Supplement for New Internationalist Magazine

Interview: Sonali Kolhatkar

by Chip Berlet - November 2007


New Internationalist: As an alternative journlaist, how do conspiracy theories affect your work?

Kolhatkar: Well, I don't really hear conspiracists in the mainstream. Then again, I don't hear too much good investigative reporting on the mainstream either… But in alternative media, I don't think the conspiracists have crowded out the serious journalists – not yet.

I think the real problem is when serious journalism is mixed in with conspiracy theory. For example conspiracists will start talking about perfectly reasonable things like the CIA and FBI spying on citizens, and then take that into the nether realms. So they start out sounding reasonable, suck in innocent listeners, and then draw far out conclusions. It's hard to resist unless you are a complete skeptic and willing to do lots of homework to check their facts and dubious claims.

Another problem is when journalists discuss serious and verifiable issues but are heckled by a few extremely vocal audience members to stretch their thinking to include the conspiracies in their journalism. That's pretty disheartening. It happens to me often, when I talk about the war in Afghanistan, which is my specialty - one or two people will question the whole premise of the topic by bringing up the 9/11 attacks as some sort of "inside job" which implies that my talking about Afghanistan is a moot point when I should really be talking about the "much bigger story" of the 9/11 attacks. That really depresses me.

 

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