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Accepted Paper:

"Strike back!": the connection between conspiracy theories and populism  
Deborah Wolf (Freiburg University)

Paper short abstract:

The connection between conspiracy theory and populism is evident in recent political developments. The narrative of "the common people" is used in an attempt to legitimise conspiracy theories and emphasizes the need to take action. This becomes clear in the analysis of Alex Jones' documentaries.

Paper long abstract:

Contemporary conspiracy theories tend to focus on "those at the top" instead of minorities. They are highly influenced by the idea of "the common people" fighting a corrupt elite. The followers use this narrative to re-frame any opposition as an attempt to 'shut them up'. However, if a member of their community has a background in these elitist structures yet holds similar beliefs, the community can use their status to generate more trust and social capital. The idea of "the common people" also amplifies the Manichaeism: in the conspiracy theorists' worldview, a clear picture of good and evil is backed up by the positive connotation of the term "the common people". Some conspiracy theories directly address their audiences, and call on them to take action against the alleged conspirators. Therefore the narrative of "the common people" invokes the symbiotic link between populism and conspiracy theories.

Many conspiracy theories refer back to this narrative. It is the reason for the current success of Alex Jones. The former radio host became America's most influential conspiracy theorist - maybe even worldwide. He gained attention through his support of Donald Trump and critique of Hillary Clinton, that included the accusation of being part of the establishment, in addition to several conspiracy theories. This talk will focus on three documentaries, which were either produced or directed by Alex Jones. They will be analysed concerning the mechanisms of how they make use of the "common people"-narrative and towards their affiliation to populism.

Panel Pol01
'I want to live like common people'. Narratives, semantics, and pictures of the popular within the populist transformation of political discourse
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 April, 2019, -