Conspiracy Theories, Quassim Cassam, 2019.
This is a short book written by a philosopher. It discusses the difference between a conspiracy – the Gunpowder plot – and a conspiracy theory, which tends to be a speculation built of a contrary nature, not around facts, but around clues.
Cassam’s view is that ‘Conspiracy Theories are first and foremost forms of political propaganda’. They are political gambits whose real function is to promote a political agenda. Crucially, this means that they aren’t ‘just theories’ like any other.
- These theories have a life of their own
- They are contrary to the obvious
- They are highly speculative
- Associating oneself with Conspiracy Theories means associating oneself with the ideologies they promote
- Their logic is ‘self-sealing’ so they are immune to refutation – evidence against them is dismissed as fake news
‘when people call something a conspiracy theory, they’re usually not talking about just any old conspiracy’.
Cassam is less useful on specific guidelines for dealing with Conspiracy Theorists but says it’s worth considering:
- When trying to deal with conspiracy theorists remember the conspiracy mindset is an ideology rather than a personality trait.
- When engaging with conspiracy theorists be careful of drawing attention to their wacky ideas.
- Social media is pervasive so part of education should equip people at an early age with critical thinking skills and what the author refers to as “intellectual virtues” to help them distinguish between truth and lies, information and disinformation.
- Conspiracy theories are harmful and not fighting back against them is simply not an option.
Once you’ve finished this book and for a really great insight into dealing with Conspiracy Theorists, there’s the ThreeWhats Conspiracy Theorists Playbook.