This paper is the first in a series of policy papers on emerging themes in extremism and terrorism by Demos. These papers focus on under-researched dimensions of extremism, and do not present an exhaustive answer, but suggest new avenues of study. Future papers include the role of women and gender in extremist movements, and methods to de-glamorise al-Qaeda.
This paper examines the role of conspiracy theories in extremist groups. Numerous studies have considered a variety of factors thatencourage extremism: ideology, grievance, poverty, religion, and social networks. The role of conspiracy theories, defined as accounts of events as the deliberate yet concealed product of a powerful few,regardless of the evidence, has been ignored. This study is the first attempt, as far as we are aware, to research this subject and should be viewed as such.