Laughing with Conspiracy Theories: Humor and Parody in a Serious Genre

Jesse A.  Fivecoate (Indiana University)

Recent scholarship on conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking has necessarily given more attention to the complexes that have motivated or inspired violent acts such as Pizzagate and QAnon. While these complexes will surely continue to move our thinking on this genre, I want to turn our attention, momentarily, to discuss the role of humor and play in conspiracy theory and thinking in online communities. Here, I am thinking of the “Birds Aren’t Real,” or “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer,” as a couple of examples. In looking at humor, we can see the ways in which conspiracy thinking is further encoded as “stigmatized knowledge” as Michael Barkun terms it. From this frame, we also see how play and humor help us investigate the boundaries of the amorphous genre of conspiracy theory by looking at the inversion of the generic script.

Part of 08-02 Approaches to Conspiracy Theory: Time, Parody, Politics, and Ostension, Saturday, October 15, 10:30 am–12:30 pm