The project and its working groups » WORKING GROUP 2: ACTORS AND AUDIENCES


Chair Annika Rabo (Stockholm University, Sweden)
VC 1 Doğan Gürpinar (Istanbul Technical University, Turkey)
VC 2 Eirikur Bergman (Bifrost University, Iceland)

This working group studies the variety of actors and audiences involved in the production and consumption of conspiracy theories.

Project Questions for WG2

(a) Who produces conspiracy theories, and who consumes them?

WG 2 will focus on the identity of conspiracy theorists, about whom we still know surprisingly little. This WG will conduct a comparative analysis of the actors and audiences involved in the production and consumption of conspiracy theories in different regional and historical contexts, with a particular focus on Europe, its near neighbours, and the Middle East. Investigating who believes in conspiracy theories and why, WG 2 will consider variables of identity such as gender, class, age, education, ethnicity, religion and political stance. The aim is to produce a comprehensive picture of the role of conspiracy theories in the life of individual believers and to understand the comparative importance of the phenomenon in different political systems and media ecologies. The WG will consider both the role of elites in promoting particular conspiracist stories, and the way that they are taken up, adapted and resisted at the grassroots level, as well as the role that socialisation plays in forming conspiracy beliefs. In addition, it will investigate the contexts in which conspiracy theories are used as propaganda by people who do not believe them, and if this cynicism affects their make-up and effectiveness. The commodification of conspiracy theories will also be investigated, and whether this makes a difference to their visibility or to the way they are regarded by their potential audiences.

(b) What role do gender and sexuality play in conspiracy theory belief?

The popular perception is that conspiracy theorists are predominantly men, although there is very little empirical evidence to back up this assumption. WG 2 will investigate whether and why conspiracy theories appeal mainly to men, and what difference this makes to understanding how they work, and to devising strategies for combating potential harms they might produce. Most conspiracies are imagined to be the result of men plotting with other men, but what difference does it make when women are imagined as conspirators, or when plotting men are feminised? And what is conspiracy theory’s relationship to recurring anxieties about masculinity? This WG will also analyse the extent to which popular explanations of the attractions of conspiracy thinking (seduction, persuasion, influence, brainwashing) rely on sexualised metaphors, and how these change over time and in different national and cultural contexts.