Apparent threats to the integrity of social scientific knowledge proliferate amid a broader crisis of expertise. This has only become more significant during the COVID-19 crisis, to the extent that misinformation has the potential to extend the most significant public health crisis in over a century. There are many other examples we could point to here: the flat earth movement, the proliferation of conspiracy theories and climate change denial are simply three of the most jarring. Each can seem like an egregious attack on factualness that is pre-modern in its implications. However, we encounter a more nuanced reality if we look slightly further into them. Within the flat earth movement there is a passionate commitment to empirical inquiry, built around the practice of DIY field experiments. It’s a pre-modern empiricism which distrusts anything which can’t be seen with one’s own eyes but it’s an empiricism nonetheless. Within the alt-right media there is a passionate commitment to investigative journalism, built around an enthusiasm for the information sources which the internet has generated. It is a jarring facsimile of what this looks like elsewhere, oscillating between cynicism and childishness in its willingness to draw connections between discrete elements absent any justification for this inference. But, it is a commitment to investigation, nonetheless.
Source: The London School of Economics and Political Science. Read all the paper.