MT23 Week 8 Uehiro Seminar

When Conspiracy Theorists Win

Abstract: It is often supposed that it can be rational to believe in at least a few conspiracy theories, such as the theory that the Nixon administration conspired to orchestrate the break in at the Democrat National Committee offices in the Watergate complex – the ‘Watergate theory’. The Watergate theory is not currently considered to be a mere conspiracy theory, because it has long enjoyed ‘official theory’ status. But most people will concede that it was a conspiracy theory before it obtained official status, and it was rational for at least some people to accept it before then. Recently however, several scholars including, most prominently, Quassim Cassam, have argued that the Watergate theory, and other theories invoking conspiracies that have obtained official status are importantly different from mere conspiracy theories and were never mere conspiracy theories. I’ll consider their reasoning and show where it goes wrong. I will work with an example that has not been discussed in the academic literature on conspiracy theories before, and which highlights the continuity between a mere speculative conspiracy theory and an official theory that invokes a conspiracy. This is the theory that the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, which caused the death of over 100 people, was a ‘false flag’ operation led by prominent Utahn Mormons pretending to be native Americans.

Speaker: Professor Steve Clarke, School of Social Work and Arts, Charles Sturt University

A hybrid event for Uehiro Centre Members and Associates (booking not required). 

In-person venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre, Suite 1 Seminar Area, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1)
Zoom: Please request the joining link from from well in advance or see the Centre's Internal Google Calendar