A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy -- generally one involving an illegal or harmful act supposedly carried out by government or other powerful actors -- without credible evidence. Conspiracy theories often produce hypotheses that contradict the prevailing understanding of history or simple facts. The term tends to be a derogatory one.
According to the political scientist Michael Barkun, conspiracy theories rely on the view that the universe is governed by design, and embody three principles: nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected. Another common feature is that conspiracy theories evolve to incorporate whatever evidence exists against them, so that they become, as Barkun writes, a closed system that is unfalsifiable, and therefore "a matter of faith rather than proof".
Etymology and definition
The Oxford English Dictionary defines conspiracy theory as "the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; spec. a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event". It cites a 1909 article in The American Historical Review as the earliest usage example, although it also appears in journals as early as April 1870. The word "conspiracy" derives from the Latin con- ("with, together") and spirare ("to breathe").
According to John Ayto, the phrase was originally a neutral term, but since around the 1960s, has often been somewhat derogatory. Lance deHaven-Smith has suggested that the term was deployed in the 1960s by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to discredit John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. Robert Blaskiewicz rejects such claims, asserting instead that the term has always been derogatory and pointing to examples demonstrating that this has been so since the nineteenth century.
A conspiracy theory is not simply a conspiracy. Barkun writes that conspiracies are "actual covert plots planned and/or carried out by two or more persons". A conspiracy theory, on the other hand, is "an intellectual construct", a "template imposed upon the world to give the appearance of order to events". Positing that "some small and hidden group" has manipulated events, a conspiracy theory can be local or international, focused on single events or covering multiple incidents and entire countries, regions and periods of history. Conspiracy theorists see themselves as having privileged access to special knowledge or a special mode of thought that separates them from the masses who believe the official account.
A conspiracy theory may take any matter as its subject, but certain subjects attract greater interest than others. Favored subjects include famous deaths, government activities, new technologies, terrorism and questions of alien life. Among the longest-standing and most widely recognized conspiracy theories are notions concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 1969 Apollo moon landings and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as numerous theories pertaining to alleged plots for world domination by various groups both real and imaginary.
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. 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. Belief in conspiracy theories has therefore become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore.
Conspiracy theories are widely present on the Web in the form of blogs and YouTube videos, as well as on social media. Whether the Web has increased the prevalence of conspiracy theories or not is an open research question. The presence and representation of conspiracy theories in search engine results has been monitored and studied, showing significant variation across different topics, and a general absence of reputable, high-quality links in the results.
Types of conspiracy theory
Walker's five kinds
Jesse Walker (2013) has identified five kinds of conspiracy theories:
- The "Enemy Outside" refers to theories based on figures alleged to be scheming against a community from without.
- The "Enemy Within" finds the conspirators lurking inside the nation, indistinguishable from ordinary citizens.
- The "Enemy Above" involves powerful people manipulating events for their own gain.
- The "Enemy Below" features the lower classes working to overturn the social order.
- The "Benevolent Conspiracies" are angelic forces that work behind the scenes to improve the world and help people.
Barkun's three types
Barkun has identified three classifications of conspiracy theory:
- Event conspiracy theories. This refers to limited and well-defined events. Examples may include such conspiracies theories as those concerning the Kennedy assassination, 9/11, and the spread of AIDS.
- 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. The goals are sweeping, whilst 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, Communism, or the Catholic Church.
- Superconspiracy theories. For Barkun, such theories link multiple alleged conspiracies together hierarchically. At the summit is a distant but all-powerful evil force. His cited examples are the ideas of David Icke and Milton William Cooper.
Rothbard: shallow vs. deep
Murray Rothbard argues in favor of a model that contrasts "deep" conspiracy theories to "shallow" ones. According to Rothbard, a "shallow" theorist observes an event and asks Cui bono? ("Who benefits?"), jumping to the conclusion that a posited beneficiary is responsible for covertly influencing events. On the other hand, the "deep" conspiracy theorist begins with a hunch and then seeks out evidence. Rothbard describes this latter activity as a matter of confirming with certain facts one's initial paranoia.
Evidence vs. conspiracy theory
Theories involving multiple conspirators that are proven to be correct, such as the Watergate scandal, are usually referred to as "investigative journalism" or "historical analysis" rather than conspiracy theory. By contrast, the term "Watergate conspiracy theory" is used to refer to a variety of hypotheses in which those convicted in the conspiracy were in fact the victims of a deeper conspiracy.
