Conspiracy theory

Conspiracy theory

A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.



The term "conspiracy theory" is used to indicate a narrative genre that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies.[1] The term is frequently used by scholars and in popular culture to identify secret military, banking, or political actions aimed at "stealing" power, money, or freedom, from "the people".[citation needed] Conspiracy theories are based on the notion that complex plots are put into motion by powerful hidden forces.[2] Less illustrious uses refer to folklore and urban legend and a variety of explanatory narratives which are constructed with methodological flaws or biases.[3] Originally a neutral term, during the political upheaval[not in citation given] of the 1960s it also acquired a somewhat derogatory sense, implying paranoia.[4] The term is sometimes used to automatically dismiss claims that are deemed ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational. A proven conspiracy theory, such as the notion that Nixon and his aides were behind the Watergate break-in and cover-up, is usually referred to as something else, such as investigative journalism or historical analysis.[5] [6]

The political scientist Michael Barkun holds that a conspiracy theory is a belief which explains an event as the result of a secret plot by exceptionally powerful and cunning conspirators to achieve a malevolent end.[7][8] According to Barkun, the appeal of conspiracism is threefold: First, conspiracy theories claim to explain what institutional analysis cannot. They appear to make sense out of a world that is otherwise confusing. Second, they do so in an appealingly simple way, by dividing the world sharply between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. They trace all evil back to a single source, the conspirators and their agents. Third, conspiracy theories are often presented as special, secret knowledge unknown or unappreciated by others. For conspiracy theorists, the masses are a brainwashed herd, while the conspiracy theorists in the know can congratulate themselves on penetrating the plotters' deceptions.[8]

Some scholars argue that conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media, contributing to conspiracism emerging as a cultural phenomenon in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the possible replacement of democracy by conspiracy as the dominant paradigm of political action in the public mind.[7][9][10][11] According to anthropologists Todd Sanders and Harry G. West, evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today gives credence to at least some conspiracy theories.[12] Belief in conspiracy theories has therefore become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore.

In an essay on conspiracy theories originating in the Middle East, Daniel Pipes notes that "[f]ive assumptions distinguish the conspiracy theorist from more conventional patterns of thought: appearances deceive; conspiracies drive history; nothing is haphazard; the enemy always gains; power, fame, money, and sex account for all."[2] According to West and Sanders, when talking about conspiracies in the Vietnam era, Pipes includes within the fringe element anyone who entertains the thought that conspiracies played a role in the major political scandals and assassinations that rocked American politics in the Vietnam era. "He sees the paranoid style in almost any critical historical or social-scientific analysis of oppression."[13]

Noam Chomsky, linguist and scholar, contrasts conspiracy theory as more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behaviour of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, for example, scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.[14]


Barkun has categorized, in ascending order of breadth, the types of conspiracy theories as follows:

  • Event conspiracy theories. The conspiracy is held to be responsible for a limited, discrete event or set of events. The conspiratorial forces are alleged to have focused their energies on a limited, well-defined objective. The best-known example in the recent past is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy literature, though similar material exists concerning the crash of TWA Flight 800, and the spread of AIDS in the black community.[7]
  • Systemic conspiracy theories. The conspiracy is believed to have broad goals, usually conceived as securing control of a country, a region, or even the entire world. While the goals are sweeping, the conspiratorial machinery is generally simple: a single, evil organization implements a plan to infiltrate and subvert existing institutions. This is a common scenario in conspiracy theories that focus on the alleged machinations of Jews, Freemasons, or the Catholic Church, as well as theories centered on Communism or international capitalists.[7]
  • Superconspiracy theories. Conspiratorial constructs in which multiple conspiracies are believed to be linked together hierarchically. Event and systemic are joined in complex ways, so that conspiracies come to be nested together. At the summit of the conspiratorial hierarchy is a distant but all-powerful evil force manipulating lesser conspiratorial actors. Superconspiracy theories have enjoyed particular growth since the 1980s, in the work of authors such as David Icke and Milton William Cooper.[7]

Proven conspiracies and conspiracy theories

Katherine K. Young states "(t)he fact remains, however, that not all conspiracies are imagined by paranoids. Historians show that every real conspiracy has had at least four characteristic features: groups, not isolated individuals; illegal or sinister aims, not ones that would benefit society as a whole; orchestrated acts, not a series of spontaneous and haphazard ones; and secret planning, not public discussion."[15]

