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Uscinski and Parent summarize those psychological observations in stating, "Conspiracy theories are for losers" , see Ch. Furthermore, people are oftentimes confused by conspiracy theories that have been exposed to be real conspiracies. Bale , for example, suggested that politicians and media giants often engage in covert and clandestine activities. Therefore, calling their actions 'conspiratorial' is true rather than fantasized Bale ; Grimes Some even argue that while scholars may write on delusional conspiracies, adherents regard them as reasonable.

Actually, the border between delusional conspiracy theories and real conspiracies is at times but a fine line Dentith ; Hagen ; Kakutani It sidesteps current political turmoil by empirically studying alternative health commercials, and shows that this seemingly fringe area can teach a lot about the alignment between the American habitus and the conspiracist strategies that pundits use for manipulating it. I present the analyses in the next two sections.

The first analyses the American suspicious habitus by reviewing evidence about the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories in health and illness.


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This supplies a context for the second section, which analyses the "conspiracist strategy" that entrepreneurs use for manipulating clients' fears. The American political tradition creates 'receptivity' for conspiratorial suspicions and this responsiveness creates ripe grounds for conspiracy theorists and their campaigns. This section prepares the ground for the analysis of those campaigns by providing evidence for the receptive suspicious American habitus.

This immense body of data consistently recorded little public trust in Government in what concerns healthcare. Other polls confirm the American public holds deep suspicions about the truthfulness of government in medical matters Miller and Saunders As the article describes, "Rumors have persisted that the deadly virus was created by the CIA to wipe out homosexuals and African Americans. Even today, the conspiracy theory has a number of high-profile believers. These conspiracies, indeed, enjoy wide embrace by the public. The figures for those actually infected by HIV are significantly higher Zekeri et al.

Com — he explained that Black males are incarcerated un-proportionally, amounting to roughly one in every three. Resulting from un-safe sex in prison, the infection spreads among inmates — explaining the overrepresentation of the virus among Blacks.

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However, he pointed to another, arguing "A conspiracy of inaction and silence among government officials is worsening the AIDS epidemic among black Americans. For example, reports about the study above invited supporters to express their views. A respondent on a Bustle website adopted the common "greed" narrative by stating: "Cancer is a trillion dollar industry. They'll do anything not to get a cure to the people.


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That's not conspiracy nonsense, that's common sense. First, the government seeks to maximize income from the sale of expansive drugs. Second, it has a darker aim to control population size. At times voters explain their support for those claims by offering a mixture of the two arguments.

The following two excerpts exemplify this rhetoric. As one respondent said, "The government has the cure for cancer but won't release it because they would lose so much money. Some professional commentators, including those who self-identify as cancer specialists, provided examples for how doctors and hospitals spread chronic disease instead of curing it.

Entrepreneurs in alternative medicine tap on the above suspicions of collusion between Big Pharma, the White House and Government agencies. They repeatedly claim that those institutes collude to rob Americans of knowledge about health and of cheap treatments for their illnesses.

How to Tackle Conspiracy Theories in Politics

They raise deep suspicions about canonical medical information and drive American patients to buy alternative medications. They first raise fears, only to follow with promises of liberty and health. In doing so, they tap on basic constitutional commitments for rights and freedoms. Entrepreneurs continually startle the public with suspicions of conspiracies, collusions, and manipulations of information concerning health.

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In doing so they explicitly or implicitly reference American democratic commitments. They also signal who the bad people are, and suggest to potential clients whom they should opt to buy from namely, from true American patriots. Furthermore, I did not sample promotions from an exhaustive list of all trades homeopathy, acupuncture, or herbalism, for example. I also refrain from assessing the importance of those selected promotions within the wide realm of alternative cures.

Rather, the aim is to use a select number of those promotions which best portray the cultural logic that underlies the conspiracist strategy. I also make the caveat that this strategy is not the only and, at times, not the primary tactic entrepreneurs use in alternative medicine.

The analyses refrain from judging the trustworthiness of entrepreneurs and their claims.

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I focus on their pitch, not the value of the content. I also followed documentaries, read institutional self-descriptions, and was attentive to 'medical alerts' that Newsmax Health sent. I followed and documented a selection of those advertisements for three years The data are commercial promotions that entrepreneurs distributed for the public. Hence, I kept names of entrepreneurs — individuals and organizations — as in the original messages as they were using their academic or professional credentials to sell their products.

Finally, the author, a cultural sociologist, has no pecuniary interest in the realm of health and his positions on healthcare policies or alternative cures were irrelevant to the analysis. It first raises fears of government collusion with 'Big Pharma. While doing so, entrepreneurs cloak their messaging with scientific facts and present themselves as persecuted professionals who run respected institutions for the benefit of the public.

They also employ graphic elements to concretize their arguments and use apocalyptic narratives to require swift action. At the end, they always have a product for sale - a salvaging panacea for body and citizenship. After exposing alleged collusions, they call on patriotic motives, suggesting that good Americans stand cautiously against the plots of a rogue White House and Government agencies. Indeed, alternative doctors and organizations use the conspiracist strategy knowing that most Americans are socialized to hold dear the precepts of individual rights.

Entrepreneurs use the conspiracist strategy for alerting American patients about governmental schemes and manipulations that rob their liberties. Their campaigns caution patients from the workings of government bureaus who intently ignore their rights for knowledge. They alert them to the trappings and manipulations of Big Pharma and their political lobbyists, who extort congressional representatives for money and positions.

They expose plots to turn cheap natural cures into expensive medications and complain against the White House, Government agencies and Big Pharma for being self-serving.

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After exposing the battleground for consumer health, entrepreneurs propose alternative sources of information and cures. In doing so, they motivate patients to be patriotic and join an important battle for freedom and liberty.

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By calling on deeply held democratic convictions and libertarian rights, the conspiracist strategy offers patients an opportunity to be good Americans while being saved from cancer, Alzheimer or heart attack — albeit for a modest sum of money. William Campbell Douglass provided a clear link between medical conspiracies and constitutional rights. His book — The Free Man's Declaration for Health and Longevity — provides a model for how fear of conspiracy drives the search for alternative therapies. The cover of his book is a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence over the American flag, making an iconic statement about the affinity between personal rights and freedom of medical knowledge.

He accompanied the book with media calls that emphasized that "Our individual rights come from God, not from the government," and that "In order to exercise your true First Amendment rights, you need to leave the US.

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His newsletter — The Douglass Report — offered the public warnings about "doomsday," while criticizing the federal government and the Center for Disease Control CDC for misleading the public. Upon his death, in , Jack Harrison posted an obituary where he stated that "Dr. An advertisement for a product named NutriO2 opens up by reporting the 'mysterious deaths' of five doctors who practiced alternative medicine.

It claims that all five were shot on questionable grounds. The text implicates "Big Pharma" with the possible assassination of those professionals, whose practice risked its profits. What were they trying to cover up? There is no money in finding a real cheap cure for any illness.