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04 February 2021

The changing face of conspiracy theories

Why are conspiracy theories thriving in the pandemic?

Conspiracy Theories (Shutterstock)
Social media has played a role in the changing nature of conspiracy theories.

The COVID-19 crisis has seen governments around the world take drastic action to avoid health systems being overwhelmed but, as the pandemic has evolved over the last 12 months, so too has public perception, resulting in the rise of conspiracy theories.

In an article for The Conversation, Dr Rod Dacombe, from the Department of Political Economy, attempts to shed light on this phenomenon by looking at the history of the conspiracy theory and how technology has shaped how ideas and information are exchanged in the 21st century.

In the article, Dr Dacombe notes: “It is well established that conspiracy theories are more prevalent in times of crisis. Research shows us that the popularity of these ideas is not constant, and peaks during cataclysmic events and social upheaval.

“Conspiracy theories were prominent during previous pandemics, including the Black Death, the “Russian flu” of the late 19th century and the 1918 flu pandemic.

“However, in contrast to past crises, recent conspiracy theories have been driven by the rapid change in how we communicate with each other. Of particular importance is the emergence of social media sites, which enable the rapid spread of information based on (superficially, at least) plausible information produced by what appear to be reliable sources.

“This context matters, in part because it allows a great degree of individual agency in the dissemination of conspiracy theories.”

You can read the article in full here.

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Rod  Dacombe

Reader in Politics