What is Conspiracy Theory?

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  • This topic has 118 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 7 months ago by Clark.
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  • #52980 Reply

    It is often said that “all you need to be a conspiracy theorist is a theory about a conspiracy”. No. There really are conspiracies, and Craig has exposed more than one.

    A proper conspiracy theory resorts to action by the purported conspiracy (“they” or “them”) whenever it is contradicted. A conspiracy theory is an untestable proposition, because the purported conspiracy can always be expanded without any limit upon either its reach or its power.

    In the following example, CT denotes Conspiracy Theorist, and RP denotes Rational Protagonist:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    CT: “They” are propagandising that a relatively harmless virus is deadly.

    RP: Here are the figures of the deaths caused by the new virus; they are rising very fast, so the virus must be deadly.

    CT: No, “they” have manufactured fake tests,
    or: No, “they” are using uncertainty in testing and diagnosis to wrongly attribute other deaths to the virus.

    RP: Here are the figures for all deaths together; they are rising fast too, so there must be some new cause of death, which is the new virus.

    CT: No, “they” control the media; those deaths aren’t real.

    RP: Here are the official death figures.

    CT: No, “they” control the authorities too; “they’ve” inflated the overall figures.

    RP: Here are death figures from other countries; they too are rising very fast.

    CT: No, “they” control the media; those deaths aren’t real either.

    RP: Here are the official figures from those countries.

    CT: No, “they” control other countries’ authorities too.

    RP: But a load of those governments are enemies of each other and wouldn’t go along with the other’s distortions.

    CT: No, all those governments are controlled by the banks.

    RP: Oh come on, there must be some limit to this conspiracy. There are various banks which compete with each other.

    CP: That’s just “their” front. And you would say that because (either 1) you have been brainwashed by “their” media (or 2) you are working for “them”! So you are controlled by “them”, one way or the other, and so is anyone who disagrees with this, and your use of “their” weaponised term “conspiracy theory” proves it!
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    And so on, ad infinitum… A conspiracy theory always has an answer for everything, so none of it can be ruled out; it can never home in on any real problem. It is a way of resorting to fantasy. It is disempowering, because the purported conspiracy is so all-powerful that there is no point trying to take action against it, and it is so far-reaching that you could never know where to strike. So conspiracy theorists are reduced to banging away at their keyboards, trying to spread “the Truth” and trying to get the “sheeple” to “wake up!”

    #52986 Reply

    Some common CT terms:

    Them / They – (never defined).
    Official Story – (varies at need).
    MSM – (varies at need).
    Controlled Opposition – (varies at need).
    Cognitive Dissonance – (selectively applied).
    World View – (selectively applied).

    Some common CT arguments:

    You’re just defending the official story because:
    * you’re scared of the implications,
    * you’ve been immersed in their propaganda all your life,
    * you can’t handle the cognitive dissonance,
    * your entire world would collapse.

    Some common CT argument tricks:

    Quote mining:
    * quotes abstracted from a talk or article,
    * removal of context.

    * assembling experts from the small proportion of contrarians,
    * assembling mined quotes.

    “Just asking questions”.

    “Gish Galloping”: reeling off a load of facts, factoids or “zombie facts” (ie. continually resurrected fallacies) as if they had bearing upon an unrelated point – related to “changing the subject”.

    Superficial plausibility: something that sounds true, though the reality is more complex.

    Appeal to authority: chosen from assembled contrarian experts.

    #52987 Reply

    Characterisation of Conspiracy Theory:

    Argument from motive rather than evidence.

    #53011 Reply

    What is most destructive about CTs is that it distracts from the legitimate concerns of some aspects of what the original event that triggered the CT, divides the opposition and enables governments to escape scrutiny because no body takes CTs seriously. In fact often it feels that the C theorists are Secretly employed by governments.

    #53013 Reply

    Yes I expect some are. Well we know about some of the ‘western’ US/UK operations, Integrity Initiative etc., but I assume that many major governments have such operations.

    #53050 Reply
    Herr Ringbone

    Thank you, Clark.

    I would surmise you have spent some time perusing the comments on the Off Guardian site, which exemplify the reason-proof rantings (or “scepticism”, as the commenters would have it) you so aptly skewered here.

    Such threads are the equivalent of gangrene, and will kill any site.

    #53090 Reply

    Sorry to say but my experience is from this site.

    Certain topics become nearly monopolised by conspiracy theorists. There is a moderation rule at this site banning comments about the 9/11 attacks, because Twin Tower demolition theorists comment in such numbers as to make further discussion impractical. Those same commenters are now dominating all discussion of covid-19 with their strident but misguided certainty that it is a hoax.

    #53139 Reply
    Tony M

    What is Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, but a place where conspirators hang out?

    #53142 Reply

    Indeed Tony. But that’s conspiracy, not conspiracy theory.

