Taken in its primary sense, the notion of authenticity refers to a real, and duly established, link between the appearance of a person, a thing, an act or a behavior and its own nature, its identity or its singular history—with an emphasis, in general, on the point of origin of this history. This basic definition invites us to classify authenticity among the negative or oppositional concepts. Authentic is that which has not been falsified. The idea of deception constitutes, in a way, the semantic exoskeleton of a concept which can only be conceived in opposition to the hypothesis of falsity. One of the consequences of this negative constitution is that the attribution of a label of authenticity presupposes the carrying out of tests by which one tries to exclude the possibility of deception.

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Panic! A recent study commissioned by the Belgian magazines Knack and Le Vif suggests that up to one in three Belgians believes in a conspiracy theory. It varies from familiar claims that the moon landing was faked to recent theories about how the coronavirus is a Chinese hoax.

Yet we should not be misled and think that these numbers constitute a major or new problem. It is necessary to situate these results in their broader social and historical context. Once we do so, it becomes apparent that while conspiracy theories are to be found throughout the whole of history, they are always connected to a number of social problems.

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The supposed fallaciousness of conspiracy theories is often taken to reside in their theories, which are claimed to be false. Think about theories on how the coronavirus is allegedly produced in a Chinese lab or is seen as a hoax. Similarly, in the documentary Behind the Curve, which deals with the conspiracy theory that NASA is hiding from us that the Earth is flat, flat earthers do their experiments and formulate arguments why they believe the Earth is not a globe. It is often easy to spot the mistakes in their experiments and notice how they ignore counterevidence. Conspiracy theories are thus false from a scientific point of view: they present themselves as skeptical and rational theories, but are in reality easily debunked and simply false.

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Chapter one of L.I.S. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

My eyes fell recently on a new reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment.” Above is Christ as judge surrounded by the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, and the apostles. Below, the punishment of the damned, painted in somber colors. These castigations are eagerly carried out by a rough crew of monsters crawling across the country like insects on a piece of rotten meat. We witness how the damned are burned, speared, impaled, hung on butcher’s hooks, forced to eat excrements or thrown into bizarre machines that look like gigantic meat mills, and more of that fun. But one specific scene caught my attention. In the midst of all this cheerful violence, there is discernible, at a crumbled brothel and in a place that probably should have housed a blacksmith, one of these crazy figures nailing a horseshoe to a woman’s heel. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I came across descriptions of this horrible ordeal in books talking about the torture that the Armenians had endured before and during the 1915 genocide. But these facts are also told by historians and by witnesses whose experiences were recorded. “Hence, it was all true.”

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The task of philosophy, Deleuze tells us, is not to provide ‘solutions’ to philosophical questions, but to create concepts in order to respond to problems that exert an undeniable demand to be addressed. Such responding consists in the mere fact of addressing the problem, that is to say in the ability to disclose a previously concealed conceptual domain, in order to articulate the problem in the first place. If disclosing of that sort ever takes place, it is because the world in which the philosophical thought is situated puts forward the task of articulating something that initially lacks the clearness and distinctiveness of Cartesian ideas, yet stubbornly resonates with our intuition. Propelled by such resonance, our intuition is driven to orient itself through what is traditionally called logos, with the aim of articulating in words something that until then remained ineffable, but by no means negligible. 

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