Ricardo Bilton: Having looked at over years of conspiracy theories in the U. One facet that stands out is all of the conspiracy theories emerging from Trump and his people. What do you make of the debate around that term and that phenomenon, and how it might have affected the outcome of the election?
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A year ago, when people talked about fake news, they were talking about Onion-like satire sites that publish hoaxes that people click on and generate ad revenue. It could be political stories, but it could also be stories saying that, for example, Willie Nelson had died. It picked up over the course of the election and there was more political material being used.
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Then you had it applied to things like Pizzagate, which was generated by fringe people, not hoaxers. To me, if we were to salvage anything from the fake news debate before it got drawn away into these side debates, it would involve two things: First of all, the increased importance of media literacy and being able to distinguish a real story from a fake one.
Laura Hazard Owen December 7, Walker: I looked historically at some of these rumors that floated around in the early s. There was, for example, this idea that blacks in the south were organizing to take over once World War II was over and Hitler would put them in charge. It sounds like the most absurd sort of fake news rumor of today.
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The story was very quickly corrected. For most people, politics is not as big of a part of their lives. So maybe their confirmation bias is coming from another direction. For a lot of people, the real assumption that they bring to the news, even beyond their partisan affiliations, is an expectation of a smooth narrative.
In reality, stories are messy and have real loose ends. Does that idea still hold? Walker: I think the left, the right, the center — there are conspiracy theories on every part of the spectrum. I think the tendency to see conspiracies stems from basic human characteristics, and it will manifest itself in different ideological quarters in different ways. No one has a monopoly on it. People often have difficulty seeing the ways they resemble the people they criticize. They cannot be attributed to incompetence.
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The laws of probability would dictate that part of. Now turn back fifty years to a manifesto signed in by a number of leaders of the Populist party:. As early as —66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America.
For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quarreling over less important matters while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose. Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.
It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism.
The Pope has recently sent his ambassador of state to this country on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Catholic church throughout the United States. These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. Add to this the vast revenues collected here.
These quotations give the keynote of the style. I do not propose to try to trace the variations of the paranoid style that can be found in all these movements, but will confine myself to a few leading episodes in our past history in which the style emerged in full and archetypal splendor. More from Richard Hofstadter:. Article — From the April issue. Sign in here. Subscribe here. By Christopher Ketcham. By William T. By Earl Shorris.
Conspiracy Theory in America: Discovering America (Unabridged)
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