Noam Chomsky contrasts conspiracy theory to institutional analysis which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behavior of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, for example, scholarly documents or mainstream media reports. Conspiracy theory conversely posits the existence of secretive coalitions of individuals and speculates on their alleged activities.
Clare Birchall at King's College London describes conspiracy theory as a "form of popular knowledge or interpretation". The use of the word 'knowledge' here suggests ways in which conspiracy theory may be considered in relation to legitimate modes of knowing. The relationship between legitimate and illegitimate knowledge, Birchall claims, is closer than common dismissals of conspiracy theory contend.
Conspiracism as a world view
The historian Richard Hofstadter addressed the role of paranoia and conspiracism throughout American history in his 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". 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.
The term "conspiracism" was further popularized by academic Frank P. Mintz in the 1980s. According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes "belief in the primacy of conspiracies in the unfolding of history"::4
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.:199
Justin Fox of Time magazine is of the opinion that Wall Street traders are among the most conspiracy-minded group of people, and ascribes this to the reality of some financial market conspiracies, and to the ability of conspiracy theories to provide necessary orientation in the market's day-to-day movements. He believes as well that most good investigative reporters are also conspiracy theorists.
Harry G. West and others have noted that while conspiracy theorists may often be dismissed as a fringe minority, certain evidence suggests that a wide range of the American population maintains a belief in conspiracy theories. West also compares those theories to hypernationalism and religious fundamentalism.
Specific events and trends within US history have been cited as causes of the popularity of conspiratorial thinking in the US.
Theologian Robert Jewett and philosopher John Shelton Lawrence attribute the enduring popularity of conspiracy theories in the US to the Cold War, McCarthyism, and counterculture rejection of authority. They state that among both the left-wing and right-wing there remains a willingness to use real events, such as Soviet plots, inconsistencies in the Warren Report, and the 9/11 attacks, to support the existence of unverified ongoing large-scale conspiracies.
The Watergate scandal has also been used to bestow legitimacy to other conspiracy theories, with Richard Nixon himself commenting that it served as a "Rorschach ink blot" which invited others to fill-in the underlying pattern.
Historian Kathryn S Olmstead cites three reasons why Americans are prone to believing in government conspiracies theories:
- Genuine government overreach and secrecy during the Cold War, listing as examples Watergate, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, Project MKUltra, and the CIA collaborating with Mobsters to attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro.
- The precedent set by official government-sanctioned conspiracy theories for propaganda, such as claims of German infiltration of the US during World War II or the debunked claim that Saddam Hussein played a role in 9/11.
- The distrust fostered by the government's spying and harassment of dissenters, such as the Sedition Act of 1918, COINTELPRO, and as part of various Red Scares.
Matthew Gray has noted that conspiracy theories are a prevalent feature of Arab culture and politics. Variants include conspiracies involving colonialism, Zionism, superpowers, oil, and the war on terrorism, which may be referred to as a War against Islam. For example, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous hoax document purporting to be a Jewish plan for world domination, is commonly read and promoted in the Muslim world. Roger Cohen has suggested that the popularity of conspiracy theories in the Arab world is "the ultimate refuge of the powerless". Al-Mumin Said has noted the danger of such theories, for they "keep us not only from the truth but also from confronting our faults and problems".
The widespread belief in conspiracy theories has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists, and experts in folklore since at least the 1960s, when a number of conspiracy theories arose regarding the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Sociologist Türkay Salim Nefes underlines the political nature of conspiracy theories. He suggests that one of the most important characteristics of these accounts is their attempt to unveil the "real but hidden" power relations in social groups.
The attractions of conspiracy theory
The political scientist Michael Barkun, discussing the usage of "conspiracy theory" in contemporary American culture, holds that this term is used for a belief that explains an event as the result of a secret plot by exceptionally powerful and cunning conspirators to achieve a malevolent end. 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."
This third point is supported by research of Roland Imhoff, professor in Social Psychology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The research suggests that the smaller the minority believing in a specific theory, the more attractive it is to conspiracy theorists.
