| "Conspiracy theory" |
|Interest of||• Chip Berlet|
• COMPACT - Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories
• Marie-Eve Carignan
• Conspiracy Files
• Conspiracy Watch
• Yusuf Desai
• Karen Douglas
• David Grimes
• Todd Leventhal
• Mark Crispin Miller
• Jan-Willem van Prooijen
• Nathalie Van Raemdonck
• Cass Sunstein
• Robbie Sutton
• Adrian Vermeule
|Subpage(s)||•Conspiracy theory/Academic research|
|An enemy image used to equate scepticism of government with craziness. It was developed by the CIA to try to contain doubt about the FBI's "Oswald did it, case closed" approach to the JFK assassination. It is now being associated with dangerous and violent insanity, in an effort to promote internet censorship of free speech.|
"Conspiracy theory" is a pejorative applied to ideas which challenge an official narrative; people interested in them are termed "conspiracy theorists". This usage stems from the US deep state's efforts to promote the "lone nut" theory of the JFK assassination. The concept was later developed into a general purpose enemy image used to try to prevent the connection of deep events that the commercially-controlled media presented as isolated incidents. Post 9/11, it is the subject of pseudo-scientific study to limit freedom of speech by promoting the idea that the holders of such opinions are inclined to violence and deserve to have their civil liberties removed, in particular by subjecting them to internet censorship.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Modern usage
- 3 Public attitudes to conspiracies
- 4 Pseudo-scientific study
- 5 Cultural references
- 6 Related Quotations
- 7 Related Documents
- 8 Rating
- 9 References
The phrase was occasionally used before, but its modern pejorative connotations stem from efforts within the US government to cover up the JFK assassination. The phrase appears in a November 1963 memo by the US Deputy Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach, and later in a 1968 CIA internal memo that explains how Operation Mockingbird "assets in the media" are attempting to "counter criticism of the Warren Report".
Nicholas Katzenbach's memo
Within hours of the JFK assassination, the FBI were promoting an official narrative that it was carried out by a "lone nut" who had no deep political motivation. Many people were unconvinced by this, particularly after Oswald himself was assassinated in police custody by another "lone nut".
Nicholas Katzenbach sent a memo to Bill Moyers arguing that it was important then to persuade the public that "Oswald was the assassin," and that "he did not have confederates." This memo remarked that "the Dallas police have put out statements on the Communist conspiracy theory."
Countering Criticism of the Warren Report
- Full article: Document:Countering Criticism of the Warren Report
- Full article: Document:Countering Criticism of the Warren Report
Since the perpetrators of the JFK assassination wished to discredit any suggestion which challenged their theory, a decision was made to use Operation Mockingbird commercially-controlled media assets to use the phrase "conspiracy theory" to do exactly that. Accordingly, they were instructed to use the phrase "conspiracy theory" to refer to anyone who publicly doubted the findings of the Warren Commission. This is explained by declassified CIA memo# 1035-960, "Countering Criticism of the Warren Report", which reports the widespread disbelief of the Warren Commission report with concern:
"This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization [the CIA]... Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists..." The memo recommends that its recipients "employ propaganda assets [in the media] to answer and refute the attacks of the critics".
NYU Media Professor Mark Crispin Miller records that the result of this CIA orchestrated effort was that it increasingly was loaded with connotations of craziness, to the point that by about 1980 it was an almost purely pejorative connotation, as if the official narrative is never mistaken or mendacious. As Miller notes in the public discourse only a century or so back the reverse was assumed to be true; distrust of authority used to be very common place, and formed the backdrop of a lot of political negotiations and some of the laws passed in USA. Conspiracy was formerly understood to be a potent force.
As the internet allowed widespread access to diverse opinions, the label "conspiracy theory" has been working overtime as authorities try to sideline any competition to their favoured official narratives. It is associated with the word "extremist", which is used as a more general enemy image, to describe anyone with significant disagreements with official points of view. A dramatic awakening since around 2005 has lead to increasingly aggressive (and unsuccessful) efforts to censor such alternative ideas.
