Talk:Conspiracy theory/Archive 15

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Archive 10 Archive 13 Archive 14 Archive 15 Archive 16 Archive 17 Archive 18

Proposal for breaking the lede down

My feeling is that the lede should summarize the article's contents. Right now, the lede is too long and a jumble of definitions. It seems to me that the most appropriate action at this point would be rename the "Terminology" section to History of the term, and work in the more significant definitions in chronological order, so that we wind up with a few paragraphs of tight prose. What do others think? --Nuujinn (talk) 13:29, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

How about Bratich's definition? It covers far more than the Wiley one does and it highlights the problem with with the term conspiracy theory.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:54, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
How about addressing my proposal regarding reorganization of the material? I never like talking about the lede until the article content is stable, myself. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:43, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
We tried something like that over at the Jesus myth theory article and the result was a several year migraine due largely to the fact the definition had POV problems; as a result the article didn't really stabilize until the lead's flawed definition was fixed.
In this case we have scholarly work that actually addresses and explains the problems with the term as well as defining it so we won't have to have the info dump that the Jesus myth theory article needed so that the poor reader had an idea on what the sam hill we were talking about.--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:26, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
So you are opposed to my proposal that we combine the terminology section and the parts of the lede covering the various definitions in a new History section? --Nuujinn (talk) 20:28, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Again, let's fix the lead first and then worry about the body as the lead is going to determine what goes in the body--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:10, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
The exact opposite is more appropriate - a lede should summarize the body of the article, not determine its contents. Please review WP:LEDE. Jayjg (talk) 19:33, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
"The lead serves both as an introduction to the article and as a summary of its most important aspects. The lead should be able to stand alone as a concise overview of the article. It should define the topic, establish context, explain why the subject is interesting or notable, and summarize the most important points—including any prominent controversies. For all that the Bratich definition is the best of the bunch.--BruceGrubb (talk) 05:52, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the lead must summarize the most important aspects of the article. That is why I pointed out that the lede should summarize the body of the article, not determine its contents. I'm glad we now agree. Jayjg (talk) 23:54, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
It works both ways, surely. Agreeing upon a lead definition that is acceptable to all will help to make it easier to clarify that which is appropriate in the article and what isn't. If the lead definition is misleading and/or inacccurate, and/or partial, then that can be used as a strong justification for retaining inacccuracies and/or bias in the article. Where there is disagreement - (AS WE HAVE HERE) - reaching agreement about the lead would seem like the obvious place to start generating a wider agreement concerning other aspects of the article.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 13:08, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Fiction section

Do we need the fiction section? There's already an article on the topic, seems to me it would be better to move anything not there from here to there and use a See also link. Any objections to doing that? --Nuujinn (talk) 10:57, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Kate Zernike's article

Why is an article by Kate Zernike now being cited in the lede? Has this newspaper reporter (and part-time journalism professor) somehow become as reliable and significant an author on this topic as a published academic expert like Michael Barkun? Has everyone here read WP:RS, WP:LEDE and WP:UNDUE? Jayjg (talk) 20:31, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Tell us, just what part of New York Times being RS do you not understand? It's listed as an example in WP:SOURCES for crying out loud!--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:30, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
See response further down. Jayjg (talk) 18:06, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I just read WP:LEDE. "The lead ...should be written ...with a neutral point of view." But does Barkun represent that? He refers to the term 'conspiracy theory' only in its pejorative usage. The lead begins with two citations using Barkun as a source. It therefore appears to me to give undue weight to a minority view using a primary source.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 07:10, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
It is clear even if you consider Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies as a Tertiary source that Barkun's definition is nonstandard.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:32, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Mystichumwipe, despite your assertions to the contrary, Barkun is not a primary source the way we use the term on WP. BruceGrubb, the NYT is an RS, but in this case the article is a series of sound bites, some of which are from academics, and thus not as good a source as Barkun's work. We should use the NYT article to lead us to other academic sources, and use those. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:34, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, dude. It is you who keep make assertions without offering any supporting authority for your assertions. Your opinion based upon just your say-so just doesn't cut it for me. On what authority do you say Barkun's book is not a primary source. I have provided a reasoned argument for why I think it is. Can you not elaborate a bit more than just saying "no, you are wrong. Its not." On what grounds is my opinion and interpretation of wiki criteria wrong? Did you get an answer to your request for clarification? I am open to being corrected on that but need more than just your own unsupported assertion about it.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 16:27, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Barkun is a secondary source in respect to Wikipedia. It is ridiculous to claim that it would be a primary source. This shows your understanding of Wikipedia policies. Research done by scholars and properly published as their original research counts as secondary source. Primary sources are: the Bible, the Koran, the Declaration of Independence. Scholarly works are secondary sources, unless they are dictionaries or encyclopedias. Tgeorgescu (talk) 16:15, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, a source's reliability depends entirely on the context of its use. A source that is highly reliable on quantum theory may be completely unreliable on the subject of Homer. The New York Times is a reasonably reliable source for a general interest newspaper. Its reliability, however, does not compare (for example) to that of an academic writing an article on his area of expertise, in a peer-reviewed article. Do you have any other support for including Zernike's article int he lede? Mystichumwipe, Barkun is obviously a secondary source, and your continued argumentation otherwise shows a profound misunderstanding of WP:SECONDARY which is highly troubling. Jayjg (talk) 18:06, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Dude, I have just written: "I am open to being corrected on that but need more than just your own unsupported assertion about it." Your inability to read plain english or respond appropriately to a clear request can also be descibed as "highly troubling."
Quote: "Moreover, the distinction between primary and secondary sources is subjective and contextual, so that precise definitions are difficult to make." In light of your apparent english language challenges maybe you might want to use a dictionary to look up the word "difficult". [1]--Mystichumwipe (talk) 09:07, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Barkun is an academic expert describing conspiracy theories; he is not promoting them, or a subject of them. Please review WP:SECONDARY. Also, Comment on content, not on the contributor. Jayjg (talk) 23:52, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
You haven't really addressed my explicit point nor the quote I provided. I have reviewed WP:SECONDARY which is why I was able to provide the quote. And regarding your advice concerning the topic of WP:EQ may I remind:
* Do not make misrepresentations.
* Do not ignore questions.
* Concede a point when you have no response to it.
* Remember The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Etc., etc.
If you are prepared to work towards agreement with me, then can we agree this question of primary or secondary source is really a sideshow to the main question of what definition gets precedence in the lead. I am of the view that Barkun as a source (he is the the source for the first two citations) should not have precedence as he is not represenative of the consensus understanding of the term conspiracy theory, (which is where we came in;-). He refers almost exclusibley to the secondary more pejorative usage of the term, and that without this distinction being even alluded to let alone clarified. I would like that distinction to be made clear. But what do you think? Do you agree there are two usages of the term, one a more neutral and the other a more pejorative usage? --Mystichumwipe (talk) 10:07, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that there were two usages of the term in the past, but so far, from the sources I've looks at, what you call the more pejorative meaning is pretty much the only meaning in use. But if you will post specific wording for the lede, we can discuss that. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:27, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
We don't appear to be going anywhere. "Post specific wording"? :-o But I have already made a suggestion which was actually online for a couple of days. You deleted it. I have now again twice suggested revisiting it as a basis for agreeing a mutually agreeable definition. It is at present the only suggestion that I am aware of which has addresed this point of a dual usage and definition. If you agree to clarifying that dual usage/meaning but don't like aspects of my suggestion please feel free to contribute an improvement upon it. As for "the pejorative meaning" being "...the only meaning in use." We had a big discussion about exactly that before you came in and undid my contribution. Which is why I found your action without discussion frustrating and unhelpful. E.g the belief there was no lone gunman in the Kennedy assassination is now the consensus view in America (80% believe that). The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations also reached the same conclusion in 1979 regarding that and the M.L.King assassination. Describing those conspiracy theories pejorativly doesn't really hold-up.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 14:32, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I stand by what I said, the secondary sources indicate to me that the most common usage of the term is the one you label as pejorative. That 80% of Americans believe in a conspiracy theory doesn't change what the sources say. And the reason I came over is because the issue was raised on a noticeboard. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:24, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Just because a bunch of people believe something doesn't make it true or change the fact that it has fringe origins; it also doesn't mean a consensus has been established. Consensus is not a popular vote or a majority rule scenario. John Shandy`talk 15:27, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
But this isn't about arguing that some vague "bunch of people" makes anything "true". Its about a reaching agreement over a definition that accurately describes the usage of the title words of this article.
And I don't think there is any disagreement about whether most conspiracy theories start from fringe origins. You appear not to understand what is being suggested. Brucegubb and Mystylplx have repeatedly provided numerous quotes from verifiable reputable sources showing an alternative usage to the one Barkun elaborates upon. Brucegubb, Mystylplx and I have offered reasoned argument for improving the accuracy of the article. Yet we keep getting misrepresentations of those arguments thrown back at us. Brucegubb and I both have offered suggestions for improvements for the lead that are not adressed nor properly considered. And Nuujinn you keep asking for suggestions when you have already deleted some and done so apparently without familarising yourself properly with the points of disagreement here.
"That 80% of Americans believe in a conspiracy theory doesn't change what the sources say" is not in contention. Please re-read. The point is that 80% of 300 million people and the USHSCA can hardly be believers of a conspiracy theory if the wording refers only to a perjorative definition.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 09:53, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Guts of the problem with the lead

