The Conspirational YouTubing of Disaster and Post-Truth Climates: A Case Study of Conspirational Narratives in Relation to the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Authors: Tom Albrecht*, Queen's University Belfast
Topics: Cultural Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Political Geography
Keywords: Media, Disaster, Post-Truth, Conspiracism, YouTube, Geoengineering
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galerie 2, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Van Prooijen & Douglas’ work argues that the sense-making process concerning the loss of control due to societal crises, such as natural disasters, can result in conspirational thinking. In summer 2017, the Atlantic hurricanes caused theories to emerge on social media platforms which claim that these natural disasters are intentionally brought about by secret conspirators. YouTube in particular, as a fast-paced medium for the dissemination of political views with potentially large audiences, provides a platform for attaching new meanings to current events and propagating alternative truths on disasters.

In the context of the summer 2017 hurricanes, YouTubers draw from established conspiratorial narratives (e.g. chemtrails and geo-engineering, depopulation, FEMA concentration camps) and furthermore, employ scientific methods to explain hurricanes as technologically manufactured conspiracies. This form of alternative knowledge production concerning disaster needs to be understood as a political discursive practice which utilises suppressed and stigmatized knowledge to attack scientific and political institutions in power.

While climate change conspiracism receives increasing attention in academic scholarship, climates of suspicion concerning geo-engineering and its societal and political implications are barely addressed in academia. This paper critically engages with the scholarly engagement with conspiracism, social media and disaster by analysing the discursive interplay of conspirational, scientific, (geo)-political, and apocalyptic narratives in conspirational YouTube videos which address the Atlantic summer 2017 hurricanes.

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