- Full article: “Conspiracy theorist”
- Full article: “Conspiracy theorist”
Nowadays however, the label "conspiracy theorist" has become an ad hominem attack used on those with opinions which threaten the powers that be, as if anyone harboring such thoughts can be safely dismissed as a victim of irrational paranoia, possibly even mentally unbalanced or dangerous. The commercially-controlled media clearly have a commercial interest in casting suspicion on anyone whose primary source of information is elsewhere as inherently suspect, so it is easy to see why they might wish to repeatedly lump together patently absurd ideas together with well-founded doubts about the official narrative under a single label:'conspiracy theory'.
Wikipedia on Conspiracy Theories
Wikipedia noted as of January 2018 that “Theories involving multiple conspirators that are proven to be correct, such as the Watergate scandal, are usually referred to as "investigative journalism" or "historical analysis" rather than conspiracy theory.”
Wikipedia's list of conspiracy theories is an interesting read as a reflection of how commercially-controlled media would like people to behave. The 'Conspiracy Theorist as defective personality' meme is present, with Wikipedia reporting that "The motivations for nations starting, entering, or ending wars are often brought into question by conspiracy theorists." This may refer indirectly to the neglect of economic reasons for war by the commercially-controlled media. In contrast, economic motivations are not questioned by Wikipedia's page on cartel and anti trust law. Acknowledging that "proving the existence of a cartel is rarely easy, as firms are usually not so careless as to put collusion agreements on paper" and that "Cartels usually arise in an oligopolistic industry", Wikipedia avoids the word 'Conspiracy' to describe those hidden arrangements, although American anti trust law such as the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act uses the term. Back then, it seems, conspiracy theories abounded.
The reframing of the term "Conspiracy Theory' is also brought to attention by Daniele Ganser saying the official narrative of 9/11 is by definition (read: the "old" definition) nothing but another "Conspiracy theory". Needless to say that taking back the original meaning of such a major spin keyword (already loaded with the 'defective personality' meme after endless repetitions) can not be allowed by those who brought forth the spin in the first place.
A German editor Phi, (real name Dr. Philipp Heyde) who describes himself as senior government official, in section 'Psychological Foundations' remarks that 'Conspiracy Theories are similar to paranoia, a mental disorder...' He goes on to associate this paranoia with the delusion of the people's Führer in totalitarian regimes. The English Wikipedia is more polite but adds 'schizotypy' to the long litany of 'thought disorders' prevalent amongst "conspiracy theorists".
In the section on assassinations, Wikipedia notes that "the question of Who benefits? (Cui bono?) is also often asked, with conspiracy theorists asserting that insiders often have far more powerful motives than those to whom the assassination is attributed by mainstream society". In the case of the JFK Assassination, since the majority of the US population doubt the Kennedy was killed by a "lone nut", this use of the adjective "mainstream" cannot be interpreted numerically. How then is it best understood? Since the US House Committee on Assassinations, the official US government position is that Kennedy was probably killed due to a conspiracy, this "mainstream" does not necessarily even mean the "government narrative". The "mainstream" in question is the commercially-controlled media, which loves to represent itself as "mainstream" as if any deviation from it is marginal and suspect.
Inability to handle it
Media professor Mark Crispin Miller has advanced an alternative interpretation of the phrase "conspiracy theory" as used by the commercially-controlled media. He suggests that it refers to an idea which, if true, the speaker would find it difficult to handle.
Public attitudes to conspiracies
- Full article: Public attitudes to conspiracies
- Full article: Public attitudes to conspiracies
“There is in Italy a power which we seldom mention in this House ... I mean the secret societies... It is useless to deny, because it is impossible to conceal, that a great part of Europe — the whole of Italy and France and a great portion of Germany, to say nothing of other countries — is covered with a network of these secret societies, just as the superficies of the earth is now being covered with railroads. And what are their objects? They do not attempt to conceal them. They do not want constitutional government; they do not want ameliorated institutions ... they want to change the tenure of land, to drive out the present owners of the soil and to put an end to ecclesiastical establishments. Some of them may go further...”
Michel Parenti on Conspiracy theories
Journalist Michael Parenti has pointed out that politicians and corporate leaders naturally work to further their own monetary and power interests, often in a conspiratorial manner. "To believe otherwise is to believe in Coincidence Theory, the truly nutty idea that the interests of the very wealthy are magically maintained by chance, year after year." In his "Dirty Truths" (City Lights Books, 1996), Parenti points out that "conspiracy" can simply mean that ruling class individuals "are aware of their interests, know each other personally, meet together privately and off the record, and try to hammer out a consensus on how to anticipate and react to events and issues."