The following exchange I think gets to the heart of this discussion:

What we have at present is just a slightly exaggerated form of the Merriam-webster definition. Can you people who are OK with the lead as it was (and is again now) yet who are against the use of a dictionary definition (as it is allegedly "not on par with academic sources") explain that inconsistency of objection? --Mystichumwipe. 16:46, 27 August 2011
It's a summary of how academic experts define the term. Jayjg. 18:21, 28 August 2011
Not according to Bratich, Coady, or Young all of whom were published by University Presses. You are still trying to use one source to define all others.--BruceGrubb. 07:13, 29 August 2011

Even if Jayjg's answer was correct (which BruceGrubb and I dispute) why are we ONLY using Barkun as a source for the lead when other sources, with broader more inclusive, and therefore more arguably representative of international consensus - thus more accurate definitions can be supplied by other reputable sources?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 10:30, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Again this is looking like the situation we had in the Jesus myth theory where we found definitions that were all over the place. In that case we took the broadest reliable source definition we had and then used another paragraph to show all the specific definitions. It wasn't the prettiest of solutions but it was the best to keep WP:NPOV given the state of the source material we could do.
Parker may differentiate between conspiracy theory and theories about conspiracies but he doesn't do it in a manner that is easily referencable for Wikipedia purposes and he is one of the few that even tries separate the two.--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:29, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Bratich's explanation of Conspiracy theory

