Defining conspiracy theories – a spam definition

As my regular readers know, I am writing a PhD dissertation on the philosophy of conspiracy theories. In this work (out sometime about June) I go to great lengths to define what conspiracy theories, how they function as explanations, why claims of “Conspiracy!” need not be specific and, well, some other stuff in the 90,000 words that represents the last four years of my life.

It turns out I needn’t have worried; spambots are already promoting what is bound to be the thesis about conspiracy theories, which goes something like this:

A conspiracy theory is a that defies common historical or current understanding of events under the claim that those events are the result of manipulations by two or more individuals or various secretive powers or ..Colloquially a conspiracy theory is any unconventional theory about current or historical events with the connotation that that theory is unfounded outlandish or irrational or in some way unworthy of serious consideration. In this sense the term is sometimes used to refer to events with which no association to an actual conspiracy in the legal sense two or more persons plotting and one overt act related to the plot is claimed. In this sense conspiracy theory is often simply an allegation of action based on little or no solid evidence.

If you write on conspiracy theories, then expect to get comments exactly like that one (indeed, I’ve had five today on various posts from the last three months). Spambots are getting better and better at post comments which seem to fit the content of the post; at the moment some of them are written/generated to the standard we require of a Stage I paper in, say, Engineering. That is pretty impressive, really. I expect, by the end of this decade, that my thesis will be trumped by “” whose contribution to the debate on the warrant of conspiracy theories will be definitive and whose definitional parameters and scope of operation I dare not contemplate lest I lose my cool.

Until then, though, my project must be finished so it can eight to nine years of reigning supreme.


frank -- Decoding SwiftHack says:

Matthew, have you read the recent reports on HBGary Federal’s automated sockpuppets? This stuff is weirder than you and I can even imagine. Just think about what it means if some linkspammer can actually make his linkspam look like the rantings of a genuine Internet troll.

— frank

It’s pretty frightening, I agree, but it’s not as if this is new. Governments and spy agencies have being doing similar things for a long time and so it was only a matter of time before it started to occur online.