"Some historians have put forward the idea that more recently the United States has become the home of conspiracy theories because so many high-level prominent conspiracies have been undertaken and uncovered since the 1960s." [16]

The existence of such real conspiracies coupled with the denial of any conspiracies what so ever even though the government itself promoted conspiracy theories (such as Communism plans to take over the world) helps feed the belief in conspiracy theories.[17][18][19]

In the criminal justice system, actual conspiracies and conspiracy theories can also be distinguished by scale, as actual conspiracies are usually small in scale and involve "a single event or issue."[20]


Aside from controversies over the merits of particular conspiratorial claims, the general discussion of conspiracy theory is itself a matter of some public contention. Conspiracy theorists on the internet are often dismissed as a "fringe" group, but evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today—traversing ethnic, gender, education, occupation, and other divides—gives credence to at least some conspiracy theories.[21]

Given this popular understanding of the term, it can also be used illegitimately and inappropriately, as a means to dismiss what are in fact substantial and well-evidenced accusations. The legitimacy of each such usage will therefore be a matter of some controversy. Michael Parenti, in his 1996 essay which examines the role of progressive media in the use of the term, "The JFK Assassination II: Conspiracy Phobia On The Left", states,

"It is an either-or world for those on the Left who harbor an aversion for any kind of conspiracy investigation: either you are a structuralist in your approach to politics or a 'conspiracist' who reduces historical developments to the machinations of secret cabals, thereby causing us to lose sight of the larger systemic forces."[22]

Structuralist or institutional analysis shows that the term is misused when it is applied to institutions acting in pursuit of their acknowledged goals, for example, when a group of corporations engage in price-fixing to increase profits.

Complications occurs for terms such as UFO, which literally means "unidentified flying object" but connotes alien spacecraft, a concept also associated with some conspiracy theories, and thus possessing a certain social stigma. Michael Parenti gives an example of the use of the term which underscores the conflict in its use. He states,

"In most of its operations, the CIA is by definition a conspiracy, using covert actions and secret plans, many of which are of the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies? At the same time, the CIA is an institution, a structural part of the national security state. In sum, the agency is an institutionalized conspiracy."[22]

The term "conspiracy theory" is itself the object of a type of conspiracy theory, which argues that those using the term are manipulating their audience to disregard the topic under discussion, either in a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth, or as dupes of more deliberate conspirators.[citation needed]

When conspiracy theories are offered as official claims (for example, originating from a governmental authority, such as an intelligence agency) they are not usually considered as conspiracy theories. For example, certain activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee may be considered to have been an official attempt to promote a conspiracy theory, yet its claims are seldom referred to as such.[citation needed]

Further difficulties arise from ambiguity regarding the term "theory'. In popular usage, this term is often used to refer to unfounded or weakly based speculation, leading to the idea that "It's not a conspiracy theory if it's actually true".


Academic work in conspiracy theories and conspiracism (a world view that places conspiracy theories centrally in the unfolding of history) presents a range of hypotheses as a basis of studying the genre. According to Berlet and Lyons, "Conspiracism is a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm".[23]

The historian Richard Hofstadter addressed the role of paranoia and conspiracism throughout American history in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in 1964. Bernard Bailyn's classic The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967) notes that a similar phenomenon could be found in America during the time preceding the American Revolution. Conspiracism labels people's attitudes as well as the type of conspiracy theories that are more global and historical in proportion.[24]

The term "conspiracism" was popularized by academic Frank P. Mintz in the 1980s.[citation needed] According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes "belief in the primacy of conspiracies in the unfolding of history":[25]

"Conspiracism serves the needs of diverse political and social groups in America and elsewhere. It identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, and assumes that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power. As such, conspiracy theories do not typify a particular epoch or ideology".[26]

Throughout human history, political and economic leaders genuinely have been the cause of enormous amounts of death and misery, and they sometimes have engaged in conspiracies while at the same time promoting conspiracy theories about their targets. Hitler and Stalin would be merely the most prominent examples; there have been numerous others.[27] In some cases there have been claims dismissed as conspiracy theories that later proved to be true.[28][29] The idea that history itself is controlled by large long-standing conspiracies is rejected by historian Bruce Cumings:

"But if conspiracies exist, they rarely move history; they make a difference at the margins from time to time, but with the unforeseen consequences of a logic outside the control of their authors: and this is what is wrong with 'conspiracy theory.' History is moved by the broad forces and large structures of human collectivities."[30]

