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Thread: Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute

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    Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute

    https://www.vox.com/2019/4/11/182910...ancy-rosenblum

    “Democracy requires a minimum amount of mutual trust among citizens, and conspiracism destroys it.”

    Are we living in a golden age of conspiracy theories?

    That’s the argument Harvard politics professor Nancy L. Rosenblum makes in her new book, A Lot of People Are Saying. And it’s not merely that conspiracy theories are thriving — they’re also getting more absurd, less substantive, and harder to refute.

    In fact, what we’re seeing now, according to Rosenblum and her co-author Russell Muirhead, is more “conspiracism” and less theory. Which is to say, the purpose of conspiracy theories is no longer to explain reality or offer some account of the world; instead, the point is to erode trust in public figures or institutions.

    She points to the recent Pizzagate conspiracy as a perfect example. This was a fake news story alleging that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair, John Podesta, ran a child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, DC. It was totally fabricated, but it proliferated enough online that a man eventually showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle and fired at least one shot.

    Rosenblum believes this new form of conspiracism amounts to a direct attack on the foundations of liberal democracy and what she calls “knowledge-producing institutions.” As conspiracism takes root in our politics, she says, we lose our capacity to deliberate about the direction of the country. And ultimately, democracy itself becomes impossible.

    I spoke to Rosenblum about the nature of modern conspiracy theories and how they’ve evolved into an existential threat for democratic societies. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

    Sean Illing
    Why write a book about conspiracy theories now?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    Charges of conspiracy have in the last two years become a malignant element in public life, and I think it’s been really corrosive to our politics. But what struck me and my co-author was this intrusion of conspiracism, which we think is fundamentally different from conventional conspiracy theories.

    Not a day passes without some sort of conspiracist claim about rigged elections or fake news or something absurd like Pizzagate. And the cast of characters that are engaged in conspiracy charges now ranges from a compulsively conspiracist president to public officials — elected representatives who either endorse these conspiracist claims or acquiesce to remain silent — to conspiracy entrepreneurs and their followers.

    So it’s a not-insignificant part of our population, and it’s a common element now in public life.

    Sean Illing
    And how do you define a conspiracy theory?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event — an event that seems otherwise unintelligible or improbable. And the explanation is that underneath what seems unintelligible is actually some sort of conspiracy or secret plot. Sometimes conspiracy theories are true, sometimes they’re false. It’s often hard to tell the difference, but in all cases, it’s an attempt at some reasoned explanation for a complicated event.

    Sean Illing
    So a conspiracy isn’t wrong by virtue of being a conspiracy theory, but it’s more likely to be wrong because it’s an attempt to take a complicated event and fit it into a broader narrative framework?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    That’s right, and I’m so glad you said that, because Wikipedia actually defines a conspiracy theory as a false threat of a conspiracy, and that’s not true. There are both progressive conspiracy theories that are not only true but have advanced American democracy, and there are total fabulations that are pure inventions.

    Sean Illing
    Can you give me an example of an accurate conspiracy theory and one that was totally fabricated?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    Examples of sheer fabulation would be the “faked moon landing” (Stanley Kubrick actually filmed it in a studio) or that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead (the Democrats found a body double to deny her death in order to prevent President Trump from filling her seat on the Supreme Court). Or, more to the point, perhaps, the recent Pizzagate conspiracy.

    As far as useful progressive conspiracy theories go, a good example is the work by academics like Naomi Oreskes documenting conspiracies by the tobacco and fossil fuel industries to cast doubt on climate science, which actually refutes the climate hoax conspiracy that says global scientists are bribed to produce reports of catastrophic human-caused global warming.

    Or the Progressive movement in the early 20th century that cast corporate boardrooms and smoke-filled rooms of political bosses as potential roadblocks to democracy; the result of what they called “muckraking” reporting on this corruption was democratic reforms that are still with us, like direct democracy and referenda, etc.

