“Conspiracy Theory” as pejorative

I blew my lid the other night at some unsuspecting anarchist in cyberspace.

I was responding to a well worn and superficially attractive argument. To paraphrase: Anarchists are different from (and implicitly superior to) “Conspiracy Theorists” – they don’t need a fanciful, elaborate story to explain how bad the state is. They know the state is bad anyway. He put it better than that, but that’s the gist.

Here’s the thing: Conspiracies happen (without reaching for a dictionary, let’s just say a conspiracy is a “clandestine plot”). They happen all the time, big and small, private and public.

Theorising about them is perfectly reasonable. Some such theories turn out to be true. Many turn out to be false. Many more stay in an unproven state, somewhere on the long line between those 2 points.

By equating “conspiracy theory” with “nonsense” this anarchist was ironically being an elitist’s dupe.

For as long as I can remember “conspiracy theory” has not meant ” a theory about a conspiracy” at all.

I accept that language evolves but “conspiracy theory” has evolved to mean “theory about a conspiracy which can be commonly considered absurd”. It smacks almost of doublespeak and is an evolution that is not helpful.

The anarchist in question derided conspiracy theorists as “insane” along with some other unflattering descriptions.

Who might that definition serve?  According to him, and many others, the following were / are all “insane”

– Anyone questioning the Met account of the deaths of De Menezes, Tomlinson, Duggan.

– Anyone who suspected (shock horror) that the corporate media were routinely breaking the law in spying on people and paying off police

– Anyone who thought the WMD claims prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq were more or less bollocks (this would include 2 chief weapons inspectors – Ritter and Blix)

– Anyone who thought the Bologna railway bombing and other terrorist acts carried out in the 1970s as part of Gladio weren’t as purported (they were originally blamed on the left to discredit them, as was the plan)

– Anyone who said that the Bilderberg Group even existed.

– Anyone who said that Operation Paperclip (extraction of Nazi scientists and war criminals to the US to serve various purposes) was nonsense

The list is potentially endless as you can imagine.

Any time someone suggests skulduggery is afoot in high places the establishment apologist need only scoff that it is a “conspiracy theory” as a substitute for counter argument.

– “Ah” comes the retort – “but all those things in that list are known to be true, they are no longer theories”.

Up to the point of being proved conclusively true these ideas were dismissable. Then suddenly everyone accepts them and we move on to scoff at someone else and their absurd “theories”.

Again – “conspiracy theory” has evolved to mean “conspiracy theory that is laughably untrue”

Thanks to such misuse of language all theories about conspiracies can be  shrugged off as risible nonsense till fully proved. A simple black/white analysis to suit our busy minds and perhaps some interests beyond them.

But what of the legions of people who see conspiracy where there really isn’t any, or immediately assume the worst of the establishment when something bad happens?

It’s not just major global incidents that can’t occur without a dazzling array of explanations flooding the internet. Some people can scarcely open a packet of crisps without speculating that MK Ultra mind control was behind it (had the shop REALLY run out of Cheese and Onion like they said?)

This is what I call “knee jerk” conspiracism. It is at least as unhealthy as knee jerk anti-conspiracism. Some speculate that people are paid to put stuff like that out there to confuse us all the more (Counter Intel Pro).
It’s a hall of mirrors if you care to look into it. But in my opinion each of the many “conspiracy theories” needs to be taken on it’s own merits, if one has the time to investigate.

Just because someone is fishy about the official story of JFK nearly 50 years on, it does not follow that they do or should conclude that Diana was kidnapped by aliens working for Cheney while he carried out Sumerian rituals in a bunker under the grassy knoll.

Some say “conspiracy theories” arise from a wish to make the world more exiting or less confusing than it is. This is, to be frank, cod psychology. It has no bearing on the merits of any one case.

One could just as easily say that kneejerk counter conspiracism fulfills psychological needs, and be just as devoid of true substance in saying it.

There is such a thing as nuance. Maybe people find less time for this particular “n” word these days. There is certainly little room for it in 160 characters.

What is the point of this piece? I guess to ask the reader to be a little bit more circumspect next time they hear the term “Conspiracy Theory” used to belittle someone, to remain mindful that conspiracies are an absolute fundamental of politics, and to not stop theorising about them.


About watermelonbloke

Policital / community activist (community, mutual aid, environment, animal rights, activist support, anti racism, anti corporate, anti cuts, things like that) In and out of context of above stuff: Green Party activist - on committee of north west regional party (note: This is NOT a party or party plugging blog. I have not been a candidate for 4 years and don't anticipate being one in at least the next 4) Musician - Plenty of of pro experience, mostly jazz and folk but rock / pop / soul etc all fine and groovy, just tell me the tune and I'd hope to be up and running on minimum fuss. Piano, accordian, vox. Teacher - about 16 years in schools, FE, Adult Ed, private tuition, workshops etc. Qualified in music but lots of random subjects done in supply.
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