Incompetence theories distract from understanding malice. Limited hang outs are like using Newton's Laws to describe the way the universe works at the subatomic level. Newtonian physics is useful for building a bridge, but is an incomplete description of reality. http://www.oilempire.us/map.html
- Somnambulist Theory: The wealthiest 1 percent sleepwalk through life, never giving a thought to their vast wealth or how to keep it.
- Coincidence Theory: Things repeatedly happen by chance in ways that magically maintain the interests of the very wealthy, year after year.
- Stupidity Theory: The very rich are befuddled, incompetent and ineffectual. They just don't know how they keep that power.
- Spontaneity or Idiosyncrasy Theory: Stuff happens (in a way that keeps the system in place.) Again and again. Over long periods of time.
- Aberration Theory: Dirty tricks of the CIA and so forth are "atypical departures" from the norm.
The above theories would have us believe our inequitable tax system, corporate-owned media, unjust social conditions and other wrongful policies are momentary aberrations, isolated from the central goal of our political system. Again, that goal is protecting the money and power of the wealthiest 1%. Parenti points out that the wealthiest 1 percent naturally defend their interests, just as farmers or steelworkers defend theirs. He also notes that the CIA is by definition conspiratorial, "using covert actions and secret plans, many of which are of the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies?"
On 15 January 2008, deep state actors Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School published an academic paper entitled Conspiracy Theories, by which claimed that "the best response [to "conspiracy theorists"] consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups". This is typical amongst the genre in adding an academic gloss to the comforting lie that authorities' versions of events are more or less always reliable and well intentioned, and anyone who suggests otherwise is crazy and potentially dangerous.
Late 2015 and early 2016 has the release of various papers on the topic of "conspiracies", which some have suggested may be indicative of an organised campaign to equate dissent with mental illness. Certainly, it is interesting that such superficial work has received wide press coverage. A 2016 paper by Oxford physicist Dr. David Grimes, for example, was published by a supposedly highly reputable PLOS-One in spite of a simple statistical error and a very crude approach which ignored flew in the face of established historical evidence such as the existence of Operation Gladio and the Manhattan Project. The BBC reported on this paper uncritically under the headline "Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'", and cited Grimes' conclusions that “the Moon landings "hoax" would have been revealed in 3.7 years, the climate change "fraud" in 3.7 to 26.8 years, the vaccine-autism "conspiracy" in 3.2 to 34.8 years, and the cancer "conspiracy" in 3.2 years.”
The second series of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy concludes with the protagonists having finally located the ruler of the universe (a.k.a. the "man in the shack") who makes the real decisions ascribed to the President of The Galaxy, whose "job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it." The posthumously produced series three of the radio series (produced after Adams' death) diffuses this plot by suggesting that this was a psychotic episode. In the radio adaptation Trillian describes the idea of the secret ruler of the universe as a "conspiracy theory".