Bratich's Conspiracy panics: political rationality and popular culture explains the problem with the term conspiracy theory--its definition varies depending on who is using it. I propose that we use Bratich for the lead in as he explains the problems the term has.--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:33, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Can you provide some quotes? --Nuujinn (talk) 15:41, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Already provided Go back to where it says "Bratich (SUNY) states" above.--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:47, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
I think using that is fine, but I'm not sure it belongs in the lede. Remember, the lede is supposed to be a brief summary of the article's content. I would point he does not at all undermine the notion that the term in common usage is used to denote fringe theories, but rather that it's use is contested among those engaged in research of conspiracies and related topics. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:38, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
This is exactly why the lead needs to be worked on first so to determine what the content of the article is. I mean really look at the mismash of definitions we currently have:
"A conspiracy theory is the idea that someone, or a group of someones, acts secretly, with the goal of achieving power, wealth, influence, or other benefit. It can be as small as two petty thugs conspiring to stickup a liquor store, or as big as a group of revolutionaries conspiring to take over their country's government."(Hodapp, Christopher; Alice Von Kannon (2008) Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies Wiley; pg 9)
"a conspiracy theory that has been proven (for example, that President Nixon and his aides plotted to disrupt the course of justice in the Watergate case) is usually called something else—investigative journalism, or just well-researched historical analysis." (Knight, Peter (2003) Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia, Volume 1; ABC-CLIO; ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9 pg 17)
"As a publicly known and “proven” conspiracy, Watergate has a unique status, in that it serves to validate other conspiracy theories. From the time these interconnected conspiracies became known, Watergate was the measure against which other conspiracy theories could be judged." (Knight, Peter (2003) Conspiracy theories in American history: an encyclopedia, Volume 1; ABC-CLIO; ISBN 978-1-57607-812-9 pg 730)
"Conspiracy theory is thus a bridge term--it links subjugating conceptual strategies (paranoid style, political paranoia, conspiracism) to narratives that investigate conspiracies (conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles of the meaning of the category. We need to recognized that we are on the bridge when we use the term." (Bratich, Jack Z. (2010) Conspiracy panics: political rationality and popular culture SUNY pg 6)
"Other historians argue that past government lies, particularly in the past half-century, have helped fuel conspiracy theories, by giving Americans reasons to suspect their leaders. (“See, I’m not paranoid, I’m right.”)
So on InfoWars, the Web site of the hypervigilant radio host Alex Jones, a list of www.infowarscom/33-conspiracy-theories-that-turned-out-to-be-true-what-every-person-should-know/ [Unreliable fringe source?] “33 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True”] leads from the deceptions of the Gulf of Tonkin and Iran-contra and then moves to accusations of plots by the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve." (Zernike, Kate (April 30, 2011) "The Persistence of Conspiracy Theories" The New York Times)
"It was not an empty conspiracy theory: Police and state governments did act in concert with New South South businessmen looking for ways to cut cost and achieve greater control over labor" (Hill, Rebecca Nell Men, mobs, and law: anti-lynching and labor defense in U.S. Radical History Duke University Press pg 128)
When you have Dreyfus affair, Sicilian Mafia, and MKULTRA listed along with New World Order (conspiracy theory) as examples of conspiracy theories you need a definition that captures that fact.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:42, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Most of this you've posted before. Repeatedly posting the same information isn't helping you. Most of the quotes above actually support the notion that the phrase "conspiracy theory" denotes fringe assertions, and I think you may be a bit selective in your quoting. For example, the links to the Alex Jones cite also says "Conspiracy theory is a term that originally was a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal or political conspiracy. However, it has come almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning." That does not seem much of a contradiction to Barkun. And I disagree that best practice is to build an article out from the lede--we make articles based on what the sources say about teh topic, and the lede is supposed to summarize the article, so I basically think you've gotten in backwards.
But in regard to real conspiracies, I think you have a point, and I agree that events such as the Dreyfus affair, Sicilian Mafia, and MKULTRA should not be included in this article unless reliable sources can be found that characterize them as "conspiracy theories" rather than "conspiracies". --Nuujinn (talk) 15:49, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn's points are quite correct - most of these sources don't actually support your claim, and repeatedly posting them doesn't help. In addition, the reliability of these sources is highly variable. Jayjg (talk) 18:19, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
You claim the reliability of Bratich, Coady, Hodapp, Keeley, Young is "highly variable" but provide no proof of that claim. It is to laugh.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:22, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Christopher L. Hodapp, for example, is a film-maker and author of popular "For Dummies" books, not an academic. So yeah, "it is to laugh". Jayjg (talk) 23:29, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
You are forgetting that his wife (Alice Von Kannon) coauthured this book with him and she studied history at California State University Northridge as well as having written for the History Channel. This is all ignoring that this is a For Dummies book which per Wikipedia_talk:Identifying_reliable_sources/Archive_29#.22For_Dummies.22_books_-_reliable_or_not were ruled as reliable tertiary sources and that you still have Bratich, Coady, Keeley, and Young's definition to deal with.--BruceGrubb (talk) 23:37, 1 September 2011 (UTC)


  • Wouldn't it be better for the lede paragraph not to use any of the conflicting sources, but merely to summarise the issue - for example

