One of the things I have considered, but I think it would be extremely difficult to pull off successfully, is a "conspiracy theory" book club.
From what I can tell there is a basic societal confusion with the term "conspiracy theory" itself. For some people, the term refers to a theory about conspiring that could be true, false, or preposterous, while for others the term automatically refers to a preposterous theory.
I was thinking a book club could formulate a list of criteria to run a conspiracy theory through to test its plausibility and then read "conspiracy theory" books (fiction probably safer) as test cases.
Another idea would be to take a book like "The Crying of Lot 49" to discuss the idea of conspiracy theories and why they arise.
All of this would probably only work with a highly skilled facilitator though!
I wanted to share one of my favorite podcasts in response to Susan A. bringing up Kurt Cobain. The show is called "You're Wrong About," and they have an episode about Kurt Cobain and "copycat suicide." They also have a great episode about Courtney Love. They debunk a topic each episode (or over several episodes) and often retell stories of women maligned in the press. That's sort of what they do with Courtney and Yoko Ono. There's a great 2 part episode about Tonya Harding. It's a wonderfully smart and relevant show with funny hosts and serious topics.
Sounds interesting, thank you!
This is a really neat idea! I think it would be fun to do a book discussion about psychological biases that can cause people to hold extreme beliefs. I am sure there are some good books on the topic.
I had an idea for conspiracy survivor groups that could provide support for people who have family member who are deeply into conspiracy theories. Those family members can create rifts within their families that are difficult to deal with. Or a conspiracy support group, like alcoholics anonymous for Q Anon.
This is a really fun idea. I also like the idea of taking existing book clubs and rolling some of these ideas into a session. Or taking a general book discussion and asking questions like, what if [something in the plot] were a conspiracy. How would that pan out? Or asking how the book would have been effected by social media or the internet, if that's not a part of the plot.
I just made a comment below regarding social media and how the death of Kurt Cobain would have played out so differently had it existed then.
That's a really interesting idea. I've heard people make a distinction between "false conspiracy theories" and "actual conspiracies", but of course terminology isn't likely to start much of a conversation with someone who believes a false one is true.
There is also a conspiracy theory conspiracy theory, which itself may be a conspiracy theory: https://theconversation.com/theres-a-conspiracy-theory-that-the-cia-invented-the-term-conspiracy-theory-heres-why-132117
Here are a couple of things I found on the internet that could be a starting point for evaluative criteria:
uses the "preposterous" definition-- https://www.skeptic.com/downloads/conspiracy-theories-who-why-and-how.pdf
And another point of discussion: https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-conspiracy-theories-and-why-the-term-is-a-misnomer-101678
That's an interesting idea. Who do you think would sign up for that? I'm wondering if it would be people who already understand fake news and want to dive deeper. Or people who are just beginning that journey. Or does it matter so long as you get people thinking about it?
I think it could run the gamut. I find it to be a thought-provoking topic and am always interested to know WHY people believe what they believe as well as finding it fascinating that people are walking around with some significantly different versions of reality in their heads! One time a friend told me she didn't believe we had gone to the moon, so of course I had to go research why people believe that. I don't read very many conspiracy theory books but I did recently read one about the death of Kurt Cobain that got me thinking about how differently that whole thing would have played out if we had social media during that time period. I also read the recent book about the Manson murders that poked a lot of holes in the generally accepted narrative of "Helter Skelter" but also ended up with the author being unable to prove his theories after spending decades of his life on the subject. There are also some recent nonfiction books about the subject of conspiracy theories, like "The United States of Paranoia," "Republic of Lies," "Conspiracy Theory in America," and "Escaping the Rabbit Hole" that could make for good discussions, especially if certain titles were paired against each other.
Perhaps a debate style event could engage ideas around conspiracy theories and draw diverse participants? The topic would have to be fiction or pretty old, as something modern would likely stir up too many strong emotions. Participants could be briefed on the topic, and them randomly sorted into a side?
However, in my observations, those who believe in conspiracy theories are unlikely to engage with anything marketed with "conspiracy theory", as they are used to being condemned and challenged, rather than taken seriously. Perhaps more helpful guiding questions to address this issue would engage emotions and beliefs first, rather than logic and literacies.