1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    History of the Term "Conspiracy Theory"

    The term "conspiracy theory" is used to describe any theory that attempts to characterize observed events as the result of some secret conspiracy. The term is often used dismissively, implying that the theory is implausible.

    Although conspiracy theories (particularly aimed at Jews and Bankers) date back hundreds of years, the earliest usage of "conspiracy theory" do not always have this connotation, although the theories are quite often dismissed in other ways. Usually it's simply a way of identifying the theory from other theories - as in "the theory that happens to have a conspiracy"

    The first usage I could find was from 1870, The Journal of mental science: Volume 16 - Page 141

    1890 - Some kind of political conspiracy, mostly ridiculed
    http://books.google.com/books?id=ziIgAQAAMAAJ&dq="conspiracy theory"&pg=PA608-IA7#v=onepage&q="conspiracy theory"&f=false

    Here from a review of theories about the causes of the secession of the South, 1895.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=f9ghAQAAMAAJ&dq="conspiracy theory"&pg=PA394#v=onepage&q="conspiracy theory"&f=false

    Also on the same topic 1895
    http://books.google.com/books?id=GkIxAQAAMAAJ&dq="conspiracy theory"&pg=RA16-PA27#v=onepage&q="conspiracy theory"&f=false

    Given the multiple usages on the subject of succession, it seems plausible that this is a key point in the evolution of the phrase. It shifts from simple incidental use in language to referring to a specific thing. From "that theory which has a conspiracy" to "the theory that we call conspiracy theory"

    1899, this is more like it, from an article discussing various conspiracy theories regarding South Africa. And an early debunking:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=cHdNAAAAYAAJ&dq="conspiracy theory"&pg=PA227#v=onepage&q="conspiracy theory"&f=false

    Here it's seeming to move towards its current use with an implied "far-fetched" prepended.

    Some people get a bit upset when you use the term "conspiracy theory", so I think it's good to be clear on what you mean. One might say "I know it when I see it", like say 9/11 no-plane theories, or fake moon-landing theories. I think Aaronovitch has something right here:

    Aaronovitch, David (2010-01-19). Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History (pp. 5-6). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
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  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I also like this from Thomas Paine, who Aaronovitch quotes in support of the above

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  3. Oxymoron

    Oxymoron Banned Banned

    There is much confusion about what a conspiracy theory is. It can range from 'the Queen is a reptilian shapeshifter' to 'JFK wasn't assassinated by a lone gunman'.

    Some Conspiracy Theories, (CT's), have greater traction and more support than others.

    The term Conspiracy Theory was allegedly first used by the CIA but that is disputed.


    A conspiracy theory is defined as:

    An example of a conspiracy theory that becomes validated as fact is:


    Conspiracy Theorists are not loony as portrayed and there are many examples of Conspiracy Theories that became Conspiracy Fact
  4. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    "Conspiracy theory" has become a derogatory term because people believe that their theory actually IS conspiracy fact. There would be no problem if they said "it's just a theory", but they don't - they say things like "it's obvious that WTC2 was brought down with explosives".

    They are not really conspiracy theorists, they are conspiracy assertionists.

    Hmm, conspiracy assertionists. I might start using that.
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  5. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Drat, someone beat me to it:

  6. Pete Tar

    Pete Tar Moderator Staff Member

    This seems a clear debunking that the CIA originated the term as a discrediting psyop.
  7. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    The claim is more that they "popularized" it, as a dismissive term.
  8. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    If you read CIA Document 1035-960, Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report, you'll see that there is nothing in there about using the term "Conspiracy Theory" to discredit people. Instead it focuses on addressing the claims directly, and suggesting those making the claims are communists.

    I'm including it in full here, as it's fascinating to compare something 50 years ago with what's happening now. The same old stuff coming up again and again:

  9. Bill

    Bill Senior Member

    For me the most defining aspect of a conspiracy theory is the inability of its advocates to admit the theory is in error in spite of overwhelming evidence disproving the theory. This is usually accompanied by the constant redefinition of term to restate the same idea and the assertion that "they" are withholding or suppressing the truth.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  10. dunbar

    dunbar Active Member


  11. dunbar

    dunbar Active Member

    G. William Domhoff points out: "If 'conspiracy' means that these [ruling class] men 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, then there is some conspiring that goes on in CFR [the Council for Foreign Relations], not to mention the Committee for Economic Development, the Business Council, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency."
  12. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

