Hill on “Stereotypical” Conspiracy Theories and Cognitive Disabling, Lee Basham

We must not tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories. — George Bush

 I will not stand by and allow wild conspiracy theories. —Joseph Biden

Scott Hill provides an interesting diversion of and, in that, dismissal of the Le Monde statement by certain social psychologists demanding the suppression of “conspiracy theory” accusations by psychologically “targeting youth” in the French educational system.[1] He suggests the authors are instead only opposed to conspiracy theories that are stereotypical. We might take this as opposed to those realistic. But there is no real distinction here, except that established by evidence…. [please read below the rest of the article].

Image credit: Francisco Osorio via Flickr / Creative Commons

Article Citation:

Basham, Lee. 2022. “Hill on ‘Stereotypical’ Conspiracy Theories and Cognitive Disabling.”
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (9): 64-74. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-7cU.

🔹 The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers.

This article replies to:

❧ Hill, Scott. 2022. “A Revised Defense of the Le Monde Group.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 18-26.

Articles in this dialogue:

❦ Hill, Scott. 2022. “The Role of Stereotypes in Theorizing about Conspiracy Theories: A Reply to Dentith.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 93-99. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-77m.

❦ Dentith, M R. X. 2022. “Avoiding the Stereotyping of the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories: A Reply to Hill.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 41-49.


With apology, a crash-course in the epistemology of conspiracy theory: A man walks into a library and asks the librarian for books about paranoia. She whispers, “They’re right behind you!” Actually, they are. And we’re not paranoid to expect them to be there. Our societies are now saturated with law enforcement and its curiosity of every imaginable kind, enabled today with powerful surveillance techniques, including the fact you are reading this. New techniques that would astonish, even thrill, Heinrich Himmler.

A powerful problem we face in social epistemology—the study of the dominate source of knowledge in a society—is one of political labeling of terms in presumptive, pejorative and therefore diminishing and manipulative. One instance, “Conspiracy Theory”. A group of ambitious social scientists have offered their services, for significant funding, to make this political project their contribution; to make the population at large more intellectually compliant. This is a method of efficiency; less bad-think and its observable symptoms to watch for. The Le Monde social scientists’ pathologizing statement begins,

Let’s fight conspiracy theories effectively. The Ministry of Education must test its pedagogical tools against conspiracy culture. The wrong cure might only serve to spread the disease.

This is entirely general. There is no constraint to labeling conspiracy theories as “stereotypical”. Or by guilt by association, arguing they are “stereotypical-like” by juxtapositioning them with surprising explanations that posit a conspiracy on the part of governments or corporations. This method is poor epistemology. It is also anti-democratic.

The development of conspiracy concerns is unpredictable and properly prolific. As power flows, so does concern and vigilance. We all experience this. This is the proper culture of a democracy towards works of power. The Le Monde declaration calls for “pedagogical tools” to suppress this, “the disease”. The Le Monde declaration is a paradigm instance of a political pathologizing project. There are no limits set here; it is applied to conspiracy theorizing and theorists in general. Which includes all of us. Yet we all are aware of, and believe on good evidence, contemporary conspiracies happen, even, and even especially, at the highest levels of power, and in this knowledge and expectation, we are not pathological.

Ideally, democracy is a constitutionally regulated, fair and open rule by a population via governmental tools. It is always a work in progress; continuity and openness on the part of authorities and ubiquitous traditions of accountability.  But this requires a premise of suspicion and responsibility held by that population. “Particularism” is the first and last article of any reasonable suspicion of governments and corporations: Evidence and caution, case-by-case. Governments routinely conspire against the population they have been instituted to govern and against other populations, often more horrifically. This often involves the methods of resource denial, war and more subtle but effective methods. It is contrasted to generalism, which looks for general, we might say “stereotypes”, that encourage the population to discard rational concerns about cooperative deception at the corporate or governmental level, without examination of the evidence.

The scrutiny of rational concern is one we will never escape unless we abandon the project of democracy itself. Organized intentional deception is a powerful force, a tool, in these institutions. Conspiracy theories, when salient to the safety and well being of the population, should be examined on a case-by case basis. They should not be dismissed. Find a government, you find a conspiracy. This should be a given among the historically literate. A number of philosophers have defended this position and it has become widely understood as the proper measure of caution in a functional democracy. Yet there are professional social psychologists and other social scientists who would undermine a well-placed suspicion of governments and the corporations that encircle them. Their approach is quite general: curtail suspicion, doubt and in this, undermine democratic response. And as is openly conceded, these governments and corporations pay them for it.[2]

Hill defends these efforts by a simple slight; our social scientists are only interested in obviously false conspiracy concerns. He terms these conspiracy concerns “stereotypes”. Hill opens with a “parody”. Parodies are fragile things; the care required is sometimes but rarely worth the result. But a parody of what? Of concerns of organized deception in political and economic factions, or the denial of this? It’s not entirely clear,

Imagine it turns out that there is no simple and obvious definition of ‘poison’ that captures the stereotypical examples of poison but rules out regular liquids. So, we’ve got all the stereotypes: various cleaning supplies, pesticides, various kinds of venom, and so on. Imagine that there is no interesting chemical structure that these stereotypes have in common. Nothing at the chemical level that they share and that would distinguish the stereotypes from any liquid. And now imagine, as a result, some philosophers decide that ‘poison’ should be defined in such a way as to include every liquid ever. And imagine that at some point there is a rise in the stereotypical poisons in France. For some reason pesticides and venom and so on are more present in France than they used to be. The French government is worried about it. It produces videos trying to convince people to take caution about the poisons. Imagine biologists get together and publish a short article in Le Monde. The biologists work on poison. They perform experiments based on the stereotypical examples of poisons. And they suggest that the French government isn’t going about educating people about poison correctly.

It would be misguided for the philosophers to complain about what the biologists are doing. It would be very strange if they were to say, “Oh really, you think we should stay away from poison. Well guess what, there is no simple definition of ‘poison’ that excludes water but includes the stereotypes of poison. So, you just told the French government that they should convince people to stay away from water!!! Shame on you!” (19-20).

“Well guess what, there is no simple definition of ‘poison’ that excludes water but includes the stereotypes of poison.” We might think not. A poor parody. The answer is simple: Water is not a poison. A poison is a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism. Chemical action is on the level of electron interactions between atoms and molecules. Basic physical science. Water can kill lizards, rodents, horses and humans by depriving their respiration systems of access to atmospheric oxygen. But this is a mechanical situation. Like being choked to death. What was this water intentionally used for? Setting aside Hill’s misunderstanding of the category “poison”, which kills or disables on contact (are rocks “poison” when they fall from a cliff and crush cars on the highway?) the issue is did some people up there push the boulders? As for water, is the water being used in secret interrogations, water boarding, perhaps? Ritual electrocutions, in the style of Saddam Hussein? Is the water being used to drown Mafia competitors in Lake Erie with “cement shoes”? So at first glance the parody is difficult to follow; at least hyperbolic.

Let’s translate. It would help if Hill lines up the elements of this allegory so the rest of us can understand. He doesn’t. So we are left to our own devices. The analogy with the apparent, proper substitutions, to see if it survives,

Imagine it turns out that there is no simple and obvious definition of ‘conspiracy theory’ that captures the stereotypical examples of ‘conspiracy theory’ but rules out regular conspiracy theories.[3] So we’ve got all the popular suspicions: various conspiratorial concerns and attendant positions on these conspiracy theories and so on. Imagine that there is unifying definition that these stereotypes have in common. Nothing…that they share and that would distinguish these from any other conspiracy theory. And now imagine, as a result, some philosophers decide that ‘conspiracy theory’ should be defined in such a way as to include every conspiracy explanation ever. And imagine that at some point there is a rise in the popular conspiracy theories in France. For some reason conspiracy theory suspicions and investigations, and so on are more present in France than they used to be. The French government is worried about it. It produces videos trying to convince people to take caution about these conspiracy suspicions. Imagine a group funded by the government get together and publish a call to society-wide belief-manipulation and suppression in Le Monde.[4] These social scientists are paid to pathologize those who entertain and explore explanations for government behavior that involve the government distorting or obscuring information about several salient public events. They publish flawed studies based on the popular examples of conspiracy suspicions, casting those who rationally hold these suspicions in a contrived and unwarranted manner as irrational, immoral and otherwise mentally defective. And they suggest that the French government isn’t going about educating people about conspiracy suspicion and it’s normal, natural and rational basis correctly. So please, reconsider this anti-democratic tactic.

Hill’s parody fails on first contact with the realities; “regular” conspiracy theories or “stereotypical” ones? Parodies must be carefully constructed to reflect both the alleged problems at hand—conspiracy theories should be taken seriously—and why these are easily analogous to different subjects of thought where the conclusion(s) would be clearly epistemically problematic. Hill’s “poison water” parody does neither.

A poor parody is like a puppy. It makes messes in the corner. But with time and learning, maturity emerges and the parody vanishes. The parody ceases to be a problem puppy and those days are forgiven. We have a new puppy in Hill’s paper. As it happens, there is a straightforward definition of conspiracy theory that runs through all instances. This basic definition also finds a parallel in toxicology (“poisons”) in that it is simple and universally applicable. Yes, even water is deadly, if one is drowning. But they did not die of poisoning. His view “stereotypical” concerns about governmental and corporate conspiratorial behavior is the only ambition of social science suppression. This is quite doubtful. His is an establishmentarian dismissal of a healthy, democratic skepticism, casting it as social toxin: pathologizing it and billions of intelligent humans. But it is this skepticism of governments and corporations that thoughtful epistemologists have effectively defended. Real change has resulted; the pejorative connotation of “conspiracy theory” is receding in much of the literature. All for the better of the polis.

So, two well established definitions,

1. A conspiracy occurs when two or more people intentionally cooperate to deceive others. This can occur via omission or commission.

2. A conspiracy theory is any causal explanation of an event, be it past, present or in the mode of prediction, future, that refers to a conspiracy as a cause of that event.[5]

There is no moralism, pejorative insinuation, or other de-rationalizing and in that way, dehumanizing elements here. Naturally all these elements are tempting to establishmentarians. These may be argued for on their own grounds, but the subject is not the definition, but its practical realities. Rather like, “Lying is statements believed to be false by the speaker with the intention of deceiving others.” For instance, if we believe all lying is immoral, we don’t merely define it as immoral, as a presumption, we accept a neutral definition and proceed from there to argue it is immoral. But talk of stereotypes suffers the defect of presuming. One person’s stereotype of a false belief is another’s well evidenced position. Therefore, we must address the evidence.

Typically, this event is the intended effect, but interesting cases arise when it is a matter of “blow-back” and other non-intended effects. Still, the conspiracy played its causal role, often a necessary one. If this does not play a role in deciding if a “stereotypical” conspiracy theory, what does? We decide if there is a conspiracy before we decide it is a “stereotypical” and therefore false one.

Stereotyping Stereotypes: Prior Probability of Conspiracy

Stereotypes are not irrational. What we might term Hill’s thesis is expressed by his phrase “only stereotypical conspiracy theories are to be targeted.” These conspiracy theories he defines as obviously false. “Obvious” is something like clearly seen and understood by a super majority of concerned as false.

Hills error is simple. Let’s take an effigy and inflate it into dangerous reality. Again. Let’s look at some real stereotypical conspiracy theories,

1. The United States lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, leading to the deaths of two million humans.

2. It knew about the coming attack on Pearl Harbor but allowed the attack to justify entrance into WWII.

3. It launched a fraudulent, deadly and successful mass media PR campaign, with the aid of the UK, to justify the invasion of Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands.

4. The NSA, CIA and DOD are “virtual conspiracy factories”.[6]

5. The Tobacco Industry hired scientists to intentionally deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.

Not to focus on the US too much,

6. At the secret Wannsee conference, the NAZI SS announced its plan to build industrial death camps based on gassing humans like insects.

7. This included Aktion T4,[7] a test run of an annihilation method for a campaign against the “undesirable”.

8. The Uyghur political prisoner death camps in China torture and kill mass numbers of people, on going.

9. There are either extraterrestrial incursions on Earth or undisclosed technologies invented by leading human technological industries and militaries.

Stereotypical conspiracy theories? Yes, all. Given the evidence, variously warranted. The former ones especially so, as is the 8th, the Uyghur death camps.

What will we do with these and the prior probability of Hill’s future’s “stereotypes”? We might remark that government funded attempts at sophisticated cognitive-level suppression of dissent, aimed at our children, precisely as proposed by the Le Monde declaration, are profoundly misguided. We might not be particularly distracted by the claim “the Jews” attacked a European newspaper.

Consider Western Europe. While heroic internal efforts have been made to defang this source of more and even more grotesque world wars and empires—European governments—there is now a tendency to turn upon Europe’s citizens as the culprits. Political tactics of silencing, censorship and suppression have become mainstays of its recent internal legal codes. The ghosts of Europe’s “world wars” and death-camps of social cleansing still haunt them, but an irony of darkness emerges in all this. Someday, we might suspect, Historians will note the irony of an open society that attempts to force its members to hate, well, “hate” itself—a term widely expanded in extension—through speech and thought laws. This level of control was the Reich’s dream.

