A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses a person, group or organization of having caused or covered up an event or phenomenon of great social, political, or economic impact.
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. Less illustrious uses refer to folklore and urban legend and a variety of explanatory narratives which are constructed with methodological flaws or biases. Originally a neutral term, since the mid-1960s it has acquired a somewhat derogatory meaning, implying a paranoid tendency to see the influence of some malign covert agency in events. The term is sometimes used to automatically dismiss claims that are deemed ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational.[page needed] A proven conspiracy theory, such as the notion that United States President Richard 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.
The political scientist Michael Barkun discussing the usage of this term in contemporary American culture 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. 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.
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. 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.
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." According to West and Sanders, when talking about conspiracies in the Vietnam War 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."
Economist Murray Rothbard distinguished between what he described as "shallow" and "deep" conspiracy theories. The shallow conspiracy theorist observes a questionable or potentially shady event and asks Qui bono? (who benefits?), jumping to the conclusion that a posited beneficiary is in fact responsible for covertly influencing events. In contrast, the deep conspiracy theorist begins with a suspicious hunch similar to that of the shallow theorist, but goes further by seeking out reputable, verifiable evidence. "'Scholarship,' Rothbard quipped, 'is essentially confirming your early paranoia through a deeper factual analysis.'"
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.
Usage history 
The Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" to a 1909 article in The American Historical Review. Other sources predate this use by nearly four decades to at least 1871, where it is used in The Journal of Mental Science reporting on a conference of the Fifth Quarterly Meeting of the Medico-Psychological Association (now the Royal College of Psychiatrists), held on Thursday, January 27, 1870:
- "The theory of Dr. Sankey as to the manner in which these injuries to the chest occurred in asylums deserved our careful attention. It was at least more plausible that the conspiracy theory of Mr. Charles Beade, ..."
On conspiracism 
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".
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.
The term "conspiracism" was 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":
"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".
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 20th century's most prominent examples; there have been numerous others. In some cases there have been claims dismissed as conspiracy theories that later proved to be true. 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."
Justin Fox of Time Magazine gives a pragmatic justification of conspiracism. He says 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. Most good investigative reporters are also conspiracy theorists, according to Fox, and some of their theories turn out to be at least partly true.
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.
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 September 11 attacks, the crash of TWA Flight 800, and the spread of AIDS in the black community.
- 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.
- 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 powerful force manipulating lesser conspiratorial factors. Superconspiracy theories have enjoyed particular growth since the 1980s, in the work of authors such as David Icke and Milton William Cooper.
Popular knowledge 
Clare Birchall at King's College London describes conspiracy theory as a form of popular knowledge. By giving it the title 'knowledge', conspiracy theory is considered alongside more 'legitimate' modes of knowing. The relationship between legitimate and illegitimate knowledges, Birchall claims, is far closer than common dismissals of conspiracy theory would have us believe. Other popular knowledges might include alien abduction narratives, gossip, some new age philosophies and astrology.
Psychological origins 
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 formulation 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.
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.
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. This is due, in part, because it is more consoling to think that complications and upheavals in human affairs 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.
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:
...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."
Recent empirical research has lent support to the theory that psychological projection plays a role in conspiracy belief. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Socio-political origins 
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. 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."
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) 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."
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.
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 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 
||This section may contain original research. (July 2012)|
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. 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. 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 said 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.
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.
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." Above all else a real conspiracy is evidenced by provable facts.
"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." The existence of such real conspiracies helps feed the belief in conspiracy theories.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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, Karl Popper used the term "conspiracy theory" to criticize the ideologies driving fascism, nazism, and Stalinism. 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." 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."
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).
See also 
- Conspiracy (disambiguation)
- Conspiracy in civil law
- Conspiracy in criminal law
- Conspiracy fiction
- Fringe theory
- Furtive fallacy
- Influencing machine
- List of conspiracy theories
- UFO conspiracy theory
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- "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.
- Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2008). Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470184080.
- 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."
