Conspiracy thinking and the US election

Shortly before the election in November a story did the rounds that claimed Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, John Podesta, ran a child sex ring at a pizzeria in Washington DC. This was an extremely complex conspiracy theory that was based on the fact that Podesta had emailed the owner of the pizzeria regarding fundraising. And it gained a shocking amount of attention on the internet.

Think about that. Millions of people were willing to share this, and numerous other fake news stories and conspiracy theories online. In fact, one of the things that defined this election was the prevalence of such conspiracy theories. Presumably only a minority of people (one hopes) fell for stories as extreme as that above, but their presence in the discourse suggests that something larger has happened. The theories may be a symptom of something else, a change in the way that people think, and it seems that Donald Trump and the Brexiteers have tapped that change to great effect. Continue reading