Virtually no one is conversant in Hill’s strange example of a Jewish plot against a minor newspaper. Hill’s reliance on this “stereotypical” conspiracy theory is not just sampling bias, it is also a resort to the fallacy of appeal to nonexistent numbers. Suppose they did exist: If most people disbelieve x, x is prima facie false. This is strange, so it is false? And what of the people who have never encountered these theories? Censorship, for the same. So Hill’s position is doubly question begging. This resembles a manner of cognitive xenophobia: Conspiracy theorists and those who take them seriously, as if they are a mental race and must be dominated. They must suppressed? The resort to false and hateful claims about Jews as illustrations of “stereotype” conspiracy theories is unfortunate.

Hill’s Argument for “Turning a Blind Eye”

The Wannsee conference was a secret gathering of NAZI officials in 1942. Here the now ascendant SS faction made it plain what their plans were and made clear the fate of those attending who emerged as “enemies of the state”. The NAZIs hid this from the wider public, forced their initial victims to invite their fellow Jews to the pretended pleasantries of the camps. Then almost all were gassed. These written letters in a recognizable hand proved to many effective. Though Jewish conspiracy theorists among the Jewish population warned of it all and many Jews fled as a result in their last chance to escape the trains, no doubt, the NAZIs would have labeled these Jewish conspiracy theories as “stereotypical” nonsense and many more Jews would have suffered the industrial mass murder that follows. Any epistemic appeal to “stereotypical” is as we’ve seen, pointless. It is also perilous. It remains so. Hill continues,

The authors focus not so much on the conspiracy theories themselves, or just how they might imperil the public, or even what evidence there is for or against them. It’s almost as if none of those questions really matter. What we are told by them is scientific techniques must be developed—and then deployed—so that people won’t even recognize conspiracy as an option. Their goal? That conspiracies can never (or at least hardly ever) be allowed to explain certain events (or any events) in Western society … [P]eople are to be scientifically directed, somehow, to fixate on the cry of “That’s a conspiracy theory!,” flee the room, and not reflect on any facts (12-13) (20).

This is our issue. As it was in 1942. Where does “stereotype” and therefore “banned thought” end? The Le Monde declaration sets no boundaries. All too familiar. Hill walks directly into this problem,

I think there is a more charitable way to interpret what the social scientists are doing here. We shouldn’t attribute to them the idea that the French Government should brainwash its citizens to think that for any conspiracy we shouldn’t believe in it. Instead, it is clear that what the social scientists are up to is this: The particular stereotypes that they are discussing are obviously stupid. They are clearly false (20).

Agreed, false. So why any discussion? Doesn’t evidence suffice? A Jewish plot to murder a minor newspaper is a strawperson/effigy hardly worthy of concern, bereft of evidence. Imagine various unpopular ideas like stepping on a pathological insect that isn’t even there. Now that behavior in the social sciences draws attention. They have greater ambitions as “stereotypes” usefully multiply. Hill needs to recognize this. He can.

Elected governments are not enacted to declare and suppress ideas as “obviously stupid”. Epistemology’s method—ascertaining evidence or its absence and apply logic to this or its absence—is not this opaque, broadside manner of rhetoric, either. Our choice:

So (1) If these beliefs are obviously stupid, they are not widely believed—“obvious” means “clearly seen and understood by all”—so inflicting the suppressive power of the State is clearly misplaced because needless. So, we don’t need a mass public intervention, unless we believe the public is itself incapable of conducting a democracy.

So (2), We need a mass public intervention, because the public is not capable of conducting an intelligent democracy.

If (1), the Le Monde declaration is truly strange; we will teach intelligent people to not believe what they already don’t and will not believe, and this requires social scientists publicly begging for more funding and political support.

If (2), the public is incapable of intelligent democracy, so in the final analysis, we are not asking, we are announcing: You or at least your children need to be cognitively disabled. The le Monde declaration, either way, is a truly bizarre one.

More important, the social science literature shows a consistent bleeding of censorial projects into suspicions and beliefs that are far from “obviously stupid”. For instance, the view that Pearl Harbor was permitted by the US, or the Gulf of Tokin incident faked, or even thoughtful concerns about the details of the 9/11 catastrophe.