    Sean Illing
    I think of conspiracy theorists as people who have rejected a world they don’t fit into, and the theories themselves offer a way to make sense of it and invert the cause of the problem. In other words, if I’m unhappy or alienated, it’s not my fault; it’s these shadowy forces that are aligned against me. Plus, it gives the conspiracy theorist a sense of power — they understand what’s really going on in a way no one else does.

    Nancy Rosenblum
    That’s probably the most common social psychological source of conspiracy thinking. People don’t fit in, they feel dispossessed or alienated or put upon by some elite or expert, and then they have a story that seems to make sense of why that has happened to them. It’s a kind of scapegoating.

    It’s incredibly empowering to believe you have the true picture of reality and that everyone else is delusional. And if you look at conspiracists today, even the wackiest, like those writing about QAnon, they see themselves as the cognoscenti. They understand how the world really works, and they understand that the rest of us are brainwashed.

    Again, I’d just add the caveat that some conspiracy theories are real and the people who engage in them are making a good-faith effort to explain what’s happening.

    Sean Illing
    The psychology of conspiracism seems to appeal to a wide range of people, some smart and some not. Why is that?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    Cognitive and political psychologists will tell you the cognitive afflictions that result in the worst and most zealous kind of conspiracy theory really are common; we all share them. We like to think that agents are the causes of things, rather than accidents or unintended consequences being the cause. We like to think there’s a proportionality between cause and effect, and that causes us to overreach for explanations.

    But there’s a difference between those people who earnestly want to know what’s happening and those who have a conspiracist mindset; the latter tend to see the world entirely that way. They tend to see the world in terms of enemies, not just events that need an explanation.

    Sean Illing
    In the book, you argue that conspiracy theorizing is different today, that we have the conspiracism without the theory. What does that mean?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    I mean that conspiracy theorizing today dispenses with the burden of explanation. In fact, sometimes, as in Pizzagate, there’s absolutely nothing that needs to be explained, and there’s no real demand for truth or facts. There are no actual dots that need to be connected to form a pattern.

    Instead, we have conspiracy charges that take a new form: bare assertion. Instead of trying to explain something that happened in the world, it’s about creating a narrative that itself becomes the reason for the conspiracism. And it even spreads in a much different way.

    For instance, much of the conspiracism today spreads through innuendo. You’ll hear people say, “I just want to know more, I’m just asking questions.” Or, as President Trump likes to say, “A lot of people are saying...” This is conspiracy without any theory. It’s about validating preexisting beliefs by constantly repeating false claims that reinforce what you already believe.

    So it’s not merely that someone thinks Hillary Clinton is an unworthy candidate; we have to make up a story about her sex trafficking in children. And by repeating these things and assenting to them, you’re signaling a kind of group affinity. Conspiracy without the theory has become a form of political participation.

    Sean Illing
    You also emphasize that the point of conspiracism today isn’t to explain but rather to delegitimize. Why is this a significant distinction?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    It’s a way to delegitimize what it means to know something at all. So you often find today that people don’t really care if something is totally true. They’re just looking for something they can hang their hat on, to create enough doubt to justify their core beliefs and sow cynicism at the same time.

    We think of this sort of conspiracism as an attempt to own reality. Trump is exhibit A: He has a compromised sense of reality that he imposes on the nation, for instance, when he lied about the crowd size at his inauguration.

    The conspiracists who traffic in this sort of dishonesty aren’t interested in arguments or evidence. It’s about confirming their picture of the world and undermining the institutions charged with reporting the truth in the first place. And it’s a declaration that only their way of knowing is credible and everyone else is brainwashed.

    We call this “epistemic polarization”: There is no ground for argument or persuasion or even disagreement. And we think it is more profound and unbridgeable even than partisan polarization.

