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fact-fiction reversals

The commonsense distinction between fact and fiction melts away in the conspiracist world. More than that, the two exchange places, so that in striking ways conspiracists often claim that what the world at large regards as fact is actually fiction, and second that what seems to be fiction is really fact. The first belief is a direct result of the commitment to stigmatized knowledge claims, for the acceptance of those claims rests on the belief that authoritative institutions, such as universities, cannot be trusted. They are deemed to be the tools of whatever malevolent forces are in control. Hence the purported knowledge propagated by such institutions is meant to deceive rather than enlighten.

Conspiracy literature is replete with instances in which manifestly fictional products, such as films and novels, are asserted to be accurate, factual representations of reality. In some cases, they are deemed to be encoded messages, originally intended for the inner circle of conspirators, that somehow became public. In other cases, truth is believed to have taken fictional form because the author was convinced that a direct representation of reality would be too disturbing and needed to be cloaked in fictional conventions. In still other instances, fictionalization is deemed to be part of the conspirators’ campaign to indoctrinate or prepare a naive public for some monstrous future development.

from Michael Barkun’s A Culture of Conspiracy

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