Narrative Counterspeech

Political Studies (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The proliferation of conspiracy theories poses a significant threat to democratic decision-making. To counter this threat, many political theorists advocate countering conspiracy theories with ‘more speech’ (or ‘counterspeech’). Yet conspiracy theories are notoriously resistant to counterspeech. This article aims to conceptualise and defend a novel form of counterspeech – narrative counterspeech – that is singularly well-placed to overcome this resistance. My argument proceeds in three steps. First, I argue that conspiracy theories pose a special problem for counterspeech for three interconnected reasons relating to salience, emotion and internal coherence. Drawing on recent work in social epistemology, philosophy of emotion and cognitive science, I then demonstrate that narrative forms of counterspeech constitute an apt response to this diagnosis. Finally, I forestall two objections: the first questions the likely effectiveness of narrative counterspeech; the second insists that, even if it were effective, it would remain unacceptably manipulative. Neither objection, I contend, is ultimately compelling.

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Maxime C. Lepoutre
University of Reading

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