Trump and conspiracy theories

There is a layman's version here of the academic article below.  The article does not explicitly refer to Trump and his supporters but there can be no doubt about where the gun is aimed.  Basically, the article implies Trump voters are simpletons who explain everything by inventing conspiracies

Their basis for that is however a correlation and, as we all know, correlations don't prove causation.  So the authors are just theorizing about what is behind their findings.  But if they can theorize so can I and I see a rather different causal chain

For a start, tarring conservatives as conspiracy theorists is a bit rich. On some accounts up to a third of Democrat voters see the 9/11 attacks as a put-up job arranged by George Bush II. That's some conspiracy! And the biggest conspiracy theory of all -- antisemitism -- had its most notable protagonist in the socialist Hitler. And to this day antisemitism is by far most common among Leftists -- particularly in Britain.

What the authors below found was that people who thought America had lost its way and was going downhill also tended to see conspiracy theories around them.  People who agreed with statements such as: "In this country, there is a 'real America' distinct from those who don't share the same values" and "America's greatest values are increasingly decaying from within" were more likely to agree with statements such as: "The media is the puppet of those in power" and "Nothing in politics or world affairs happens by accident or coincidence."

Note that the latter statement is straight Calvinism (See Ephesians 1:4,11) and is also believed by Muslims -- so calling it a conspiracy theory is defining conspiracy theories very widely. Are all Presbyterians conspiracy theorists? And it is not only Presbyterians who see the hand of God in their lives. Many Christians do. One suspects that the authors below know nothing about religion in America. The leading author hails from an academic bubble in California so that could well be.

And it is certainly clear that most of the media serves the Leftist elite.  They don't preach mainstream values.  So again "conspiracy" is very broadly defined.

And the authors regard all conspiracy theories as wrong.  But are they? Most such theories probably are but what if one is right occasionally?  Using the broad definition of conspiracy favored by the authors below, an elite consensus could be called a conspiracy.  And the  co-ordinated message of the Leftist elite in praise of all sorts of unnatural things -- such as homosexuality and abortion -- is certainly an elite consensus.

And it must look like a conspiracy to the man in the street -- and it is in one way: An attempt by a small and interconnected minority to bring about a major change in the circumstances of the majority.  Donald Trump's determination to disrupt that elite consensus won him power.

And the unanimous hostility of the establishment to Donald Trump during and after his election campaign could well be seen as a conspiracy -- co-ordinated action by an influential minority designed to take away the ordinary people's champion.

That is particularly so now that we know what Obama's FBI was up to.  There definitely was a quite unambiguous conspiracy there to defeat Trump.  So it is entirely reasonable to see conspiracies in America's deep state.  There WERE conspiracies there.  And that could obviously lead people to more readiness to accept conspiracy theories generally.  Conservatives do well to believe conspiracies given the realities of the day. Sadly, such a theory could well be right in today's world.

To summarize: The unanimous opposition to him among the elites led Donald Trump to suspect a conspiracy against him; He made that opposition to him (by the "swamp") a central part of his campaign; His followers saw the matter similarly and they have now been proven right.

The role of system identity threat in conspiracy theory endorsement

Christopher M. Federico et al.


Conspiracy theories (CTs) about government officials and the institutions they represent are widespread, and span the ideological spectrum. In this study, we test hypotheses suggesting that system identity threat, or a perception that society's fundamental, defining values are under siege due to social change, will predict conspiracy thinking. Across two samples (N = 870, N = 2,702), we found that system identity threat is a strong predictor of a general tendency toward conspiracy thinking and endorsement of both ideological and non‐ideological CTs, even after accounting for numerous covariates. We also found that the relationship between system‐identity threat and conspiracy‐theory endorsement is mediated by conspiracy thinking. These results suggest that conspiracy‐theory endorsement may be a compensatory reaction to perceptions that society's essential character is changing.


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