"A Conspiracy theory is one that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization, or more broadly an idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public."? Black Kite (t) (c) 16:20, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, I think something like that would work well. The conflict between sources would be better dealt in the body of the article, rather than the lede. I think your wording is neutral, and we can always revisit the lede later. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:24, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Does anyone actually use the term in the first sense? Isn't it inevitably used today in the second sense? Jayjg (talk) 18:19, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure about academic usage, but I think that the former is in common usage. For example, the notion that Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA would fit that. But this is why I'm more a fan of hashing out details in the article first. But if we're going to work on the lede, how would you change the wording? --Nuujinn (talk) 18:52, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Again as Alex Jones list shows there are people that do put Dreyfus affair, Sicilian Mafia, and MKULTRA in the same boat as New World Order (conspiracy theory) which s referenced by the New York times. Trying to use a bunch of unreferenced OR claims that such and source doesn't say that to avoid this problem don't cut it.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:43, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Contrary to what seem to be implied in an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group, I think the literature broadly distinguishes a conspiracy theory as a seperate thing in itself - not merely any theory about a conspiracy. But maybe there's already general agreement about that? Tom Harrison Talk 23:08, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps not among editors, but I from what I've seen in the sources so far, I think yes, I think that's a fair assessment. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:58, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that's the crux of the dispute here. Both common usage and the literature define a "conspiracy theory" as a special kind of narrative/view of events/world-view, which is distinct from any theory about a conspiracy. However, BruceGrubb and Mystichumwipe have been attempting to conflate the two. Jayjg (talk) 00:45, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
"Under this legal definition of conspiracy, it becomes clear that federal prosecutors have often promoted conspiracy theories: examples include the actions of the Chicago Seven at the 1968 Democratic Convention, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995, and some cases associated with the post–9/11 terror/war." (Bratich (2008) pg 4)
"What is a conspiracy theory? The discussion so far suggests that a conspiracy theory is simply a conspiratorial explanation, and that an explanation is conspiratorial if it postulates a group of agents working together in secret, often, though perhaps not always, for a sinister purpose. This definition is consistent with our intuitive responses to many cases. It fits paradigmatic conspiracy theories, such as those according to which Lee Harvey Oswald not acting alone kill John F. Kennedy and those according to which James Earl Ray did not acting alone kill Martin Luther King." (Coady David (2006) "Conspiracy theories: the philosophical debate" Ashgate Publishing pg 2)
Coady's definition raises problem of with the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations ruling back in 1979 where does that leave the conspiracy theory that Lee Harvey Oswald did not acting alone to kill John F. Kennedy? So far all the posts by Nuujinn and Jayjg| have not addressed that or related problems and if anything refuse to admit there is a problem. Again this is looking like the Jesus myth theory article where a handful of well meaning editors hung on to a handful of definitions despite being repeatedly being reminded of other equally reliable sources that contradicted those definitions.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:27, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Just for clarity, I have NOT been attempting to conflate the two. Just the opposite. I have been trying to separate the two out, and make the disinction between them clear in the article, using verifiable sources. Jayjg, you are now writing about "the term in the first sense" and "the second sense" after previously saying such a distinction didn't exist and accusing me of making it up. Yet now you are trying to say that I am trying to conflate the two? Please explain this reversal of opinion and new false accusation?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 09:22, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Rather than continuing in the same vein, could you and BruceGrubb please comment on the wording propose by Black Kite? Quotes out of context and accusations of accusations are not likely to help us move forward. --Nuujinn (talk) 09:52, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
"A Conspiracy theory is one that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization, or more broadly an idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public."
Its getting there. It appwars to be a variation of my edit from 25 August 2011 but with what I see as the following failings:
1. It provides no verifiable source.
2. Who says the secondary usage is "more broad"
Can we perhaps work on amending of this to reach an agreeable consensus?
The primary meaning of conspiracy theory refers to a belief in any idea claiming that a group of people secretly worked together to cause a particular event.[1] The word also refers to the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the result of plots made in secret that are largely unknown to the general public.[2] When events that are unusual or not easily explained are believed to be orchestrated by a government or a covert organization, especially when any such involvement is denied, such a belief is referred to as a 'conspiracy theory' usually in a derogatory and pejorative sense.[3]--Mystichumwipe (talk) 10:48, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Mystichumwipe, you forgot to sign. Lede's don't require sources, which is one of the reasons I'd rather not hash out the lede until the article is stable. As pointed out, dictionaries are tertiary sources, so I'm not really concerned with definitions from them when we have good academic sources available. Also, I take "more broadly" not to mean in terms of usage, but rather that the definition is more broad in scope. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:38, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, the fact that different people can take it to mean various things is exactly why I argue we need a source. Especially as this is proving so controversial. And where did you get the understanding that "Lede's don't require sources"? Quote: "The lead MUST [my empasis] conform to verifiability and other policies.
Regarding: "not hash out the lede until the article is stable". I'm of the opposite opinion. If we can't even agree the basic lede definition, then what hope of agreeing what the blazes the article is about?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 11:03, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Sigh. Yes, material in the lede must contain verifiable information, but it's not required to have direct sources, because it is supposed to be a summary of the article's content, which should have citations/references. And it's hard to summarize content that is in dispute. Suggest a wording alternative if you don't like Black Kite's suggestion, but presenting the same arguments over and over again isn't going to get us anywhere. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:14, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
If people will address the points of disagreement then no-one need repeat the same "arguments over and over". You did say the lead does NOT require sources, and my understanding of wiki policy is that that is categorically incorrect: we do have to provide sources for the lead. Black_kite's suggestion provides none. The lead at present I maintain does derive from the Merriam Webster definition (check the earlier versions if you doubt this, or please show me how I am wrong). And at present it makes no distinction between the two current uses of the term that we all eventually seem to now agree exist. I believe the article needs that distinction to be made clear to be NPOV. And still no-one has said what if anything they find questionable about my preference/suggestion for the opening definition nor on my suggestion of using this as a basis for working upon and amending/fine-tuning.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 13:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────To rework an old adage "No Wikipedia policy is an island". Under WP:LEAD is WP:LEADCITE which expressly states "The lead must conform to verifiability and other policies. The verifiability policy advises that material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, and quotations, should be supported by an inline citation." and later on directly states "there is not, however, an exception to citation requirements specific to leads." Black_kite's suggestion has verifiability, WP:SYN, and WP:NPOV issues.--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:39, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Most FA reviews these days insist that citations be left out of the lede; I know I've been forced to do that on FAs I have written. Neither today's nor yesterday's Main Page FAs had citations in the lede, and FAs are Wikipedia's best (and most policy-compliant) writing. Jayjg (talk) 23:57, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Looking at Orval Grove and Hemming's Cartulary the reason of a lack of citation is obvious--the factual information was repeated nearly verbatim in the body. In fact as Wikipedia:Peer_review/September_11_attacks/archive1 shows one of the points raised regarding FAC were "It's not a case of "remove all citations from the lead", they have to be considered on a case-by-case basis and evaluated by editors." Besides trying to shoot for FA with as many problems as the article currently has (with the NPOV issue of just how Conspiracy theory is even defined leading the list of issues) is on par to trying to reach Mars with one of Goddard 1915 rockets--the article has a long way to go before we even think about that.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:28, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps citations should/could be left out if the lede is merely a summary of the content of the article since, presumably, all the citations would be in the body. If there is a question of whether citations exist at all for content in the lede then that content still, I think certainly, should not be there. Mystylplx (talk) 01:37, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
That is pretty much exactly my take on it (I'm involved), but some editors are insisting that we must redo the lede first, since the lede defines the topic. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:43, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Still no comment on my suggestion to use this as a basis fro tinkering. Nor an answer to what exctly was wrong with this definition? Can anybody oblige?
The primary meaning of conspiracy theory refers to a belief in any idea claiming that a group of people secretly worked together to cause a particular event.[4] The word also refers to the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the result of plots made in secret that are largely unknown to the general public.[5] When events that are unusual or not easily explained are believed to be orchestrated by a government or a covert organization, especially when any such involvement is denied, such a belief is referred to as a 'conspiracy theory' usually in a derogatory and pejorative sense.[6]--Mystichumwipe (talk) 09:26, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
If I understand the discussion above, the objection to that definition was that the use of the word primary is not necessarily reflected by the sources and may create a false hierarchy of meaning. eldamorie (talk) 13:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and most of the secondary sources support the notion that the "pejorative" definition is the most commonly used, and we value secondary sources more than tertiary sources such as dictionaries. We can certainly will have material in the article that handles usage, but this seems unnecessarily POV and not an accurate summary of what the sources say. Black Kite's suggestion is more neutral, my suggestion would be we run with that for the time being. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:55, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Ok. Thanks first of all for the reply. Actually the source provided does have two definitions and one comes first with the number 1 preceding it (which is why I referred to it as 'primary'). So I was not myself making that up (as has been suggested). I.e. there is a verifiable source which justifies describing them like that. But if that's the objection, lets use another wording. Any suggestions?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 14:05, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The three page definition-description provided by Bratich seems the best we have so far--it not only give six "synonyms" (Paranoid style, Political paranoia, Conspiracism, Conspiracy research, Conspiratlology, and Conspiracy narratives/accounts) as well as stating the term "conspiracy theory" is also a bridge term that 'links subjugating conceptual strategies to narratives that investigate conspiracies'.--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:17, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

