What Drives Someone to Become a Conspiracy Theorist?

UFOs, the Illuminati, anti-vaxxers, QAnon.

UFOs, the Illuminati, anti-vaxxers, QAnon. Photo: Wikicommons/Getty Images

In a society with extreme economic inequality, a broken health-care system, and a crumbling social safety net, it’s easy to imagine that many people might feel as if the system is stacked against them. But while the more discerning and less suspicious may look to established facts and media outlets, others turn to conspiracy theories, desperately seeking to place blame on the hidden, self-serving Other working against what they believe to be the common good. From the conviction that 9/11 was an inside job to the theory that climate change is a Chinese-invented hoax — one of our president’s favorites — conspiratorial thinking is all around us.

The world of modern conspiracy theories is dizzying, but through exhaustive research, personal interviews, and a critical yet at times appropriately empathetic approach, writer Anna Merlan has written a captivating book that illuminates the landscape of conspiracy theories and what they might say about society as a whole. That book, Republic of Lies, is out today from Metropolitan.

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