Conspiracy theories

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
While you here do snoring lie, Open-eyed conspiracy His time doth take.
If of life you keep a care, Shake off slumber, and beware: Awake, awake! ~William Shakespeare,
The transformation of America's civic culture from the Founders' hard-nosed realism about elite political intrigue to today's blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition ... did not occur spontaneously; it was planned and orchestrated by the government itself. ~ Lance deHaven-Smith
Employ propaganda assets to ... refute the attacks of the critics. ~ Declassified CIA Document 1035-960
It is easy to sneer at stupid conspiracy theories and mock the thinking processes of those who advocate them. But in doing so academics and journalists are contaminating the good theories with the bad, lumping together secret state research and David Icke’s reptilian delusions as ‘conspiracy theories’. Which is, of course, what the state wants us to do. ~Robin Ramsay

Conspiracy theories are explanations of events or situations that invokes a conspiracy by powerful actors, often political in motivation. Conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media, emerging as a cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


(arranged chronologically)

  • While you here do snoring lie, Open-eyed conspiracy His time doth take.
    If of life you keep a care, Shake off slumber, and beware: Awake, awake!
  • The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens … Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere.
    • Leo Tolstoy (~1890) quoted in Tolstoy by A. N. Wilson, p. 146 (1988)
  • The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.
  • Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. ... Addresses are requested ... to employ propaganda assets to ... refute the attacks of the critics. ... 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.
  • The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse... As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised.. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish... Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations.
  • Very few notions generate as much intellectual resistance, hostility, and derision within academic circles as a belief in the historical importance or efficacy of political conspiracies. Even when this belief is expressed in a very cautious manner, limited to specific and restricted contexts, supported by reliable evidence, and hedged about with all sort of qualifications, it still manages to transcend the boundaries of acceptable discourse and violate unspoken academic taboos.
    • Conspiracy Theories' and Clandestine Politics, Lobster #29 (Jun 1995)
  • Hofstadter’s essay linked an interest in conspiracies or conspiracy theories with paranoia and with the loony radical Right. Hofstadter thus helped to contaminate the subjects for the liberal-left which then – and now – is unwilling to be associated with almost anything on or of the Right. For ‘serious’ people – academics, journalists, politicians – large areas of political inquiry have been contaminated ever since by an association with conspiracy theories. Hofstadter’s essay appeared just when questions were being asked about the assassination of JFK and his essay helped to shore up the ‘lone assassin’ verdict offered by the Warren Commission.
  • In the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks many conspiracy theories have developed, for example that the Pentagon was hit by a missile, not a plane... that the attacks were an “inside job”... or that the World Trade Centre buildings were brought down by pre-planned controlled explosions... These theories have gained ground – Gillan ... reports that a recent poll found that 36% of Americans believed it “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that their government was involved in allowing the attacks or had carried them out itself. In a time of increased skepticism of official accounts, the tendency for bureaucracies to cover-up their errors and mistakes can appear to be evidence for conspiracy. As Robin Ramsay, editor of Lobster magazine puts it “in situations where the shit is flying bureaucracies go into cover-up mode automatically”.
  • The title of the project, Conspiracy and Democracy, (began in January 2013 at Cambridge University) might suggest that it is going to deal with the issue of how conspiracy as a practice undermines or impacts upon democracy. It might, for example, examine all the state conspiracies which now exist within this society; and since the armed forces, police, security and intelligence services (and the big corporations) are almost entirely unaccountable, such research would be entirely apt. It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that the British state – almost any modern state – is a set of interlinked conspiracies, competing for money (taxes) and power.
  • John Naughton’s comment that ‘sometimes governments and organisations do conspire’ is the place to start. If ‘sometimes’ is in fact frequently, perhaps routinely – and in my view it is – then ‘conspiracy theorising’ is not per se the irrational activity the project assumes it to be. Many conspiracy theoriests are incompetent and many of the theories proposed are false but Sturgeon’s law applies here: if 90% of conspiracy theories are crap, so is 90% of everything. It is easy to sneer at stupid conspiracy theories and mock the thinking processes of those who advocate them. But in doing so academics and journalists are contaminating the good theories with the bad, lumping together secret state research and David Icke’s reptilian delusions as ‘conspiracy theories’. Which is, of course, what the state wants us to do.
