"So if you lose an election, it’s not because you had a bad candidate. It’s because you were cheated."
Shane Dawson, a popular Youtube personality, shared a video on Monday in which he discusses the flat earth conspiracy with his brother, Jared Yaw.
By discussing the topic, Dawson lends the flat earth conspiracy -- the wild theory that scientists have been hiding the truth about the earth's lack of curvature -- a huge platform. As of June 7, his "Mind Blowing Conspiracy Theories" video has garnered more than 7 million views. While he may not be a household name, Dawson has a massive following of 13 million subscribers to his YouTube channel.
Is the flat earth theory going mainstream? Other celebrities have toyed with the flat earth notion. Rapper B.o.B. famously tried to raise money to find out if the earth is flat. Thirty-three percent of millennials aren't sure if the earth is round.
Even if you dismiss conspiracy theorists' ideas as fringe ramblings, discerning the motivations of people who think the earth is flat or that the moon landing was a hoax can give us insights into much more conventional concerns.
Take Yaw, for example:
The link between conspiracy theories and American politics:
"We are living in a post-truth conspiracy age," said Uscinski
One clear example? During the Republican primary, Trump appeared to accuse Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, of having a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
JFK--> Marilyn Monroe--> Arthur Miller--> The Crucible--> Ted Cruz--> Rafael Cruz--> JFK pic.twitter.com/bcUuLiuHLH— Brian Tashman (@briantashman) October 31, 2016
Conspiracy narratives were also used as tools to rally voters into collective action in both Trump's and Bernie Sanders' 2016 election campaigns.
"Trump, for example, is saying that American political elites have sold out the interests of regular Americans to foreign elites," said Uscinski. "And Sanders on the opposite side of the coin said that this secret group, called the one percent, was conspiring to control the entire American economic and political systems."
The Losers: The use of conspiracy narratives helps energize a group of people who Uscinski classifies, descriptively rather than pejoratively, as "the losers."
The "losers," according to Uscinski, "are generally people who are on the outside or are in the out party." They tend to be people who use conspiracy theories for their own benefit.
One way "losers" use conspiracies is as an "emotional salve" to explain away a loss. "So if you lose an election, it’s not because you had a bad candidate," Uscinski said. "It’s because you were cheated."
Thus, "losers" are able to maintain their dignity in the face of a political loss. It also keeps them from having to examine their own faults, "which nobody wants to do," said Uscinski.
No, B.o.B. and Shane Dawson aren't to blame for an uptick in conspiracy theories: We might assume
"It is sort of a phenomenon that you have some fringe people buying into this idea, but it's a fringe idea and I’d be very careful with saying 'oh it’s lots of young people.' It’s just not true….you have to be very careful in how you interpret these pieces of data sometimes,” he added.