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DemCP colloquium - PETER KNIGHT (Manchester University): "Everything Is Connected: Conspiracy Theories in the Age of the Internet"

When:We 23-09-2020 16:00 - 17:00


From suspicions that climate change is a hoax to white supremacist claims about a secret plan for a ‘Great Replacement’ by Muslim immigrants, conspiracy theories are an increasingly prominent way of making sense of the world in the age of the internet. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans now believe in at least one conspiracy theory, and Trump is the Conspiracy Theorist in Chief. Once marginal ideas can now readily find an online community of believers, not least because the recommendation algorithms of online platforms like YouTube seem to promote conspiracy theories, fake news and disinformation.

Although the conspiracy theories encountered online are at times merely harmless entertainment or a sign of healthy skepticism, they can also lead to a loss of faith in medical and scientific authorities, to political disengagement and distrust of democracy, and even to violence.

One of the central assumptions of these conspiracy theories is that ‘everything is connected’. Conspiracy narratives often weave together many different strands into one vast interconnected plot, with an evil mastermind behind the scenes pulling the strings. But what happens to the hierarchies of power imagined by conspiracy theory in the age of decentred networks?

About the speaker

Peter Knight is professor of American Studies at the University of Manchester, and currently visiting professor at Leiden University. He is the author of Conspiracy Culture (2000), The Kennedy Assassination (2007) and Reading the Market (2016), and co-curator of the ‘Show Me the Money: Images of Finance, 1700 to the Present’ exhibition. He is currently leading two research projects, one on the comparative analysis of conspiracy theories, and the other on the history of popular financial advice.

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