Belief in conspiracy theories has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore since at least the 1960s, when the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy eventually provoked an unprecedented public response directed against the official version of the case as expounded in the Report of the Warren Commission.[citation needed]

Psychological origins

According to some psychologists, a person who believes in one conspiracy theory tends to believe in others; a person who does not believe in one conspiracy theory tends not to believe another.[31]

Psychologists believe that the search for meaning is common in conspiracism and the development of conspiracy theories, and may be powerful enough alone to lead to the first formulating of the idea. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where a conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part. Some research carried out at the University of Kent, UK suggests people may be influenced by conspiracy theories without being aware that their attitudes have changed. After reading popular conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, participants in this study correctly estimated how much their peers' attitudes had changed, but significantly underestimated how much their own attitudes had changed to become more in favor of the conspiracy theories. The authors conclude that conspiracy theories may therefore have a 'hidden power' to influence people's beliefs.[32]

Humanistic psychologists argue that even if the cabal behind the conspiracy is almost always perceived as hostile there is, often, still an element of reassurance in it, for conspiracy theorists, in part because it is more consoling to think that complications and upheavals in human affairs, at least, are created by human beings rather than factors beyond human control. Belief in such a cabal is a device for reassuring oneself that certain occurrences are not random, but ordered by a human intelligence. This renders such occurrences comprehensible and potentially controllable. If a cabal can be implicated in a sequence of events, there is always the hope, however tenuous, of being able to break the cabal's power – or joining it and exercising some of that power oneself. Finally, belief in the power of such a cabal is an implicit assertion of human dignity – an often unconscious but necessary affirmation that man is not totally helpless, but is responsible, at least in some measure, for his own destiny.[33]


Some historians have argued that there is an element of psychological projection in conspiracism. This projection, according to the argument, is manifested in the form of attribution of undesirable characteristics of the self to the conspirators. Richard Hofstadter, in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics, stated that: is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship... the Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.[34]

Hofstadter also noted that "sexual freedom" is a vice frequently attributed to the conspiracist's target group, noting that "very often the fantasies of true believers reveal strong sadomasochistic outlets, vividly expressed, for example, in the delight of anti-Masons with the cruelty of Masonic punishments."[34]

Epistemic bias

It is possible that certain basic human epistemic biases are projected onto the material under scrutiny. According to one study, humans apply a rule of thumb by which we expect a significant event to have a significant cause.[35] The study offered subjects four versions of events, in which a foreign president was (a) successfully assassinated, (b) wounded but survived, (c) survived with wounds but died of a heart attack at a later date, and (d) was unharmed. Subjects were significantly more likely to suspect conspiracy in the case of the major events—in which the president died—than in the other cases, despite all other evidence available to them being equal. Connected with pareidolia, the genetic tendency of human beings to find patterns in coincidence, this allows the discovery of conspiracy in any significant event.

Another epistemic "rule of thumb" that can be misapplied to a mystery involving other humans is cui bono? (who stands to gain?). This sensitivity to the hidden motives of other people may be an evolved and universal feature of human consciousness.[citation needed]

Clinical psychology

For some individuals, an obsessive compulsion to believe, prove, or re-tell a conspiracy theory may indicate one or a combination of well-understood psychological conditions, and other hypothetical ones: paranoia, denial, schizophrenia, mean world syndrome.[36]

Socio-political origins

A man at the Occupy Wall Street protest embracing the moniker, September 24, 2011

Christopher Hitchens represents conspiracy theories as the 'exhaust fumes of democracy',[citation needed] the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people. Other[who?] social commentators and sociologists argue that conspiracy theories are produced according to variables that may change within a democratic (or other type of) society.

Conspiratorial accounts can be emotionally satisfying when they place events in a readily understandable, moral context. The subscriber to the theory is able to assign moral responsibility for an emotionally troubling event or situation to a clearly conceived group of individuals. Crucially, that group does not include the believer. The believer may then feel excused of any moral or political responsibility for remedying whatever institutional or societal flaw might be the actual source of the dissonance.[37] Likewise, Roger Cohen, in an op-Ed for the New York Times propounded that, "captive minds... resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world."[38]

Where responsible behavior is prevented by social conditions, or is simply beyond the ability of an individual, the conspiracy theory facilitates the emotional discharge or closure that such emotional challenges (after Erving Goffman)[citation needed] require. Like moral panics, conspiracy theories thus occur more frequently within communities that are experiencing social isolation or political dis-empowerment.

