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Title: Advers(ary) effects? : investigating the purportedly disabling character of conspiracy theory via analysis of the communicative construction of resistance discourses in online anti-New World Order conspiracy theory discussion forums
Author: Mager, Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0004 5922 2142
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines how resistance is thought about and discussed within the discursive framework of the New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory. The literature on conspiracy theories has tended to ignore or even reject the notion that conspiracy theory can be associated with political resistance; it is typically characterised as an individual, intellectual and more or less irrational puzzle-solving endeavour. Furthermore, conspiracy theory has been proposed by its very nature to be disabling (Fenster 1999: xv) and that in the face of a totalising, malevolent global conspiracy, “there is nothing you can do” (Basham 2003: 100). Such admittedly plausible conjectures are largely unsupported by empirical research, and so this thesis seeks to assess the credibility of these claims via a richly detailed discourse analysis of online conspiracy theory discussion forums. I define ‘resistance discourse’ in terms of perceived agency, specifically via discursive constructions of power and morality, across three social groups: heroes, villains and potential supporters. I further propose that these anti-NWO resistance discourses can be analysed in the same way as those of a social movement, and I employ Melucci’s (1989; 1996) concepts of ‘action system’, ‘ideology’ and ‘communicative construction’ to analyse the ways in which perceptions of agency are played out and interact with each other within online conversations. Firstly in cognitive terms, relating to perceptions of the efficacy of any proposed resistance strategy, and secondly in affective terms in relation to whether or not the resistance discourse can be interpreted as empowering or disabling. The primary contribution of the thesis is not the trivially simple demonstration that conspiracy theory can be associated with imagining political resistance. Rather its objective is to demonstrate that the discursive form the conspiracy theory takes, particularly in relation to constructions of the adversary’s power and morality, can result in dramatic discursive shaping and constraining influence on what kinds of strategies of resistance can be conceived, along with the extent to which they are presented as either disabling or empowering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology