Jove's Bodega: Compendium of Philosophical Inquiry, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2023

Structural Exploitation of Individual Vulnerabilities in the “Post-Truth Era”

Cover Image of Jove's Bodega 2023 Compendium of Philosophical Inquiry

Published 2024-01-20


  • Epistemic Bubbles,
  • Echo Chambers,
  • Conspiracy Theories,
  • Social Media


Many attempts have been made to understand the epistemic processes by which an individual is led to believe extreme and often dangerous conspiracy theories. The common view that conspiracy theorists simply lack information is demonstrably false, given the ease of access to information via the internet, so the issue lies in either the individuals themselves or the environment they find themselves in. However, upon reflection, it does not seem accurate to place the blame solely on either of these poles, as the epistemic practices of conspiracy theorists closely reflect those of non-believers, and clearly, not all individuals in a given environment end up with the same beliefs. In this paper, I consider two opposing diagnoses: Quassim Cassam’s argument for faulty individual thinking—namely, epistemic vices—as the root of conspiracy belief and Thi Nguyen’s case for the social-structural perspective—epistemic “luck”—as the catalyst for extreme beliefs. Ultimately, I reject both diagnoses and argue that the particular combination of individual “hero complexes” and for-profit media machines is to blame for the rise of extreme and corrosive conspiracy beliefs.