Are conspiracy theories destroying democracy?

Introduction — October 31, 2013

That is the title of an article that appeared on BBC Online recently. The implication being that “conspiracy theories pose a threat to democracy”.
Of course conspiracy theories aren’t a “threat to democracy”, this is just the BBC attempting to discredit them.
Instead of actually looking at the propositions underlying “conspiracy theories” — and nowhere in the entire article does it even mention any of the facts fuelling doubts about the official stories of, for example 9/11 or 7/7 — it strives to marginalize and discredit them. By disingenuously suggesting that not all “conspiracy theorists” are “swivel-eyed loons,” with “poor personal hygiene and halitosis”.
As if most “conspiracy theorists” were smelly and somewhat deranged. They aren’t but the BBC would have you believe otherwise , which is why the article studiously overlooks the wide variety of professional bodies that question the official version of 9/11.
Obviously bodies like Pilots for 9/11 Truth, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and Firefighters for 9/11 Truth are not entirely comprised of swivel-eyed loons”. Which is why the article doesn’t mention them or talk to anyone credible who might support them.
Instead it talks to academics who are researching “conspiracy theories”.
Like the BBC however, these academics such as John Naughton, who is researching the topic for Cambridge University, seem averse to actually looking at what “conspiracy theories” might actually propose.
Indeed, according to Naughton: “the minute you sniff at the 9/11 stuff, you begin to lose the will to live”.
Right. This is real research, which rubbishes the topic before even examining it.
Nor does the article recall one of the great modern conspiracy theories, which was openly touted by the BBC itself, at least for a while. Namely, Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Remember them? The BBC devoted hours of news coverage to speculation about Saddam’s WMD and through it helped build the case for the invasion of Iraq. Until it became clear that Saddam’s WMD didn’t exist. Whereupon all the earlier speculation was quietly forgotten.
If nothing else though, the following article is an indication that the powers that be are getting worried. Too many people are asking questions and not everyone will now accept the neat answers and explanations offered.
So now the BBC and academics like John Naughton have been enrolled in an effort to silence those awkward questions: not by answering them, nowhere in the entire article does it even address them, but by disingenuously deriding the questioners.

Are conspiracy theories destroying democracy?

Brian Wheeler — BBC Online Oct 27, 2013

The more information we have about what governments and corporations are up to the less we seem to trust them. Will conspiracy theories eventually destroy democracy?

What if I told you I had conclusive proof that the moon landings were faked, but I had been told to keep it under wraps by my BBC bosses acting under orders from the CIA, NSA and MI6. Most of you would think I had finally lost my mind.

But, for some, that scenario – a journalist working for a mainstream media organisation being manipulated by shadowy forces to keep vital information from the public – would seem entirely plausible, or even likely.

We live in a golden age for conspiracy theories. There is a growing assumption that everything we are told by the authorities is wrong, or not quite as it seems. That the truth is being manipulated or obscured by powerful vested interests.

And, in some cases, it is.

‘Inside job’

“The reason we have conspiracy theories is that sometimes governments and organisations do conspire,” says Observer columnist and academic John Naughton.

It would be wrong to write off all conspiracy theorists as “swivel-eyed loons,” with “poor personal hygiene and halitosis,” he told a Cambridge University Festival of Ideas debate.

They are not all “crazy”. The difficult part, for those of us trying to make sense of a complex world, is working out which parts of the conspiracy theory to keep and which to throw away.

Mr Naughton is one of three lead investigators in a major new Cambridge University project to investigate the impact of conspiracy theories on democracy.

The internet is generally assumed to be the main driving force behind the growth in conspiracy theories but, says Mr Naughton, there has been little research into whether that is really the case.

He plans to compare internet theories on 9/11 with pre-internet theories about John F Kennedy’s assassination.

Like the other researchers, he is wary, or perhaps that should be weary, of delving into the darker recesses of the conspiracy world.

“The minute you get into the JFK stuff, and the minute you sniff at the 9/11 stuff, you begin to lose the will to live,” he told the audience in Cambridge.

Like Sir Richard Evans, who heads the five-year Conspiracy and Democracy project, he is at pains to stress that the aim is not to prove or disprove particular theories, simply to study their impact on culture and society.

Why are we so fascinated by them? Are they undermining trust in democratic institutions?

David Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge University, the third principal investigator, is keen to explode the idea that most conspiracies are actually “cock-ups”.

“The line between cock-up, conspiracy and conspiracy theory are much more blurred than the conventional view that you have got to choose between them,” he told the Festival of Ideas.

“There’s a conventional view that you get these conspirators, who are these kind of sinister, malign people who know what they are doing, and the conspiracy theorists, who occasionally stumble upon the truth but who are on the whole paranoid and crazy.

Continues …