An evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
A conspiracy usually involves a group entering into a secret agreement to achieve some illicit or harmful objective.
From 9/11 to the Paris attacks to NWO false flag operations, presidential / high profile assassinations to Area 51, alien technology and extraterrestrial suppression and everything in between, what was once marginalised and even stigmatised to fringe theory has now become a part of popular culture and mass media, capturing the interests of not only the ‘truther’ movement, but also sociologists, psychologists, academics and anthropologists.
Major global events that appear catastrophic or sinister now seems to attract a counter-narrative to the official mainstream story line. Due to the rapid rate of connectivity via the internet, theories circulate faster than ever as does the variance in conspiratorial typologies.
When major news breaks, it doesn’t take long for theories to surface. Nor does it take much longer for the anti-theorists to double down on inciting rhetoric, calling conspiracy theorists wacky and delusional, amongst other inflammatory names. But really, the anti’s should not be so quick to assert their superiority.
In April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” … and recommended methods for discrediting such theories.
The dispatch was marked “psych” – short for “psychological operations” or disinformation – and “CS” for the CIA’s “Clandestine Services” unit. The dispatch was produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times in 1976.
The dispatch states:
The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.
3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the [conspiracy] question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active addresses are requested:
a. To discuss the publicity problem with and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors) , pointing out that the [official investigation of the relevant event] made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by … propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.
b. To employ propaganda assets to and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.
4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:
a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider.
b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent–and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) …
c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc.
d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other.
g. Such vague accusations as that “more than ten people have died mysteriously” can always be explained in some natural way ….
5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission’s Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics
Below are screenshots of parts of the memo:
[…] Summarizing the tactics which the CIA dispatch recommended:
- Claim that it would be impossible for so many people would keep quiet about such a big conspiracy and have people friendly to the CIA attack the claims, and point back to “official” reports.
- Claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.
- Claim that this is all old news, as “no significant new evidence has emerged” and ignore conspiracy claims unless discussion about them is already too active.
- Claim that it’s irresponsible to speculate.
- Accuse theorists of being wedded to and infatuated with their theories.
- Accuse theorists of being politically motivated.
- Accuse theorists of having financial interests in promoting conspiracy theories.
In other words, the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable as part of its psychological warfare operations.
Definitions and Interpretations
The phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ was originally a neutral term and only acquired a pejorative connotation in the mid 1960s, implying that advocates of the theory have a paranoid tendency to imagine the influence of some powerful, malicious, covert agency in events. The term has thus acquired a derogatory meaning, and is often used to dismiss or ridicule beliefs in conspiracies.
And so anyone attempting to question the narrative of an ‘official story’ with an alternative hypothesis is automatically considered a nutter or labeled a quack, despite perhaps being an insider, or someone in the know. Many who dare question the mainstream or official story line were increasingly finding themselves becoming more cautious and wary of their assertions being misconstrued, misaligned and relegated to the fringe theorists’ camp.
Scholars have often used the term ‘conspiracy theory’ to identify secret political, military or banking agendas aimed at infringing or subverting the rights, power, money or freedom of and from the people. It was never considered to be seen as propagating lunacy or paranoia and yet, the internet is filled with condescending remarks such as drinking the kool-aid and being a crack pot.
Intelligent skepticism and discernment is healthy and necessary, but when skeptics attempt to ridicule or debunk or prove a theory wrong by agreeing with the official story line, they are just reinforcing the mainstream narrative – a convenient way of toeing the line. A conspiracy is hidden. People aren’t meant to know anything about it. It’s important not to confuse it with being a lie. What was once mere speculative left-wing suspicion can turn easily into blatant right-wing propaganda.
Here’s the thing.
Do a search on conspiracies online or legal research networks and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of cases, if not more. Conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be proven or unproven based on the specific evidence. Of course, not all crimes make it to court. Many more go unsolved or even unreported, so one might assume that the number of conspiracies is actually higher.
