Back in the 1980s, when Bill Casey was director of Central Intelligence, I asked him a direct question related to analysis. In response, he pointed to his temple and said, “Well, you just gotta use your noodle.”
Whatever you may think of Casey, his pithiness here is instructive. It’s good advice for everyone these days, especially as the term “conspiracy theory” continues to mushroom throughout Big Media, here, there, and everywhere. Team Biden seems to have pushed the term into absolute hyperdrive since he took office.
It’s used even when grand plans are out in the open. For example, participants at the recent World Economic Forum congregation in Davos publicly discussed how we should all be censored and surveilled and tracked. The Orwellian life they’d like to shove on us has been preached for decades by WEF founder Klaus Schwab, prior to his 2020 publication of “The Great Reset.”
But if you point this out you’re likely to be smeared as a “conspiracy theorist.” As Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and many respected pundits have noted, the WEF goal for an unelected elite to rein in the hoi polloi is no theory. Their activists talk about it constantly.
Sure, there are some people who conjure up far-fetched notions of why and how this or that may have happened. But the term “conspiracy theorist” has become a knee-jerk label intended to discredit thoughtful investigation — or just plain observation — by describing investigators as wacky conjurers. This is one of many ways power elites exploit the natural human fear of ostracism in order to induce us to self-silence.
So let’s use our noodle and explore the term itself and how it is used. First off, “conspiracy” simply means a secret plan. You can’t be a conspiracy theorist if you’re quoting elaborate plans that are public. And unless you’ve been living in a cave, you also know that secret plans exist. We often think of conspiracies in terms of mafia hit lists, embezzlements, or fraud. Such things do happen, you know.
Next, consider the term “theory” or “theorist” as applied to conspiracy. This would be relevant to the person who wonders if there’s a nefarious plan in the works and is investigating. There are legitimate careers dedicated to such things. Actuaries dabble in them, though probably not consciously. Detectives in law enforcement search for a motive in murder cases because it’s their job to speculate in order to solve the case.
Of course, none of the above is what first comes to mind when people hear the term “conspiracy theorist.” Rather, it’s meant to invoke the image of a psychotic who is obsessed with an idea concocted out of whole cloth. For example, “the guy at the corner hardware store has channeled Napoleon to send little men to live in our brains and program us into zombies!” You can surely think of many more examples. The common denominator is detachment from reality — or from what we generally know as common experience of the world.
‘Conspiracy Theorist’ Is a Slur
Casual use of the term “conspiracy theorist” is a smear to halt thoughtfulness and conversation, often under the guise of protecting you from “disinformation.” It’s a staple in any Wikipedia article about anyone targeted for cancellation by Big Tech. Big Media constantly uses the term to discredit anyone who might threaten its narrative. It’s also used constantly in woke academia and by government officials.
The cherry on top is how the FBI has used it to divert public criticism, as with its December statement in reaction to “The Twitter Files.” The FBI statement reads in part: “It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.” (Interesting the FBI referred to itself as “the agency” — a CIA moniker — rather than the standard self-reference of “the bureau.” Hmm.)
“Conspiracy theorist” is now used constantly by just about anyone who wishes to shut someone up by instilling in them the fear of being labeled a kook. In fact, that’s what gaslighting is: psychological abuse that instills the belief that you must be crazy if you simply want to understand why things are the way they are.
Origin of the Term
Pundits often point to a 1967 CIA memo as the origin of the term “conspiracy theory.” The New York Times publicized that memo after obtaining it through a 1976 Freedom of Information Act request. The memo states that the public should be actively dissuaded from straying from the Warren Commission’s conclusion that the John F. Kennedy assassination was the act of a lone gunman. Any other ideas, according to the memo, were conspiracy theories that should be discredited as such in the media.
But some folks take issue with the claim that the CIA memo is the origin of the term. There’s an argument that that very claim is in itself a conspiracy theory. The author of a 2013 article in the Skeptical Inquirer even scoured the internet for sources of the term and found it used in a medical journal dated 1870.
But whether the term “conspiracy theory” predates the CIA memo — even by a century — is irrelevant. It has always been used as a derogatory term. And its pejorative usage in public discourse exploded after The New York Times published the CIA memo in the 1970s. The unprecedented reach of the internet then allowed for the exponential proliferation of the term to denigrate anyone who has a different opinion from the propagandistic narrative.
In short, the CIA memo was the clear turning point in usage, no matter who first may have coined the term. Ever since The New York Times article (clearly not since the 19th century) we have been bombarded with the term to shut us up about any legitimate concerns we may have. Constantly. In Big Media. In Wikipedia. In social media. In politics. In academia. In medicine. In filmmaking. Indeed, wherever big propaganda is propagated, which is pretty much everywhere.
That’s not to say that far-fetched theories don’t exist. Obviously, they do. But the usage of “conspiracy theorist” as a constant slur and effective gag order got its start with the publication of the CIA memo.
And, yes, it can be used on both the left and the right. So when you come across the term, forget about politics. Ask yourself if it’s being used with evidence to back up the claim. For example, we now have plenty of proof that the Russia-collusion hoax boiled down to the dissemination of a conspiracy theory on the part of Democrats in Congress.
On the other hand, if no real argument is offered to back up the use of the term, then you know that “conspiracy theory” is nothing more than an ad hominem silencing device.
But you should decide which is which and speak up about it. You just gotta use your noodle.