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Category Archives: Controversies

Aesthetics of conspiracy theories

Nice blog post by a pseudonymous colleague (whose identity is not so secret that he cannot be unmasked after a few moments of assiduous link-following!) He (for it is a he — or perhaps one should say ‘an he’) postulates six rules for a well-formed CT: Rule 1. Lack of evidence proves that there is […]

18 March 2014
A New British “Dolchstosslegende”?

Following the visit of Boris Barth a few weeks back and his wonderful account of the origins and development of the stab-in-the-back legend in Germany after WWI and its relation to conspiracy theory, this comment caught my eye: A narrative has emerged that ascribes Britain’s military difficulties to a failure by politicians to follow the professional […]

21 November 2013
The Dummies’ Guide to Conspiracy Theorising

A question that has surfaced repeatedly in our Conspiracy & Democracy weekly meetings is when – if ever – we can conclusively identify someone as a conspiracy theorist. For, as our Directors mentioned at the recent highly successful Festival of Ideas event, we are not concerned with proving or disproving conspiracy theories and neither are […]

1 November 2013
Hindsight and its drawbacks (updated)

Hindsight, as the saying goes, is the only exact science. It can also be a liability, because it enables us to view events of the past – and contemporary theories about them – with an unwarranted degree of condescension. That was one of the most useful insights provided by Thomas Kuhn’s work on the history […]

25 August 2013
There are conspiracy theories and conspiracy theories

“The reason there are conspiracy theories”, runs an old adage, “is because sometimes people conspire”. They do, which is one reason why the sneering condescension with which people talk about conspiracy theories is, well, unwise. It may make statistical sense (because the majority of conspiracy theories are unfounded), but it’s not good epistemology, because sometimes […]

20 August 2013
The death of Dr David Kelly

“Having written the biography of David Kelly”, writes Robert Lewis, “I have found out many new secrets, but have finally let go of the conspiracy theories.”  Ten years ago, Dr David Kelly  Britain’s foremost authority on biological weapons, and perhaps Britain’s leading expert on Iraqi WMD, was found dead in an Oxfordshire wood, apparently as a result […]

6 July 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 […]

28 June 2013