Changing Conceptions of Conspiracy

Part of the series Springer Series in Social Psychology pp 151-169

The Conspiracy Mentality

  • Serge Moscovici

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Periodically, people are accused of conspiring against their country, against their religion, or against the party of which they are members. Now, a conspiracy is, by definition, the work of a minority. One of the most pronounced, if not the most pronounced, aspects of this accusation becomes immediately apparent: The minority is alien; either it is composed of foreigners or it is financed by and in league with foreign powers. One always seems to detect what one calls “the hand of the stranger” behind the beliefs and actions of the minority. An event will trigger this habitual thought process that one has recourse to, as if by reflex. A few examples will enable us to give our ideas more concrete form. A few years ago Indira Ghandi, India’s prime minister, was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards. The murder occurred at the same time the Sikh minority was claiming its independence, and the Indian Army had been called in to intervene against it. A few days after the assassination, Rajiv Ghandi, who had succeeded his mother, proclaimed in front of an audience of 100, 000 in New Delhi: “The assassination of Indira Ghandi is the doing of a vast conspiracy whose object is to weaken and divide India” (LeMonde, 1984). He added that the assassins were aided and abetted by foreign accomplices. Also recently, an event had great repercussions in France. Agents of the French secret service sank the Rainbow Warrior, a ship belonging to the ecological organization Greenpeace, in the port of Auckland. The ship was to take part in a demonstration against French nuclear experiments in the Pacific. Without awaiting the results of the official nuclear experiments in the Pacific.