- Cohen, Roger (December 20, 2010). "The Captive Arab Mind". The New York Times.
- 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
- Emke, Ivan (2000). "Agents and Structures: Journalists and the Constraints on AIDS Coverage". Canadian Journal of Communication 25 (3). Retrieved June 7, 2005.
- "The Blame Game". BBC News. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
- Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23805-2.
- Pipes, Daniel (2004). Fusion Paranoia. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- Young, Katherine K.; Paul Nathanson (2010) Sanctifying misandry: goddess ideology and the Fall of Man McGill-Queen University Press ISBN 978-0-7735-3873-3 pg 275
- Knight, Peter (2003) Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia, Volume 1; ABC-CLIO; ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9 pg 18
- Jewett, Robert; John Shelton Lawrence (2004) Captain America and the crusade against evil: the dilemma of zealous nationalism Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing pg 206
- Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2011) Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 Oxford University Press pg 8
- Whitfield, Stephen J. (2004) A companion to 20th-century America Wiley-Blackwell ISBN 978-0-631-21100-6 pg 136
- George, John; Laird M. Wilcox (1996) American extremists: militias, supremacists, klansmen, communists & others Prometheus Books pg 267
- Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. pp 4.
- questionsquestions.net, "The JFK Assassination II: conspiracy phobia on the left", Michael Parenti, 1996.
- "Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation - America.gov". U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- "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.
- 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. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585 (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 1-84353-445-2.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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.
- Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein: Der Mythos von der Verschwoerung. Philosophen, Freimaurer, Juden, Liberale und Sozialisten als Verschwoerer gegen die Sozialordnung. Wiesbaden: Marix 2008 ISBN 978-3-86539-162-9
Further reading 
- Cornel Zwierlein / Beatrice de Graaf (eds.), Security and Conspiracy in History, 16th to 21st Century. Historical Social Research 38, Special Issue, 2013
- Slosson, W. "The 'Conspiracy' Superstition," The Unpopular Review, Vol. VII, N°. 14, 1917.
- Harris, Lee. "The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories," The American, January 12, 2013.
- "Conspiracy Theories". CQ Researcher 19 (37): 885–908. October 23, 2009. ISSN 1056-2036.
- Aaronovitch, David (2010). Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. Riverhead. ISBN 978-1-59448-895-5
- Conspiracism, Political Research Associates
- Cziesche, Dominik; Jürgen Dahlkamp, Ulrich Fichtner, Ulrich Jaeger, Gunther Latsch, Gisela Leske, Max F. Ruppert (2003). "Panoply of the Absurd". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- Gray, Matthew (2010). Conspiracy Theories in the Arab World: Sources and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-57519-5.
- Parsons, Charlotte (2001-09-24). "Why we need conspiracy theories". BBC News – Americas (BBC). Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- Meigs, James B. (2006). "The Conspiracy Industry". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2006-10-13.
- McConnachie, James; Tudge, Robin (2005). The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-84353-445-7.
- 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.
- Christopher L. Hodapp and Alice Von Kannon (2008). Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies. Wiley. ISBN 0-470-18408-6.
- Knight, Peter, ed. (2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-Clio. ISBN 1-57607-812-4.
- Arnold, Gordon B., ed. (2008). Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics. Praeger Publishers. p. 200. ISBN 0-275-99462-7.
- West, Harry G.; Sanders, Todd (eds.). Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3024-0.
- Rudmin, Floyd (2003). "Conspiracy Theory As Naive Deconstructive History". newdemocracy.org. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
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.
- Birchall, Clare (2006). Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theories to Gossip. Berg. ISBN 1-84520-143-4.
- Bryan, Gerald B.; Talita Paolini, Kenneth Paolini (2000) . 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.
|Look up conspiracy theory in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation, America.gov
- Naomi Wolf. "Analysis of the appeal of conspiracy theories with suggestions for more accurate ad hoc internet reporting of them".
- Stuart J. Murray (2009). "Editorial Introduction: 'Media Tropes'". MediaTropes eJournal 2 (1): i–x.