Remarkably, with a dash of amusement, the answer to the question posed in the title is “yes”. The irony of the Le Monde declaration lives on. Let’s turn our thoughts to plagiarism. Of course, we need to take plagiarism and plagiarists seriously: Does the legendary French paper Le Monde indulge both? This is a dubious proposition. I’m inclined to believe it is false. But the accusation has entered, no surprise, into the discussion of the epistemology of conspiracy.. Here we have a vocal opponent of conspiracy theorizing positing a conspiracy. The irony is not surprising. … [please read below the rest of the article].
Basham, Lee. 2023. “The Le Monde Declaration: Can Suppression of Conspiracy Theory be Conspiratorial?” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (3): 41–49. https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-7Gw.
🔹 The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers.
❦ Hill, Scott. 2022. “A Revised Defense of the Le Monde Group.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8): 18-26.
❦ Basham, Lee. 2022. “Vaccination Disasters: The People v. Adam Riggio, A Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (4): 77-89.
❦ Basham, Lee. 2022. “An Autopsy of the Origins of HIV/AIDS.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (1): 26-32.
❦ Basham, Lee. 2017. “Pathologizing Open Societies: A Reply to the Le Monde Social Scientists.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 6 (2): 59-68.
The French newspaper, Le Monde (6 June 2016, 29), published a declaration of war on “conspiracy theory”; a call to fight it in the education system by programming children to be reflexively opposed to it. Setting aside the reality that conspiracy is natural, ordinary and normal to Homo sapiens, the plan was to induce some sort of cognitive, epistemic crippling in children. In the epistemic literature “Luttons efficacement contre les théories du complot” became known as “The Le Monde declaration”. Those who claimed to be its authors became known as, “The Le Monde group”. Apparently authored by prestigious social scientists like Karen Douglas and a number of others, it was subject to a wide range of influential criticisms that reshaped the debate about conspiracy theorizing in favor of acceptance. Naturally, thoughtful people typically dislike governmental mind-control proposals like that which appeared in Le Monde. The editorial “boomeranged”, as even its own text predicted.
Philosopher Scott Hill recently published a piece in the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (SERRC), “A Revised Defense of the Le Monde Group”. In his discussion he mentions the following correspondence,
… [O]ne member of the Le Monde group, Sebastian Dieguez, wrote [to Hill]: “This part of the ‘tribune’ [the Le Monde declaration] as well as the title was written by the editorial team at Le Monde (which is usual in this journal). But yes, Basham is mistaken, and of course, he knows it.”
Being Basham, I don’t know this. Trans-Atlantic mind-reading does not make for sound epistemology. But literacy does, “This part of the ‘tribune’ [the Le Monde declaration] was written by the editorial team” means the text of the declaration because “as well as the title” means in addition to this text. Nothing could be clearer. But I also know this appears to be a questionable criticism of Le Monde. Being an empiricist, I asked Le Monde for comment. This is an important point and if Sebastian Diequez’s allegation is true, we face a conspiracy between the editorial staff and leading critics/pathologizers of conspiracy theorizing.
It seemed too good to be true. This alleges those signing the declaration are plagiarists and Le Monde has authorship, and the groups conspired to obscure this. A muck raker’s dream. Is the Le Monde group a cabal of plagiarists? I doubt that. We all should. We should be skeptical of Dieguez’s report but also concerned: His is an indictment of Le Monde as a world-class news outlet, their attribution policies and those who willingly involved themselves in these attributions. What we know is what the declaration stated and those who signed it as collaborative authors; a number of gifted social scientists who at that time had established their careers by attempting to pathologize conspiracy theorists. And here they are, being accused of conspiracy by one of their own. Dieguez is in the employ of the Université de Fribourg, a credible institution. We should take his account seriously. What Dieguez asserts is scandal, it borders on defamatory.
Le Monde Responds
If the Le Monde declaration was plagiarized from the newspaper’s editorial team—”ghost-written”, authored by unseen writers—this is both surprising and to my mind, given the professionalism of the scientists who put their names to it, stunning. At no point are staff writers referenced as the actual authors. We should have confidence that those who signed it contributed its structure, language, content and ambition, Dieguez’s remarks not withstanding. Does Le Monde write its editorials for those who sign them, or do those who sign them write them for Le Monde? Le Monde must respond to this stunning accusation. If there were other ghost writers in a more official capacity, we should also know who they are. While I believe Dieguez’s report to likely be false, confirmation is in order. What says Le Monde?
Good news. The Le Monde immediately responded on 12/12/2022,
Cher lecteur, chère lectrice,
Nous avons bien reçu votre courriel. Nous allons en prendre connaissance et le faire suivre si nécessaire à la personne ou au service concerné.
Nous nous efforcerons de vous répondre, mais sachez que nous recevons plusieurs centaines de messages par jour et qu’il nous est donc matériellement impossible de répondre individuellement à chacun d’entre eux.