Sociological historian Holger Herwig found in studying German explanations for the origins of World War I, "Those events that are most important are hardest to understand, because they attract the greatest attention from myth makers and charlatans."[citation needed]

This normal process could be diverted by a number of influences. At the level of the individual, pressing psychological needs may influence the process, and certain of our universal mental tools may impose epistemic 'blind spots'. At the group or sociological level, historic factors may make the process of assigning satisfactory meanings more or less problematic.

Alternatively, conspiracy theories may arise when evidence available in the public record does not correspond with the common or official version of events. In this regard, conspiracy theories may sometimes serve to highlight 'blind spots' in the common or official interpretations of events.[28]

Influence of critical theory

Bruno Latour[39] suggests that the widespread popularity of conspiracy theories in mass culture may be due, in part, to the pervasive presence of Marxist-inspired critical theory and similar ideas in academia since the 1970s.

Latour suggests that about 90% of contemporary social criticism in academia displays one of two approaches which he terms “the fact position and the fairy position.” (p. 237) The fact position is anti-fetishist, arguing that “objects of belief” (e.g., religion, arts) are merely concepts onto which power is projected; the “fairy position” argues that individuals are dominated, often covertly and without their awareness, by external forces (e.g., economics, gender). (p. 238) “Do you see now why it feels so good to be a critical mind?” asks Latour: no matter which position you take, “You’re always right!” (p. 238-239)

Latour notes that such social criticism has been appropriated by those he describes as conspiracy theorists, including global warming skeptics and the 9/11 Truth movement: “Maybe I am taking conspiracy theories too seriously, but I am worried to detect, in those mad mixtures of knee-jerk disbelief, punctilious demands for proofs, and free use of powerful explanation from the social neverland, many of the weapons of social critique.” (p. 230)

Media tropes

Media commentators regularly note a tendency in news media and wider culture to understand events through the prism of individual agents, as opposed to more complex structural or institutional accounts.[40] If this is a true observation, it may be expected that the audience which both demands and consumes this emphasis itself is more receptive to personalized, dramatic accounts of social phenomena.

A second, perhaps related, media trope is the effort to allocate individual responsibility for negative events. The media have a tendency to start to seek culprits if an event occurs that is of such significance that it does not drop off the news agenda within a few days. Of this trend, it has been said that the concept of a pure accident is no longer permitted in a news item.[41] Again, if this is a true observation, it may reflect a real change in how the media consumer perceives negative events.

Hollywood motion pictures and television shows perpetuate and enlarge belief in conspiracy as a standard functioning of corporations and governments. Feature films such as Enemy of the State and Shooter, among scores of others, propound conspiracies as a normal state of affairs, having dropped the idea of questioning conspiracies typical of movies of eras prior to about 1970. Shooter even contains the line, "that is how conspiracies work" in reference to the JFK murder. Interestingly, movies and television shows do the same as the news media in regard to personalizing and dramatizing issues which are easy to involve in conspiracy theories. Coming Home converts the huge problem of the returning injured Vietnam War soldier into the chance that the injured soldier will fall in love, and when he does, the strong implication is that the larger problem is also solved. This factor is a natural outcome of Hollywood script development which wishes to highlight one or two major characters which can be played by major stars, and thus a good way of marketing the movie is established but that rings false upon examination. Further, the necessity to serve up a dubiously justified happy ending, although expected by audiences, actually has another effect of heightening the sense of falseness and contrived stories, underpinning the public's loss of belief in virtually anything any mass media says. Into the vacuum of that loss of belief falls explanation by conspiracy theory.

Too, the act of dramatizing real or fictional events injects a degree of falseness or contrived efforts which media savvy people today can identify easily. "News" today is virtually always dramatized, at least by pitting "one side" against another in the fictional journalistic concept that all stories must contain "both sides" (as though reality could be reduced to two sides) or by using more intensive dramatic developments similar to feature movies. That is, by obvious dramatizing, the media reinforces the idea that all things are contrived for someone's gain which could be another definition of, at least, political conspiracies theories. --Dr. Charles Harpole in "History of American Cinema" Scribner/U. Calif Press.

Fusion paranoia

Michael Kelly, a Washington Post journalist and critic of anti-war movements on both the left and right, coined the term "fusion paranoia" to refer to a political convergence of left-wing and right-wing activists around anti-war issues and civil liberties, which he claimed were motivated by a shared belief in conspiracism or anti-government views.

