Is the conspiracy theory damaging our public discourse?

This blog and its management have always been extremely interested in the conspiracy theory phenomenon. Here’s an interesting link to an article by Frank Furedi at Spiked Online analysing the subject.

In it he claims that the whole thing stems from anti-intellectualism and a return to primitive beliefs in evil forces beyond the control of humanity but still able to control their fate.

And he’s got some interesting thoughts on what this might mean for the public discourse – what he calls a “crisis of causality” – when we instinctively refuse to believe a word that public figures tell us. Here’s a short excerpt from late in the article, but clicking through to the site and reading the entire thing is strongly recommended:

Why facts won’t demolish the conspiracy theories

The loss of a sense of causality has led to a situation where bad things – whether it’s accidents or disasters – are increasingly associated with intentional malevolent behaviour. Such episodes are frequently blamed on the self-serving, purposeful acts of politicians, business figures, doctors, scientists – indeed all professionals. Today, one of the clearest expressions of the sense of diminished subjectivity is the feeling that the individual is manipulated and influenced by hidden powerful forces – not just by spindoctors, subliminal advertising and the media, but also by immense powers that have no name…

History shows us that nothing is more frightening than when a community lacks a system of meaning through which it can understand the problems it confronts. In such circumstances, people feel powerless and confused, and are sometimes drawn towards a simplistic version of events where everything appears black or white or good and evil. That is why, for many people, the collapse of Tower Seven symbolises the workings of evil – and why NIST’s forthcoming report is unlikely to shake them out of their thinking patterns. Once you see and hear evil, and believe it exists, it is difficult to regard competing views as anything other than the work of Very Bad People. Read full article here…