June 15, 2018

Third parties and political conspiracy theory beliefs

Recent research indicates that those who overestimate their political knowledge are more likely to engage in conspiracy theories, specifically, in political conspiracy theories. More here, in a piece linked at that original, which also shows that conspiracy theories generally aren't driven by ideology but by losing.

The study the top, new story is about is here, with more details:
Utilizing a pre‐/post‐election panel design and a large sample of U.S. Citizens (N=394) recruited in the context of the 2016 Presidential Election, we provide evidence that political IOED, but not a non‐political IOED, was associated with increased support for general and election‐specific conspiracy beliefs, particularly among political novices and supporters of the losing candidate. We find this pattern of results net the influence of a broad range of variables known to covary with conspiracy beliefs. Implications for theory and the need for future research are discussed.
Very straightforward, that.

Especially in the US, with its strong-president system and first-past-the-post Congressional system, this means third parties probably should have more conspiracy thinkers than Republicans or Democrats. So, Libertarians? This would explain their anti-vaxxer conspiracy thinking just as it would for many Greens. It's political mistrust, or outright paranoia.

Now, when does a conspiracy theory fall outside the political world? The JFK, RFK and MLK assassination theories are certainly political. So-called deep state conspiracy theories certainly are, and actual conspiracies such as the CIA overthrowing foreign governments of course may fuel them. (See my piece on the 50th anniversary of Bobby's assassination.) But, alien abductions? Seemingly non-political, but the "they" that are covering this up are all politicians in such theories. Ditto for HAARP, chemtrails, etc. (On HAARP and/or chemtrails, it's a short step from there, probably, to frame climate change denialism into a political theory, either the Agenda 21 angle that it's an attempt to take over the American way of life, or the alternative, that maybe humans — in the form of the gummint — can indeed change the climate, but John and Jane Does driving cards still can't.)

Basically, another way of phrasing this is Dunning-Kruegerism and political conspiracy theory beliefs have a definite correlation.

And, the political novices are often Greens. Maybe Libertarians, too.

That said, it's not just political novices. Big conspiracy theorist Ray McGovern did a public endorsement of Jill Stein. Bob Parry, son of Consortium News founder Robert Parry, whose website is riddled with conspiracy theorizing, had a Green Party bumper sticker in 2016.

In addition, conspiracy theory belief can be used to maintain in-group cohesion, or perhaps even as an in-group shibboleth.

Meanwhile, since originally writing this, I ran into this innnnteresting thread on Twitter. I'm quoting the one tweet that I saw retweeted in my timeline:
It's rational, but no, not empirical. My response:
Mr. Ganz quotes and references Descartes repeated, but references nobody from British Empiricism.

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