Merci de votre compréhension,
Le courrier des lecteurs du Monde
I am not fluent in French, but knowing Spanish to an extent, in English this reads,
Dear male reader, dear female reader,
We have your email. We take attention of it and forward it if necessary to a person or department concerned. We will do our finest to answer you but be aware that we receive several hundred messages a day and it is therefore humanly impossible for us to respond to each of them individually. Thank you for understanding,
The mail from the readers of The World [Le Monde].
Fortunately, Le Monde then responded with dispatch, the next day. The above is followed by, in concise English, with a note from the deputy chief editor of Le Monde,
The text you mentioned has been published in our Opinions section six years ago. Like all the texts published in this section, it wasn’t written by our staff [emphasis added] but by the researchers who submitted it and signed it.
I guess that what Mr Dieguez meant is that the text’s title and subtitle have been written by our editorial staff, which is the normal editorial process.
Gilles van Kote, deputy chief editor.
This is interesting. Dieguez states the editorial staff, not the signers, wrote the Le Monde declaration. There is no room for guessing here, and Le Monde’s quick attentions, as kind as that laurel is, deny that they write editorials for others to sign. I agree, this is proper conduct.
Conspiracy and Conspiratorial Unclarity
The role of communication as a source of cognitive success can be reduced and subverted at exactly this point; can we trust the trusted editors of a prestigious publication like Le Monde? Here is an anti-democratic Achilles’ heel of the entire system. Stalin remarked, “It is not how people vote but who counts the votes.” It is what we vote for or against that matters. And this is a matter of what we have been told and not told. Pynchon’s line in Gravity’s Rainbow comes to mind, “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they do not have to worry about the answers” Control the questions and all else follows. What follows here one party says the signers of the Le Monde declaration didn’t write it, and another party—Le Monde itself –-say signers did.
We have four options:
1) Believe Hill’s report, which I do, so a conspiracy;
2) Believe Le Monde, which I do, so a conspiracy;
3) Doubt the remark by Diegeuz that apparently Hill sincerely reports, so a defamatory claim with Dieguez alleging a conspiracy with Le Monde, or;
4) Recognize the situation here appears epistemically intractable, as one would expect from a conspiracy.
This latter option holds a simple wisdom concerning our information hierarchy. In even the smallest things truth is often inscrutable but here, conspiracy theory is inevitable.
Recognizing this is not paranoia. It is, regrettably, our epistemic reality. The sunny side is that this is becoming more recognized and we can ameliorate it.
A Conspiracy Against Children
As social epistemologists, what we should notice here is conspiracy theory enters the discussion of conspiracy theory itself. Social epistemology is recursive and as it turns and tumbles, it often finds itself entwined in the very problems it studies. This is a good sign and proof of progress. There is an old saying, “it takes one to know one” and Hill has out of the dark waters of conspiracy theory landed a nice catch in his Dieguez quote. He writes,
I have to say more to make my case as well. But it does, I think, show that the appeal to a lack of explicit restriction placed on terms like ‘conspiracy culture’ is not sufficient to support the claim that the Le Monde group was using the term in the broad way rather than what I regard as the narrower commonsense (no cognitive warfare on children) way.
More should be said. Hill appears mistaken. This not a generality or hyperbole; the document advocates cognitive, psychological warfare on living, learning, growing children in the French education system,
The Ministry of Education must test its pedagogical tools against conspiracy culture. The wrong cure might only serve to spread the disease [emphasis added]. Conspiracy theories are on many people’s minds and are the object of all kinds of initiatives, sometimes local, sometimes more ambitious.
This is record. And the ambition clear. A conspiracy against children’s critical thinking ability and in that, intelligence, only advances with each paragraph,
The French government is among them, evidenced by the collaboration between the Ministry of Education and France Télévisions [emphasis added] to produce and diffuse a ‘video-kit’, available to all in the teaching profession (https://vimeo.com/151519913). They also explore suitable responses to the worrying spread of these ‘theories’ by proposing, here and there, an intellectual defence (sic) or critical response. Ultimately, these associations come together to fight against this particular form of contemporary misinformation known as ‘conspiracism’.
“Video kits” to teach children to trust their governments and to turn their backs on evidence when they should not? Is a vigilant democracy “contemporary misinformation”? A government might say that. And find ways to attempt to make our children agree with them. Simply put, the Department of Education and France Télévisions pursued (and are still pursuing) an attempt at a sophisticated deletion of thoughtful domestic democracy. The document convicts itself. Little wonder Dieguez denies authorship. This was not well received,
As history shows enemy-within “mindset” theories, applied to large swaths of society in charged political contexts, are almost certainly false. Yet they are politically useful reductions of thoughtful persons to “mindset pathogens”: Victims and carriers of a mental plague. It is unseemly and dangerous in the long run for governments to contrive—worse … “scientifically” contrive—to censor and disable their critics because government officials classify them as “conspiracy theorists”. Such a label is correctly applied to anyone who claims a group within the government is being intentionally deceptive about certain programs, actions or plans that it should not be.
