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Revealing SchemesThe Politics of Conspiracy in Russia and the Post-Soviet Region$
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Scott Radnitz

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197573532

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197573532.001.0001

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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: 16 January 2022

Of Power and Peril

Of Power and Peril

Conspiracy Claims as Fighting Words

(p.12) 1 Of Power and Peril
Revealing Schemes

Scott Radnitz

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides an explanatory framework for why regimes promote conspiracy claims, based on the insight that because conspiracy theories are theories about power, it makes sense to foreground politics—the opportunities and constraints facing politicians as they consider what stories to tell about the world. It conceptualizes conspiracy theories as a form of propaganda and summarizes theories about conspiracism in politics. The author argues that claiming conspiracy can signal knowledge and prescience, and details three factors associated with the production and circulation of conspiracy claims: destabilizing events, political competition, and cross-border connections and alignments. Regimes may use conspiracy claims intermittently or may construct broad conspiracy narratives and strategically disseminate them over time, but there are potential hazards for regimes that rely excessively on conspiracism. Finally, the chapter outlines the features of three conspiratorial modes: sporadic official conspiracism, competitive conspiracism, and sustained official conspiracism.

Keywords:   conspiracy theory, propaganda, misinformation, signaling, dictator, authoritarianism, threat perception, geopolitics, post-Soviet, instability

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