Conspiracy

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Ulrik Lauritzen
4. term, Danish, Master (Master Programme)
The primary concern of this master’s thesis will be analysing the article “Er sundhedsvæsenet sygt?”. Of special interest is style, rhetoric and argumentation. The article is part of a conspiracy magazine called Konspiration released in Denmark during 2017. The article will be defined as a conspiracy theory, and the culture of conspiracy theory will be considered in discussing cultural influence on the writer’s choice of style as well as his use of rhetoric and argumentation. The cultural analysis is aided by the work of Vygotsky (1978; 2012) and Wierzbicka (2006). Conspiracy theories often make use of scientific discoveries and theories (science in its broadest term including arts and social sciences), but as I will point out, the two are inherently different and therefore basically incomparable. One difference is the premises of argumentation and I will argue that science needs to address a universal audience by talking about facts, whereas conspiracy theories have the option of addressing a specific audience who share their values and preferences toward right and wrong. In writing about science and the obligations of science Popper (1996) will be the primary theoretic foundation. In conspiracy culture a core value seems to be being in opposition of official explanations and in some instances, as I exemplify, doing so by making unfair inferences and fallacies. I shall also argue that within the culture of conspiracy theories writers benefit socially and psychologically by contributing to the upholding of a structure of us-and-them. This is to preserve the categories of good and bad, right and wrong. The aim of conspiracy theories is to persuade their readers to adhere to the theories presented. I will be using Aristotle (2013) as well as more modern rhetoric literature by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1973) and Fafner (2005) to show how this article uses the well-known Aristotelean style of logos which involves enthymemes and paradigms. I will be arguing that presuppositions are used to make inferences that imply conspiracy thinking and therefore appeal to those in favour of these values. In a chapter about argumentation I will make a distinction between a “soft” and a “hard” version of argumentation analysis. The former focuses on inferences and fallacies. The aim is to show that the writer often makes inferences that lead to unfair and weak arguments and sometimes even to unfinished arguments. The latter version of argumentation analysis is an analysis of the “inner logic” of the arguments presented and points to problems concerning validity and relevance. The chapter will mainly be based on the work of Walton (2012) and Nickerson (1998). I will use the work of Lakoff and Johnson (2003), Maslova and Minakhin (2015) and Götzsche (2014; 2017) to talk about metaphors and how they influence not only the way we talk, but also the way we perceive the world. The thesis will be referring to research on conspiracy theory by among others Aupers (2012) whose ideas mainly apply to culture, Hendricks & Vestergaard (2017) regarding quality of information, and Swami et al. (2014) whose research concern personality traits. The works of Coady (2006) and Barkun (2003) will be used in addressing a definition of conspiracy theory. I will be commenting on similarities between the mentioned research and the findings in this thesis.
LanguageDanish
Publication date30 May 2018
Number of pages73
ID: 280120387