"Conspiracy theory"

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Concept.png "Conspiracy theory" Glossary.png  Sourcewatch
Interest of • David Grimes
• Mark Crispin Miller
• Shyam Sunder
• Cass Sunstein
• Adrian Vermeule
Subpage(s)Conspiracy theory/Public attitudes
Declassified CIA memo# 1035-960 ("Countering Criticism of the Warren Report") reveals that it has been deliberately given associations of craziness, as though conspiracies do not happen. It is routinely used by the corporate media in their efforts to stifle critics of official narratives.

A 'conspiracy' is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime at some time in the future, and a 'theorist' is someone who creates theories, so the literal denotation of a 'conspiracy theorist' is someone who theorises about conspiracies. This give little clue to its modern use as a pejorative, which stems from a CIA campaign carried out by Operation Mockingbird.


Certain individuals in the CIA were concerned by books such as those of Mark Lane which presented a highly credible challenge to the Warren Commission's finding of Lee Harvey Oswald as a 'lone nut'. NYU Media Professor Mark Crispin Miller records that the phrase 'conspiracy theory' became popular in journalistic discourse as a label for describing commentators who publicly doubted the findings of the Warren Commission.[1] 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".[2]

Professor Miller suggests that an attempt was orchestrated by the CIA and their friends in the media to soil the phrase 'conspiracy theorist' with connotations of craziness, noting that since 1980 it has taken on an almost purely perjorative connotation, as if the official narrative is never mistaken or mendacious. As Miller notes, the reverse was assumed to be true in the public discourse only a century or so back; distrust of authority used to be very common place, and formed the backdrop of a lot of political negotiations and some fo the laws passed in USA. Conspiracy was formerly understood to be a potent force.[1]

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 labal:'conspiracy theory'.

Wikipedia on Conspiracy Theories

Tinfoil Hat Guy.jpg

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, 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.

Public attitudes to conspiracies

Full article: Stub class article Public attitudes to conspiracies

Until the phrase was deliberately tainted by a concerted campaign by the CIA, it had no associations of kookiness. Historically, conspiracy was understood to be an every present danger. The UK Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, for example, said to Parliament in 1856:

"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... "[3]

Peter Lavenda on Conspiracy theories

The following is extracted from Peter Lavenda's Prologue to "The Most Dangerous Book in the World: 9/11 as Mass Ritual" a 2012 book by SK Bain. [4] To the extent that the terms 'Conspiracy Theorist' and 'conspiracy theory' have aquired a validity distinct from both their original dictionary definitions and the pejorative usage outlined above, this extract nails it:

“They have one foot in the world of mainstream history and culture, what Robert Anton Wilson used to call “consensus reality”. That’s the world where most of us live. We are all products of that world, and of the ideas and worldview it represents. We are trained in this world virtually from birth: school, church, government, media all conspire to present an image - a picture - of reality that will result in the development of perfect citizens in an easily-managed society. There is a social contract:

we contribute to this society with the expectation that we will receive goods and services in return. We obey the laws that are created by other people, believing that our best interests are being addressed thereby. We fight in wars declared by our governments in order to preserve our society - this carefully-structured, albeit artificial, society.

And all is right with the world.

But conspiracy theorists have their other foot ... well, somewhere else. Not everyone is asleep to the darker mechanisms of reality. In fact, everyone becomes aware of them at some point in their lives. Everyone questions. The very nature of reality itself is at times so hostile to human life that human institutions must be challenged for their inadequate protection of their constituents. Conspiracy theorists seize on this inadequacy as evidence of the tenuousness of consensus reality. There are other forces at work, forces that are unacknowledged by the state, the church, the media because to admit their existence is to admit failure. Thus, when things go wrong, terrorists are blamed, or communists, or witches. This serves to rally the citizens around the government once again, instead of stopping to insist that explanations be given, that evidence is properly analyzed, that the guilty are apprehended and punished. And we once more go to war, against … someone, somewhere.

Paranoia becomes institutionalised. It is appropriated by the government as its own prerogative. The state determines the nature and quality of the paranoia: it creates intelligence agencies whose sole purpose is to give a form to paranoia, to enshrine paranoia as one of the necessary qualities of an observant and caring state. To prove that paranoia is an acceptable characteristic of the paternalistic regime.

The citizens are not allowed to become paranoid unless it is at government direction and sanction. Individual cases of paranoia are frowned upon. The state tells us that if we are not paranoid the way it is paranoid—and about the same things—it’s because we don’t have all the facts: about terrorism, fundamentalism, communism, foreign countries, weapons of mass destruction, sleeper cells. The state has all the facts: classified documents, wire-tap transcripts, intelligence feeds, high-altitude reconnaissance images, none of which the citizen is permitted to see.

