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A Lot of People Are Saying

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A Lot of People Are Saying

The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A disconcerting view of what happens when politics become detached from reality.

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  • Analytical
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Donald Trump’s battle cry of “fake news” put conspiracism at political center stage. In contrast to classic conspiracy theories, the new conspiracism doesn’t even try to amass evidence in support of its claims. It just repeats sound bites and relentlessly attacks democratic institutions. Professors of politics Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum show how the new conspiracism erodes democracy. It affects not only political engagement, but, also, people’s personal lives. Their book is a rallying cry for resistance against the new conspiracists’ appropriation of common sense and reality.


The new conspiracism is based on unfounded assertions rather than evidence and facts.

Classic conspiracism tries to make sense of world-changing events that seem out of proportion with their causes. Its theories are based on the premise that sweeping events do not happen by accident or because of the actions of a single individual, but because powerful and malevolent people have a hand in bringing them about. Classic conspiracy theories rely on fact-finding and providing evidence that appears – however tenuously – to support the theories’ claims. In contrast, the new form of conspiracism that has emerged in recent years discards the need for evidence and explanation. It works through repeating simplistic assertions, allegations and innuendos that often have no basis in reality whatsoever.

Classic conspiracists are generally motivated by ideology or political theory. Their claims tend to go hand in hand with a call to action and the hope that exposing the conspiracy will change the political landscape. The new conspiracism does not offer an alternative or a solution to the alleged problems it identifies. Rather than calling people to gather...

About the Author

Russell Muirhead is the Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College. Nancy L. Rosenblum is the Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government at Harvard University.

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