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Rudy Reichstadt, founder of Conspiracy Watch (l’Observatoire du conspirationnisme) in France, takes an expert look at the phenomenon plaguing our world.

© Lihi Turjeman, Demons, We Are Dealing With Very Dangerous Materials, 2020 40 x 50 cm

INTERVIEW WITH Rudy Reichstadt
Founder of Conspiracy Watch

Let’s first define the terms: what is conspiracism—what in French we call conspirationnisme or complotisme?

These two words entered the dictionary in French in 2011 and 2016 respectively. In reality, conspirationnisme has been in use since the 1980s. The term théorie du complot is older; it was first used in the 1900s. The English equivalent, “conspiracy theory,” is even older still, having been documented at the end of the 1860s. In fact, Karl Popper used it in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies, published in 1945. So, contrary to what you might read on the internet, the expression “conspiracy theory” was not invented by the CIA to discredit those who were, as they say, “just asking questions.” Now, there are almost as many definitions of these terms as there are people who use them. Conspiracism describes the attitude of wrongly attributing the cause of an event or a fact to a conspiracy, a secret plot. In French, we use two words—conspiration and complot. The two are synonymous. But when you’re talking about a conspiration, it puts the emphasis on the existence of hidden connections, of collusion between the different parties involved in the suspected scheme, while complot puts the emphasis on the secret plot itself, the aim of the operation, which is generally limited in time and space.

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