Between truth and trust: Conspiracy theories
It has been said we are living in a petri dish of growing conspiracy theories, that the Covid pandemic has fuelled a pandemic of misinformation and paranoid political thinking.
Conspiracies do exist, of course. In 1972, the Republican Committee for the Re-Election of the President burgled the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex, to wiretap its phones, and then conspired to cover this up. Al Qaeda conspired to attack the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and a site in Washington DC on September 11, 2001.
But all of these were real world plots. We know the people who were involved, their decisions and the consequences of their actions. The details have been revealed in a wealth of material evidence and by intensive legal and historical investigations.
Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are matters of belief, not of evidence. They are unfounded stories based on fictions, lies and fantasies that fabricate the existence of secretive groups, plotting to control governments, markets, and world events. As the plots they describe do not exist, they cannot be proven, but as they rely not on evidence but on faith and belief in the story itself, their adherents are highly resistant to evidence and reasoned argument.
Why do people believe in unfounded conspiracy theories? What harm do they pose? And what do they say about the way we see the world, our fears and anxieties, our hopes and dreams? How can we know what is real – how can we tell the genuine conspiracy from the fantasies of the conspiracy theorist?
Join us on Wednesday 29 September at 18:00 CST for an intensive discussion in this third and final part of the online series Between Truth & Trust. Expect a lively debate from our expert panel, push them further with your own questions and comments, as we unravel what lies behind this fantastical thinking and what we can do to counter it.
Featuring guest speakers:
- Elise Wang, assistant professor in the Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics, California state university, Fullerton
- Hugo Mercier, cognitive scientist, CNRS
- Stephan Lewandowsky, professor of cognitive science, Bristol University
- Simina Badica, Curator ‘’Fake (F)or Real’’ temporary exhibition, House of European History
Paul Salmons, Curator and educator specialising in difficult histories, from Paul Salmons Associates.
Introduction by Constanze Itzel, Museum Director of the House of European History.