    (Footnote: John Naughton, one of the three directors of the project, tweeted: ‘The minute you get into the JFK stuff and the minute you sniff at the 9/11 stuff you begin to lose the will to live’. See . Yes, both subjects are full of crappy thinking and writing; and, yes, both subjects are now enormous and enormously complex. But tough shit: you cannot just pass on events of this size and expect to be taken seriously. Sturgeon’s law page on Wikipedia )
  • Most Americans will be shocked to learn that the conspiracy-theory label was popularized as a pejorative term by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a propaganda program initiated in 1967. This program was directed at criticisms of the Warren Commission's report. The propaganda campaign called on media corporations and journalists to criticize "conspiracy theorists" and raise questions about their motives and judgments.
  • Conspiracy Theory in America is about the transformation of America's civic culture from the Founders' hard-nosed realism about elite political intrigue to today's blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition. This cultural reversal did not occur spontaneously; it was planned and orchestrated by the government itself.
  • Young people who question the government or media may be “extremists”, UK authorities have declared, as the full-scale Orwellisation of our society continues apace. The leaflet, handed to parents in London, says the danger signs of so-called radicalisation include “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and belief in conspiracy theories” and “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policy”. Numbed slack-jawed conformists gawping apathetically at the TV set are, presumably, the ideal non-extremist citizens of tomorrow.
  • Any analysis which involves anything smacking of “conspiracy” is almost taboo in certain radical circles, for some reason. But scornfully muttering the words “conspiracy theory” does not magically stop real conspiracies from existing…
  • A dull-witted right-wing conspiracy theorist might get stuck at the level of mere specifics and come to the facile conclusion that the people responsible for such-and-such wrongdoing must also be responsible for all wrong-doing, everywhere and throughout history.
    But anyone endowed with the powers of reason will understand that this is not the case and that there is also a bigger picture. As Ramsay says, there is a difference between “theories about conspiracies” and an all-embracing “Conspiracy Theory” which seeks to explain everything in one neat little package, at the expense of any deeper understanding.
  • If anti-capitalists refuse to protest against the Bilderberg meetings of global capitalist leaders because they might find themselves rubbing shoulders with right-wing conspiracy nutters, then opposition to the Bilderberg gatherings can easily be presented as borderline insanity.
  • Nobody trusts anyone in authority today. It is one of the main features of our age. Wherever you look there are lying politicians, crooked bankers, corrupt police officers, cheating journalists and double-dealing media barons, sinister children’s entertainers, rotten and greedy energy companies and out-of-control security services. And what makes the suspicion worse is that practically no-one ever gets prosecuted for the scandals. Certainly nobody at the top.
  • Conspiracy theory: a theory that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups.
    Conspiracy: a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal
    Theory: 1. An idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events.
  • Conspiracy: a secret plan made by two or more people to do something bad, illegal, or against someone’s wishes
    Theory: something suggested as a reasonable explanation for facts, a condition, or an event, esp. a systematic or scientific explanation
    Conspiracy theory: a belief that an event or situation is the result of a secret plan made by powerful people
  • Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum... write at the beginning of “A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy”... it’s been out-of-power groups that have been drawn to tales of secret plots. Today, it’s those in power who insist the game is rigged, and no one more insistently than the so-called leader of the free world... As government agencies “lose competence and capacity, they will come to look more and more illegitimate to more and more people,”
    The Internet revolution “has displaced the gatekeepers, the producers, editors, and scholars who decided what was worthy of dissemination,” Is it possible to make a rigorous study of conspiracy theories? ...Research into conspiracy theories “has been hampered by a lack of long-term systematic data,” Uscinski and Parent, political scientists at the University of Miami and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, write in “American Conspiracy Theories.” Fortunately, “methods are now available to better scrutinize what we think we know.”
    • Elizabeth Kolbert, What’s New About Conspiracy Theories? The New Yorker (15 April 2019)
  • The reality is that the US has been a nation gripped by conspiracy for a long time. The Kennedy assassination has been hotly debated for years. The feminist and antiwar movements of the 1960s were, for a time, believed by a not-inconsiderable number of Americans to be part of a communist plot to weaken the country. A majority have believed for decades that the government is hiding what it knows about extraterrestrials...