Humanistic psychologists argue that even if a posited cabal behind an alleged conspiracy is almost always perceived as hostile, there often remains an element of reassurance for theorists. This is because it is a consolation to imagine that difficulties in human affairs are created by humans, and remain within human control. If a cabal can be implicated, there may be a hope of breaking its power or of joining it. Belief in the power of a cabal is an implicit assertion of human dignity — an unconscious affirmation that man is responsible for his own destiny.
People formulate conspiracy theories to explain, for example, power relations in social groups and the perceived existence of evil forces. Proposed psychological origins of conspiracy theorising include projection; the personal need to explain "a significant event [with] a significant cause;" and the product of various kinds and stages of thought disorder, such as paranoid disposition, ranging in severity to diagnosable mental illnesses. Some people prefer socio-political explanations over the insecurity of encountering random, unpredictable, or otherwise inexplicable events.
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".
Some psychologists believe that a search for meaning is common in conspiracism. 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. Research carried out at the University of Kent suggested people may be influenced by conspiracy theories without being aware that their attitudes have changed. After reading popular conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana, participants in the study correctly estimated how much their peers' attitudes had changed, but significantly underestimated how much their own attitudes had grown to favor conspiracy theories.
A study published in 2012 also found that conspiracy theorists frequently believe in multiple conspiracies, even when one conspiracy contradicts the other. For example, the study found that people who believe Osama Bin Laden was captured alive by Americans are also likely to believe that Bin Laden was actually killed prior to the 2011 raid on his home in Pakistan.
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. Historian Richard Hofstadter stated that:
... it 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.
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." A 2011 study found that highly Machiavellian people are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, since they themselves would be more willing to engage in a conspiracy when placed in the same situation as the alleged conspirators.
According to the British Psychological Society, it is possible that certain basic human epistemic biases are projected onto the material under scrutiny. One study cited by the group found that humans apply a rule of thumb by which we expect a significant event to have a significant cause. The study offered subjects four versions of events, in which a foreign president (a) was successfully assassinated, (b) was 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 apophenia, the genetic tendency of human beings to find patterns in coincidence, this allows the discovery of conspiracy in any significant event.
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.
Christopher Hitchens described conspiracy theory as the "exhaust fumes of democracy": the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people.
Conspiracy theories may be emotionally satisfying, by assigning blame to a group to which the theorist does not belong and so absolving the theorist of moral or political responsibility in society. Likewise, Roger Cohen writing for The New York Times has said 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."
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."
Influence of critical theory
French sociologist Bruno Latour 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 notes that about 90% of contemporary social criticism in academia displays one of two approaches, which he terms "the fact position and the fairy position".:237 The fairy position is anti-fetishist, arguing that "objects of belief" (e.g., religion, arts) are merely concepts onto which power is projected; Latour contends that those who use this approach show biases towards confirming their own dogmatic suspicions as most "scientifically supported". While the complete facts of the situation and correct methodology are ostensibly important to them, Latour proposes that the scientific process is instead laid on as a patina to one's pet theories to lend a sort of reputation high ground. The "fact position" argues that individuals are dominated, often covertly and without their awareness, by external forces (e.g., economics, gender). Latour concludes that each of these two approaches in Academia has led to a polarized, inefficient atmosphere highlighted (in both approaches) by its causticness. "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!"
Latour notes that such social criticism has been appropriated by those he describes as conspiracy theorists, including climate change denialists 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."
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 said were motivated by a shared belief in conspiracism or shared anti-government views.
Barkun has 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 or millenarian scenarios in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Barkun notes the occurrence of lone-wolf conflicts with law enforcement acting as proxy for threatening the established political powers.
Viability of conspiracies
The physicist David Robert Grimes published in the PLOS ONE journal an estimation of the time it would take for a conspiracy to be exposed, based on the number of people involved. His calculations used data from verified events such as The National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM affair, Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and the FBI forensic scandal.
- Moon landing hoax would require the involvement of 411,000 people and would be exposed within 3.68 years;
- Climate-change fraud would require 405,000 people and would be exposed within 3.70 years;
- Vaccination conspiracy would require a minimum of 22,000 people (without drug companies) and would be exposed within at least 3.15 years and at most 34.78 years depending on the number involved;
- Suppressed cancer cure conspiracy would require 714,000 people and would be exposed within 3.17 years.
