Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #49 Considers Conspiracy Theories as Pop

Ex-philoso­pher Al Bak­er works at the UK-based Log­i­cal­ly, a com­pa­ny that fights mis­in­for­ma­tion.

He joins your hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt to try to answer such ques­tions as: What’s the appeal of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries? How sim­i­lar is being con­sumed them to being a die-hard fan of some pop cul­ture prop­er­ty? What’s the rela­tion between per­ni­cious con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and fun spec­u­la­tion (like, maybe Elvis is alive)? Is there a harm­less way to engage in con­spir­a­cy the­o­riz­ing as a hob­by? Is some­thing still a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in the pejo­ra­tive sense if it turns out to be true?

We touch on echo cham­bers, the role of irony and humor in spread­ing these the­o­ries, how both oppo­nents and pro­po­nents claim to be skep­tics, Dan Brown Nov­els, Tom Han­ks, the Mel Gib­son film Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry, and doc­u­men­taries like Behind the Curve (about Flat Earth­ers) and The Fam­i­ly.

For expert opin­ions on the psy­chol­o­gy of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, try The Con­ver­sa­tion’s Antill Pod­cast, which had a whole series on this top­ic. For even more pod­cast action, try FiveThir­tyEight, BBC’s The Why Fac­tor pod­cast, Skep­toid, and The Infi­nite Mon­key Cage.

Here are some more arti­cles:

If you enjoy this, try Pret­ty Much Pop #14 on UFOs. The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life episodes referred to in this dis­cus­sion are #96 on Oppen­heimer and the Rhetoric of Sci­ence Advis­ers and #82 on Karl Pop­per.

Learn more at This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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