Problematic conspiracy theories

I’m forever wondering if there’s a way to have a conversation with a conspiracy theorist that could proceed rationally. It’s surprising how often possible methods come to mind, though I suppose it is doubtful that any of them would work very well, based on what I’ve seen of conspiracy people in the past.

So, conspiracy theory people seem in my experience to want to deny that what they believe in is a conspiracy theory. I wonder if there’s a way to work with that.

Surely there is some conspiracy theory that a person won’t buy into. It’s just a matter of digging. Then focus on that. There is such a thing as a conspiracy theory. It is indeed characterized by a problematic and unfalsifiable way of thinking.

If you don’t think your view is a conspiracy theory, could we try to figure out together a definition of a conspiracy theory before we talk, so that there’s no misunderstanding? What is a conspiracy theory? What makes its way of thinking wrong? Let’s try to agree.

That’s probably a hard job. It might go nowhere. But it would be okay if that’s as far as the conversation could go. I’d certainly consider that a good outcome.

If we can agree on a definition of a conspiracy theory, then we can focus on what differentiates the person’s ideas from a conspiracy theory. Rather than debating with the kind of evidence that a conspiracy theorist likes to use, we can say, “but that’s just the kind of evidence that a conspiracy theorist likes to use, what else have you got?”

Would it make for a more reasonable conversation? I doubt it. It could certainly be worth a try though, right?

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