    I know the term is confusing and seems ambiguous, but it is in common usage so we need to get used to it; master it rather than letting it master us. Hence my opening remark, at the very beginning:

    “It is often said that “all you need to be a conspiracy theorist is a theory about a conspiracy”. No. There really are conspiracies, and Craig has exposed more than one.”

    I’m glad you turned up here because I found something I think might interest you:

    Residents Rallied to Measure Radiation After Fukushima. Nine Years Later, Many Scientists Still Ignore Their Data

    I think that the sort of citizen activism is very empowering. I’d never heard of Safecast until a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something in connection with our conversation about depleted uranium. Please post a quick reply so that I know that you’ve seen this.

    #53155 Reply
    Trowbridge H. Ford

    There are so many variables to a conspiracy that you have to explain it to prove it. No general explanation fits any or all.

    #53176 Reply

    Trowbridge, you’re talking about theories about conspiracies, not conspiracy theory. I made that distinction in my opening remark. Your theories about conspiracies aren’t conspiracy theory by my definition above.

    #53239 Reply
    Trowbridge H. Ford

    The set-uo of FBI resident in Burbank Steve ivans as a Russian hit man of President Obama which is making Biden so quiet is a conspiracy theory I am talking about.

    #53248 Reply

    I’ve never known anyone who wasn’t a conspiracy theorist.

    #53273 Reply
    Trowbridge H. Ford

    Good to hear, Buster, and my associates and family are becoming more so.

    My sister, who died in 2018, hit the overhead years ago when I claimed to a mutual friend that JFK was killed by a Nixon-led CIA conspiracy which wasnn’t blamed on the Soviets because Richard Cain, an underling of Momo Giancana,didn’t test fire the rifle which was claimed to be Oswald’s hitting co-conspirator Texas Governor John Comnally and miraculously survived, threatening him to get the others for double crossing him, forcing LBJ to appoint the Warren Commission for fear we would have a world war with the Soviets.

    When my sister died, she was willing to accept a conspiracy theory was likely in many cases of serious matters.

    The Ivens conspiracy had one mistake, setting up a fall guy in the FBI for wanting to expose Boeing for engaging in a massive air liner fraud which is still plaguing it,arraigning it so President Obama would go by him doing security work as part of his job, but Ivens had reported ignorantly to his superiors what he was doeing, and made an escape to the mountains east of Los Angeles where he was hunted down and killed by a hired hit Man.

    Still the plot served its purpose, getting a re-election boost for the POTUS, and keeping JOE Biden on thee ticket instead of Hillary who Obama was thinking of changing to.

    The suicide of film director Tony Scott, who had made so many movies with actors like George Clooney who had helped set Ivens up glorifying such most untrustworthy American leaders, was just a personal statement which led nowhere.

    #53284 Reply

    I’ve always thought one of the main practical problems with conspiracy theories (and conspiracy theorists) is that they make an effective response all but impossible. ie they are fatalistic and disempowering. This isn’t a knock-down argument against their truth, but shows how they can serve, or give succour to, those whose interests are bound up with the maintaining the status quo. This is a good reading of why they are so prevalent at the moment:

    Beneath Conspiracy theories, the class war (NewFrame)

    #53290 Reply

    Buster, I have 😀

    #53293 Reply

    Excellent and compassionate article; thank you Stef.

    history is full of many real instances of powerful people colluding in secret at the expense of society. The numerous price-fixing scandals uncovered in South Africa in recent years surely also constitute conspiracies, as do corporate cover-ups around the world, many of which we know about only as a result of people questioning the presentation of reality and correctly connecting the dots to map out underlying truths.

    It is clear though that what we more commonly describe as conspiracy theories – exemplified in the current period by the linking of 5G networks to Bill Gates, vaccination and microchip implants, for instance – are markedly different from these real-world examples. As social and psychological research has shown, conspiracy theories of this kind are not amenable to empirical enquiry and subsist for long periods of time in the absence of any reasonable evidence. Those adhering to such theories tend to exhibit little interest in testing their underlying claims and will often simultaneously believe in conspiracy theories that outright contradict each other.

    #53294 Reply

    Stef’s link, without telling Facebook:


    ..whatever that is. No need to help them track us, eh?


    #53296 Reply
    Trowbridge H. Ford

    My knowing about conspiracies has nothing to do with my political ideas or ideals.

    I write about then where I find them. Conspiracies in the Anglo-American world are almost always cammitted by right-wingers, forcing my employer at Holy Cross College to label me an extremest, rather than a communist.

    Deniers of conspiracies existing never talk about real ones, just absurd ones or more likely the alleged mental problems of people who espouse them.

    Here I mentioned the conspiracy Obama engaged in to help win his re-election.

    #53304 Reply

    Stef, have u ever believed any conspiracy theories?

    #53319 Reply

    Yesterday’s CT is today’s RP!

