The London School of Economics

Project Description

Ghostbusters: Strategies in Fighting Conspiracy Theories in the War on Terror

Project Abstract

This dissertation examines three political myths (urban legends) propagated on the Internet and as well as in more traditional media. The three political rumours were all spread in context of the �War on Terror�, and are (1) that 4,000 Jewish employees did not go to work in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, (2) that the explosion at the pentagon on September 11, 2001 was caused by a misguided U.S. bomb, not a plane and (3) that US forces used mustard and nerve gas in Fallujah, Iraq.

I have chosen these cases because they all have different sources and different ways of being spread: (1) is impossible to track to the source, yet it emerged as one of the most widely circulating rumours in connection with 9/11. (2) is the brainchild of a French conspiracy theorist who turned it into a bestselling book, and (3) came from a fake website pretending to be Al-Jazeera before it was picked up by newspapers in the Arab world.

The dissertation will first examine who spread those stories and what the political motivation is behind these types of urban legends. Second, it will examine how they passed from obscure websites into mainstream media. Third, it will explore strategies employed by the U.S. Department of State in fighting these rumours. Fourth, it will examine if these efforts to fight the urban legends paid off with a prime audience, Muslim youth in the Middle East. My Hypothesis is that people will reject the counterinformation based on the source. I will conduct an online survey (using questionpro) to test whether or not the students have heard of the 3 rumours and whether or not they believe them to be true. I will then present counterinformation and test whether or not that exposure to this information changes the students� minds.

Surveys released for this project:
Political Rumors 42
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This Project Sponsored by: QuestionPro - Web Survey Software
See Research Sponsorship for more information.