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How 2016's anti-establishment fervor is feeding conspiracy theories

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05:  The sign and front entrance of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria are seen on Connecticut Avenue December 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. A man was arrested Sunday after walking into the pizzeria and discharging a rifle, claiming he was "self-investigating" an online conspiracy theory about a pedophilia ring being run by high-ranking Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The sign and front entrance of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria are seen on Connecticut Avenue December 5, 2016 in Washington, DC.

On Sunday, a man entered a Washington pizza shop to “self investigate” a conspiracy that had gained traction online that the restaurant was a front for a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton, as reported by the Washington Post.

On Sunday, a man entered a Washington pizza shop to “self investigate” a false conspiracy theory that the restaurant was a front for a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton, as reported by the Washington Post. 

From claims that election polls oversampled Democrats in order to favor Hillary Clinton to arguments that Standing Rock isn’t being covered because the oil industry controls the media, conspiracy theories abound  in 2016, stoked, perhaps, by anti-establishment sentiment, over-exposure and the insulated bubbles of the world wide web.

AirTalk talks with Joseph Uscinski and Michael Shermer about the psychology behind conspiracy theories and why people buy them.

What do you think makes conspiracy theories attractive in the current political climate? Which theories have you heard?

Guests:

Joseph Uscinski, a professor in Political Science at the University of Miami, and co-author of the book, “American Conspiracy Theories” (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Michael Shermer, author of “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths” (Henry Holt/Times Books/Macmillan); founding publisher of Skeptic magazine

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