A public lecture by Dr Turkay Nefes (Oxford).
This event will be followed by a wine reception.
This is part of a series of public talks from the Leverhulme-funded project Conspiracy and Democracy. More information at http://www.conspiracyanddemocracy.org
What happens when a prime minister proposes conspiratorial accounts of a momentous event in a democracy? Although conspiratorial rhetoric is the backbone of ideologies of social intolerance and hatred, such as anti-Semitism, the academic literature does not comprehensively address its impacts. The Turkish government’s reaction to the Gezi Park protests, a reaction centred on a conspiracy theory about an ‘interest rate lobby’, provides an up-to-date case with which to explore the impacts of conspiracy theories. Relying on quantitative and qualitative content analysis of responses to the government’s conspiracy theories on the most popular Turkish forum website, Ekşi Sözlük, this study discusses the socio-political significance of conspiratorial rhetoric. It focuses on the relationship between the previous political views of online users and their responses to the conspiratorial rhetoric. The study proposes that there is a relationship between online users’ previous political orientations and their perceptions of the conspiracy theory concerning the Gezi Park protests. The findings support this premise: (1) binary logistic regression tests show that the previous political views of online users predict their responses to conspiracy theories, and (2) the online users’ comments were centred on their perceptions of the government. The study concludes that people accept or reject conspiracy theories in line with their political values and interests, and, accordingly, that the government’s rhetoric concerning the protests augmented the political fragmentation in Turkey by enhancing the existing division between AKP supporters and opponents.