Social critics have adopted this term to refer to how the synthesis of paranoid conspiracy theories, which were once limited to American fringe audiences, has given them mass appeal and enabled them to become commonplace in mass media, thereby inaugurating an unrivaled period of people actively preparing for apocalyptic millenarian scenarios in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They warn that this development may not only fuel lone wolf terrorism but have devastating effects on American political life, such as the rise of a revolutionary right-wing populist movement capable of subverting the established political powers.[42]

Daniel Pipes wrote in a 2004 Jerusalem Post article titled Fusion Paranoia:

Fears of a petty conspiracy – a political rival or business competitor plotting to do you harm – are as old as the human psyche. But fears of a grand conspiracy – that the Illuminati or Jews plan to take over the world – go back only 900 years and have been operational for just two centuries, since the French Revolution. Conspiracy theories grew in importance from then until World War II, when two arch-conspiracy theorists, Hitler and Stalin, faced off against each other, causing the greatest blood-letting in human history. This hideous spectacle sobered Americans, who in subsequent decades relegated conspiracy theories to the fringe, where mainly two groups promoted such ideas.

The politically disaffected: Blacks (Louis Farrakhan, Cynthia McKinney), the hard Right (John Birch Society, Pat Buchanan), and other alienated elements (Ross Perot, Lyndon LaRouche). Their theories imply a political agenda, but lack much of a following.

The culturally suspicious: These include "Kennedy assassinologists," "ufologists," and those who believe a reptilian race runs the earth and alien installations exist under the earth's surface. Such themes enjoy enormous popularity (a year 2000 poll found 43 percent of Americans believing in UFOs), but carry no political agenda.

The major new development, reports Barkun, professor of political science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, is not just an erosion in the divisions between these two groups, but their joining forces with occultists, persons bored by rationalism. Occultists are drawn to what Barkun calls the "cultural dumping ground of the heretical, the scandalous, the unfashionable, and the dangerous" – such as spiritualism, Theosophy, alternative medicine, alchemy, and astrology. Thus, the author who worries about the Secret Service taking orders from the Bavarian Illuminati is old school; the one who worries about a "joint Reptilian-Bavarian Illuminati" takeover is at the cutting edge of the new synthesis. These bizarre notions constitute what Michael Kelly termed "fusion paranoia," a promiscuous absorption of fears from any source whatsoever.[43]

Political use

Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts, and evidence is ignored. As a superpower, the United States is often cast as a villain in these dramas.


In his two volume work The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper used the term "conspiracy theory" to criticize the ideologies driving fascism, nazism, and communism.[citation needed] Popper argued that totalitarianism was founded on "conspiracy theories" which drew on imaginary plots driven by paranoid scenarios predicated on tribalism, chauvinism, or racism. Popper did not argue against the existence of everyday conspiracies (as incorrectly suggested in much of the later literature). Popper even uses the term "conspiracy" to describe ordinary political activity in the classical Athens of Plato (who was the principal target of his attack in The Open Society and Its Enemies).

In his critique of the twentieth century totalitarians, Popper wrote, "I do not wish to imply that conspiracies never happen. On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena."[45] He reiterated his point, "Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted. But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproved the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy."[45]

In a paper written in 2008, Cass Sunstein, legal scholar, and Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote of appropriate government responses to conspiracy theories. In the paper he stated:

What can government do about conspiracy theories? Among the things it can do, what should it do? We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. Each instrument has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions. However, our main policy idea is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories, which involves a mix of (3), (4) and (5).[46]