    Sean Illing
    Why does it seem like the conspiracism today is mostly a right-wing phenomenon?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    It goes back to what we were just saying about delegitimization: The right wing wants to delegitimize the government and, really, all of our knowledge-producing institutions. So it’s naturally beneficial for them to spread conspiratorial thinking. The Democrats, on the other hand, generally like government and want to improve it, so they have less reason to embrace conspiracism.

    But I want to be clear: There’s plenty of conspiracy theory on the left. Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money, for example, or Elizabeth Warren’s claim that the business model of Wall Street is rigged — these are technically conspiracy theories, and I think they’re true. The difference, though, is that these are attempts to explain what’s going on; it’s not the sort of conspiracism I’m talking about here.

    Sean Illing
    The examples of conspiracy theories on the left you pointed to so far appear to be good-faith attempts to find the truth, while the examples on the right seem to be outlandish theories meant to destroy faith in institutions. But did you find any conspiracy theories on the left that were straightforwardly delusional, or at least not serious attempts to find the truth? And conversely, were there any on the right that turned out to be true, that uncovered real conspiracy?

    Nancy Rosenblum
    I can think of several left conspiracy theories that I’d assess as outlandish: the left 9/11 Truthers who argue that the government knew about the attack in advance and let it happen, or even organized it, in order to justify war against Iraq — and to advance the attack on civil liberties and the Patriot Act. There’s also an element of the left that believes Bush and Cheney went to war in Iraq purely to get the oil; unwarranted on my view, but still held by friends and colleagues.

    I can’t think of a right-wing conspiracy claim that turned out to be warranted, however. Today’s conspiracism seems to be uniquely right-leaning, and it’s hard to find a scrap of it that’s true; after all, it is not trying to explain the world, it is trying to recast reality. Or to see regular processes, like investigations and oversight, as attempted coups d’état.

    In addition to other reasons I’ve explored, it’s the right, not the left, today that insists on its victimization and therefore is intent on identifying the enemies responsible for their humiliation — even as they gain office. The right that sees a liberal agenda to seize guns, dramatized by Alex Jones’s claim that the Sandy Hook parents were crisis actors paid to advance the gun control agenda.
    More at link.


    Donald Trump: 'What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening'

    "Truth isn't truth"- Rudy Giuliani

    "China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump's very, very large brain," - Donald Trump.

    "Yeah, I have to say these guys(trolls) are pretty sharp. Sort of good to get a challenge and sharpen your thoughts." NorthCarolinaLiberty

    I am Zippy and I approve of this post. But you don't have to.



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  3. #2
    I can’t think of a right-wing conspiracy claim that turned out to be warranted, however. Today’s conspiracism seems to be uniquely right-leaning, and it’s hard to find a scrap of it that’s true; after all, it is not trying to explain the world, it is trying to recast reality. Or to see regular processes, like investigations and oversight, as attempted coups d’état.
    So she believes Solyndra wasn't a boondoggle and a scam?
    Quote Originally Posted by angelatc View Post
    There's not a liberty lover on the planet who isn't called a liberal by the right, and a con by the left.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordsmyth View Post
    I don't really care if I happen to be wrong about your positions, you are wrong about mine.

  4. #3
    Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute

    BECAUSE TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION
    Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

    Robert Heinlein

    Give a man an inch and right away he thinks he's a ruler

    Groucho Marx

    I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand.

    Linus, from the Peanuts comic

    You cannot have liberty without morality and morality without faith

    Alexis de Torqueville

    Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.
    Those who learn from the past are condemned to watch everybody else repeat it

    A Zero Hedge comment

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post

    More at link.
    That's OK.
    “Democracy requires a minimum amount of mutual trust among citizens, and conspiracism destroys it.”
    that was more than enough.
    Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.
    Ron Paul 2004

    Registered Ron Paul supporter # 2202
    It's all about Freedom

  6. #5
    I can think of several left conspiracy theories that I’d assess as outlandish: the left 9/11 Truthers who argue that the government knew about the attack in advance and let it happen...
    Oh, my. How outlandish. Don't these people know better than to repeat what they read and heard at the time in the MSM?
    Quote Originally Posted by angelatc View Post
    There's not a liberty lover on the planet who isn't called a liberal by the right, and a con by the left.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordsmyth View Post
    I don't really care if I happen to be wrong about your positions, you are wrong about mine.