|"Conspiracy mindset"||“a small part in motivating the endorsement of such seemingly irrational beliefs is the desire to stick out from the crowd, the need for uniqueness”||Roland Imhoff|
Pia Karoline Lamberty
|Marie-Eve Carignan||“Early findings show that there really is a rapid uptake of different conspiracy theories, particularly in the United States and France. Similar theories about other diseases that took years to establish themselves only took a few weeks to take hold, super quickly, because people are absorbing so much information! That’s what’s alarming.”||Marie-Eve Carignan||5 April 2020|
|Conspiracy belief||“belief in conspiracy theories is positively associated with intuitive rather than analytic thinking. Consistently, higher education predicts lower conspiracy beliefs, a finding that is partly mediated by a tendency among the less educated to attribute agency and intentionality where it does not exist, and stronger analytic thinking skills among the higher educated.”||Jan-Willem van Prooijen|
|Conspiracy belief||“[Conspiracy beliefs] are — almost by definition — not shared by the majority of people.”||Roland Imhoff|
Pia Karoline Lamberty
|Conspiracy theories/Academic research/Projection||“they are emotional given that negative emotions and not rational deliberations cause conspiracy beliefs; and they are social as conspiracy beliefs are closely associated with psychological motivations underlying intergroup conflict”||Jan-Willem van Prooijen|
|Conspiracy theories/Academic research/Projection||“[Conspiracy beliefs] are — almost by definition — not shared by the majority of people.”||Roland Imhoff|
Pia Karoline Lamberty
|Conspiracy theory/Academic research||“a small part in motivating the endorsement of such seemingly irrational beliefs is the desire to stick out from the crowd, the need for uniqueness”||Roland Imhoff|
Pia Karoline Lamberty
|Conspiracy theory/Academic research||“Work in online misinformation details how alternative media intentionally fabricate conspiracy theories, spreading false allegations ranging from reptilian presidents to staged terrorist attacks”||Robbie Sutton|
|Conspiracy theory/Academic research||“[Conspiracy beliefs] are — almost by definition — not shared by the majority of people.”||Roland Imhoff|
Pia Karoline Lamberty
|Conspiracy theory/Academic research||“history has repeatedly shown that corporate and political elites do conspire against public interests. Conspiracy theories play an important role in bringing their misdeeds into the light.”||Robbie Sutton|
|Conspiracy theory/Academic research||“they are emotional given that negative emotions and not rational deliberations cause conspiracy beliefs... One limitation... is that the field is lacking a solid theoretical framework that contextualizes previous findings, that enables novel predictions, and that suggests interventions to reduce the prevalence of conspiracy theories in society.”||Jan-Willem van Prooijen|
|Document:Evolution of the 9/11 Controversy From Conspiracy Theories to Conspiracy Photographs||“Most 9/11 conspiracy theories contest every point of the official account. They base this refutation [sic] on their interpretation of both forensic anomalies at the accident [sic] sites whose existence the official account concedes and attempts to explain, and of evidence whose existence and trustworthiness the official account either rejects or ignores. Their interpretive practice, in other words, both reinterprets and finds conspiratorial details, ripping them out of their place within the official account's framework and inserting them into a conspiratorial one. The conspiracy theorists assert that any unexplained anomaly, or any anomaly for which they can provide a better explanation than the official account offers, causes the official account to fail, because each of the government's assertions requires and builds upon the truth of others. If some of the hijackers are still alive, they argue, or if the towers’ collapse was not caused by the plane collision, or if something other than American Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, then the entire official account would be revealed as a series of lies.””||Mark Fenster||2008|
|Julia Ebner||“Across Europe, conspiracy theories that mix old antisemitic tropes with new ones that demonise migrants and Muslims have gained huge traction since the refugee crisis in 2015. A recent study showed that a stunning 60% of Brits believe in at least one conspiracy theory.”||Julia Ebner||February 2019|
|Event 201||“[M]y team has been monitoring the public response. And on various social media channels and cable networks, there's been some conspiracy theories that are around about the potential that pharmaceutical companies or the UN have released this for their own benefit... if conspiracy theories like this come up already, so we are on the edge of hysterical reactions.”||18 October 2019|
|Mental health||“The logic of the conspiracy meme is to question everything the ‘establishment’ — be it government or scientists — says or does... Conspiracy theories can be useful for scientists who are so far out of the mainstream in their field that they seek to appeal to alternative funding sources or publication outlets. They also might occasionally surface when a scientist's mental health deteriorates to the point that he or she loses touch with reality.”||Ted Goertzel||2010|
