Conspiracy Theories: A Guide for Members of Parliament and Candidates

Authors: Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), Antisemitism Policy Trust, Community Security Trust (CST), Full Fact,  Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET), Tell MAMA, Arieh Kovler

Published: 7 May 2024

Conspiracy theories are as old as time. However, in recent years, with the rise of social media and global events including the Covid-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories are posing distinct challenges to democracies and democratic elections. This risk is not only of conspiracy theories targeting governments and populations but also the active support and proliferation of conspiracy theories by government or other public officials. This guide has been produced to inform Members of Parliament and parliamentary candidates in the UK about the risks of conspiracy theories, and to try and draw out some key themes in order that you can be prepared to quickly assess and understand new conspiracy theories as they emerge. In this guide, we outline what conspiracy theories are, their appeal, and an overview of eight prominent conspiracies in the United Kingdom.

Conspiracy theories do not exist in isolation but share and borrow core components. Numerous conspiracy theories are rooted in anti-Jewish racism. The common notion shared by many conspiracy theories, of a secret cabal that seeks world domination by controlling world events, promoting conflicts and financial instability, can find its roots in age-old antisemitism. Commonly-used phrases in conspiracy theories, for example, ‘Global Elite,’ have historically acted as code words for Jews, although these days may be used to refer to any group of people.

Conspiracy theories question official explanations of events. They all share this same basis: the existence of a covert and a powerful person or group of people or organisation with evil intent that seeks to harm or change an existing order. This group usually uses proxies to help hide and carry out its plans. These proxies may be politicians, the media, financial institutions, armed forces, or any kind of government agencies, all working for this ‘dark force’ to satisfy its malicious intent. Events overseas have demonstrated the power of conspiracy theories to generate unrest and violence. It is imperative that Members of Parliament and candidates understand how conspiracy theories function and the distinct threat that they can pose to democratic elections.


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