Another difficulty. One of the sort that Hill, Adam Riggio and a dwindling number of others should hesitate to defend. Does Hill endorse early childhood pro-government mental manipulations? Some clearly do. In charity, I am sure Hill does not. That anyone would shrug off this sort of child abuse and support government campaigns to impose it is more than unfortunate. If the Le Monde declaration is to be defended, we need a line-by-line explanation. And we would hope, in the end, penitence. There is a stark distinction between the hypocritic and Hippocratic oath.
The Boomerang Effect
As it stands the declaration was a blunder for the partisans of cognitive pathologizing, but a helpful one as it was revealing. The thesis of the declaration, one unlimited in scope, is that vigilance and skepticism of governments and corporations is literally a social disease. A medicalization of functional democracy. However, it is the opposite. Its absence is a disease. The Le Monde declaration explicitly endorsed cognitive warfare on children via The Ministry of Education, without the consent of the children, of their parents, or any democratic public referendum. The “culture” referred to is democracy and the epistemic effort it requires. Democracy is premised on doubt of power. This entails concerns of conspiracy. In a rejection of democratic epistemology, the declaration demands and to some degree outlines the cognitive crippling of what the declaration calls its “targets”, children. This was and remains disturbing. Rational conspiracy suspicion cannot eliminate the problematic, more powerful elements of our societies yet it can keep them cautious and in that far less ambitious. To remove these checks is foolishness.
For now, let’s set that aside and return to the first course. Would Hill disagree, given the above, that while far from stereotypical he is faced via the accusation by Dieguez with a conspiracy that refers to the Le Monde group itself? That they did not write what they signed, knew it was ghost written in their names and signed it just the same without revealing the plagiarism? This is an accusation of conspiracy explicitly denied by Le Monde.
The famous Apollo 13 communication comes to mind, “Houston, we have a problem.”. We might have our doubts about Dieguez’s accusation of a conspiracy, of which he claims he was a conspirator; known to me or not. But I’m confident Hill agrees that the best explanation, if we follow Dieguez, is the Le Monde declaration constitutes a conspiracy. And in this acknowledgement, a conspiracy theory with which he concurs, making Hill a conspiracy theorist and a rational one. Noticing this makes us all conspiracy theorists in the mode of suspicion, if not conclusion. In the very epistemology of conspiracy theory we find in the Le Monde declaration even more fertile ground. That it is, according to Hill’s report of Dieguez’s remarks, the Le Monde declaration is self-referential.
We should appreciate Dieguez’s bold claim. No matter where we turn here, we all become rational conspiracy theorists. This is good news in that it makes the point in any attempt to deny it. We are all conspiracy theorists now. Today conspiracy theory is actuality theory. The revelations have become so perceptive and voluminous that the timeline has reduced from decades to months. A horizontal information system is like that. This is good news. The Apollo 13 cry for help is opportune for any functional democracy.
Thanks to Nydia Picasso, Scott Hill, Kurtis Hagen, M R. X. Dentith, Christopher Woodruff, Benito Juarez, Waltiar Heisencat, and as always, Otto Blaast, for helpful correspondence.
Lee Basham, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Le Monde, 6 June 2016, p. 29, [spelling is Commonwealth English]
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.
Conspiracy theories are on many people’s minds and are the object of all kinds of initiatives, sometimes local, sometimes more ambitious. The French government is among them, evidenced by the collaboration between the Ministry of Education and France Télévisions to produce and diffuse a ‘video-kit’, available to all in the teaching profession (https ://vimeo.com/151519913). They also explore suitable responses to the worrying spread of these ‘theories’ by proposing, here and there, an intellectual defence or critical response. Ultimately, these associations come together to fight against this particular form of contemporary misinformation known as ‘conspiracism’.
As researchers and citizens concerned with the multiplication and dissemination of false information, errors in reason, even deliberate lies in a democracy that we would like to be more rigorous and rational, we welcome these steps and applaud the good intentions they represent. Conspiracism is indeed a problem that must be taken seriously, one which requires a proper response, and all the more quickly as it is on the rise, particularly in France these past few years.
The political reaction to the problem of the growth of conspiracy theories is not at all disproportionate, because it is essentially a major problem. However, the urgency of this reaction suggests undue haste, one which must give way to a reasoned political response that leans on solid scientific knowledge, and takes into account all of the facts available. One can question, for example, the scope and efficaciousness of the videos disseminated widely by the Ministry of Education: their effect, due to a lack of rigorous testing, is completely unknown. The laudable intention behind the creation of these films does not guarantee their effectiveness.
