Conspiracy theorists and fake news allegedly influenced the elections in the United States. However, complot theories won’t play a large rol during the Dutch elections in March, says sociologist Jaron Harambam in the January-edition of Erasmus Magazine.

“Simply because our political leaders rarely engage in conspiratorial thinking. Even important election issues such as immigration and integration aren’t often associated with conspiracy theories. For example, Eurabia, the theory of a supposed muslim invasion, doesn’t have much traction in the Netherlands.”

Framed as fake

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Harambam obtains his doctorate this spring on the topic of conspiracy theorists. He therefore follows the discussion about fake news closely. Fake news isn’t a type of conspiracy theory, but the battle against it is a concern for conspiracy theorists.

“Society is increasingly insistent that a distinction needs to be made between real news and fake news. This could be done using computer algorithms or editorial teams. Conspiracy theorists are afraid that unpalatable or unwanted news will be lumped together with fake news. If all their news sites and blogs are framed as fake they will subsequently no longer be findable online.”

Purported truthfulness


Some think that this is a good idea, but it’s not something that Harambam advocates. “Of course not! That would be extremely dangerous. Think about the reasons given for the war in Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction were never found. The entire mainstream media was mistaken. So how real is real news? And how fake is fake news? Who decides this and what is that decision based on?

His solution: don’t prohibit news, but be transparent about the source of the news. “Who can verify it, where did it come from? I believe that traceability is more important that the purported truthfulness of the news.”

Harambam therefore sees conspiracy theorists to a certain extent as a critical monitoring mechanism in society. “This could be taken to extremes, resulting in a situation where no one knows what to believe. That would be a disaster for an open society. What we first need to do is thoroughly research why so many people no longer trust politicians, science and the media. My research is a start to answering this question.”