Why do conspiracy theories work?
We are living in a time of conspiracy theories that fuel a divisive and increasingly violent politics, even when they’re obviously untrue. They are spouted by our representatives; they’re believed by our neighbors. How do conspiracy theories ensnare people so effectively and why are believers so reluctant to change their minds? Can we assume that the truth will win out, or is there something else going on, something beyond logic and reason?
Quassim Cassam is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, in England. He has written six books on a range of subjects, including 2019’s aptly titled Conspiracy Theories. His upcoming book Extremism: A Philosophical Analysis is available as a pre-order now.
More information on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the antisemitic book that purports (falsely) to recount a secret meeting of Jewish world leaders can be found on Wikipedia (click here).
The book Quassim mentioned Warrant for Genicide by Norman Cohn is out of print.
Institute for Philosophy in Public Life
Grand Forks, ND
Weinstein, Jack Russell and Cassam, Quassim, "Why do conspiracy theories work?" (2021). Why? Radio Podcast Archive. 143.