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Recursive fury:. Conspiracy ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. (Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, Marriott, 2013). Liz von York.

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recursive fury

Recursive fury:

Conspiracy ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation

(Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, Marriott, 2013)

Liz von York

in response to lewandowksy et al 2013

A study involving visitors to climate blogs that found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and rejection of other scientific propositions

  • Analyzes the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of the study
  • Identifies and traces hypotheses that emerged questioning the validity of the paper’s conclusions
  • Referred to in this paper as LOG 12
In response to Lewandowksyet al 2013
the study

Used established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation

  • Found that many hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking
  • Found that the blogosphere’s response to LOG 12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science
The Study
the study phase 1

Sampled internet activity related to LOG 12 using Google search and PsychInfo

  • Used search term “conspiracy” and its derivatives
  • Used all found peer reviewed publications on conspiracist ideation
The Study: Phase 1
the study phase 11

For each paper obtained in this search (N=21) the total number of Google hits, limited to the first 10 months of 2012, using the author’s last name and the article’s title, was recorded

  • Each hit was then examined to establish whether it contained any recursive hypotheses
    • Defined as any potentially conspiracist ideation that pertained to the article itself (methodology, purpose, or analysis) or its author
    • Example: “Dr. Smith is a government agent”
The Study: Phase 1
the study phase 2

Traced the response to LOG 12 in the blogosphere

  • On-going web search in real time was conducted by two of the authors during Aug-Oct 2012
  • Daily searches used Google Alerts to detect newly published material matching the search term “Stephen Lewandowsky”
The Study: Phase 2
the study phase 21

Responses were focused around a number of principle sites

  • Analyzed the 30 most-frequently read “skeptic” websites as identified by Alexa rankings
    • Private company that collects data on web browsing behavior and publishes web traffic reports
    • Allows for the comparison of relative traffic of websites covering similar topics
The Study: Phase 2
the study phase 22

Each of the 30 sites was then searched by Google for instances of the name of the first author of LOG 12 that fell within the period of Aug 28 and Oct 18 2012

  • Sites that returned more than 10 hits were considered a principal site
The Study: Phase 2
conspiracist classification criteria

Nefarious Intention (NI): the presumed intentions behind any conspiracy are invariably nefarious

  • Persecution-Victimization (PV): the self-pervasive and self-presentation among conspiracy theorists as the victims of organized persecution; victim is also potential hero
  • Nihilistic Skepticism (NS): conspiracy ideation is characterized by an almost nihilistic degree of skepticism; refuses to believe anything that does not fit with conspiracy theory
  • Nothing is an Accident (NoA): nothing happens by accident; small random events woven into conspiracy theory- indisputable fact
  • Must Be Wrong (MbW): underlying lack of trust and exaggerated suspicion; abandon hypotheses if unsustainable; something must be wrong and official account must be based on deception
  • Self-Sealing (SS): contrary evidence is interpreted as evidence for a conspiracy; the stronger the evidence against a conspiracy, the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events
Conspiracist Classification Criteria

Survey responses were “scammed”- readers understood what was required and dutifully performed

  • “Skeptic” blogs not contacted- claims of “skeptic” bloggers that they were never approached. Allegations of research misconduct
  • Presentation of intermediate data- author presented talk to Monash University claiming results before they were obtained
  • “Skeptic” blogs contacted after delay- “Skeptic” blogs contacted at least a week after the links to the study were already posted on the 8 other blogs that agreed to participate in the study. Less than reputable behavior by lead researcher

Different versions of the survey- questions were counterbalanced between different versions of LOG 12 survey. Different questions

  • Control data suppressed- Originally recruited sample from campus community and returned only small respondents. Results suppressed
  • Duplicate responses from same IP number retained- interpreted as “multiple responses from same IP address were accepted as long as there was a slight variation in answers”

Blocking access to authors’ websites- websites were inaccessible in certain parts of the world, most likely owning to internet blockages between certain regions of the world and the website server. Bloggers claimed that the sites had specifically targeted their IP address

    • “They may unblock you just so they can say you are paranoid, hyper-sensitive, and never really blocked”
  • Miscellaneous hypotheses-
    • Critique- looks like was posted as an operation meant to confuse and distract scrutiny of blog
    • Real purpose of LOG 12 was to provoke conspiracist ideation from climate deniers

Global activism and government censorship (span beyond recursive)

    • Global climate activist organization base
    • Ringleader for conspiratorial activities by green climate bloggers
potential limitations

Generality of results

    • Single 4000 word article
    • Illuminated not just an isolated incident- conspiratorial themes have been found to be prominent
  • Analyzed blogosphere as if it were a single entity within context that characterizes individuals rather than groups-
    • Fits within precedents of psychological and discourse community
Potential Limitations