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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

The Politics of Disruption

The Politics of Disruption

Social Choice Theory and Conspiracy Theory Politics

(p.122) 8 The Politics of Disruption
Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them

Matthew D. Atkinson

Darin DeWitt

Oxford University Press

What motivates conspiracy theory politics? Strategic, ambitious politicians play a central role in the rise of conspiracy theories. We employ the garbage can model of choice and social choice theory to explain how and why out-of-power politicians engage in innovative and unorthodox efforts to alter their situation. We call these entrepreneurial efforts the politics of disruption. While conspiracy theories are just one tool of disruption, they are typically the most readily available and lowest-cost method available for changing the political game. We argue that scholars interested in explaining the propagation of conspiracy theories should look beyond idiosyncratic psychological factors and place greater analytical focus on systematic political motives and context.

Keywords:   social choice, conspiracy theory, garbage can model, political entrepreneurs, heresthetics

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