There is nothing new about conspiracy theories – they have existed as long as there are historic records. However, the conspiracy theories of our current political climate have something new – conspiracy without theory. In their recently released publication, A Lot of People Are Saying, Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum explore how these new conspiracy theories diverge from their predecessors. In diagnosing and defining this new conspiracism, they ask questions about what makes this new climate different, how we got here, and how we can combat it. How has the evolving discourse, in which conspiracism is based solely on repetition (exemplified by the Trump catchphrase “a lot of people are saying”) and assertion (“rigged!”), damage our democracy institutions? Why is the American populace susceptible and open to these narratives that undermine and target democratic foundations – political parties and knowledge-producing institutions? What tools do leaders and thinkers have to argue, persuade, negotiate, compromise, and disagree, when the counter-arguers do not engage in the rules of rational thought or argumentation?
Russell Muirhead was joined in conversation with his co-author Nancy L. Rosenblum in a moderated discussion about their book, A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy, and their recommendations for responding to the threat of the new conspiracism.