It does not realise that the logical conclusion of all this paranoia is suspicion of the state apparatus itself.

What the conspiracy theorist often fails to realise, however, is that those working for the state are often just as clueless as the average citizen when it comes to the origin and function of the forces at work to subvert it. The strength of a conspiracy, after all, rests in the limited number of persons who are aware of its existence and parameters. No one has the entire picture. Each member of the state apparatus only has possession of a single piece of an enormous jigsaw puzzle. Putting together all these disparate pieces—particularly when one does not have the original picture to work from—is a soul-destroying enterprise that consumes decades of work and years of one’s life. This is especially true when the state has in its arsenal of lies the techniques of disinformation and misdirection, of false testimony and planted documents.

Anyone who works with this material eventually comes to that realisation. But the motivation to keep digging is still alive; the urge to uncover one more piece of the puzzle, one more document, is perhaps a central characteristic not only of the conspiracy theorist but of human nature itself. The more intelligent of the theorists soon come to realize that Hansel and Gretel have left breadcrumbs everywhere, in no discernible pattern. Thus, the inclination among some of the best to stop looking for the children and start looking for the Witch.

The deeper one delves into the conspiracy literature, the more one is struck by the tendency of some theorists to look beyond the documents and the tangible evidence of government malfeasance or political conspiracy to more transcendental sources of power. One begins with the government agents, the spies, the politicians, the military, and soon gravitates towards the secret societies: the Freemasons and the Illuminati (among so many others). This involves studying their texts, their social structures, their stated goals, their secret conclaves, their antinomian beliefs and practices.”

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."[5] 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

Michael Parenti offers the following "alternatives" to conspiracy theories:

  • 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.[5]

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?"


The most infamous academic paper on this topic is the working paper entitled just "Conspiracy Theories" by insiders Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School, published on January 15, 2008 which claimed that "the best response [to "conspiracy theorists"] consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups".[6] This is typical amongst the whole 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 if not downright dangerous.

Late 2015 and early 2016 has seen at least pseudo-scientific papers on the topic of "conspiracies", which some have suggested may be indicative of an organised campaign to equate dissent with mental illness.[7] 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 simplistic approach. 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.”[8]

Demonisation and censorship

When the internet allowed widespread access to diverse opinions, the label "conspiracy theory" has been working overtime as authorities try to sideline and competition to their favoured official narratives. A dramatic awakening since around 2005 has lead to increasing efforts to censor such alternative ideas. In 2008, Cass Sunstein, adviser to US President Barack Obama and husband of the US Ambassador to the UN, coauthored File:Cass sunstein conspiracies.pdf, a paper purporting to be a serious academic treatment of how governments should respond to "conspiracy theories". In 2015, French President François Hollande compared "conspiracy theories" to Nazism and called for their dissemination on the internet to be made illegal.[9]  

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Beyond Conspiracy TheorypaperFebruary 2010Lance deHaven-SmithThe 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.
File:Cass sunstein conspiracies.pdfpaper15 January 2008Cass Sunstein
Adrian Vermeule
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"
The State Against The Republicwebpage13 March 2015Thierry MeyssanMeyssan's prediction that pervasive online censorship is coming
Why we love to hate conspiracy theoriesarticle12 September 2010Denis Rancourt

Related Quotation

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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

Official examples

Mae Brussell29 May 19223 October 1988ResearcherA renowned researcher and investigative journalist in the field of deep politics.
William Cooper6 May 19436 November 2001Spook
9-11/Premature death
Announced around 10 weeks before 9/11 that "Whatever they're going to blame on Usama bin Laden - don't you believe it...They will soon do something outlandish to gain the support of the Sheeple". He was killed by the US Marshals Service less than a month after the event.
Webster Tarpley1947Historian
Joe Vialls194417 July 2005Researcher
An internet journalist who cricitised commercially controlled media, and suffered a premature death,

See Also


  1. a b 5 minutes into the first hour of http://www.unwelcomeguests.net/561
  2. Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, CIA memo# 1035-960
  3. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19104/19104-h/19104-h.htm
  4. The Most Dangerous Book in the World: 9/11 as Mass Ritual by SK Bain. Trine Day Books ISBN 9781937584177
  5. a b Land of Idols, St. Martin's Press, 1994
  6. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585
  7. Document:Elites Link Anti-Government Thought to Mental Illness
  8. "Maths study shows conspiracies 'prone to unravelling'"
  9. Document:The State Against The Republic
Facts about "Conspiracy theory"
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Declassified CIA memo# 1035-960 ("Countering Criticism of the Warren Report") reveals that it has been deliberately given associations of craziness, as though conspiracies do not happen. It is routinely used by the corporate media in their efforts to stifle critics of official narratives.
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