  7. #6

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ATruepatriot View Post
    VOX...
    Certainly explains the "left conspiracy good, right conspiracy bad (except 9/11, the most irrefutable of all) nonsense.

    Better they should be a vox pox on both their houses, not just one side of the partisan divide.
    Quote Originally Posted by angelatc View Post
    There's not a liberty lover on the planet who isn't called a liberal by the right, and a con by the left.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordsmyth View Post
    I don't really care if I happen to be wrong about your positions, you are wrong about mine.

  9. #8
    Biggest BS conspiracy theory of the past two years is Trump colluding with the Russians to win the election.

    Zippy was pushing it every day.
    +
    'These things I command you, that you love one another.' - Jesus Christ



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  11. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by acptulsa View Post
    Certainly explains the "left conspiracy good, right conspiracy bad (except 9/11, the most irrefutable of all) nonsense.

    Better they should be a vox pox on both their houses, not just one side of the partisan divide.
    VOX is like The STAR or inquirer. UFO's are landing tomorrow...

  12. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by TER View Post
    Biggest conspiracy theory of the past two years is Trump colluding with the Russians to win the election.

    Zippy was pushing it every day.
    Looks like Zippy may be a Russian operative...

  13. #11
    Ques: ''Why Are conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute? ''

    Ans: Because most of them aren't theories at all, they are just 'exposed' Conspiracies?

    Do we need to list a few for you Ziggy.....


  14. #12
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists! "The article is wrong! I'm not like that at all!"
    Last edited by Zippyjuan; 04-14-2019 at 05:10 PM.


    Donald Trump: 'What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening'

    "Truth isn't truth"- Rudy Giuliani

    "China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump's very, very large brain," - Donald Trump.

    "Yeah, I have to say these guys(trolls) are pretty sharp. Sort of good to get a challenge and sharpen your thoughts." NorthCarolinaLiberty

    I am Zippy and I approve of this post. But you don't have to.

  15. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Stratovarious View Post
    Ques: ''Why Are conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute? ''

    Ans: Because most of them aren't theories at all, they are just 'exposed' Conspiracies?

    Do we need to list a few for you Ziggy.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists!
    What the hell are you on about now, Zippy? What straw man are you talking about?
    Quote Originally Posted by angelatc View Post
    There's not a liberty lover on the planet who isn't called a liberal by the right, and a con by the left.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordsmyth View Post
    I don't really care if I happen to be wrong about your positions, you are wrong about mine.

  16. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists!



    I'm a conspiracy theorist and proud of it.
    Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

    Robert Heinlein

    Give a man an inch and right away he thinks he's a ruler

    Groucho Marx

    I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand.

    Linus, from the Peanuts comic

    You cannot have liberty without morality and morality without faith

    Alexis de Torqueville

    Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.
    Those who learn from the past are condemned to watch everybody else repeat it

    A Zero Hedge comment

  17. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists!
    Please answer my question... Because reading between the lines it looks pretty obvious... this ain't my first rodeo...

  18. #16
    Given the sheer number of people who believe it, one of the most damaging conspiracy theories is the round earth theory.

    It's done untold damage to society's understanding of science and technology.
    It's all about taking action and not being lazy. So you do the work, whether it's fitness or whatever. It's about getting up, motivating yourself and just doing it.
    - Kim Kardashian

    Donald Trump / Rand Paul (Vice Pres) 2016!!!!



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  20. #17

  21. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by TheTexan View Post
    Given the sheer number of people who believe it, one of the most damaging conspiracy theories is the round earth theory.

    It's done untold damage to society's understanding of science and technology.
    Lol... I'm starting to enjoy you friend.