In fact, a conspiracy is a well-recognised crime in many Western legal systems, as any first-year law student would know and conspiracies are committed all the time in every part of the globe in varying degrees. Many conspiracy allegations are (later found out to be) false. Proving a claim of conspiracy is no different from proving any other legal claim, and the label ‘conspiracy’ itself is treated no less seriously by the judicial system.
Recent research has shown that about half of the population of America believes in at least one conspiracy theory. You don’t have to be crazy to believe conspiracy theories. In a 2013 survey of over 1000 registered American voters, for example, just over a third agreed that global warming is a hoax, and half agreed that there was a conspiracy behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Other research shows an even higher proportion, as many as 9 out of 10, believing in one conspiracy theory or another.
In his book, Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, academic psychologist Rob Brotherton explores the traits that predispose us to belief in conspiracies and cautions against smug judgment, since all of us have suspicious minds to some degree or another and approaches it from the perspective of psychology.
“Conspiracy theory books tend to come at it from the point of view of debunking them. I wanted to take a different approach… the intentionality bias, the proportionality bias and confirmation bias. We have these quirks built into our minds that can lead us to believe weird things without realising that’s why we believe them.”
On some level, many of us are wired and attracted to theories of conspiracy. Our brains can’t resist seeing patterns, connecting dots and making assumptions. He says our biases can lead us astray, but without them, we’d be lost – blind to cause and effect.
Let’s get real here.
Whilst some conspiracies may be small scale, others turn out to be ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ huge scandals. History is full of corporations conspiring to fix prices, eliminate competition and control government and politicians for their own benefit. Tobacco companies conspire to keep risks of cigarette-smoking away from the public and have done so for generations. Polluters conspire to hide from harmful acts of negligence against unsuspecting communities. Remember Erin Brockovich?
Whilst some theories might make great science fiction films, others are far from benign.
Conspiracies That Turned Out To Be True
Theories involving multiple conspirators that are proven to be correct, such as the conspiracy involving United States President Richard Nixon and his aides to cover up the Watergate scandal, are usually referred to as “investigative journalism” or “historical analysis” or “conspiratorial realities”. Powerful insiders and whistle-blowers have long admitted to such conspiracies.
While conspiracy theories suggested underhanded dealings were taking place, it wasn’t until 1974 that White House tape recordings linked President Nixon to the break-in and forced him to resign.
Were it not for investigative reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and a few members of the Senate investigative committee, Americans may not have ever needed to question leadership and abuses of presidential power to the degree they did.
Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote:
“Of course some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true. The Watergate hotel room used by Democratic National Committee was, in fact, bugged by Republican officials, operating at the behest of the White House.
In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency did, in fact, administer LSD and related drugs under Project MKULTRA, in an effort to investigate the possibility of ‘mind control’. Operation Northwoods, a rumored plan by the Department of Defense to simulate acts of terrorism and to blame them on Cuba, really was proposed by high-level officials.”
Project MKUltra: the CIA’s Mind Control Program
Initially seen as another fanciful conspiracy theory, this one turned out to be true. The CIA really did run secret mind-control experiments on American citizens from the 1950s until 1973, using “electronics, hypnosis, sensory deprivation and verbal and sexual abuse”, aimed at finding a “truth serum” to use on communist spies. Test subjects were given LSD and other drugs, often without consent, and some were tortured. The project was finally exposed after investigations by the Rockefeller Commission. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued a formal apology for Project MKUltra, as it was known.
This secret crime society was virtually unknown until the 1960s, when member Joe Valachi first revealed the society’s secrets to law enforcement officials. What was known was that organized crime existed, but not that the extent of their control included working with the CIA, politicians and the biggest businesses in the world.
The government’s spying on Americans began before 9/11, but the public didn’t learn about it until many years later. Indeed, the New York Times delayed the story so that it would not affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.
