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Conspiracy Theory and Nationalism in Liberal Democracy

Parker, Jeremy Charles (Parker, Jerry, Sogang University Graduate School of International Studies)

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The internet revolution has transformed the information environment. One of the more notable aspects of this phenomenon has been the apparent rise of the conspiracy theory. Many consider this to be a threat to liberal democracy, predominantly by causing skepticism and disengagement of the electorat...
The internet revolution has transformed the information environment. One of the more notable aspects of this phenomenon has been the apparent rise of the conspiracy theory. Many consider this to be a threat to liberal democracy, predominantly by causing skepticism and disengagement of the electorate. Using the events of 9/11 as its main focus, this thesis examines the reality behind the media hype, assessing the actual effects of conspiracy theories on liberal democracy. It finds that, whilst more accessible, conspiracy theories in the internet age have failed to gain any significant further traction and pose a very limited threat to liberal democracy. This study has found that it is the ‘liberal’ nature of liberal democracy (the existence of civil liberties within society rather than political liberties) that provides a check on the take-up of conspiracy theories. It also highlights the causal link between nationalism and belief in conspiracy theories. This thesis finds that political freedoms, education and debunking have a relatively limited effect on the number of adherents to conspiracy theories. It also finds that conspiracy theories more often reflect levels of nationalism already present within a particular nation or subset of society. This study hypothesizes that the key drivers hindering the challenge to dangerous nationalism are the close proximity or influence of hegemons and a poor level of successful integration of minority groups within a society.