  22. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists! "The article is wrong! I'm not like that at all!"
    That edit didn't help. It still reads like the insane ejaculation of someone who didn't read one word of the thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by angelatc View Post
    There's not a liberty lover on the planet who isn't called a liberal by the right, and a con by the left.
    Quote Originally Posted by Swordsmyth View Post
    I don't really care if I happen to be wrong about your positions, you are wrong about mine.

  23. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by TheTexan View Post
    Given the sheer number of people who believe it, one of the most damaging conspiracy theories is the round earth theory.

    It's done untold damage to society's understanding of science and technology.
    I think you are overestimating its impact.

  24. #21
    The OP is making me want to believe in more conspiracy theories.

    What could possibly be wrong with destroying democracy or eroding trust in public figures and institutions?

  25. #22
    Just research the Federal Reserve, liberal Jews like Nancy Rosenblum hate that one.
    Quote Originally Posted by juleswin View Post
    I am not a rapist but there are some people I would never consider to rape if I was a rapist. I wouldn't rape someone who I wasn't attracted to, someone who could probably take me down and pound the hell out of me etc etc.



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  26. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by ATruepatriot View Post
    Please answer my question... Because reading between the lines it looks pretty obvious... this ain't my first rodeo...
    What question? I can't find a post where you asked him one.

  27. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Zippyjuan View Post
    Just look at all these people popping up to prove they aren't conspiracy theorists! "The article is wrong! I'm not like that at all!"
    Wrong.. I am simply not a Conspiracy Denier.

    Conspiracies have been a fact of life for all known history. Especially in regards to politics..(just ask Caesar)

    and what's with the "democracy" crap.?
    Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.
    Ron Paul 2004

    Registered Ron Paul supporter # 2202
    It's all about Freedom



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  29. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Superfluous Man View Post
    What question? I can't find a post where you asked him one.
    This is between me and him/her.

  30. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by pcosmar View Post
    Wrong.. I am simply not a Conspiracy Denier.

    Conspiracies have been a fact of life for all known history. Especially in regards to politics..(just ask Caesar)

    and what's with the "democracy" crap.?
    Zippy is a coincidence theorist.
    Quote Originally Posted by juleswin View Post
    I am not a rapist but there are some people I would never consider to rape if I was a rapist. I wouldn't rape someone who I wasn't attracted to, someone who could probably take me down and pound the hell out of me etc etc.



    Quiz: Test Your "Income" Tax IQ!


    Short Income Tax Video

    The Income Tax Is An Excise, And Excise Taxes Are Privilege Taxes

    The Federalist Papers, No. 15:

    Except as to the rule of appointment, the United States have an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America.

  31. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Danke View Post
    Zippy is a coincidence theorist.
    Zippy is an operative... I suspect there may be more than one character behind the account.

  32. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by TER View Post
    Biggest BS conspiracy theory of the past two years is Trump colluding with the Russians to win the election.

    Zippy was pushing it every day.
    This.
    "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration is minding my own business."

    Calvin Coolidge

  33. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by ATruepatriot View Post
    Zippy is an operative... I suspect there may be more than one character behind the account.
    I think we all know that.
    Quote Originally Posted by juleswin View Post
    I am not a rapist but there are some people I would never consider to rape if I was a rapist. I wouldn't rape someone who I wasn't attracted to, someone who could probably take me down and pound the hell out of me etc etc.



    Quiz: Test Your "Income" Tax IQ!


    Short Income Tax Video

    The Income Tax Is An Excise, And Excise Taxes Are Privilege Taxes

    The Federalist Papers, No. 15:

    Except as to the rule of appointment, the United States have an indefinite discretion to make requisitions for men and money; but they have no authority to raise either by regulations extending to the individual citizens of America.

  34. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Danke View Post
    I think we all know that.
    Then I guess it is a welcome token account of ignorant opposition to reality for purposes of mutual entertainment ? lol

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