The decision to launch the Iraq war was made before 9/11. Former CIA director, George Tenet said that the White House wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11, and inserted “crap” in its justifications for invading Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill – who sat on the National Security Council – also says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11.
Many high-level government officials and insiders have admitted to dramatic conspiracies after the fact, including:
Famed whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg explains:
“It is a commonplace that “you can’t keep secrets in Washington” or “in a democracy, no matter how sensitive the secret, you’re likely to read it the next day in the New York Times.” These truisms are flatly false. They are in fact cover stories, ways of flattering and misleading journalists and their readers, part of the process of keeping secrets well. Of course eventually many secrets do get out that wouldn’t in a fully totalitarian society.
But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public. This is true even when the information withheld is well known to an enemy and when it is clearly essential to the functioning of the congressional war power and to any democratic control of foreign policy.
The reality unknown to the public and to most members of Congress and the press is that secrets that would be of the greatest import to many of them can be kept from them reliably for decades by the executive branch, even though they are known to thousands of insiders.”
According to Time Magazine journalist, Justin Fox., some financial market conspiracies are real and most good investigative reporters are in fact, conspiracy theorists.
“Wall Street traders are among the most conspiracy-minded group of people on the planet. Always have been, as far as I can tell. That’s because (1) some financial market conspiracies are real and (b) without theories of some sort to grasp on to, you’re going to get completely lost in the chaos of the market’s day-to-day movements.”
~ Justin Fox (2009) TIME Magazine Financial Journalist
Many admissions did not occur until many decades after the events, which just goes to show that it is possible to keep conspiracies secret for a long time, without anyone “spilling the beans”.
Anyone who knows how covert military operations work, knows that they operate on a “need-to-know basis” of a hierarchical nature, meaning that a couple of top dogs can call the shots and those on lower rungs never knowing the ‘real’ bigger picture, much less questioning it at the time of participation. Those that do have some semblance of an idea, may carry out their ‘duties’ for ideological reasons – believing that the “ends justify the means”.
Never underestimate the power and conviction of an ideologue.
The challenging part is discerning between a real conspiracy that has actually taken place and one that is a mere speculative theory. Is it based on a shallow or deeper bent? Are suspicious hunches followed by in-depth research, careful analysis and investigation, seeking out reputable and verifiable evidence, or are they mere rants over social media?
The best way to promote analytical thinking is to engage in critical thinking skills, to conduct deeper research and hold an inquisitive mind whilst being aware of all biases.
There is a sea of conspiracy theorists from crazed crackpots to well-meaning truth-seekers. The question, a true seeker should ask is – who stands to benefit? Follow the paper trail and bread crumbs. Do the due diligence and be mindful of falling into hive mentality or paranoia. Discuss intelligently, without making ad hominem attacks.
There will always be smart-asses on both factions of the pole. Some employing half-baked pseudo intellect and erudite language to convince themselves of their ‘strawman’ arguments who would most likely never do the research required to make an informed opinion, while others – privy to ‘insider’ information and access to ‘truths’ that may remain hidden from the public not to be released for years to come – may never come forward to possibly change the trajectory of society and history.
Kudos to those rare individuals – the whistle-blowers who do have the depth of character, tenacity and integrity to go after a story and chase it till the end. Unless people are wired to seek out truths and question inconsistencies, they probably won’t have the predisposition to connect seemingly random dots and sniff out an actual conspiracy, like the investigative reporters of the Watergate Affair (who were initially considered conspiracy quacks) or the characters Robert Redford portrays in many of his films, including All the Presidents Men, Up Close and Personal, The Company You Keep, Three Days of the Condor and Lions For Lambs.
If you’re anything like Robert Redford or the characters he portrays, come and find me. There’s something highly attractive about a man with ethical charisma, journalistic integrity and deep humility. Besides, I could use a dashingly suave and debonair side-kick.
“Dismissing all conspiracy theories (and theorists) as crazy is just as intellectually lazy as credulously accepting every wild allegation.”