See also


  1. ^ Ramsay, Robin (2006). Conspiracy Theories. Pocket Essentials. ISBN 1-904048-65-X. 
  2. ^ a b Pipes, Daniel (1992). "Dealing with Middle Eastern Conspiracy Theories". Orbis 36: 41–56. ISSN 0030-4387. 
  3. ^ Johnson, 1983
  4. ^ "20th Century Words" (1999) John Ayto, Oxford University Press, p. 15.
  5. ^ Knight, Peter (2003). Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9. 
  6. ^ Slate Magazine
  7. ^ a b c d e Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. University of California Press; 1 edition. p. 3. ISBN 0520238052. "a conspiracy belief is the belief that an organization made up of individuals or groups was or is acting covertly to achieve a malevolent end." 
  8. ^ a b Berlet, Chip (September 2004). Interview: Michael Barkun. Retrieved 2009-10-01. "The issue of conspiracism versus rational criticism is a tough one, and some people (Jodi Dean, for example) argue that the former is simply a variety of the latter. I don't accept this, although I certainly acknowledge that there have been conspiracies. They simply don't have the attributes of almost superhuman power and cunning that conspiracists attribute to them." 
  9. ^ Camp, Gregory S. (1997). Selling Fear: Conspiracy Theories and End-Times Paranoia. Commish Walsh. ASIN B000J0N8NC. 
  10. ^ Goldberg, Robert Alan (2001). Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300090005. 
  11. ^ Fenster, Mark (2008). Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. University of Minnesota Press; 2nd edition. ISBN 0816654948. 
  12. ^ Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. (2003) Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Duke University Press. p. 4.
  13. ^ Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. pp 207.
  14. ^ Michael Albert, quoting from Zmagazine. "Conspiracy Theory". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  15. ^ Young, Katherine K.; Paul Nathanson (2010) Sanctifying misandry: goddess ideology and the Fall of Man McGill-Queen University Press ISBN 9780773538733 pg 275
  16. ^ Knight, Peter (2003) Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia, Volume 1; ABC-CLIO; ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9 pg 18
  17. ^ Jewett, Robert; John Shelton Lawrence (2004) Captain America and the crusade against evil: the dilemma of zealous nationalism Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing pg 206
  18. ^ Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2011) Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 Oxford University Press pg 8
  19. ^ Whitfield, Stephen J. (2004) A companion to 20th-century America Wiley-Blackwell ISBN 978-0631211006 pg 136
  20. ^ George, John; Laird M. Wilcox (1996) American extremists: militias, supremacists, klansmen, communists & others Prometheus Books pg 267
  21. ^ Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. pp 4.
  22. ^ a b, "The JFK Assassination II: conspiracy phobia on the left", Michael Parenti, 1996.
  23. ^ Berlet, Chip; Lyons, Matthew N. (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press. [page needed]. ISBN 1572305622. 
  24. ^ Bailyn, Bernard (1992) [1967]. 'The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [page needed]. ISBN 978-0-674-44302-0. ASIN: B000NUF6FQ. 
  25. ^ Mintz, Frank P. (1985). The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. p. 4. ISBN 0-313-24393-X. 
  26. ^ Mintz, Frank P. (1985) [1985]. The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. p. 199. ISBN 0-313-24393-X. 
  27. ^ Arendt, Hannah (1973) [1953]. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. [page needed]. ISBN 0156078104. 
  28. ^ a b Fenster, Mark (1999). Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. [page needed]. ISBN 081663243X. 
  29. ^ Dean, Jodi (1998). Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [page needed]. ISBN 0801484685. 
  30. ^ Cumings, Bruce (1999). The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. II, The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947–1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [page needed]. 
  31. ^ Goertzel (1994). "Belief in Conspiracy Theories". Political Psychology (Political Psychology, Vol. 15, No. 4) 15 (4): 733–744. doi:10.2307/3791630. JSTOR 3791630. Retrieved 2006-08-07. 
  32. ^ Douglas, Karen; Sutton, Robbie (2008). "The hidden impact of conspiracy theories: Perceived and actual influence of theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana". Journal of Social Psychology 148 (2): 210–222. doi:10.3200/SOCP.148.2.210-222. 
  33. ^ Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1987). The Messianic Legacy. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0805005684. 
  34. ^ a b Hofstadter, Richard (11-2011). "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". Harper's Magazine: p. 77–86. 
  35. ^ "Who shot the president?," The British Psychological Society, March 18, 2003 (accessed June 7, 2005).
  36. ^ "Top 5 New Diseases: Media Induced Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (MIPTSD)," The New Disease: A Journal of Narrative Pathology 2 (2004), (accessed June 7, 2005). Quote: "for relatively rare individuals, an obsessive compulsion to believe, prove or re-tell a conspiracy theory may indicate one or more of several well-understood psychological conditions, and other hypothetical ones: paranoia, denial, schizophrenia, and mean world syndrome." apud Lance Boyle Truthers: the Mental Health Headache, The Westminster Journal, December 27, 2007.
  37. ^ Vedantam, Shankar (2006-06-05). "Born With the Desire to Know the Unknown". The Washington Post (The Washington Post): p. A02. Retrieved 2006-06-07.  "Conspiracy theories explain disturbing events or social phenomena in terms of the actions of specific, powerful individuals," said sociologist Theodore Sasson at Middlebury College in Vermont. By providing simple explanations of distressing events—the conspiracy theory in the Arab world, for example, that the September 11 attacks were planned by the Israeli Mossad—they deflect responsibility or keep people from acknowledging that tragic events sometimes happen inexplicably."
  38. ^ Cohen, Roger (December 20, 2010). "The Captive Arab Mind". The New York Times. 
  39. ^ Latour, Bruno. (2004) "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern." Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2., Winter 2004, pp. 225-248
  40. ^ Emke, Ivan (2000). "Agents and Structures: Journalists and the Constraints on AIDS Coverage". Canadian Journal of Communication 25 (3). Retrieved June 7, 2005. 
  41. ^ "The Blame Game". BBC News. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  42. ^ Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0520238052. 
  43. ^ Pipes, Daniel (2004). Fusion Paranoia. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  44. ^ "Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation -". U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  45. ^ a b "Extracts from "The Open Society and Its Enemies Volume 2: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath" by Karl Raimund Popper (Originally published 1945)". Lachlan Cranswick, quoting Karl Raimund Popper. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  46. ^ Sunstein, Cass R. and Vermeule, Adrian, Conspiracy Theories (January 15, 2008). Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-03; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 199; U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 387. (Accessed January 29, 2010) 15.