What Hill misses is this; a “stereotypical” defense is so easily, radically expanded once the foot is in the door. Instead, reflection on the facts is the proper function of the population, not the suppression of this by social scientists, now armed with the power of the government and its courts; many supported the Iraq war, and dismissed those, without a fair hearing, who questioned the fallacy of it. “Stereotype” must become name-calling. The deeper concern: Social scientists are steeped in their preconceptions of what is “obviously stupid”, even if and especially when it is not. To empower them as anything but ordinary citizens is just as deeply anti-democratic. Several deeper questions quickly come to light. What does Hill mean by “stereotypical”? What makes certain conspiracy theories “stereotypical”? Who decides? Who ring the bell for whom it tolls?

Our information hierarchical does. As usually understood, there are expectations of some cluster of socially belittled persons, ones so overly general these persons should be dismissed on lack of any evidence; easily and properly dismissed. But the key element of the idea of a “stereotype” is a widespread, commonly held belief. This fits this pattern of silencing perfectly.

It’s revealing that Hill’s example fails to fulfill the standard of the widely held; these stereotypical examples are almost entirely unknown to the public at large. So we are facing a concern based on outlying “straw-persons” or “effigies”. This leaves the situation with two options.

(1) Either the concern is so limited as to be uninteresting to the larger issue—are conspiracy theories rationally and therefore socially legitimate (which they are). That is the particularist position. Or,

(2) Used to banish reasonable concerns, disqualify in any public, rational intellectual endeavor. It’s a corner without escape.

The dilemma and subsequent reductio is fairly clear. In the latter case, (2), a dismissive response to any conspiracy concern labeled as a “stereotype” is cast aside with the application of an unspecified property. This method is then extended to a larger group of persons and the application of the same method. In this case, concerns of intentional, cooperative deception, conspiracy suspicions and attendant explanations; that is, conspiracy theories, are inevitable. The method of “stereotypes” is abusive, not attending to the persons who suspect there are deceitful actions be centers of great political power—national governments—or major corporations, will only be attack by the horizontal system of beneficial suspicion that is infusing society. In the former, (1), the category of “stereotype” is socially mute—few if any know of the “stereotype theories” and the social psychologists are being paid to kick a dead horse. I think not. Which returns us to the perils of (2).


If a government institution funds research attempting to show the government is largely beyond reproach, rather like global cigarette companies did and still do with pharmaceutical nicotine (vaping), we might be especially attentive to the funding, errors in that research and its broader, controlling and even censorial claims. So if we explore the financial support of writing like Hill’s, we often find it is funded by those who are subject to conspiracy criticism. In Hill’s case, like others, an EU funded organization which among many other things supports funding suppression of political concerns. These are characterized as “resilient” to reason and therefore irrational beliefs. Since rationality is a defining human trait and ideal, these projects attempt to dehumanize some of the most thoughtful and intelligent segments of the population. A sort of intelligence tax, at least on expressed concerns and evidentially well-justified inquiries. Given the record of funding, these supression programs are predictable among increasingly establishmentarian thinking. In the literature this research is now known as the pathologizing approach.

The general goal appears to delay reasonable suspicions about organized governmental and corporate deception until the comforting but baseless claim can be made that the political/economic system is no longer involved in mass public deceit. We can term this effect the “United States of amnesia” or in this case, the European Union. The problem is the same; governmental and corporate conduct are not subject to a rapture-like redemption, not at this time. But they have the resources to defuse, as they often have, to divert, confuse and dilute the attention a functioning democracy requires. Find a government, you will find a conspiracy. This is inevitable because conspiracy—cooperation to intentional organize to deceive others, even in our most personal lives—is ordinary, normal and natural to humans.

While we never understand what is meant by “stereotypical” conspiracy theories, how this label is epistemically regulated, or why we should reject them because, by Hill’s measure, they are “obviously false”, he finally resorts to an odd attempt; mockery. It’s actually quite humorous. I almost think he wrote this in defense of “the Philosophers”, as a satire of their critics. Perhaps his entire article is the same in intent,

“So you think the stereotypical examples of conspiracy theories are bad? Well guess what? That means you have to think that any belief that any conspiracy ever occurred is bad” (25).

A strawperson/effigy of the well-developed discussion, one that Hill can acquaint himself with. Here “obviously” is well placed. Particularism is the view that evidence decides. Hill ends,

We have, in natural language, a way to talk about the stereotypes. We use the term ‘conspiracy theory’. By pushing their mistaken line again and again, the Philosophers rob us of the language to talk about what is happening to those we love (25).