No, what we currently have seems best so far, particularly for the lede; succinct, accurate, and from a noted expert on the subject. Our intent here is to describe conspiracy theories, not redeem them. Jayjg (talk) 23:29, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Barkun himself admired "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." Again you are putting one definition above all others.
Here more scholarly works that kicks Barkun's definition in the head:
"The underlying theme linking Sacco-Vanzetti and the Dreyfus case, and to other causes to come, is conspiracy theory — an alternative to the official explanation of a criminal case." (Neville, John F. (2004) Twentieth-century cause cèlébre: Sacco, Vanzetti, and the press, 1920-1927 [Greenwood Publishing Group] pg xiii)
Louis Begley's Why the Dreyfus Affair matters Yale University Press talks about two conspiracy theories regarding Dreyfus: the he's part of the Jewish conservancy to take over the world suggested by the likes of Rochefort and the (later proven) idea that the military was trying to cover up its own bungling.
"The conspiracy theory of politics, the idea that behind the public facade of politics a determined minority has conspired secretly to control the political order was applied to the Freemasons..." Rubenstein, Richard L.; John K. Roth (2003) Approaches to Auschwitz: the Holocaust and its legacy Westminster John Knox Press.
(regarding the Reichstag fire) "Along with Communist propagandists, serious scholars have been ranged on the side of the proponents of the Nazi conspiracy theory..." Davidson, Eugene (2004) The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler University of Missouri Press pg 457
Mind explaining how the conspiracy theories of the Dreyfus Affair and Nazi involvement in Reichstag fire fits in into Barkun's claim of "attributes of almost superhuman power and cunning that conspiracists attribute to them"? Not all conspiracy theories involve superhuman power and cunning--Knight's book clearly states "A reference guide to conspiracy theory presents over 300 entries describing events and theories, analyzing the historical, intellectual, and political context of each, and offering evidence to support or refute each one."--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Jayjg, you state your view as if it is unassailable fact. Could you please answer the arguments and points which have been presented here to explain why it is thought this viewpoint is not correct: you appear to me to be ignoring all reasoned argument and not engaging in discussion. Plus... regarding whether our intent here should be either to describe conspiracy theories: there is another article called List of conspiracy theories which describes them. This article is titled 'conspiracy theory' and is about explaining the terminology, its usage, etc. The whole disagreement as I see it is regarding the article starting with only a partial definition of the term and then concentrating upon that partial definition, as if that were the ONLY definition and usage. As I understand them BruceGrubb and Mystylplx are saying the same thing as I am. Do you understand our viewpoint and the flaw that we are seeing and pointing to?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 08:49, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

In regard to Neville: "In focusing his analysis on propaganda, the press, and public opinion, Neville, whose previous book is a study of press coverage of the trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, aims to fill a significant gap in the voluminous literature on the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Unfortunately, he fails in this attempt, primarily because he subordinates important facts about the case and the defense campaign to his larger goal of proving a communist conspiracy to discredit the United States and foment revolution around the world." (from this review

In regard to Begley: "But what of Begley’s insistent comparison of the Dreyfus Affair to the “crimes and abuses of the Bush administration, commit- ted in the course of its pursuit of the war on terror”? Is it true that Bush’s misdeeds “dwarf those of which the French army’s General Staff became guilty in its implacable persecution of Captain Alfred Dreyfus”? Is it actually helpful to suggest a parallel between the Dreyfus case and the contemporary War on Terror?" (from [2])

These authors may be respected in their fields, but I would suggest that cherry picking quotes from works not directly focussed on the topic of conspiracy theory seems less than ideal. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:16, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

