Testing the link between conspiracy theories and violent extremism: a linguistic coding approach to far-right shooter manifestos

Jana Vanderwee, Julian Droogan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Conspiracy theories have been linked to violent extremist attacks, creating a view that holding one may be a motivating factor for engaging in violence. The perpetrators of the 2019 Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso shootings each cited the ‘Great Replacement’ white genocide conspiracy theory in manifestos distributed online prior to the attacks. This research conducts a close reading of these manifestos and the original conspiracy theory to test the link between holding a conspiracy theory and engaging in outgroup-oriented violence. It compares Renaud Camus’ Great Replacement text (You Will Not Replace Us) and the manifestos of the three violent extremists that cite this theory (The Great Replacement, The Inconvenient Truth, An Open Letter). Three theoretical frameworks provide the basis for the analysis: (1) The presence of conspiracy theory elements (agency, coalition, threat, secrecy), (2) radical narrative constructs (crisis, solution, justification), and (3) mobilising emotions (anger, contempt, disgust–ANCODI). All four sources contained the elements of a conspiracy theory, crisis narratives, and mobilising ANCODI emotions as the dominant emotions. This suggests that the original conspiracy theory may have influenced the perpetrators. This research furthers academic debate, both conceptually and empirically, about the nature of connectivity between conspiracy theories and violent extremism.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalBehavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression
Early online date5 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Oct 2023

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