As a result, these tools, like many other educational initiatives, may turn out to be ineffective. Even worse, research in social psychology has shown that the fight against a belief can, paradoxically, serve to reinforce it by a ‘boomerang effect’, a phenomenon widely documented in studies of rumour and misinformation. It is therefore entirely possible that the actions of ministers and associations result in an effect that is the opposite of that desired for the target audience: a polarisation of beliefs and a growth in the conspiracist mindset. The communication’s source is not insignificant when viewed through a conspiratorial lens. If, for example, the government is suspected of active involvement in a conspiracy, its attempts at communication can, at best, be ineffective, and, at worst, increase suspicion.
Taking the time for scientific research, to reflect and to analyse before taking action, will often save time in the long run. It also avoids taking part in harmful activity. Drugs are not launched without rigorous testing; in the same way it is risky to launch educational recommendations without basing them on solid results and prior investigations. A responsible policy begins with research and takes into account the information already available. Furthermore, these more or less random campaigns are expensive, and this investment is automatically taken from more methodical studies of the phenomenon. It is therefore urgent that we launch widespread research programmes aimed at evaluating present educational initiatives rather than continuing to promote them.
Unanswered questions are still very common in conspiratorial thinking. Why is the hypercritical attitude of these adepts not extended to their own beliefs? This “confirmation bias’, which consists of favouring that which confirms our opinions and rejecting that which contradicts it, is well known, but has not yet been examined in the field of conspiracy theories. What is the role of the creative, entertaining component of these ‘theories’, which are often so imaginative? And must one distinguish between those who produce conspiracy theories and those who consume them?
To answer these questions is not simply to make advances towards the disengagement and suspicion that characterises conspiracism, but also to make progress in our understanding of belief mechanisms, social exchanges and ideological creativity.
Research into the psychological and social factors underlying the adherence to conspiracy theories is only the beginning. In the absence of solid scientific consensus on the question, we believe it necessary to recall that current attempts to remedy the problem will only be, for the moment, an improvisation.
Gérald Bronner, Sociologue, Université Paris-Diderot
Véronique Campion-Vincent, Sociologue, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
Sylvain Delouvée, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université Rennes 2
Sebastian Dieguez, Neuropsychologue, Université de Fribourg
Karen Douglas, Chercheuse en Psychologie Sociale, University of Kent
Nicolas Gauvrit, Chercheur en Psychologie Cognitive, École Pratique des Hautes Études
Anthony Lantian, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université de Reims
Pascal Wagner-Egger, Chercheur en Psychologie Sociale, Université de Fribourg Le Monde, 6 June 2016, 29
Also, Bronner, Campion-Vincent, Delouvée, Dieguez, Douglas, Gauvrit, Lantian, and Wagner-Egger, “Luttons efficacement contre les théories du complot,” 29.
 See Appendix.
 I suspect this enjoyable idiom is owed to Karen Douglas.
 Google translates it a similar way The few differences are not relevant to content.
 Correspondence, 12/17/2022.
 Pynchon, Thomas, Gravity’s Rainbow, Penguin, 1973, 251.
 See, Basham, Lee, 2018. “Joining the Conspiracy.”Argumenta 3(2): 271-290, for an overview.
 Le Monde, 6 June 2016, 29.
 Le Monde, 6 June 2016, 29.
 See, Basham, Lee. “Pathologizing Open Societies: A Reply to the Le Monde Social Scientists.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 6, no. 2 (2017): 59-68.
 Authorities make tragic mistakes, even racist ones. It now appears clear that the HIV/AIDS epidemic began with a contaminated vaccine inflicted en mass on Africans in the Congo. This was the Hilary Koproski Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) originally envisioned at the Winstar Institute. See, for instance, Basham, Lee. 2022. “An Autopsy of the Origins of HIV/AIDS.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (1): 26-32, https://wp.me/p1Bfg0-6sN and https://social-epistemology.com/2022/04/27/vaccination-disasters-the-people-v-adam-riggio-a-reply-lee-basham/. Adam Riggio’s response is we should not speak of it, even while he acknowledges Hooper et al. appear to be correct. See Hooper, Edward, The River: A Journey to The Source of HIV and AIDS, New York: Little Brown and Company, Penguin, 1999. Also, Pascal, Louis, “What Happens When Science Goes Bad. The Corruption of Science and the Origin of AIDS: A Study in Spontaneous Generation.” University of Wollengong, Working Paper No. 9; with an introduction by Brian Martin (1991).
 See the appendix below; the Le Monde declaration.
 This is a critical distinction in the epistemology of conspiracy theory.
 I have asked Dieguez if Hill’s account of his correspondence is correct, but I have received no confirmations or denials. This is unsettling. One of the apparent key authors reports they are ill. I hope for a quick and complete recovery of this accomplished psychologist.
 The Twitter files are next.