Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

The Conspiracist Zeitgeist:

Contemporary Conspiracy Theories as Far-Right Social Critique?

Bojan Baća, KWI International Fellow

Online (Zoom) & Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), Raum 106, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

In the past decade, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories have surged from the fringes of society into the forefront of the public mainstream. The advent of information and communication technologies has not only facilitated but also democratized the continuous production, diffusion, and evaluation of conspiratorial ideas, tropes, and narratives “from below”, leading to the emergence of grassroots conspiracism. Accordingly, platformization and gamification have enabled conspiracists to employ participatory, interactive, horizontal, collaborative, decentralized, and intertextual meaning-making and knowledge-production practices in the development of conspiracy theories. With “truth” imagined as being hidden behind veils of deception and machinations of the establishment, it is unsurprising that right-wing conspiracism has become an alternative mode of explanation for the non-transparent workings of the power elite – an idea which has traditionally been critiqued from the left as a structural problem of late capitalism. Therefore, the conspiracist zeitgeist does not signify an era dominated by conspiracy theories but rather an era where conspiracy theorizing is prevalent; it is not a specific conspiracy theory characterizing this zeitgeist, but rather the growing need to produce conspiracy theories “from below” as a form of social critique. This paper delves into three analytical procedures central to collective conspiracy theorizing in the digital era: radical skepticism (“nothing is what it seems”), total evidentialism (“everything is evidence”), and naïve transcendentism (“truth is out there”).