The Conspiracy Theory Handbook: a Short Review

Professor Ferguson’s first email to a Lockdown Sceptics reader included this link (pdf) to The Conspiracy Theory Handbook by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook. This ruffled a few feathers. After all, who would want to be a conspiracy theorist? Brian Davey, who has read the book, has written an explainer for us.

There’s a lot about the Conspiracy Theory Handbook in today’s LS. A few months ago I wrote a critique of that text – it bugged me that conspiracy theorist had become a phrase that is a “thought stopper” or “thought terminating cliché” to discourage further reflection about a topic. No doubt this is because it used to be the case that conspiracy theorists theorised plots against the elite – e.g. assassination plots. However, from about Kennedy’s assassination onwards “conspiracy theorists” were people who explained events by claiming plots that were organised BY the elite against ordinary people (or against other elite factions).

In this regard ,one of the things that really bugged me about Lewandowsky and Cook’s description of what they analyse as a new kind of “thought disorder” is that people who are “conspiracy theorists” have what L and C decide to be an “unreasonable degree of scepticism of official narratives”. However Lewandowsky and Cook do not calibrate that idea. In other words, they do not tell us what a reasonable degree of scepticism of official narratives would be. It is almost as if, in the world of L and C, there is no public relations industry and spin does not exist… Clearly it does. Indeed what Gary Sidley, with justice, complains about – that psychologists now direct the Government’s PR lockdown strategy by deliberately inflating fear and the use of shaming – is not really new. PR has used sophisticated psychological insights ever since Edward Bernays who was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. What is happening then is that many otherwise comfortable people are waking up in horror to find themselves on the receiving end of manipulative techniques that have been used for a very long time…

Needless to say, Lewandowsky and Cook have ignored my criticisms which were published by the Irish think tank Feasta.

In conclusion, the so-called “Great Reset” and building back better is a strategy of the global super elite to concentrate economic power and push through a technological and social agenda in response to climate change, biodiversity collapse and resource depletion plus the damage done to the biosphere that is spilling out in new diseases. A considerable part of the people who previously thought of themselves as part of the elite are finding that they are not part of the club and are suddenly outsiders… while the Neil Fergusons’s, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whittys of this world were in the right places at the right times with the connections to hitch a ride on the imaginary strategy of the super elite fantasists like Bill Gates. This elite strategy is not really a conspiracy because it is open and there is no secrecy about their techno fantasies – but people who oppose this delusionary vision of the future for one reason or another have the “thought stopper” conspiracy-theorist label thrown at them. In my view, the super elite strategy is pure fantasy but that’s another story…

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