|Official narrative||“There is an Establishment history, an official history, which dominates history textbooks, trade publishing, the media and library shelves. The official line always assumes that events such as wars, revolutions, scandals, assassinations, are more or less random unconnected events. By definition events can NEVER be the result of a conspiracy, they can never result from premeditated planned group action. An excellent example is the Kennedy assassination when, within 9 hours of the Dallas tragedy, TV networks announced the shooting was NOT a conspiracy, regardless of the fact that a negative proposition can never be proven, and that the investigation had barely begun. Woe betide any book or author that falls outside the official guidelines. Foundation support is not there. Publishers get cold feet. Distribution is hit and miss, or non-existent.”||Antony Sutton||2002|
|Brian Paddick||“Hopefully there will be people in the police service, the security service and in government who will realise how important conspiracy theories are. And how important it is... that every attempt is made to try and counteract them.”||Brian Paddick|
|Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories||“You might think that this memorandum would be fairly central to any discussion of the current prevalence of conspiracy theories, yet is not indexed in the new Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories (briefly reviewed in this issue). Which says quite a lot about said Handbook.”||Robin Ramsay||2020|
|Cass Sunstein||“Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law.”||Cass Sunstein|
|15 January 2008|
|UK/Torture||<nowiki>“Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that [[[U.S. Secretary of State]] Condoleezza Rice] is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop.”</nowiki>||Jack Straw||2005|
|John Young||“Well, conspiracy theory was invented by the spies. No one does more more conspiracy theory than spies do. The national security apparatus cooks up conspiracy theories all the time, but they put out this story that is just conspiracy theory, as though it's contemptible. But in fact, they're the ones who cook up the threats that are far more complex and bizarre than anything we ordinary people could ever cook up and they get billions to fight it. So they're almost diabolically conspiratorially. So let me call myself a sceptic and I'm willing to learn, welcome criticism. I don't mind these terms of being a dissident, a conspiracy theorist. Those are all throwaway terms. (interview with RT Jan 2, 2011)”||John Young|
|Document:911 and the Orwellian Redefinition of Conspiracy Theory||article||20 June 2011||Paul Craig Roberts||"While we were not watching, conspiracy theory has undergone Orwellian redefinition..." A "conspiracy theory" now refers to any ideas or facts that are out of step with the official narrative as put forward by government and the commercially controlled media.|
|Document:A 21-Truth Salute||webpage||2 August 2011||Zen Gardner|
|Document:Beyond Conspiracy Theory||paper||February 2010||Lance deHaven-Smith||The article posits a new framework for the analysis of Deep political events and Conspiracy Theories. The term SCAD (State crime against democracy) is explained and developed as a way of connecting the dots across multiple suspect events.|
|Document:Conspiracies and Conspiracism||article||28 June 2010||James H. Fetzer||This is an effective rebuttal of the claims of Chip Bertlet in his book "Toxic To Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating" which uses the terms "conspiracy theory" and "conspiracist" in the establishment's now de-rigeur pejorative sense.|
|Document:Conspiracy Theory meets Conspiracy Fact||Article||1 April 2020||Michael Buergermeister||This is all merely a bad dream, merely a dystopian nightmare. This has nothing to do with reality.|
|Document:Countering Criticism of the Warren Report||memo||19 July 1968||CIA||An explanation of how the CIA added pejorative connotations to the phrase "conspiracy theory". The document instructs spooks in the use of "propaganda assets" in the commercially-controlled media to undercut any criticism of the JFK assassination official narrative, especially suggestions that Oswald may not have been the "lone nut" as the Warren Commission claimed.|
|Document:Elites Link Anti-Government Thought to Mental Illness||webpage||11 March 2016||Daily Bell Staff|
|Document:Evolution of the 9/11 Controversy From Conspiracy Theories to Conspiracy Photographs||Wikispooks Page||Donald Stahl||An examination of the photos of the World Trade Center, how clearly they contradict the claims of "collapse", and how the US government has played fast and loose with its changing 9-11/Official narrative and with the law to try to hide this fact.|
|Document:The JFK Assassination - Conspiracy Phobia on the Left||book extract||1996||Michael Parenti|
|Document:The State Against The Republic||webpage||13 March 2015||Thierry Meyssan||Meyssan's prediction that pervasive online censorship is coming|
|Document:Why we love to hate conspiracy theories||article||12 September 2010||Denis Rancourt|
|File:Cass sunstein conspiracies.pdf||paper||15 January 2008||Cass Sunstein|
|A classic Official Narrative-type exposition of Conspiracy theory and Conspiracy Theorists with recommendations on how governments should deal with them. It is the principal source of the now widely-used expression "Cognitive Infiltration"|
- Document:Countering Criticism of the Warren Report
- Document:Nicholas Katzenbach on the importance of reassuring the US public about Oswald
- 5 minutes into the first hour of http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/561
- Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, CIA memo# 1035-960
- Land of Idols, St. Martin's Press, 1994
- Document:Elites Link Anti-Government Thought to Mental Illness
- "Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'"
- Document:The State Against The Republic