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Dangerous Machinery: "Conspiracy Theorist" as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion

Ginna Husting, Boise State University
Martin Orr, Boise State University

Abstract

In a culture of fear, we should expect the rise of new mechanisms of social control to deflect distrust, anxiety, and threat. Relying on the analysis of popular and academic texts, we examine one such mechanism, the label conspiracy theory, and explore how it works in public discourse to "go meta" by sidestepping the examination of evidence. Our findings suggest that authors use the conspiracy theorist label as (1) a routinized strategy of exclusion; (2) a reframing mechanism that deflects questions or concerns about power, corruption, and motive; and (3) an attack upon the personhood and competence of the questioner. This label becomes dangerous machinery at the transpersonal levels of media and academic discourse, symbolically stripping the claimant of the status of reasonable interlocutor—often to avoid the need to account for one's own action or speech. We argue that this and similar mechanisms simultaneously control the flow of information and symbolically demobilize certain voices and issues in public discourse.

Suggested Citation

Ginna Husting and Martin Orr. "Dangerous Machinery: "Conspiracy Theorist" as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion" Symbolic Interaction 30.2 (2007): 127-150.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ginna_husting/3