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A rhetorical perspective on conspiracies

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Abstract

In this paper, we analyze the persuasive effects of conspiracy theories from a rhetorical and argumentative perspective. In particular, we scrutinize a case-study¬†– the story of the “Stamina cure” in Italy¬†–, interpreting it as a particular instance of conspiracy theory. First, we explain what conspiracy theories are, and why they are relevant within the contemporary health debate. Second, we situate our analysis in relation to other theoretical accounts, explaining why a discursive approach may be required to study conspiracies. Third, we investigate our case-study through the lenses of the three “entechnic” proofs of rhetoric: logos, ethos, and pathos. We conclude that a rhetorical approach can shed significant light on how conspiracies achieve their persuasive effect and it provides a first step toward the elaboration of a more comprehensive model to better address the practical and political implications of conspiracy argumentations.

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Keywords: Stamina case; conspiracy theories; health communication; inference; rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 25, 2019

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