«Global and local conspiracy theories in Armenia» project was designed to be implemented within the period of parliamentary elections campaign in June 2021 in Armenia and after the elections. Before the elections took place, when dozens of political parties were in the active phase of their campaign, and when all the media in the country was concentrated to cover the campaigns and disseminate information on the recent events in the country /Second Karabakh War, economical crisis, etc./, all the possible informational platforms were flooded with conspiracy theories, misinformation, fake news, which was creating the environment of panic and unknown future of the country.
Conspiracy theories are becoming one of the dominant narratives of our time. They serve as a tool in the struggle for political power, a way to social exchange, and the base for a whole cultural layer. Studies of conspiracy discourse show that conspiracy theories are part of a manipulative discourse used by political forces to create a negative image of their competitors. However, the existence of an invisible conspiracy is not a paranoid idea as a private opinion but is often transmitted through the media and social networks, which leads to the total spread of conspiracy myths preventing society from navigating freely in the informational space
By misrepresenting information, depriving citizens of the opportunity to perceive it without the idea of conspiracy, the disseminators of a conspiracy narrative bring society into a state of passivity, when an individual ceases to believe in the power of his own will, loses the faith to reality, and stops being civically active. All this shows that conspiracy beliefs are one of the main obstacles to the development of such a society where the active subject, its choices, and freedoms are in the central place. In short, the proliferation of conspiracy theories inhibits the idea of developing democracy and is an extreme anti-democratic discourse.
Deep-rooted in history, conspiracy theories became most popular in the 20th century. In the 1950s, western sociologists and historians started interdisciplinary studies to understand the phenomenon in the context of political technologies, public speech, and media language. Today, conspiracy theories are popular almost in every country and always serve as one of the main tools for right-wing and far-right politics.
The South-Caucasian region, including Armenia, is not an exemption in this sense. We are increasingly witnessing the active spread of such a manipulative discourse. Conspiracy theories in the Armenian media and in the speeches of politicians became the most common after the 2018 Velvet Revolution and reached their maximum popularity in the crisis situation that arose after the Second Karabakh War in the fall of 2020 and amid the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic.
The parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2021 have sparked a resurgence of conspiracy theories among the Armenian public. Conspiracy beliefs foster the spread of such phenomena as hate speech, homophobia, thus creating a basis for the high intolerance to human freedoms (sexual, political, ideological, etc.).
Despite some attempts to approach the conspiracy theories by researchers, in Armenia, this topic remains poorly researched, and there is no widespread knowledge about the nature and consequences of belief in conspiracy theories. However, Armenian reality is flooded both with the local and global conspiracy theories, affecting each and every citizen of the country. Until today, there is no general understanding in public either about the mechanisms of conspiracy discourse or about ways information can be perceived when the language of the media is entirely conspiratorial.
The main topics of the project:
- political conspiracy theories (the significance of conspiracy theories in political struggle and the election race);
- LGBTQ+ and conspiracy theories - aimed at discrediting representatives of the LGBTQ+ community (we will invite an expert on gender studies who will show that local LGBTQ+ conspiracies are a kind of transformation of global conspiratorial myths);
- Medical conspiracy theories (conspiracy myths around papillomavirus vaccinations followed by myths around COVID 19 in Armenia)
- Post-war conspiracy theories - conspiracy theories developed in Armenia during and after the Second Karabakh War