Theorists of “conspiracy theory” struggle to define it at a misbegotten academic conference

By Prof. James F. Tracy

The University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences and Political Science Department held what was likely the world’s first official academic Conference on Conspiracy Theories from March 12th to 14th. The event was attended by 45 social scientists, historians and philosophers, including this author, who was initially uncertain whether he had been invited as a colleague or specimen.

The estrangement and doubt toward the conspiratorial by many attendees was evident in some paper titles, such as, “Anti-Science Conspiracy Theories of the Right and Left,” “Telling the Truth About Believing the Lies,” and “Conspiracy Beliefs and Personal Beliefs: Exploring the Linkage between a Person’s Value System and his/her Conspiratorial Ideas.” One overarching assumption in the social scientific research was evident in three conspiracy bugaboos: “climate change denial,” “vaccination denial,” and questioning President Obama’s genealogy. Other sources of what certain academic vernaculars term “conspiracy ideation” or “conspiracy belief” included 9/11, the JFK assassination, and the crash of TWA 800.

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