WSU political science professor discusses paranoia, populism, state of fake news

Cornell Clayton.
Cornell Clayton

During a lecture in Kane Hall on Tuesday, Washington State University political science professor, Cornell Clayton, attributed the current landscape of fake news and conspiracy theories to a combination of both populism and paranoia in Americans.

Clayton, the director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU, visited the UW as part of the UW Graduate School’s set of lectures entitled “BUNK: The Information Series,” which Ronan Farrow kicked off Oct. 2.

Clayton explored how American politics have become a space for suspicion in the form of conspiracy theories, such as the birther conspiracy that holds that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. However, Clayton noted that both Republicans and Democrats have recently been led by paranoid leaders.

“Which conspiracy theories we believe and how we think about populism is deeply structured by our preexisting partisan and ideological identities,” Clayton said. “That’s the nature of today’s off-the-rails politics.”

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