The truth about conspiracy theories

Are they simply mad, bad and dangerous?

Conspiracy theories seem to be worryingly on the rise. But what do we do when a so-called conspiracy theory turns out to be true? And why are we so dismissive of putative conspiracy theories and yet accepting of similarly unfounded scientism or psychologism, asks Matthew Dentith. 

Conspiracy theorists have a bad reputation in academia. They have been accused of subscribing to contradictory theories, promoting beliefs which have negative social consequences, overemphasising conspiracies over coincidences, being susceptible to epistemic vices, and a whole lot more. According to many scholars of conspiracy theory (whom we might call the “conspiracy theory theorists”) conspiracy theories are mad, bad, and often dangerous.

Yet curiously enough no one doubts that conspiracies—cases where two or more people act in secret towards some end—occur. Whether you are a student of Soviet Russia (the Moscow Trials), American history (Watergate), or the Middle-East (the

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Tom Johnson 1 11 January 2021

In response to Joycelyn Campbell's comment, I'd like to point out you're incorrect in your assumption. The author did not conflate the definitions of "conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory."

The only way to come to that conclusion is if you didn't read the entire article or if you didn't understand it correctly.

Conspiracy theories are implausible but not impossible. The article is highlighting the importance of that differentiation. The author makes a valid point in that it is dangerous for the public to assume all conspiracy theories are impossible.

A quick search for "conspiracy theories that turned out to be true" proves this conclusively. Every conspiracy theory on those lists would still only be thought of as a theory if everyone falsely thought all conspiracy theories are impossible.

Joycelyn Campbell 1 September 2020

A conspiracy is not the same thing as a conspiracy theory. (You could look it up.) Conflating them contributes nothing positive to the discussion.