In his book The Open Society and Its Enemies, the philosopher Karl Popper used the term "conspiracy theory" to criticize the ideologies driving historicism. 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 acknowledged that genuine conspiracies do exist, but noted how infrequently conspirators have been able to achieve their goal.
The historian Bruce Cumings similarly rejects the notion that history is controlled by conspiracies, stating that where real conspiracies have appeared they have usually had little effect on history and have had unforeseen consequences for the conspirators. Cumings concludes that history is instead "moved by the broad forces and large structures of human collectivities".
In a 2009 article, the legal scholars Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule considered a number of possible government responses to conspiracy theories, including censorship and taxation, and concluding that the authorities ought to engage in counter-speech and dialogue, which they termed "cognitive infiltration".
- Birchall 2006: "[W]e can appreciate conspiracy theory as a unique form of popular knowledge or interpretation, and address what this might mean for any knowledge we produce about it or how we interpret it.":66
- Birchall 2006: "What we quickly discover ... is that it becomes impossible to map conspiracy theory and academic discourse onto a clear illegitimate/legitimate divide.":72
- Barkun 2003: "The essence of conspiracy beliefs lies in attempts to delineate and explain evil. At their broadest, conspiracy theories 'view history as controlled by massive, demonic forces.' ... For our purposes, 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."
- Issitt, Micah; Main, Carlyn (2014). Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs. ABC-CLIO. pp. 47–49. ISBN 978-1-61069-478-0.
- John Ayto (2002) . 20th Century Words. Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-7-5600-2874-3.
- Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 3–4.
- Barkun 2003, p. 7.
- Barkun, Michael (2011). Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security Since 9/11. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 10.
- Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), Oxford University Press, 2009, s.v. 4
- Johnson, Allen (July 1909). "Reviewed Work: The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise: Its Origin and Authorship by P. Orman Ray". The American Historical Review. Oxford Journals for the American Historical Association via JSTOR. 14 (4): 836. doi:10.2307/1837085. JSTOR 1837085.
The claim that [David R.] Atchison was the originator of the [Missouri Compromise] repeal may be termed a recrudescence of the conspiracy theory first asserted by Colonel John A. Parker of Virginia in 1880Full text.
- "Part IV. Psychological News", The Journal of Mental Science, Volume 16, publ. Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1871 (141)
- deHaven-Smith, Lance (2013). Conspiracy Theory in America, University of Texas Press
- Blaskiewicz, Robert. "Nope, It Was Always Already Wrong". The Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- Rob Brotherton (19 November 2015). Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-1-4729-1564-1.
- Coady, David. "An Introduction to the Philosophical Debate about Conspiracy Theories", in: Coady (ed.), Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9780754652502. pp. 3-4.
- Barkun, Michael (25 October 2016). "Conspiracy Theories as Stigmatized Knowledge". Diogenes. doi:10.1177/0392192116669288
- "History's greatest conspiracy theories". The Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2008.
- Barkun 2003, p. 58.
- Camp, Gregory S. (1997). Selling Fear: Conspiracy Theories and End-Times Paranoia. Commish Walsh. ASIN B000J0N8NC.
- Goldberg, Robert Alan (2001). Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09000-5.
- Fenster, Mark (2008). Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. University of Minnesota Press; 2nd edition. ISBN 0-8166-5494-8.
- West, Harry G.; Sanders, Todd (2003). Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Duke University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-8223-3024-0.
- Wood, M. (2015). "Has the Internet been good for conspiracy theorising?" (PDF). Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG) Quarterly (88): 31–33.
- Ballatore, A. (2015). "Google chemtrails: A methodology to analyze topic representation in search engine results". First Monday. 20 (7). doi:10.5210/fm.v20i7.5597.
- Jesse Walker, The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory (2013) excerpt and text search
- Barkun 2003, p. 6.
- As quoted by B.K. Marcus in "Radio Free Rothbard," Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol 20, No 2. (SPRING 2006): pp 17–51. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Peter Knight (1 January 2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 730–. ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9.
- Ron Rosenbaum (2012). "Ah, Watergate". New Republic.
- Jack Z. Bratich. Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture. State University of New York Press, Albany. pp. 98–100. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Jovan Byford. Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 25–27. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Birchall, Clare (2006). "Cultural studies on/as conspiracy theory". In Birchall, Clare. Knowledge goes pop from conspiracy theory to gossip. Oxford, New York: Berg. ISBN 978-1-84520-143-2.