  13. dunbar

    dunbar Active Member

    Point is that there is definitely some high level conspiring going on and so it is only rational to suspect those whose motives and actions haven proven suspect time and time again. The elites are the elites for one very simple reason: they are a shrewd, ruthless, paranoid, reactionary bunch of machinators operating at large.
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  14. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    But what do you think about the term "conspiracy theory"? Embrace it, or choose a different phrase? How do you differentiate your world view from the sheeple and the useful idiots like myself?
  15. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    First off, note it for what it is, a pejorative term meant to create division and hence part of a rhetorical tool kit. This is something you have already done upthread, so the question would be what is the motive to keep using it? Does it have any usefulness beyond branding those one disagrees with?
  16. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    It's a useful descriptor. Can you suggest a better one?

    We are talking about a group of people who have a particular world view. What should we call them?
  17. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    No, I can't think of a better one. What specifically is the world view of those branded people?
  18. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Basically a tendency to ascribe a powerful conspiring force ("the elite") as the deliberate prime mover in most major world events, as opposed to the belief that most world events are complex and emergent, and often essentially random and unpredictable.

    For example, a conspiracy theorist might think that the Russian Revolution of 1905 was deliberately engineered by a few bankers in New York, rather than the broader set of causes with long historical roots.
  19. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I would disagree though that it is "meant to create division". The division already exists, and this is more descriptive.

    Would you say there's no need for description? I mean it seems quite clear there's a division between the "designed" and "emergent" world views.

    When someone describes you as a "conspiracy theorist", how does that make you feel? Is there as better term you would use for yourself? Is there a term you would could for me that you think is similar in its divisiveness?
  20. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    Ah, ok. If you are comfortable with being branded as a coincidence theorist, then I can swing with being a conspiracy theorist. :)

    Still, I think the problem here is the meme of their being a single powerful controlling force. I've never seen it that way, which is why I don't use terms like nwo or the like. I see it more like the NFL or NBA playoffs, with teams of elites competing on one hand and collaborating on the other to make sure the league continues to function. The masses are not allowed on the field and have no say in the way the league is run, but their participation is necessary because they provide the capital via consumerism that makes the game go.

    I have no understand as to how randomness plays a part in the process, as those in power have always been the prime movers of events. Also, your example of the RR seems a false dichotomy. Without question the bankers played a prime role in engineering it, but they themselves were situated in a broader historical context. No matter how you slice it, randomness wasn't the driving force and that revolution didn't "just happen."
  21. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Without question? Now it really seems here like you are just repeating conspiracy theory dogma - an alternate version of history from what we read in history books, and summarized in Wikipedia. Hence I would describe you as a conspiracy theorist.

    And I'm not saying randomness is a driving force. I'm saying the the emergent events are essentially random. Randomness play a part, but then so do intentional acts. But the difference here is that the conspiracist claims the end result was planned, and the emergentist claims the end result was just what happened.

    For example, I'd say Jacob Schiff helped in small part to bring about the Russian Revolution, but simply because he was opposed to the oppression of the Jewish people and was trying to end that. His actions became part of what happened. He shaped it, but not deliberately. And not at all secretly.

    A conspiracy theorist would suggest that what happened (Revolution) was exactly what Schiff and his cohorts wanted, and they precisely engineered it, in secret, and continued to guide events for decades.
  22. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    There can be no disagreement that those in power have always been the prime movers of events, after all that's what power is for - to be used. The problem is that those in power tend not to be in power for particularly long periods, with the exclusion of some despotic autocrats/dictators - Stalin, Mao, and yer man in Korea, for example. Empires rise, and fall. In the modern world this process tends to be faster than in the days of kingdoms and empires. Even the financial sector is not immune, as witnessed by the savage downward trajectory of Fuld of Lehman Brothers, for example.

    As for the Russian revolution, Mick didn't say that it 'just happened', nor did he say that randomness was the driving force. He suggested that were a broader set of causes with long historical roots.
  23. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    You say that and yet the "masses" have seen their standard of living increase more in the last 100yrs then at anytime in recorded history.
  24. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    So what? The divide between the masses and the elite is far greater than any time in history, too.
  25. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    I'm not sure what your point is. Regardless, I don't see anything in opposition to what I have put forth.
  26. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    So what?? You claimed the masses aren't allowed to participate and yet they clearly have and do!
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  27. Cairenn

    Cairenn Senior Member

    To a large extent that is true around the world, First world, second world, even in the third world. Children are no longer having to serve as a free labor source in many areas. Even 100 years ago, they were, even in the US and Europe. More children have the ability to go to school and thus to do something other than what their parents and grandparents did.