I think the word Hill is looking for is “false”, not the open ended “stereotypes”. This resolves the problem and now, he will not be wandering off, driven not by his subjective intuitions of popular perception, but by actual evidence. We have a way in natural language to talk about unwarranted conspiracy theories; “false”. We also have, in natural language, a way to talk of historical literacy and well-placed caution. We use the term “conspiracy”, in the press, common speech and in the courts. These suspicions and attendant explanation, these theories, ensure our democracies. There is no robbery; unless we be robbed of this natural, normal and necessary ability. Conspiracy theories can be true, they can be false, they can be uncertain but in that, serve as watchmen. This is the real world. I invite Hill to join it, not dismiss it like one might dismiss the gulf of Tonkin with talk of Santa and Flying Deer. What is happening to the ones we love is an informed, thoughtful and vigilant democracy. Their safety is secured in no other way. We must set watchmen on the walls of the democracy. Stereotypes do not dominate their attention, but their independent gaze does. A gaze that would be occluded by the Le Monde declaration’s social scientists.


“Particularism” has become a convenient term for the idea we should judge conspiracy theories epistemically, as either warranted or not, on a case-by-case basis; setting the governmental and corporate projects of social manipulation and suppression aside.[8] For instance, we would not let the failure of phlogiston theory lead us away from empiricism, one that extends to the social dynamics and manipulations within our societies. Anymore than we would allow racial or sexist stereotypes do the same. But the Le Monde declaration was entirely general. And appeals to emotion are misplaced. As epistemologists examining real political systems and instances of their conduct, conspiracy cannot be dismissed, or relegated and silenced to straw-person effigies, so this stereotype of what is rational human cognition, one we all properly do, is confused with the “obviously stupid” and irrational. Once we see that an accurate definition of “conspiracy theory” is critical, not one distorted by a pathologizing approach, Hill’s thesis sublimates like dry ice. Any conflation of rational public concerns with unlimited because undefined “stereotypical” conspiracy theories is a nonstarter. It’s also anti-democratic.

This should not be Hill’s project at Innsbruck. As a Christian institution suspicion of the powers and principalities should be the norm. This is the belief that should be resilient. This would be a great beginning and bold departure from secular conformity. I suggest a better path is to explore, like all scientific disciplines—where science is understood as evidentially warranted suspicion and also belief—how to determine which theories of events, past. present and in the manner of prediction, future, are most warranted given our evidence, and which are not, and to not let “stereotypes” lead one astray from the proper method; evidence on a case-by-case basis. In one idiom, “you will know them by their fruits”. Our misborn wars speak volumes.

The alternative view, held by and funded by our shared governments, is that concerns over the reliability of particular administrations at particular times is yet another obstacle. Should we overcome if we are to mold and properly attire its population and its children into what they become in the ongoing war against suspicions of cooperative deceit in hierarchical systems of governance, those who deny our problem, whatever our simplifying yet undefined concept of “stereotypes”. Again, if we find a government, we find a conspiracy.

There are multiple purposes of sophisticated governmental and corporate actions and public-controlling statements. Some are suspect. Some are not. Functional democracy is not meant to be easy. Someone at a fast-food outlet is drinking with a plastic straw. Someone approaches her and shouts, “That’s single-use plastic! It’ll go out to Sea and kill a Sea Turtle!” She smiles, “Then it’s not single-use plastic, is it?”

Author Information:

Lee Basham, labasham@southtexascollege.edu, is a professor at South Texas College known for his research on conspiracy theories, conspiracy in a hierarchical society and its significant implications for a functional democracy.

[1] Hill, Scott. 2022. “A Revised Defense of the Le Monde Group.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 18-26.

[2] Hill, for instance, is affiliated with the FBK consortium, which among many things funds what it terms “resilient belief”—apparently a euphemism for de-rationalizing persons. See, https://www.uibk.ac.at/philtheol/forschung/resilientbeliefs.html.en.

[3] However, there appears to be.

[4] Particularly, “targeting” youth.

[5] While there are minor differences in contemporary definitions of “conspiracy theory” in the Philosophical literature, they play no role here. No credible definition is pejorative. Social scientists, to their credit, have distanced themselves from these.

[6] To paraphrase Philosopher Kurtis Hagen.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_T4.

[8] See, Keeley, Brian, “Of Conspiracy Theories”, Journal of Philosophy, 1999, for an early statement of this position. We find the important insights in Pigden, Charles, “Popper Revisited, or What is Wrong with Conspiracy Theories?” Journal of the Social Sciences, 1995.

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