"No theory holds together:" suspicion, its plotters, and the patterns of imaginative reason in (re-)conceptualizing digital conspiracist discourse

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Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
J Muu elektroninen julkaisu
Date
2021
Department
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Mcode
Degree programme
Language
en
Pages
Pages 55-75
Series
POPULAR INQUIRY: The Journal of the Aesthetics of Kitsch, Camp and Mass Culture, 5(2021):1
Abstract
Arguably, our (post)modern age engenders suspicion and (explanatory) uncertainty, prompting epistemic instability, eroding veracity conditions and causing rational skepticism and distrust. This throws into sharp relief the leading pathologizing or stigmatizing scholarly evaluation of the practice of conspiracy theorizing. Especially insofar as the proliferation and stratification of competing (and power-differentiated) stories and knowledge representations are concerned. In challenging the validity of such conventional wisdom, this multidisciplinary essay broadly follows the critical “particularist” philosophical perspective. I will highlight the doubly collaborative activity underscoring digital conspiracism: The Latin etymology of “to conspire” (“to breathe together”) and the storytelling dimension of “to plot” (“plotting a story”). Two notions will be introduced: contra-plotting and plotters of suspicion. Both elaborate on the ubiquitous role of narrative, for plotting necessitates an indefinitely expanding “middle” communally self-reproduced through “continual interpretation” – precluding the final acceptability of any resolution (sections 1-2). The third section offers an illustrative qualitative analysis of ‘natural’ discursive data. The sample of forum posts on the MS Estonia’s catastrophic shipwreck is taken from the bilingual (Estonian-English) conspiracy forum Para-Web and broader (motif- and theme-oriented) plotting tendencies are identified. The essay concludes with some summarizing thoughts and suggestions for further research (section 4).
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Keywords
Contra-plotting, Plotters of Suspicion, (explanatory) Uncertainty, Behindo-logy, Narrative patterns, MS Estonia
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