Democracy and Conspiracy

On Contemporary Paranoia
Seminars and Colloquia

We live in an age of both informational excess and epistemic poverty. More sources of knowledge than ever are accessible to an ever greater number of people, but this accessibility has created an environment in which manipulation, propaganda, neurotic scrutiny and mild paranoia flourish.

Drawing on research about conspiracy theories and their communities, this talk aimed to elucidate a set of dilemmas that democratic societies find themselves in: The democratic quest for transparency, technocratic excellence, critique, certainty and control may well have undermined the foundations of democracy itself. While it is desirable to restore confidence in democratic institutions, we also have to ask ourselves if a society could be built on sustained mistrust.

Tobias Haberkorn is an editor and staff writer at ZEIT ONLINE. Currently he is a Milená Jesenska Visiting Fellow at the IWM.