Why Won't Conspiracy Theories Die?

By Chris Mooney | April 29, 2011 12:07 am

I was just on MSNBC with Chris Hayes (substituting for Lawrence O’Donnell), here is the clip:

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Comments (11)

  1. “A somewhat left-wing president”? And I’m supposed to believe this guy’s book?

  2. Sean McCorkle

    Thanks for posting the clip. It was a good segment—you and Kay communicated a great deal of information in a small amount of time (less than 8 minutes or so). Hayes did quite well too.

  3. whoschad

    Before the showing of the Birth Certificate, 45% of Republicans said they had doubts about Obama. Now that he has shown it, it appears as if that number has significantly dropped. If you keep saying that ‘birthers’ aren’t convinced, you’re just wrong. A lot of them WERE convinced (I’m just going off the numbers).
    To continue to say that all birthers continue to doubt goes against the statistical data and ironically is some ‘motivated reasoning’ of your own. You HAVE to believe the birthers still doubt – even though the evidence shows a huge number of them don’t care anymore. The guy on the clip above even said that despite the evidence, he thinks “the numbers will rise again as time goes on”. Talk about a conspiracy-theory mindset!

  4. mwa

    The conspiracy theories won’t die because there’s a conspiracy that has this goal. :)

  5. Chris Mooney

    @3 I’m saying the hardcore who have committed emotionally, financially, etc, will rationalize. and they have.

  6. Jon

    Lakoff’s nurturing parent / strict father neurological dichotomy made me think of this Paul Krugman post on cap and trade from a while back, which lines up closely with what Lakoff is saying:


  7. Jon

    mwa The conspiracy theories won’t die because there’s a conspiracy that has this goal.

    There’s something to that. Here’s David Frum, a *conservative* worrying about that:


    And as I’ve posted before, the intellectual underpinnings of the modern conservative movement *depends* on a certain conspiracy-mindedness about everything that’s not conservative:


  8. Matthew Saunders

    Maybe another way of looking at it would be:

    behaviours seem to follow a bell-curve distribution. Before the internet, the business model of news only tended to show behaviours that would get them the most viewers (money). Now, with the invention of the internet, we can have views that exist on the long tail of the bell curve be presented as REAL and, therefore, they can get off the long tail and become their own mean around which behaviors congregate.

    Or something like that.

  9. Chris Winter

    This was an excellent discussion. The one point I don’t agree with is the charge that only with the advent of the Internet was it possible for conspiracists (of whatever flavor) to band together and reinforce each other’s beliefs. That has always been possible.

    I will grant that the Internet makes it easier, as well as more visible to outsiders. That also makes it easier for outsiders to interact with the conspiracy cliques. Which is not to say such interaction will necessarily resolve anything…


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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