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Have you heard? Rumours and Conspiracy Theories

We’ve all heard the stories. Rumours about government sanctioned attacks on its own people. Hidden military bases in Nevada. Terrorist training camps in the Ureweras. Sometimes these rumours are borne out, sometimes they become conspiracy theories. Drawing on recent work by CAJ Coady and David Coady I will develop a theory which foregrounds the distinction between the activity of Rumourmongering and the propositions (or collections of them) which qualify as Rumours. Whilst Rumourmongering seems to present a pathology of the testimonial process Rumours themselves can be examples of reliable testimony. Yet Conspiracy Theories, which arguably share many characteristics with Rumours, are not usually treated as being reliable. I will argue that this is because Conspiracy Theories exist in contrast to Official Theories and that Official Theories are more reliable, thus justifying our suspicion of Conspiracy Theories but leaving the reliability of Rumours alone.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.