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Conspiracy theories have become a mainstream cultural phenomenon. This paper considers the role they play in extremist groups and counterterrorism work. It presents the first ever analysis of conspiracy theories in the ideology and propaganda of fifty extremist groups: religious, far-right and left, eco, anarchic and cult-based. It is argued that conspiracy theories are a ‘radicalising multiplier', which feed back into the ideologies, internal dynamics and psychological processes of extremist groups in three ways. Firstly, they create demonologies of ‘the enemy’ that the group defines itself against. Secondly, they delegitimise voices of dissent and moderation. And thirdly, they encourage a group or individuals to turn to violence, because it acts as rhetorical devices to portray violence as necessary to ‘awaken’ the people from their acquiescent slumber. More broadly, conspiracy theories drive a wedge of distrust between governments and particular communities which can hinder community-level efforts to fight violent extremism.
‘information cascades’ and ‘group polarisation’ make people more susceptible to them. Simply put, this means that people tend to agree with whatever they think the rest of the group thinks. This is in order to protect and improve their reputation, or through the force of the corroboration of one point of view.
Interestingly, intelligence agencies have long been concerned about far-right, far-left, and even al-Qaeda inspired groups forming tactical anti-establishment or anti-authority alliances.
Conspiracism is not only distrust, but also an irrational distrust – the inflexible, unfaltering tendency to act in a suspicious manner, irrespective of the situation.
extreme groups may be able to draw on a larger counterculture of conspiracism as a pool of possible recruits.
New research is finding that the way we are consuming knowledge online is affecting our capacity for ‘deep processing’ skills: inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.
‘seek the truth, even if it is harmful.’ The reality for many of the theorists themselves is that they are not neutral truth seekers, but are trying to father these theories and their personal careers are staked on it.
Opportunities for direct government confrontation For obvious reasons it is extremely difficult for the government to infiltrate effectively closed networks of disinformation. However, open infiltration is possible in some limited instances. Recommendation: Introduce some limited, open infiltration of Internet and physical sites by government to introduce alternative information. Government agents or their allies should openly infiltrate the Internet sites or spaces to plant doubts about conspiracy theories, introducing alternative information.
Originally posted by Pockets
[edit on 29-8-2010 by Pockets]
Originally posted by Pockets
reply to post by pryingopen3rdeye
I did not, you are right....but does it really matter?
I think what matters here is that DEMOS are trying to say that anyone who questions the media is a bad person...and trying to say if one of us says something the rest agree
So I'm a little aprehensive of downloading the whole document being the paranoid chap that I am!
I suppose it is to be expected, they are running out of 'enemies' for folks to be afraid of. They have oversaturated the media with fear of terrorism to the point that they have desensitised the public. So as we have been calling them on this stuff for years they are attempting to turn average Joe against us.
Conspiracy theories can help us understand the turn to violence. Most extremist groups that become violent present the move as the necessary and only option available to them, because: the group is under attack; its goals are unattainable through peaceful means; or there is some sense of impending, apocalyptic doom and a response is needed urgently.
While it is not possible to demonstrate direct causal links between conspiracy theories and extremism, our findings suggest that the acceptance of conspiracy theories in contexts of extremism often serves as a ‘radicalizing multiplier’, which feeds back into the ideologies, internal dynamics and psychological processes of the group. They hold extremist groups together and push them in a more extreme and sometimes violent direction.
Radical implies a heightening of consciousness, moving cognitively from one perspective towards another with the intention of invoking change. Becoming radicalised is a process of realisation that former ideological positions are no longer viable as a means to an end and other methods must therefore be adopted to achieve any ends deemed necessary. Radical ideas are seen as outside of the norm, the accepted, taken-for-granted conventions and rules of social life and, to borrow a phrase from Jason Barker (2000), radical ideas can shock people out of their complacency.