Manfactroversies, conspiracy theories, and moral panics

A defining feature of conservative grievance politics is the deliberate manufacturing of conflict, typically through the creation of elaborate conspiracy theories (such as “Cultural Marxism”) or through the creation of moral panics and mass paranoia (as with the current controversy over critical race theory).

“Cultural Marxism” and “political correctness”

Cultural Marxism describes a conspiracy theory, devised in a LaRouche movement journal and popularised by paleoconservatives in the 1990s, in which it is said that the Frankfurt School of philosophers, on escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, sought to undermine Western civilisation by subverting its culture and institutions. Originally coined to attack what was deemed “political correctness” as a communist plot, its relative vagueness has seen it been applied by conservative grievance activists and the far-right to virtually everything they disagree with.

As most of the Frankfurt School were Jewish escapees from Nazi Germany, the theory is related to, but not coterminous with, the antisemitic Judeo-Bolshevism conspiracy theory most infamously propagated by the Nazis.

Critical race theory “controversy”

After the publication of the 1619 Project and the George Floyd protests of 2020, American conservative grievance activists insisted that an obscure school of legal academia attempting to explain racial disparities in the criminal justice system was part of a subversive plot to brainwash children in schools (see also “Cultural Marxism”). The related vilification of wokeness emerged around the same time.

Conspiracy theories relating to Islamic takeovers, “ethnic replacement”, etc

  • J Mann. 2015. “Sticker-Fearing” in
    • Response to moral panic about Halal certification funding Islamist terrorism — Characterisation of voluntary business relationships as “religious taxes” — author notes the lack of objection from opponents to Halal certification to Kosher certification

Panics about queer rights; inc. opposition to civil same-sex marriage, TERFs, bathroom bills, “religious freedom” in already secular societies, the “anti-gender movement”

  • B Law. 2017. “Moral Panic 101 – Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal” in The Quarterly Essay 67. OCLC 1008612386.
  • T Greif. 2016 “Pathology of the ecclesiastic–political discourse of the right of samesex marriage and the role of the media” in Časopis za kritiko znanosti, domišljijo in novo antropologijo (no. 266): 145-162. [published in Slovene]
    • Rejection of queer rights on irrational grounds or grounds not based in reality — “paranoia” of conservatives with regards to queer rights — 2014 Slovene same-sex marriage referendum — perennial homophobe Alex Primc and Za otreke gre — moral panic about gay parents adopting orphans instead of biological grandparents

The GamerGate extended universe — “social justice warriors”, controversy over Tropes vs Women in Video Games, YouTube skepticism, etc


QAnon is the name of a conspiracy theory propagated on the imageboard 8chan by an pseudonymous user known only as “Q” which suggests that virtually the entire global elite form a global cabal of Satanic pedophiles which conspired against former US President Donald Trump’s supposed attempts to shut down their alleged child trafficking ring. Since the end of Trump’s presidency, it has become increasingly mainstream on the American right, despite Q not having posted since the 2021 Capitol siege, at which thousands of Trump supporters attempted to prevent the confirmation of Donald Trump’s defeat.