You still appear to be ignoring Bratich:
"The question, What is a conspiracy theory? presupposes a stable object and assumes our term is merely descriptive. ...Besides its synonyms, conspiracy theory is a contested term within the conspiracy research community. While some do not mind calling their work a conspiracy theory others reject is as media buzzword that derides, ridicules, and even demonizes it" (see Alan Cantwell, 1995, “Paranoid/ Paranoia: Media Buzzwords to Silence Politically Incorrect"; Michael Parenti, 1995, "Conspiracy Phobia)")" (Bratich, pg 5)
"Conspiracy theory is thus a bridge term -- it links subjugating conceptual strategies (paranoid style, political paranoia, conspiracism) to narratives that investigate conspiracies (conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles of the meaning of the category. We need to recognize that we are on the bridge when we use the term." (Bratich, pg 6)
BruceGrubb provided the above quotes and has previously asked - but without answer - if an entire book published by the State University of New York written by an Associate Professor in the Journalism and Media Studies as the State University of New Jersey is academic enough to be used for the lead?
The above quotes from a reputable academic shows ourcurrent lead starts with a way too limited and partial a definition.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 13:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
That quote from Bratich treats not the common usage of the term, but rather the use of the term "within the conspiracy research community", and notes that some within that rather narrow community reject the terms precisely because it is a "media buzzword that derides, ridicules, and even demonizes it". He also notes that the terms link the pejorative elements to "narratives that investigate conspiracies. So from that quote, it appears he's supporting or at least acknowledging the notion that general usage is the more pejorative sense, rather than refuting it. But I don't have access to that part of the book, and I generally like to read a fairly big chunk of something to make sure I have the context prior to commenting on it, which is why I have not addressed it previously. I think it is pretty clear that the term used to be neutral, and that some would like to rehabilitate the term (for example, the author of the Alex Jones article), but so far I haven't seen anything that suggests that the general definition of the term is based on the more pejorative meaning, as you have put it. I'm ok with Black Kite's suggested wording for the time being, however, so my suggestion would be that we use that and move ahead. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Is Amazon [3] and google ([4]) books blocking access to the first few pages at your location? Also Bratich actually states "While some do not mind calling their work a conspiracy theory, others reject it as a media buzzword that derides ridicules, and even demonizes it. He also points to the six synonyms for conspiracy theory--three (Paranoid style, Political paranoia, and Conspiracism) "in essence more sophisticated way of calling someone a crackpot" and three others (Conspiracy research, Conspiratlology, and Conspiracy narratives/accounts) "Most often employed by those considered "conspiracy theorists," other terms not only avoid the disqualifying articulations but also deliberately refuse them."
Here the old adage if it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and quacks like a duck odds are it is a duck applies--Knight specifically uses Watergate as "a conspiracy theory that has been proven" being "usually called something else"
Bratich takes all this and flat out tells out exactly what "conspiracy theory in it entirety is: "a bridge term--it links subjugating conceptual strategies (paranoid style, political paranoia, conspiracism) to narratives that investigate conspiracies (conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles of the meaning of the category. We need to recognize that we are on the bridge when we use the term." (sic, Bratich pg 6)
Compounding matter is Proof of conspiracy under federal antitrust laws by the American Bar Association which talks about both "theory of conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory" on pg 62 and confuses the blazes out of anyone who reads it.
By the way you know who Fenster above uses as a reference on pages 292 and 394? Jodi Dean, the very same person that Barkun said he disagreed with. The house of cards is falling apart. Go with Bratich's definition and stop this nonsense.--BruceGrubb (talk) 00:39, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the first pages of Bratich are not available to me, I believe I said that. I don't agree with your assessment that he says that conspiracy theory is a synonym for Paranoid style, Political paranoia, Conspiracism, Conspiracy research, Conspiratlology, and Conspiracy narratives/accounts--he refers to the first three as conceptual strategies and the latter three as narratives, so he's clearly not equating the first three with the second three, nor the six in combination with the term itself. Regarding the latter three terms, given "Most often employed by those considered 'conspiracy theorists,' other terms not only avoid the disqualifying articulations but also deliberately refuse them." it seems pretty clear to me that those people are avoiding the terms because it is generally used in the pejorative sense, and the former three are clearly based in the pejorative meaning. "On the bridge," I read to mean that the term is in common usage as a pejorative, and we're on the bridge between that pejorative meaning and those who are trying to escape that pejorative meaning by not using the term at all. Regarding Knight, by saying that "a conspiracy theory that has been proven" being "usually called something else", he seems to not be refuting the pejorative definition, but rather supporting it, since if a conspiracy "theory" is proven, it's not called a conspiracy theory--I think that's correct, in such cases, it's called a conspiracy, not a conspiracy theory. In regard to Fenster, I note that he defines conspiracy theory in the first paragraph "which I will define simply here as the conviction that a secret, omnipotent individual or group, convertly controls the political and social order or some part thereof", which does not seem to contradict Barkun. But I don't have access to page 292, and the book's index starts on page 361, so I think either you've made a mistake, or there's a different edition. I'm not sure why use of Dean as a source is relevant in any case, as the Dummies books are considered a tertiary source, and we prefer secondary sources over tertiary sources by policy. I do not believe we should use any single source as the definition in the lede, as I have said, I would prefer to work on the article and then finish with the lede. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:41, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
How do you reconcile this view with Bratich's statement of "Conspiracy theory is a condensation of all of the above, a metaconcept signifying the struggles of the meaning of the category"? Here plain as day Bratich clearly states Conspiracy theory is "all of the above"; it is Paranoid style, Political paranoia, Conspiracism, Conspiracy research, Conspiratlology, and Conspiracy narratives/accounts and also is a bridge term. This is not addressed Bratich's view that conspiracy theory is in addition to all this a portal term as well. At this point he uses the term conspiracy panic and you get a mixture of the known (the Nazi Gahlen-CIA connection, pg 118; "Soviet communism and Nazi Germany were founded on conspiracism" pg 176), the more plausible JFK assassination theories, to the out and out wild squirrel food stuff (US-ET involvement in the downing of TWA Flight 800 pg 2) It is clear reading through Bratich's work that you have a huge range here.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:10, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
I feel no need to reconcile, because I see no tension. In regard to "Bratich clearly states Conspiracy theory is "all of the above"; it is Paranoid style, Political paranoia, Conspiracism, Conspiracy research, Conspiratlology, and Conspiracy narratives/accounts and also is a bridge term," I simply disagree--there's nothing clear about that statement, and he is at that point not defining the term conspiracy theory. Definitions claim what a word denotes, and his use of phrase "metaconcept signifying the struggles of the meaning of the category suggests to me not that he is defining the term, but building a cognitive space in which to work with his construct of "conspiracy panic", which is the purpose of the book.
I think you're perhaps confusing the denotation with the thing denoted, and how the thing denoted can be used in discourse--to say that a conspiracy theory is a portal is a metaphor, meaning not that conspiracy theory is a portal, but rather that a conspiracy theory can be used as a portal, that one can use narratives about conspiracy theories as starting point for examining issues or attitudes, in his case, in regard to politics of the left and the right. To the extent to which his analysis shows that the term "conspiracy theory" is used as a means of marginalizing others or suppressing the discourse of others, he is highlighting the pejorative usage of the term in common discourse.
And indeed, much of what I can read in the book is an examination of how others have used the term. On page 32, Bratich analyzes Hofstadter, noting that the paranoid style is not only a belief in conspiracy theories, but also the worldview that there is a worldwide conspiracy affecting the flow of history; on 136, he notes Thompson's work is an attempt to appeal to a broader audience that would normally be turned off by mention of "conspiracy theory"; on page 149, he notes that Jarach says the term is used as "derisive dismissal"; page 50 contains references to Bonobo's statement that anarchists and radicals reject the "common kneejerk allergy to conspiracy theory". There's a lot of interesting stuff in there we can use, but nothing I see indicates that the common usage of the term "conspiracy theory" is not the pejorative one, as you seem to be asserting. Bratich himself is clearly not, from the bits I have available, rehabilitating the term, but he does show that some people are trying to do that. Perhaps they will be successful, perhaps not, and usage does change, but for now, it seems to me that all of the sources, even those that are actively seeking to change usage acknowledge that the term is at this point of time pejorative in common usage. --Nuujinn (talk) 08:50, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Up or down !vote on Black Kite's suggestion

