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Conspiracy Theory: New Offensive Against Criticism

Skeptics are called “right-wing”, even critical inquiry is dismissed as” Spinnerei”: an old concept of struggle is currently making a massive Comeback in numerous articles. However, Alternative theories arise above all when the official explanations are unsatisfactory and contradictory – for example on the topics of Corona and Lockdown.

The battle term “conspiracy theorist” is old and it actually seems very worn out. But this is a mistake. Like an undead, the term reliably returns and continues to unfold its destructive effect: above all to defend official narratives that have fallen into distress. This durability of a long and repeatedly exposed concept of combat is bizarre, but you have to deal with this phenomenon. Right now, for example, a whole wave of questionable articles is rolling over the audience – united by the will to dismiss criticism of the corona Lockdown or doubts about the dangers of the Virus as “right-wing” nonsense.

The phrases of the DLF: “simple explanations in a complex world”

Conspiracy theory – the concept of struggle does not want to elucidate or protect against Fake News, as its users suggest: instead, it wants to dump dissenters without having to laboriously deal with their arguments. By rejecting the concept of struggle, one does not yet support a concrete narrative – but one demands an end to the cheap and hasty defamation of uncomfortable narratives and thus the opening of the discussion. With the demand not to choke off debates with polemical terms from the outset, one does not automatically defend possibly actually politically right-wing panelists. It is also important to note that alternative theories arise above all when the official explanations are unsatisfactory and contradictory – in other words, as can currently be observed with the topics of Corona and Lockdown.

Current examples of the questionable use of the fight term “conspiracy theory” abound. The most recent example was probably delivered on Wednesday morning by an Interview in Deutschlandfunk (DLF). According to the uncritically accepted statements of the interviewee – the historian Hedwig Richter – the lack of rejection of “conspiracy theories” is based on “insecurity”: people who are particularly susceptible to conspiracy theories are said to be poorly able to deal with insecurity and ambivalence. And it is based on gender: “it also affects men rather than women. I think that this has a lot to do with the crisis of masculinity (…).“It is much harder for men to accept that they cannot understand certain things.

Furthermore, “democracy” may also live on critical spirits – but also “on the need for a certain consensus and a basic trust in the System”. And then follows the fundamentally wrong statement, which must not be missing in any contribution of large media to the topic: the “conspiracy theory” as allegedly simple explanation in a complex world: an important function of conspiracy theories is that one reduces complexity and also contingency, according to Richter in the DLF:

“The world seems improbably complicated, and you already have your own explanatory patterns, such as ‘the Jew is to blame for everything or capitalism’ – and then the complicated things that happen are classified into this explanatory pattern.”

A current wave of warnings about " conspiracy theories”

This post is just the tip of an iceberg. In the recent past, the DLF has made other contributions to the topic, such as “the boom in Corona conspiracy theories” or the article “conspiracy myths and Coronavirus: world domination and enslaved children"on DLF Nova. Among the private media is the “Frankfurter Rundschau”, which brought to the topic the articles” conspiracy theories on the corona crisis-against ‘forced vaccination’ in front of the Paulskirche “or” Reptiloids or 5G: conspiracy theories on Corona are as creepy as a horror film”. The “star” does not want to be behind this and writes : “conspiracy theories and Corona or: the grand coalition of spinners”. And the “Bild” asks: “Corona conspiracy theories: why there is so much Fake News about Bill Gates” . In the public broadcasters, ARD already conjured up “conspiracy theories: evil powers and Trojan horses” some time ago . And ZDF once asked:” Information chemistry " around the Coronavirus - is this still Fake or already conspiracy?”.

The “experts” play an important role in the defamation of legitimate demand as a spinning mill, some of whom act as key witnesses for these interpretations. In the discussed DLF Interview, the historian Hedwig Richter plays this role. In this article in Die Zeit, Michael Butter warns against theories “packaged as serious science, spread by skeptics”. The “Tagesspiegel” in turn used social psychologist Pia Lamberty as a witness against the “corona conspiracy theories”. Some of these” experts " for conspiracies are literally passed around. It also seems that many journalists and experts have attended the same Seminar: so much so are the strategies of defamation to recurring, almost word – like sentence building blocks-such as that of the “simple explanation for a complex world”.

The strategies: classification as “right” and linking with spinners

Central strategies are to be identified above all: the blanket classification as “right” and the linking of supposedly real processes with complete spinning mills – in the hope that, for example, the dubious reputation of moon landing skeptics will rub off on reasonable critical demands regarding the social consequences of the lockdown. ZDF exercises the latter in the current article “the seven greatest conspiracy theories in history”. In IT, processes that Justify at least critical demands (such as 9/11 or Pearl Harbour) are put on a par with the “Chemtrail theory” or the theory of an Elvis Presley who has not actually died yet. The reflection pages have stated in the article “conspiracy theories: the eternal lyre of’ simple answers ‘in a ' complex world’” :

“Many things are already being branded as theory, even though they are actually questions. Optionally, it is also claimed that questions are asked about things that “have long been clarified”. No theories are to be disseminated in this Text either. However, the right (perhaps even the journalistic duty) to persistently ask open questions about official presentations should be defended. ( … ) These questions do not require specific or even pre-formulated answers, but an appropriate investigation. The result of this investigation may also be to the “disadvantage” of the questioners. That would then be acceptable. However, the refusal of investigations with the reference that the questions are “crazy” or “radical right"is unacceptable.”

The phrase of conspiracy theory, expressed in countless contributions as a “simple explanation in a complex world”, follows the presumptuous presentation that this complex world can only be seen through by established journalists – but they would all too often do so by adopting official interpretations and shielding them from legitimate doubts and questions. On the other hand, the skeptics ' versions are often considerably more complex than, for example, the official depictions of the Syrian conflict as a “popular uprising” or of the Ukrainian revolution as a “victory of civil society”.