    #53320 Reply

    Believing in conspiracies or conspiracy theories is not necessarily a fixed state of mind and there is a spectrum of conspiracy theories. There are conspiracies that very quickly become obvious as conspiracies, there are others that are more obscure and take some digging, there are others that are only proven or become apparent after declassification of secret intelligence, and there are some that are never proven. But they all start with a suspicion of conspiracy based on some initial proof which then becomes confirmed with time. But at the unproven or unprovable end of the spectrum, the CT remains a CT because there is no concrete evidence either because the findings have alternative innocent explanations or because there are no findings, only postulates based on beliefs. This is where the crucial word in your question lies ‘believing’. CTs become a system of belief not that of finding the truth.

    #53323 Reply

    SA. So there is nothing u believe that someone else would call a CT?

    #53324 Reply

    I think there is confusion about the word ‘theory’.


    “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre” or “red traffic light means stop” are not opinions or proposed explanations. They’re rules of the theory of driving.

    People use ‘theory’ when they mean suspicion, opinion or proposed explanation.

    – “Theory – a formal statement of the rules on which a subject of study is based or of ideas that are suggested to explain a fact or event or, more generally, an opinion or explanation“.

    This confusion is often promoted by creationists; “evolution’s just a theory”.

    “Theory of music”?

    #53325 Reply

    Shdv said
    … nothing u believe to be true that…

    #53326 Reply

    Same question to u

    #53327 Reply

    “Peter has a theory suspicion that a conspiracy is embezzling funds”

    “Peter has used probability theory to show that funds are being embezzled”

    Probability theory

    What I’m trying to get across is that Peter couldn’t have used conspiracy theory to show that funds were being embezzled, because conspiracy theory produces only untestable propositions.

    #53329 Reply

    Context will define the use of theory. In the context of exams for example, you take your theory exams and a practical exam, which in the case of a driving test is actually driving with an examiner observing your performance.
    In the case of something like evolution, it means a hypothesis. I guess the reason why something like evolution remains a ‘theory’ is not that it lacks proof but it is that it continues itself to evolve and to be found to be deeper than originally thought.

    #53330 Reply

    Plz answer the question.

    #53331 Reply

    And SA. Plz answer the question.

    #53332 Reply

    Buster, I try to eliminate beliefs from my mind, and I try to avoid using the word because it means different things to different people in different circumstances. Believing in God and believing your keys are in back door are very different.

    The following may seem pedantic, but I’m trying to be clear.

    There are propositions that I accept, my acceptance being based on evidence and theory – where, by ‘theory’ I mean a method of reasoning. I accept the proposition that the Moon orbits the Earth, because it is consistent with my observations, and with gravitational theory.

    There are propositions that I reject, my rejection being based on evidence and theory – I reject the proposition that the Earth is flat, because it contradicts my observations, and it contradicts gravitational theory.

    There are propositions that I provisionally accept or reject; provisionally because I know my knowledge to be inadequate.

    There are suspicions that I hold; for instance I suspect that the 9/11 attacks may have been a Gladio B operation, or maybe a CIA infiltration attempt that got out of hand.

    Each of those final examples is likely to be dismissed as “a conspiracy theory” by others, but I didn’t reach them – and couldn’t have reached them – through conspiracy theory.

    I hope I have made the distinction clear.

    #53333 Reply

    So u believe things to be true that other people call conspiracy theories. Who is correct, u or them?

    #53334 Reply

    SA, it seems that you too are confused about the meaning of the word ‘theory’. The cause of the confusion is that common usage of the word is very sloppy, especially in the popular media. There are various evolutionary theories. In gravitation there are two main theories; Newtonian theory, and general relativity.

    In general, a scientific law is the description of an observed phenomenon. It doesn’t explain why the phenomenon exists or what causes it. The explanation of a phenomenon is called a scientific theory. It is a misconception that theories turn into laws with enough research.

    Laws and Theories – Livescience.

    What’s the difference between a scientific law and theory? – YouTube

    “Conspiracy theory” is a way of thinking, and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t help us centre in on the truth.

    #53335 Reply

    Buster, what’s the difference between a duck?

    #53336 Reply

    Clark and SA
    So u 2 don’t even agree what a CT is.

    #53337 Reply

    Plz answer the question.

    #53338 Reply

    How long is a piece of string?

    #53339 Reply

    It’s a simple question. U say something is logical, someone else says it’s a CT. Who gets to decide?
    Plz answer.

    #53340 Reply

    lol @ Buster.
    Excuse me, I’m just nipping out to buy some popcorn, I’ll be back in a minute.

    [ Mod: Node, would you care to explain why you’re addressing yourself under an alternative persona?

    From the moderation rules for commenters:

    …. the adoption of multiple identities within the same thread is not to be allowed.

    Sockpuppetry is deliberate deception and therefore constitutes a banning offence. All comments by any associated persona are now eligible for removal. ]

    #53341 Reply

    Clark: How long is a piece of string?

    Long enough to tie you in knots, apparently 🙂

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