    There is a perpetual tug between conspiracy theorists and actual conspiracies, between things that are genuinely not believable and truths that are so outlandish they can be hard, at first, to believe.
    But while conspiracy theories are as old as the US itself, there is something new at work... historically, times of tumult and social upheaval tend to lead to a parallel surge in conspiracy thinking... our increasingly rigid class structure, one that leaves many people feeling locked into their circumstances... Together, these elements helped create a society in which many Americans see millions of snares, laid by a menacing group of enemies, all the more alarming for how difficult they are to identify and pin down.
  • Conspiracy theories tend to flourish especially at times of rapid social change, when we are re-evaluating ourselves and, perhaps, facing uncomfortable questions in the process... Frank Donner wrote that conspiracism reveals a fundamental insecurity about who Americans want to be versus who they are. “Especially in times of stress, exaggerated febrile explanations of unwelcome reality come to the surface of American life and attract support,” he wrote. The continual resurgence of conspiracy movements, he claimed, “illuminate[s] a striking contrast between our claims to superiority, indeed our mission as a redeemer nation to bring a new world order, and the extraordinary fragility of our confidence in our institutions”. That contrast, he said, “has led some observers to conclude that we are, subconsciously, quite insecure about the value and permanence of our society”.
  • Medical conspiracy theories are startlingly widespread. In a study published in 2014, University of Chicago political scientists Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood surveyed 1,351 American adults and found that 37% believe the US Food and Drug Administration is “intentionally suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure”. Meanwhile, 20% agreed that corporations are preventing public health officials from releasing data linking mobile phones to cancer, and another 20% that doctors still want to vaccinate children “even though they know such vaccines to be dangerous”.... Subscribing to those conspiracy theories is linked to specific health behaviours: believers are less likely to get flu jabs or wear sunscreen and more likely to seek alternative treatments. (In a more harmless vein, they are also more likely to buy organic vegetables and avoid GMOs.) They are also less inclined to consult a family doctor...
  • Conspiracy theories. The favourite liberal put-down of anyone investigating the crimes and deceit of its system is to dismiss them as a “conspiracy theorist”. The approach was pioneered in the US by Richard Hofstadter in the 1960s and has been used with great success by the liberal system to contaminate and discredit exposure of its crimes. The automatic cry of “conspiracy theorist!” now appears to have dispelled, even in “social justice” or “anarchist” circles, any need to actually read and assess the information involved. The work of researching, collating and presenting detailed and sourced information exposing wrongdoing by the rich and powerful seems today to be regarded by some so-called radicals as, in itself, reprehensible and dangerous. Needless to say, any suggestion that this conditioned response is itself part of a process of manipulation and control will be regarded as further confirmation of the original thought-crime!
  • What is the best way to debunk a conspiracy theory? Call it a conspiracy theory, a label which in and of itself implies disbelief. The only problem with that is there have been many actual conspiracies both historically and currently and many of them are not in the least theoretical in nature. Conspiracies of several kinds brought about American participation in both world wars.... Given the multiple crises currently being experienced in the United States it is perhaps inevitable that speculation about conspiracies is at its highest level ever. To the average American it is incomprehensible how the country has become so screwed up because the political and economic elite is fundamentally incompetent, so the search for a scapegoat must go on...
  • 1. Conspiracy to turn the world into a giant marketplace for the benefit of the wealthy elite... 2. Conspiracy by transnational corporations to turn billions of people into addicts... 3. Conspiracy to plunder the Global South for the benefit of the Global North... 4. Conspiracy to hide the effects of climate breakdown for corporate profit... 5. Conspiracy to grow the global economy indefinitely, while killing most of life on Earth and risking the collapse of civilization....
    So who, in this case, are the conspirators? If you’re living a normal life in an affluent country, you don’t need to look further than the mirror.... So, the next time someone tells you to “do your research” on their new conspiracy theory, please point them to the real conspiracies that are threatening life on this beautiful but troubled planet. The good news is that, since they’re real conspiracies, there is something we can do about them. We can vote in politicians that promise to peel back the neoliberal nightmare; advocate for curbs on predatory corporate activities; support the Global South in changing the terms of international trade; declare a Climate Emergency in our community to turn around carbon emissions; and become active in the movement to transform our global society to an Ecological Civilization—one that is based on life-affirming principles rather than accumulating wealth.

See Also[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: