Conspiracy Theory Defined

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Conspiracy Theory Defined

Post by GirlSaturday on Mon Sep 28, 2009 5:06 am

Taken from wikipedia...



Conspiracy theory is a term that originally was a neutral descriptor for any conspiracy claim. However, it has come to almost exclusively refer to any theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful Machiavellian conspirators, such as a "secret team" or "shadow government", rather than broad social forces and large structures of human collectivities.

Conspiracy theories are often viewed with skepticism and sometimes ridiculed because they are seldom supported by any conclusive evidence and contrast with institutional analysis, which focuses on people's collective behavior in publicly known institutions, as recorded in scholarly material and mainstream media reports, to explain historical or current events, rather than on secretive coalitions of individuals.

The term is therefore often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe. Such characterization is often the subject of dispute due to its possible unfairness and inaccuracy.[3]

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, conspiracy theories have become commonplace in mass media, which has contributed to conspiracism emerging as a cultural phenomenon and the possible replacement of democracy by conspiracyconspiracy[/url]conspiracy[/url] as the dominant paradigm of political action in the public mind. Belief in conspiracy theories has therefore become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore..
Validity



Perhaps the most contentious aspect of a conspiracy theory is the problem of settling a particular theory's truth to the satisfaction of both its proponents and its opponents. Particular accusations of conspiracy vary widely in their plausibility, but some common standards for assessing their likely truth value may be applied in each case:

  • Occam's razor - does the alternative story explain more of the evidence than the mainstream story, or is it just a more complicated and therefore less useful explanation of the same evidence?
  • Logic - Do the proofs offered follow the rules of logic, or do they employ fallacies of logic?
  • Methodology - are the proofs offered for the argument well constructed, i.e., using sound methodology? Is there any clear standard to determine what evidence would prove or disprove the theory?
  • Whistleblowers - how many people – and what kind – have to be loyal conspirators?
  • Falsifiability - Is it possible to demonstrate that specific claims of the theory are false, or are they "unfalsifiable"?

Psychological origins</SPAN>



According to some psychologists, a person who believes in one conspiracy theory tends to believe in others; a person who does not believe in one conspiracy theory tends not to believe another. This may be caused by differences in the information upon which parties rely in formulating their conclusions.

Psychologists believe that the search for meaning is common in conspiracism and the development of conspiracy theories, and may be powerful enough alone to lead to the first formulating of the idea. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where a conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part.
Media tropes</SPAN>



Media commentators regularly note a tendency in news media and wider culture to understand events through the prism of individual agents, as opposed to more complex structural or institutional accounts. If this is a true observation, it may be expected that the audience which both demands and consumes this emphasis itself is more receptive to personalized, dramatic accounts of social phenomena.

A second, perhaps related, media trope is the effort to allocate individual responsibility for negative events. The media have a tendency to start to seek culprits if an event occurs that is of such significance that it does not drop off the news agenda within a few days. Of this trend, it has been said that the concept of a pure accident is no longer permitted in a news item. Again, if this is a true observation, it may reflect a real change in how the media consumer perceives negative events.
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