Democracy and free market capitalism were founded on conspiracy theories.
The Magna Carta, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and other founding Western documents were based on conspiracy theories. Greek democracy and free market capitalism were also based on conspiracy theories.
But those were the bad old days …Things have now changed.
The CIA Coined the Term Conspiracy Theorist In 1967
That all changed in the 1960s.
Specifically, in April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” … and recommended methods for discrediting such theories. The dispatch was marked “psych” – short for “psychological operations” or disinformation – and “CS” for the CIA’s “Clandestine Services” unit.
The dispatch was produced in responses to a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times in 1976.
The dispatch states:
2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization.
The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.
3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the [conspiracy] question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active addresses are requested:
b. To employ propaganda assets to and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.
Summarizing the tactics which the CIA dispatch recommended:
- Claim that it would be impossible for so many people would keep quiet about such a big conspiracy
- Have people friendly to the CIA attack the claims, and point back to “official” reports
- Claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable
- Claim that this is all old news, as “no significant new evidence has emerged”
- Ignore conspiracy claims unless discussion about them is already too active
- Claim that it’s irresponsible to speculate
- Accuse theorists of being wedded to and infatuated with their theories
- Accuse theorists of being politically motivated
- Accuse theorists of having financial interests in promoting conspiracy theories
In other words, the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable in the 1960s as part of its psychological warfare operations.