in conspiracy theory coming out of psychology and political science in particular, and certainly in discussions of conspiracy theory in the media, there was what struck me as a lazy and somewhat self satisfied assumption, never really cashed out, that conspiracy theories were undermining democracy. The ‘dangers to […]

30 November 2015
Conspiracy theories, surprises and democracy

What most – pleasantly – surprised me was how it was in fact possible to link conspiracy theories directly to politics. Most of the literature on conspiracy theories I encountered at first analysed it from the perspective of psychology, American studies etc, but the survey work I have been doing with Rolf and YouGov opened […]

24 November 2015
New blog series answering the ‘big’ questions

Ever since we embarked on the project, we’ve found that the subject of our inquiry has intrigued people.  Journalists, visitors, academic colleagues and members of the public regularly ask questions like: What’s your definition of a conspiracy theory? What have you found out? Are conspiracy theories bad for democracy? Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? […]

18 November 2015
The Miami Conference

“It’s hard to question a category and measure with it at the same time” – it was in these terms that my colleague Alfred attempted to explain one of the many rifts running through a recent conference on conspiracy theories. Since the 1980s conspiracy theories have been discovered as a topic worthy of serious academic […]

3 April 2015
An algorithmic approach to trustworthiness

Apropos last week’s symposium on virality, and in particular the relative speeds of online dissemination of truths and untruths, this paper from Google researchers is interesting.  At the moment, Google ranks search results using a proprietary algorithm (or, more likely, set of algorithms) which perform some kind of ‘peer review’ of web pages.  The essence […]

7 March 2015
The Conspiratorial Queue? Perceptions of ‘anti-government’ aesthetics
The Conspiratorial Queue? Perceptions of ‘anti-government’ aesthetics

What does a conspiracy look like? What are its visible, outward signs? The visual images that we associate with the idea of conspiracy often relate to secret plotting, to scenes that emerge into public view only fleetingly – even if their effects are long-lasting – or to events that occur outside public sight: ‘hidden hands’ […]

26 February 2015
Of Cynics and Conspiracy Theorists

What separates cynics from conspiracy theorists? When people use the language of conspiracy it’s not always clear exactly what sort of conspiracy they have in mind. In this post we analyse the data from our opinion poll to explore how respondents talk about hidden power.

23 February 2015