Jesse Walker has a report on Reason magazine's website, "This Just In: Conspiracy Theorists Not Quite as Kooky as Previously Reported," which debunks many of the "facts" that people believe about conspiracy theories. For example, there's little basis for thinking that right wingers traffic in conspiracy theories more than anyone else does.
Jesse's piece is a report on the second International Conspiracy Theory Symposium, held a few days ago at the University of Miami. Here is one highlight:
"My favorite paper of the weekend was 'Presencing, Immersion, & Community,' in which T. Kenny Fountain and Chandler Jennings of the University of Virginia examined conspiracy theories through the lens of religious studies. Conspiracy beliefs, they argued, can resemble 'religious and aesthetic experiences often valued as meaningful and even pleasurable,' making conspiracism 'more contiguous with ordinary experience than the literature often suggests.'
"Much of their paper draws on the thinking of Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist whose work explores, in Fountain and Jennings's words, 'the processes by which invisible spirits or gods become tangibly real to religious believers.' This is not just an individual process, they note, but a social one: Believers develop a paracosm—a 'private-but-shared imaginative world.' And while a conspiracy belief is not the same thing as a spiritual belief, a similar process can be seen in conspiracist communities. Indeed, it can be seen among all sorts of groups built around immersive experiences, from literary storyworlds to video games."
And here's an interesting bit: Jesse is working on a history paper called ""The Great Groomer Panic of 1968–70: Birchers, Discordians, and the Sex Ed Wars," which he will "publish eventually." When it becomes publicly available I will share the link, as it is very interesting.
Now, I have a challenge for readers of this blog: What is the obvious omission in Jesse's article? Is there a conspiracy behind it? My answer in the comments!
Although Jesse modestly mentions that he was pretty much the only scholar present lacking a graduate degree, his Reason piece somehow neglects to work in that he wrote a great book on conspiracy theories in the U.S., The United States of Paranoia. (Admittedly, the book is mentioned in the biography sentence well below the article, which few people are likely to notice.) Obviously, THEY don't want Illuminatus! fans to know about Jesse's book, still available at Amazon and other outlets.
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