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Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them$
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Joseph E. Uscinski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190844073

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190844073.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 April 2021

Conspiracy Thinking, Tolerance, and Democracy

Conspiracy Thinking, Tolerance, and Democracy

(p.187) 12 Conspiracy Thinking, Tolerance, and Democracy
Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them

Steven M. Smallpage

Oxford University Press

When university professors engage with conspiracy theories, the public is pushed to the limit in terms of what it will or will not tolerate. Professors that publicly hold conspiracy beliefs force the central question of political tolerance: what is the line between the intellectual inquiry that allows for communities to flourish, on the one hand, and the expression of viewpoints that undermine that community’s integrity altogether, on the other? The line is blurry, as careful skepticism underlies both the best academic work and the psychology of conspiracy thinking. Since conspiracy theorists often anger, provoke, and sometimes harass the public, we must decide as a community if we will tolerate professors who hold controversial conspiracy beliefs. Such decisions require thoughtful reflection on the similarities and differences between conspiracy thinking and its relationship to desirable traits of democratic citizens, like tolerance, independent thinking, and academic freedom.

Keywords:   conspiracy theory, conspiracy theorists, tolerance, political power, universities, freedom of speech

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