Black Kite suggested we use "A Conspiracy theory is one that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization, or more broadly an idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public." as the lede, and I feel as though discussions are bogged down at this point. So I'd like to ask folks to indicate whether or not they support that sentence as the lede, at least for while, until we can hash out other issues. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:46, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Support in essence with maybe some tweaks. I'm not so sure about the "more broadly" and the "largely unknown to the general public." part seems odd since I'd say most conspiracy theories are pretty well known. Mystylplx (talk) 03:49, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose: It violates WP:SYN and it doesn't address Bratich's bridge definition (links subjugating conceptual strategies to narratives that investigate conspiracies), Jodi Dean's contention that it is nothing more than a variant of rational criticism, and several of the others presented.--BruceGrubb (talk) 05:56, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Support on the condition that we DO only use it "at least for while, until we can hash out other issues." But I want to male clear that I support this ONLY because I think its certainly better than what we have at present with all its hyperbole: "...the result of a secret plot by exceptionally powerful and cunning conspirators to achieve a malevolent end." So I accept it as a bridge to getting a better definition based more on Bratich and less on Barkun. But as I have said earlier, and now as Mystylplx has also said, I too have difficulties with the "more broadly" bit.
How about something like: "A Conspiracy theory is one that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization. The term also has a more perjorative usage which refers to any idea suggesting that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots by groups of people holding positions of power and authority such as a government or a covert organization within a government." --Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:31, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Why not simply use Hodapp and Von Kannon's definition of "A conspiracy theory is the idea that someone, or a group of someones, acts secretly, with the goal of achieving power, wealth, influence, or other benefit. It can be as small as two petty thugs conspiring to stickup a liquor store, or as big as a group of revolutionaries conspiring to take over their country's government." with something referencing Bratich's bridge term concept right afterword?--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:22, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Can you write out your own suggestion for "something referencing Bratich's bridge term concept right afterword?" If we can come up with a better suggestion to this one now we could have a vote on that instead.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:53, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Support: Probably the wording that best fits the sources we have so far, especially given Nuujin's discussion of Bratich above. It seems like a good compromise between hyperbole and whitewashing. It's not significantly different from Hodapp and Von Kannon's definition, but fits better with the content of the article and common use. eldamorie (talk) 13:39, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Support as nom, might as well make my !vote official. I fully expect that we will revisit the wording in the relatively near future, but I think this is a good starting point. --Nuujinn (talk) 14:07, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose: "conspiracy Theory" is just a cultural expression/phenomenon that exists only in America and only in the English language. It is a cultural term that was 'created' originally to designate primarily those that cannot accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission about the Kennedy assassination as definitive on the subject. For example, there is not much debate that the Lincoln assassination was a conspiracy, and WP plainly states so. But regarding the Kennedy assassination a majority seems to doubt the conclusions of the Warren Commission, but for some nationalistic and patriotic activists, doubting and casting doubt upon such a serious national matter denigrates the performance of the US as the most powerful nation of the world. So this derogatory term or expression "conspiracy theory" was created, so the doubters can be ignored and assigned to the cultural and social fringes, or vice-versa, assigned to the social and cultural fringes, and then consequently mostly ignored or dismissed. A conspiracy is a very clear term in any culture or language, and the issue is simple: on a specific political event, was there a conspiracy or not. There is not such a thing as a "conspiracy theory." Some may argue that there was a conspiracy regarding a certain event, and some may argue there was not such a thing. But the cultural term or expression "conspiracy theory" does not exist as such, or does not apply to any other event in other cultures or languages. This whole discussion here, to my mind, is mostly a political American discussion, and the term should be discussed with the above circumstances in mind. warshytalk 15:11, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
    • I can assure you that "conspiracy theory" is not only an American phrase (example example example), it is well-known in other English-speaking countries (indeed, it appeared to be impossible for English newspapers to avoid linking the death of Princess Diana with the phrase "conspiracy theory" for many years. Not to mention the death of David Kelly). And it certainly goes further than that - here's a German article using the translation ("Verschwörungstheorie"), and a recent French article using the phrase ""théorie du complot" ... I could probably dig one out from every European country. Black Kite (t) (c) 17:20, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
      • Again as the Jesus myth theory take showed the same phrase may not be the same thing. John Remsburg and Arthur Drews in 1909 use the phrase "Christ Myth" in very different ways that do overlap but not completely--the Remsburg version is much broader then Drews.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:01, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
        • They're pretty clearly being used in the same way here though; for example, you will find the most common usage of Verschwörungstheorie or théorie du complot (or Teoria del complotto or Teoría conspirativa) is in reference to 9/11. Indeed, The es.wiki entry is pretty clear. The fr.wiki entry runs from the Illuminati to 9/11, whilst the de.wiki entry (which has some pretty good sources and writing incidentally), has a whole section on US conspiracy theories from JFK to 9/11. Black Kite (t) (c) 10:35, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
          • Not really as there are things called "conspiracy theory" that have been proven or generally accepted as very likely. "The theory that Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 is a “conspiracy theory.”" (...) ""many conspiracy theories involve people who are not especially powerful (friends, neighborhoods, fellow employees, family members and so forth)" (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.) Ok how do we fit that into this?--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:36, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - as a good working start. Warshy appears to oppose the article itself rather than the definition and so should be ignored as far as the question at hand is concerned. Rklawton (talk) 15:26, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Rklawton seems to be technically correct. Let me just add here, for a good real life illustration of my comments above, that there is a rather pejorative, dismissive 'intellectual' term that is used and applied to people in real life conversation, as in "He's a 'conspiracy theorist...' warshytalk 15:48, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Yup - that's why it's a good idea to keep this article in the first place - to explain the term, its history, its use (often as a pejorative), and provide a list of examples. In this way, if someone is labeled thusly, they can point to this article and say "wait, that's a pejorative term, it doesn't apply to my ideas, and here's why". Encyclopedias aren't all puppies and kittens; we cover lots of very negative topics, too. Rklawton (talk) 16:53, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
I hope you're right, but I'm not very hopeful in this particular case. The politics of the issue is so ingrained that I don't believe not even WP will be able to separate it. I will continue looking at it here from the side. I am glad some people have recently at least started to try to do something to try and maybe heal the open cultural wound that this issue is in this society. They must be brave people. I myself think I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole... warshytalk 18:03, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Could be worse, it could be an article about religious conspiracy theories in the balkans. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:21, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
As both Knight and Bratich both point while the term "conspiracy theory" may be uses a dismissive label the concept behind that term has other synonyms that are viewed in less negative light. A conspiracy theory that is postulated by a governmental official or by the government itself is often called something else regardless of it being Frank Capra talking about the Japanese conspiracy to take over the world in his Why We Fight series during WWII, Sen Joseph McCarthy ranting about Communist Spies in the US government in the 1950s, the claims regarding the Chicago Seven, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, or those involving the Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995. As it stands the article does a crappy job of explaining what the difference between Red Scare and the New World Order (conspiracy theory) even though we have a reasonable number of sources that say there is effectively no difference.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:32, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I was very pleased to read Rklawton's contribution as it succintly sums up the issue with this article that I have attempted to bring attention to. I agree that the article should: "...explain the term, its history, its use (often as a pejorative), and provide a list of examples. In this way, if someone is labeled thusly, they can point to this article and say "wait, that's a pejorative term, it doesn't apply to my ideas, and here's why".--Mystichumwipe (talk) 07:01, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Basically Rklawton is asking for something akin to what was done with the with the Jesus myth theory article. In fact if you think about it conspiracy theory and Christ-Jesus myth theory are veny similar--both have different meanings though their detractors tend use them in pejorative manner. Take a good hard look at the first two paragraphs of then Jesus myth theory lead and se how that could be applied to this article.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:53, 3 September 2011 (UTC)


