Fringe Rhetorics: Conspiracy Theories and the Paranormal identifies the rhetorical similarities of conspiracy theories and paranormal accounts by delving into rhetorical, psychosocial, and political science research. Identifying something as “fringe” indicates its proximal placement within accepted norms of contemporary society. Both conspiracy theories and paranormal accounts dwell on these fringes and use surprisingly similar persuasive techniques. Using elements of the Aristotelian canon as well as Steve Oswald’s strengthening and weakening strategies, this book establishes a pattern for the analysis of fringe rhetorics. It also applies this pattern through rhetorical analyses of several documentaries and provides suggestions for countering fringe arguments.
Karen Schroeder Sorensen is associate professor at Winona State University.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Defining Fringe Rhetoric
Chapter 2 Rhetorical Lens
Chapter 3 Fringe Rhetoric: Flat Earth
Chapter 4 Fringe Rhetoric: Power and Control
Chapter 5 Fringe Rhetoric: Aliens and Cover-Ups
Chapter 6 Rhetorical Strategies for Refutation
“Beliefs in conspiracy theories are widespread and consequential, but little is known about why people are so drawn to them. Karen Schroeder Sorensen provides an important and compelling look into the rhetoric that conspiracy theorists use to communicate their ideas. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in modern conspiracy theorizing.”
“By carefully defining the nature and describing the features of fringe rhetoric, Sorensen puts forth one of the most accessible and comprehensive accounts of the impact of conspiracy theories and paranormal narratives. The three contemporary case studies analyzed in this book further demonstrate the relevance of her account while deepening our understanding of these problematic communicative phenomena. This is a must-read for anyone (scholars and non-scholars alike) wondering why fringe narratives are both persuasive and (therefore) pervasive.”
"Sorensen’s book is much-needed and extremely timely, giving a clear, engaging, and informed analysis of fringe rhetoric. Bringing together work from rhetoric, psychology, and political science, Sorensen provides an excellent account of this complex area. In the wonderful final chapter, she outlines strategies for engaging with those who hold fringe beliefs. Schroeder Sorensen's arguments are compelling and rigorous, and her important insights are enriched by her humane analysis."
"Why do large numbers of people believe that authority figures are covering up the fact that the world is flat, or that aliens have repeatedly visited the Earth? To answer such questions, we need to understand how rhetorical techniques can be used to make eccentric conspiracy theories seem persuasive, even when there is little or no evidence in their favor. In this deftly written and engaging book, Karen Schroeder Sorensen shows readers how to see right through these techniques, and how to help others resist them. Read this book and inoculate yourself against belief in unwarranted conspiracy theories."
"This illuminating book by Karen Schroeder Sorensen connects today’s theories of the paranormal and of conspiracy. Conjoining these widely accepted points of view yields valuable insights into the discourse of popular culture generally. Schroeder Sorensen’s work ranges across rhetoric, psychology, and political science and will be important for scholars who work in those disciplines."
"Arguing with an adherent of a conspiracy theory or another fringe belief spells almost certain argumentative doom because these manners of discourse do not obey the same rules to which formal argumentation adheres. Sorensen carefully elucidates the difficult, but not impossible, task of arguing against fringe beliefs. By focusing on widely held conspiracy theories and paranormal beliefs, and situating them under the broader term 'fringe,' Schroeder Sorensen lays bare the rhetorical and argumentative strategies used by the purveyors of such rhetoric. More importantly, she provides those willing to go into argumentative combat with the true believers with the tools designed to counter the conspiratorial without being pulled into the hermetically sealed black holes into which too many fall victim."