Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

POLITICS ON THE EDGE - Conspiracism: Absurdity and Danger in American Democracy (Nancy L. Rosenblum)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm

College Hall, 4th Floor (Philomathean Society)
Food provided / Free and open to the public

CONSPIRACY THEORIES ARE AS OLD AS POLITICS. But conspiracists today have introduced something new—conspiracy without theory. And the new conspiracism has moved from the fringes to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. Classic conspiracy theory insists that things are not what they seem and gathers evidence—especially facts ominously withheld by official sources—to tease out secret machinations. The new conspiracism is different. There is no demand for evidence, no dots revealed to form a pattern, no close examination of shadowy plotters. Dispensing with the burden of explanation, the new conspiracism imposes its own reality through repetition (exemplified by the Trump catchphrase “a lot of people are saying”) and bare assertion (“rigged!”). The new conspiracism targets democratic foundations—political parties and knowledge-producing institutions. It makes it more difficult to argue, persuade, negotiate, compromise, and even to disagree. Ultimately, it delegitimates democracy.

NANCY ROSENBLUM is the Harvard University Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government emerita. Her field of research is historical and contemporary political thought. She is Co-Editor of the Annual Review of Political Science and co-author, with Russell Muirhead, of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy.