Week in Conspiracy | 18 August 2017

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Thoughts on Children in New Religions (reblogged)

By David G. Robertson As Susan Palmer argued in her opening keynote at the CenSAMM conference on Millenarianism and Violence in Bedford last week, children are often the focus of particular attention within millenarian groups. As Mary Douglas argued, this is because the child is conceived of as the embodiment of the group’s ideals. The…

via Thoughts on Children in New Religions — Contemporary religion in historical perspective

The Week in Conspiracy, 30 August 2016

A review of Holy Hell, a documentary by Will Allen about his years in the Buddhafield, a Californian group led by hypnotherapist Michel. It seems like the tone is relatively even-handed, which means that this will be of interest to scholars like me, as well as the use of archival footage. I say “relatively even-handed” however as I have yet to see it, and there is certainly a slightly sensationalist tone to the trailer. Ideas of sexual misconduct are, of course, the standard accusation in the construction of malevolent Otherness, and has been since the Classical world, and financial misconduct is another. Nevertheless, they do happen, and there have been a number of recent documentaries (“Going Clear”, “The Family”) which trade on the “corrupt leader and his brainwashed stooges” model, which is worrying. As religious identities become more polarised, are we seeing a return to the media universally constructing new religions as dangerous cults?

Richard Bartholomew has an interesting piece of the growing presence of the more outlandish conspiracy theories in American evangelism, entitled “Jim Bakker and the David Ickeization of Christianity”:

Pentecostalism has a strong sense of the other-worldly, and its emphasis on spiritual forces sometimes means a readiness to accept claims about “occult” and Satanic conspiracies. Sometimes, pop-culture science-fiction elements may be incorporated, such as the idea that UFOs are visions of demons. However, the extravagance of the conspiracy theories now being promoted by Bakker are closer to the realms of David Icke’s imaginings than the exhortations of old-time religion or even the old conspiracy theories that were dusted off and made less overtly anti-semitic by Bakker’s old employer Pat Robertson in 1991.

James Carrion has new evidence suggesting a larger role in the UFO story for the Joint Security Control, a strategic deception unit formed during WW2 and answerable directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A revised charter allowing them to operate in peacetime, as well as wartime, come into operation in May 1947, immediately preceding the original wave of “flying saucer” sightings. A long, very detailed, but fascinating read for anyone interested in the historical development of the UFO narrative, and its origins. At http://historydeceived.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/human-deception-at-playduring-ufo-wave.html

The week in conspiracy

Via xkcd.com – Thanks Krittika

 

Donald Trump says he will attempt to release redacted information on 9-11 if elected – “Americans deserve answers and I would definitely request a new investigation so that this horrible tragedy never happens again”.

David Icke appears on the Richie Allen Show – a show that he funds – and gets a positive response. He talks mostly about his new book, The Phantom Self. Then, again, the next week, following Terry Wogan’s death. 

Meanwhile, the first episode of the new series of the X-Files uses Icke’s “problem-reaction-solution”, coming from the mouth of a character based on Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. Which is ironic as Glenn Beck is essentially a character based on Alex Jones.

The Week in Conspiracies

My New Year’s resolution is to get my blog back on track. So let’s do it! What’s been happening in the conspiracist world?

Well, for one,  published an unusually balanced piece in the Guardian, entitled The truth is rushing out there: why conspiracy theories spread faster than ever. It is strongly from the psychological angle – which is to say, conspiracy theories are a way of thinking, but at least it is not presented here as a necessarily aberrant way of thinking. Because if it is, then psychology and religion and many other ways of thinking that posit unprovable primum mobiles are aberrant too:

For Ryan… [a] world that pitted him against the forces of evil had all the appeal of a spy drama. But real life was less like a story – and in some ways more depressing. What does he think are the forces that really shape things? “Most of what is wrong in the world nowadays – well, I would put it down to incompetence and greed. A lack of compassion.”

A more typical report at Epiphenom, which argues that people make more appeals to conspiracy theories when they feel they have less control of their environment. Which almost certainly applies to much more than just CTs – millennialism, for one, and jingoism for another, and ‘religion’, whatever it is. The problem is, as with much psychological work on CTs, is that it assumes we know what a CT is. We might as well say “People are prepared to accept different evidence the more desperate they get.” Which is obviously true, but doesn’t tell us a great deal.

This blog post explores the connections between CTs and religious ideas. Not academic, but good to see this idea spreading beyond the academy.

The conspiracy theory label: Not as powerful as you might think

An interesting post from Mike Wood. The rhetorical function of the term “Conspiracy Theory” may be more complex than many scholars (myself included) have considered. Perhaps the “stigma” is only effective in those who haven’t constructed an identity which is in opposition to certain “norms”. What do you think?

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Calling something a conspiracy theory is basically an intellectual scarlet letter. It’s a way of dismissing something you don’t like, of placing something outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. “That’s just a conspiracy theory” is a depressingly effective way of getting someone to plug their ears and turn their brains off. Right?

Wrong, apparently!

A series of experiments I did last year came up with an interesting little finding – labeling something a conspiracy theory doesn’t make someone believe it any less than if you call it something more neutral. This goes against conventional wisdom that I’ve heard repeated quite a few times online and among people who study conspiracy theories. The journal Political Psychology has just published a paper describing these studies – you can read the whole thing free here (the article is open-access thanks to a generous payment by the University of Winchester).

It’s not like I…

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