Conspiracy Theory or A Theory of Conspiracy?

Most have heard the phrase, “He/she is just a conspiracy theorist!” or, “That sounds like a conspiracy theory to me…” or some variation thereupon. These phrases are used, generally speaking, in a high-handed manner intended to dismiss a argument or throw shade upon some particular individual or individuals. This is, in large part, due to the fact that “Conspiracy Theory” evokes a wide array of connotations, nearly all of which are considered negative to the contemporary American. Merely uttering the phrase yields images of All-Seeing Eyes, a modern reincarnation of the Bavarian Illuminati, The Jewish blood-rite of Ekhad and “The ZOG”, Skepticism over the Kennedy Assassination (the grassy knoll!) as well as notions of shape-shifting lizard-men from outer space (see David Icke).

Amusing excerpt from Icke’s website.

Let us put all of these associations aside for a moment and examine the phrase itself, semantically. Despite the stigma attached to the term there is nothing grievously illogical about theorizing (or more often, hypothesizing) about any given conspiracy – regardless of whether or not it is known to be true. Unfortunately, the above given laundry list of examples is ALL that is associated with the phrase and thus the words conspiracy theory have undergone a societal metamorphosis in meaning entire. Wikipedia, for instance, describes a “conspiracy theory” as,

“-an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy without warrant, generally one involving an illegal or harmful act carried out by government or other powerful actors. Conspiracy theories often produce hypotheses that contradict the prevailing understanding of history or simple facts.”

A image which best personifies the mental conception of a traditional “conspiracy theorist.”

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary provides a slightly less derogatory definition which reads thus:

“A theory which explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Even still, this is also a rather winnowing definition, one which does not seem to adhere to the rather broad meanings of the attendant words. With that in mind it is my opinion that reasonable speculation or theorization about empirically verifiable conspiracies should be described as Theories of Conspiracies rather than Conspiracy Theories. I would also like to preempt some predictable critiques of this idea, namely, that it is a superfluous and pedantic distinction. Firstly, I would assert in the strongest possible terms that if one is tackling a problem – especially if that problem deals specifically with the usages and definitions of words – then on can scarcely be too pedantic. Secondly, as for the above description being superfluous, consider the following statements:

[1] “The Illuminati control America – how do I know? The All-Seeing eye is on the one dollar bill! That is an esoteric symbol of the Illuminati!”

The Eye of Providence.

[2] “It seems likely to me that there have been a great deal of Freemasons in the upper echelons of American government due to the fact that the All-Seeing eye, a Masonic symbol denoting the fatherly, omniscience of The Deity, has remained on our money for as long as it has despite the fact of our doctrine of Separation of Church & State. Though it is also possible that the symbol has merely been left in place due to aesthetic appeal, sentimental-cultural attachment, laziness or merely through utter indifference to symbology.”

In the first instance the hypothesis makes absolutely no sense due to the fact that there is little evidence supporting any type of collaborative effort between the Bavarian Illuminati and the Freemasons and the fact that the All-Seeing Eye (alternatively known as the Eye of Providence) was exclusively a Masonic symbol (although it should be noted that it was a symbol which was adopted by the Masons after the founding of America).

In the second instance, the lines of delineation are far more clear, concise and logically coherent. After all, the Eye of Providence was first placed upon the one dollar bill by F. D. Roosevelt and H. A. Wallace in 1935 – both of whom were 32nd degree Freemasons – this lends credence to the claim, though it is far from conclusive on its own (Historical records seem to show that Wallace chose the symbol for the purposes of heralding a spiritual awakening that would lead to a one world state). Thus, the first instance is bad reasoning which seems to be emotionally driven rather than logically worked and as such should rightly be dismissed as paranoid ranting whereas the second instance given shows emotional restraint, a semblance of historical knowledge and sanguine consideration. So where the latter example might well be a theory about a conspiracy, it is hardly a conspiracy theory.