- Birchall, Clare (2004). "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you". Culture Machine, Deconstruction is/in Cultural Studies. Open Humanities Press. 6.
- Bailyn, Bernard (1992) . 'The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-44302-0. ASIN: B000NUF6FQ.
- Mintz, Frank P. (1985). The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 0-313-24393-X.
- Justin Fox: "Wall Streeters like conspiracy theories. Always have", Time, 1 October 2009.
- Harry G. West; et al. Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order. Duke University Press Books. pp. 4, 207–08.
- Shermer, Michael, and Pat Linse. Conspiracy Theories. Altadena, CA: Skeptics Society, n.d. Print.
- Jewett, Robert; John Shelton Lawrence (2004) Captain America and the crusade against evil: the dilemma of zealous nationalism Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing p. 206.
- Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2011) Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 Oxford University Press p. 8.
- Matthew Gray (2010). Conspiracy Theories in the Arab World. ISBN 978-0-415-57518-8.
- Wakin, Daniel J. (26 October 2002). "Anti-Semitic 'Elders of Zion' Gets New Life on Egypt TV". New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- "2006 Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2006. Report by Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House. 2006
- "The Booksellers of Tehran" Archived 10 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine., The Wall Street Journal, 28 October 2005
- Cohen, Roger (20 December 2010). "The Captive Arab Mind". The New York Times.
- Steven Stalinsky (6 May 2004). "A Vast Conspiracy". National Review. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013.
- Nefes, Türkay S (2013). "Political parties' perceptions and uses of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in Turkey". The Sociological Review. 61: 247–264. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12016.
- Nefes, Türkay S. (2012). "The History of the Social Constructions of Dönmes (Converts)*". Journal of Historical Sociology. 25: 413–439. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6443.2012.01434.x.
- Barkun 2003, p. 3.
- Berlet, Chip (September 2004). "Interview: Michael Barkun". Retrieved 1 October 2009.
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.
- Imhoff, Roland. "Conspiracy Theorists Just Want to Feel Special". motherboard.vice.com. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1987). The Messianic Legacy. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0-8050-0568-4.
- Goertzel (1994). "Belief in Conspiracy Theories". Political Psychology. 15 (4): 1, 12, 13. doi:10.2307/3791630. JSTOR 3791630. Retrieved 7 August 2006.
- 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): 210–22. doi:10.3200/SOCP.148.2.210-222.
- Hofstadter, Richard (November 1964). "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". Harper's Magazine. pp. 77–86. Retrieved 4 December 2013. & Hofstadter, Richard (1965). The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-674-65461-7.
- Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2008). Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-18408-0.
- Berlet, Chip; Lyons, Matthew N. (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-562-2.
- Wood, Michael J.; Karen M. Douglas; Robbie M. Sutton (25 January 2012). "Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories". Social Psychological and Personality Science. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 November 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- Douglas, Karen; Sutton, Robbie (2011). "Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire". British Journal of Social Psychology. 50 (3): 544–52. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2010.02018.x.
- "Who shot the president? Archived 14 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine.," The British Psychological Society, 18 March 2003. Retrieved 7 June 2005.
- "Top 5 New Diseases: Media Induced Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (MIPTSD)". Archived from the original on 26 April 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006., The New Disease: A Journal of Narrative Pathology 2 (2004). Retrieved 7 June 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, 27 December 2007.
- Vedantam, Shankar (5 June 2006). "Born With the Desire to Know the Unknown". The Washington Post. p. A02. Retrieved 7 June 2006. Sociologist Theodore Sasson has remarked, "Conspiracy theories explain disturbing events or social phenomena in terms of the actions of specific, powerful individuals". 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."
- Wilson, Keith. Forging the Collective Memory: Government and International Historians through Two World Wars. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-78238-828-9.
- Latour, Bruno (Winter 2004), "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern." (PDF), Critical Inquiry, 30 (2): 225–48, doi:10.1086/421123, retrieved 9 September 2015
- Kelly, Michael (1995-06-12). "THE ROAD TO PARANOIA". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
- Barkun 2003, p. 230.
- Barkun 2003, pp. 207, 210, 211.
- Barkun 2003, pp. 193, 197.