  • American Heritage Dictionary, "Conspiracy theory"
  • Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23805-2. 
  • Chase, Alston (2003). Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-02002-9. 
  • Fenster, Mark (1999). Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3243-X. 
  • Goldberg, Robert Alan (2001). Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09000-5. 
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1965). The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-674-65461-7. 
  • Johnson, George (1983). Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher. ISBN 0-87477-275-3. 
  • McConnachie, James; Tudge, Robin (2005). The rough guide to conspiracy theories. ISBN 1843534452. 
  • Melley, Timothy (1999). Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8606-8. 
  • Mintz, Frank P. (1985). The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 0-313-24393-X. 
  • Pipes, Daniel (1997). Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes from. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-87111-4. 
  • Pipes, Daniel (1998). The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17688-0. 
  • Popper, Karl R. (1945). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01968-1. 
  • Posner, Gerald (1993). Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. New York: The Random House. ISBN 0-385-47446-6. 
  • Sagan, Carl (1996). The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: The Random House. ISBN 0-394-53512-X. 
  • Vankin, Jonathan; John Whalen (2004). The 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-2531-2. 

Further reading

Conspiracist literature

  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  • Balsiger, David W.; Sellier, Jr., Charles E. (1977). The Lincoln Conspiracy. Los Angeles: Schick Sun Classic Books. ISBN 1-56849-531-5. 
  • Bryan, Gerald B.; Talita Paolini, Kenneth Paolini (2000) [1940]. Psychic Dictatorship in America. Paolini International LLC. ISBN 0-9666213-1-X. 
  • Cooper, Milton William (1991). Behold a Pale Horse. Light Technology Publications. ISBN 0-929385-22-5. 
  • Icke, David (2004). And the Truth Shall Set You Free: The 21st Century Edition. Bridge of Love. ISBN 0-9538810-5-9. 
  • Levenda, Peter (2005). Sinister Forces: Trilogy. Trine Day. ISBN 0-9752906-2-2. 
  • Marrs, Texe (1996). Project L.U.C.I.D.: The Beast 666 Universal Human Control System. Living Truth Publishers. ISBN 1-884302-02-5. 
  • Pelley, William Dudley (1950). Star Guests: Design for Mortality. Noblesville, Indiana: Soulcraft Press. 
  • Robertson, Pat (1992). The New World Order. W Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8499-3394-3. 
  • Wilson, Robert Anton (2002). TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution. Tempe, Arizona: New Falcon. ISBN 1-56184-169-2. 
  • Yallop, David A. (1984). In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I. New York: Bantam. ISBN 0-553-05073-7. 
  • Mathias Bröckers. Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories and the Secrets of 9/11.  Sees conspiracy as a fundamental principle between cooperation and competition. Proposes a new science of "conspirology."
  • Sorrentino, Juliano. Society at war, The society of thieves. Sao Paulo (2008): Scortecci. ISBN 978-85-366-1291-1.  A shadow government and a code of war move a secret war against an old common enemy. Polemical literature of the Brazilian writer Sorrento.

External links

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