    My dad had to drop out of school when he was 13 and go to work to help support his mother and siblings (she had a baby in arms when her hubby ran off with his nurse). That doesn't happen today in more developed countries.
  28. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    The masses participate in driving the levers of power? Can't say I noticed that. Please explain.
  29. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Let's try to keep the discussion to the usage of "conspiracy theory", not if a particular conspiracy theory is correct or not.

    Joe, would you agree you have a different world view to the non conspiracy theorists in this thread?

    How would you characterize it?
  30. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    There are more countries in the world than the US. The 'masses' seem to have a decent grasp on the levers of power in, for example, Scandinavian countries. And there seems to be something happening in South America too, even if the corporate media insist on referring to massively supported elected representatives like Hugo Chavez as dictators.
  31. qed

    qed Active Member

    Unless those in power are no longer human: companies, institutions and organisations.
  32. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    Sorry I misinterpreted your comment- I referring more to participating and benefiting from the system put in place by those in power - as opposed to having access to power itself.

    ...and yet even the some of the masses have risen to positions of significant power...the Gates, Jobs, Ellison, Bransons and Murdochs etc..of the World were all once part of the lowly "masses".
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  33. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    Fair point, but even corporations are subject to vagaries of commerce. Where are IBM these days? I presume it still exists, but is it a power player anymore? I imagine that in the 1970s the amount of power that could have been wielded by the American auto industry would have been far greater than the failing industry wields today.

    Don't mind me, just playing the Devil's Avocado. To my mind, one of the single greatest problems facing humans is the rise of corporatism. The US is a fascinating example of how power can be co-opted, from Citizens United to the Cock brothers influence over the tea party (grass roots, me arse), and ALEC.
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  34. qed

    qed Active Member

    Please explain to us laypeople the difference between corporatism and fascism?
  35. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    Er, I'm laypeople too. I couldn't begin to, especially as the definition of fascism seems to have developed considerably from its original meaning. I suppose most people think of fascism as a system of government that is inherently militaristic, controlling everything, and typified by the Stalin and Hitler. Corporatism would possibly appear to most as a system where democracy seems to exist, yet government makes decisions that help business before citizens. But like I say, I'm just a layperson too.
  36. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    Thats a cop-out. There are still humans in those orgs pulling the levers and making the decisions- Corporations are not some AI or Borg-like entity devoid of all the vagaries, strengths and weaknesses of humans.
  37. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    While that's true, the legal process ensures that CEOs don't get prosecuted for the crimes committed by the organizations they head. How many of the financial top dogs have gone to prison, or even appeared in a court of law, after the shenanigans that saw a global wide collapse?
  38. Joe Newman

    Joe Newman Active Member

    I suppose it depends on what history books you read. I am not aware of an officially sanctioned list on one side and an alternative list on the other. If you have a case for somebody else besides the bankers bankrolling that affair, put it forth. Slapping a ct tag on me because wiki doesn't deal with this aspect isn't going to carry the ball.

    I think you are getting tripped up by this idea of planning as if it was some kind of magic bean or something that somehow eliminates unforseen events. Go back to the team analogy. Before the game is played, each team comes up with a game plan in order to maximize the desired result of winning the game against that particular opponent. That plan is then adjusted accordingly as the game is played and situations emerge. Regardless of how it turns out, however, the final score didn't "just happen." Not all game plans are executed to perfection, but all games are planned for.

    Again, it's your notion of planning that seems to be the sticking point here, or if it isn't, then I guess I am not a ct. I've never labled myself that way, so I'm ok with not qualifying.

    No bankers, no Trotsky or Bolsheviks, no revolution. After the revolution, no bankers, no communist regime in Russia because without being propped up from the west, it would have collapsed.
  39. qed

    qed Active Member

    It seems that corporatism is only one of the constituent elements of fascism.

    But perhaps that is not corporatism?

    That seems like state over corporation while what you are concerned with may be more corporation over state? (which was what I understood to be a constituent of fascism, but seems wrongly so)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  40. Alhazred The Sane

    Alhazred The Sane Senior Member

    Yes, I am concerned by corporation over state. My own understanding of fascism is that the dictators who came to power were helped along by the business sector, and they were open to serving the needs of business over the needs of workers - but that's true of conservative governments the world over, and not unique to fascists.
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