- Barajas, Joshua. "How many people does it take to keep a conspiracy alive?". PBS NEWSHOUR. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 22 July 2016.
- Grimes, David R (26 January 2016). "On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs". PLOS ONE. 11: e0147905. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147905. PMC 4728076
. PMID 26812482. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
- Popper, Karl (1945). "14". Open Society and Its Enemies, Book II. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
- "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.
- Cumings, Bruce (1999). The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. II, The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947–1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Sunstein, C. R.; Vermeule, A. (2009). "Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures". Journal of Political Philosophy. 17 (2): 202–27. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9760.2008.00325.x.
- Aaronovitch, David (2010). Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. Riverhead. ISBN 978-1-59448-895-5.
- Arnold, Gordon B., ed. (2008). Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics. Praeger Publishers. p. 200. ISBN 0-275-99462-7.
- Burnett, Thom. Conspiracy Encyclopedia: The Encyclopedia of Conspiracy Theories
- Chase, Alston (2003). Harvard and the Unabomber: The Education of an American Terrorist. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-02002-9.
- Coward, Barry, ed. (2004). Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theory in Early Modern Europe: From the Waldensians to the French Revolution. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-3564-3.
- "Conspiracy Theories" (PDF). CQ Researcher. 19 (37): 885–908. 23 October 2009. ISSN 1056-2036.
- Cziesche, Dominik; Jürgen Dahlkamp, Ulrich Fichtner, Ulrich Jaeger, Gunther Latsch, Gisela Leske, Max F. Ruppert (2003). "Panoply of the Absurd". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 6 June 2006.
- Fleming, Chris and Emma A. Jane. Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 978-1-62356-091-1.
- Harris, Lee. "The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories," The American, 12 January 2013.
- Hofstadter, Richard. The paranoid style in American politics (1954). online
- 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. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-84353-445-7.
- Melley, Timothy (1999). Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8606-8.
- Meigs, James B. (2006). "The Conspiracy Industry". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communications, Inc. Archived from the original on 24 October 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2006.
- Nefes, Türkay Salim (2012). "'The history of the social constructions of Dönmes'". Journal of Historical Sociology. 25 (3): 413–39. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6443.2012.01434.x.
- Nefes, Türkay Salim (2013). "'Political parties' perceptions and uses of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in Turkey'". The Sociological Review. 61 (2): 247–64. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.12016.
- Parsons, Charlotte (24 September 2001). "Why we need conspiracy theories". BBC News – Americas. BBC. Retrieved 26 June 2006.
- Pipes, Daniel (1998). The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17688-0.
- Pipes, Daniel (1997). Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-87111-4.
- Pigden, Charles (1995). "Popper Revisited, or What Is Wrong With Conspiracy Theories?". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 25 (1): 3–34. doi:10.1177/004839319502500101.
- Sagan, Carl (1996). The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: The Random House. ISBN 0-394-53512-X.
- Slosson, W. "The 'Conspiracy' Superstition," The Unpopular Review, Vol. VII, N°. 14, 1917.
- Uscinski, Joseph E. and Joseph M. Parent, American Conspiracy Theories (2014) excerpt
- Uscinski, Joseph E. "The 5 Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theories of 2016' POLITICO Magazine (Aug 22, 2016)
- Vankin, Jonathan; John Whalen (2004). The 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-2531-2.
- Wood, Gordon S. "Conspiracy and the paranoid style: causality and deceit in the eighteenth century." William and Mary Quarterly (1982): 402–441. in jstor
- Zwierlein, Cornel / Beatrice de Graaf (eds.) Security and Conspiracy in History, 16th to 21st Century. Historical Social Research 38, Special Issue, 2013
|Look up conspiracy theory in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Conspiracy theories.|
- State Department's Todd Leventhal Discusses Conspiracy Theories, 2009, U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs usembassy.gov
- September 11 Conspiracy Theories: Confused stories continue, 2006, usembassy.gov
- Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories, Maggie Koerth-Baker, 21 May 2013, NYT.
- Naomi Wolf. "Analysis of the appeal of conspiracy theories with suggestions for more accurate ad hoc internet reporting of them". Archived from the original on 2 November 2008.
- Stuart J. Murray (2009). "Editorial Introduction: 'Media Tropes'". MediaTropes eJournal. 2 (1): i–x.
- Conspiracism, Political Research Associates