Warshy's claim of this being an American phenomenon gave me the idea of looking at how some of the other language wikis have treated the issue. Here's my translation of the first paragraph of the théorie du complot article:
The expression "conspiracy theory" describes the belief in the existence of a secret civil, criminal, or political plot, generally in order to seize some form of power (Political, economic, religious). A conspiracy theory is defined by an "interpretations of events as following a plan devised and organized secretly by malicious group." They resist refutation, as all evidence against them can be interpreted as false information provided by the conspirators, and thus [proponents] discredit official explanations provided by government agencies and relayed by the mainstream media.
Which is remarkably similar to Nuujinn's suggestion above. I checked the Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese versions as well, and they all pretty much follow the same pattern. Not to say that we have to follow that here, but it's still worth thinking about.eldamorie (talk) 19:59, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Just for the record, this is not Nuujinn's suggestion. Its Black_kite's and it appears to be a amended version of something that I wrote as the lead that Nuujinn deleted saying I had no consensus for my change.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 07:06, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it is Black Kite's suggestion, and I stand by my statement that there was no consensus for your change. If we are reaching consensus for something close to what you want, you should be pleased. But I do not believe you have !voted yet, and I'm curious as to your position. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:06, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
But this suggestion is a rewording of my change! :-0
And I was the third to vote.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:07, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I am sorry, I missed your sig. And yes, I like Black Kite's wording better. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:23, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Semi-Support: I support the premise of Black Kite's suggestion, but I strongly advocate a minor rewording: A conspiracy theory is one that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization, or more generally an idea that important political, social, or economic events result from deliberate plots believed to be withheld from the general public. John Shandy`talk 06:04, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Your change of "more broadly" to "more generally", I agree is an improvement.
The 2nd half of the definition "are the products of" to result from", I agree is also an improvement.
"secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public" to "deliberate plots believed to be withheld from the general public." I agree. I think that also is an improvement.
So I support and prefer your suggestion here. I would rather we use your's than Black-Kite's.
I only have a minor suggestion for the second half. I would like to make clear that it is usually used perjoratively. So here is my suggestion based upon your improvement.
A conspiracy theory is one that explains an event 
as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization. 
More generally, and often pejoratively, it refers to an idea that 
important political, social, or economic events result from 
deliberate plots believed to be withheld from the general public.
--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:43, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
As I see it Cass Sunstein's working paper "Conspiracy Theories" throws a monkey wrench into that definition which is ironic as that paper has been used to support some pretty wild conspiracy theories.--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:58, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I can't see myself supporting that. At the very least, it seems to me that conspiracy theory is more of a colloquialism than a pejorative term. That isn't to say it isn't used pejoratively, but I recognize in literature and in casual discourse that "conspiracy theory" and "conspiracy theorist" are indeed referring to outlandish views and the people that hold them respectively, and that an author's or speaker's usage is not necessarily or often pejorative. John Shandy`talk 15:29, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Leaving aside the alternative wording suggests for the moment, I count 6 !votes of support of one variety or another, and two opposes, one of which rest on a notion that the term was coined just after the Kennedy assassination and is used only in English, which seems clearly not to be the case. So I think we have rough consensus to use Black Kite's suggestion, as least as a starting point, and I'll put that into place.

Some suggestions have been made as to wording changes to Black Kite's suggestion by John Shandy, and Mystichumwipe has proposed changes to that. Mystichumwipe's suggestion appears not to have support from Mystyplx or John Shandy or Bruce Grubb, so that appears at least to me to be a non-starter. Can we discuss the changes proposed by John Shandy? --Nuujinn (talk) 10:38, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

I still believe the above represents rough consensus in favour of Black Kite's lede suggestion, so I have just reverted Bruce Grubb's expansion. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:59, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies

What is this material doing in the article?

Right after "Ten conspiracy theories that skirt the edge of madness", Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies lists "Ten conspiracies that were absolutely true": Aaron Burr's planned empire (Burr conspiracy), Tuskegee syphilis experiment, General Motors Streetcar conspiracy, Project MKULTRA, Ford Pinto conspiracy, the FDR Putsch, P2 Masonic Lodge or Propaganda Due, Nato-Nazi-Gahlen conspiracy, the Cult Awareness Network coverup, and the Dreyfus affair.

"Some historians have put forward 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."

To begin with, it's not clear why were citing a "For Dummies" book so heavily. "For Dummies" books are popular texts designed to appeal to mass audiences, and there are many similar series ("For Dummies", "For Idiots", etc.). Even worse, the first sentence appears to be an analysis of the contents of the book Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies - as such, it's obvious original research. Moreover, the point of the sentence is not clear - and if it were clear, it would no doubt highlight further the fact that it is OR. Finally, the second sentence is a contextless quote - who are we quoting there and why? Jayjg (talk) 19:49, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Wow, I didn't even notice that was in the article. I agree that the source is dubious relative to the more reputable sources available to us (and cited elsewhere). As for the second bit ("Some historians..."), I think that the source is a good one, but we do need context and if we're going to quote someone we should most definitely attribute the quote. Here's a link to the Google Books preview of the book, and the bottom left-hand area of pg. 18 is where the quote is found. Peter Knight is a professor of American Studies at the Uni of Manchester in the UK. So, I'd say good source, but not used appropriately or as well as it could be. I think it could be better serving the article, and just skimming through it I think there's a lot more content from it we could reference. The For Dummies has to go unless someone can provide major justification for its use. John Shandy`talk 20:06, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
The For Dummies series has been ruled as meeting WP:RS as shown by Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_39#For_dummies_series and Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_82#re_lead_sentence_at_Facial_.28sex_act.29_I. The later points to Wiley's editorial control on the For Dummies series.
Furthermore, I should point out the "For Idiots" (actually Complete Idiot Guides) are put out by Penquin who is not known for putting out academic books so you can't really compare the two series. The For Dummies are a Wiley publication with all that brings with it ("For Dummies is the most widely recognized and highly regarded reference series in the world. Since 1991, For Dummies has helped millions make everything easier. Now, Dummies.com is bringing the how-to brand you know and trust online, where you'll find our proven experts presenting even the most complex subjects in plain English.")
Finally, I pointed out way back on March 2, 2010 that we as editors need to understand the Wiley that puts out For Dummies is not necessarily on par with the Wiley InterScience, Wiley Plus, Wiley-Blackwell, or Wiley higher education divisions and not give it a free ride and was ignored for my trouble (Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_59#Consistency). So currently "For Dummies" is reliable.--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:56, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
It is a tertiary source and we should not be relying on it, just as we should not rely on WP or Britannica. There are better secondary sources which we can use, and according to WP:RS we should not use tertiary sources for detailed discussion. Also, I note that conspiracies are not the same as conspiracy theories, and I fear that this paragraph borders into OR. Does anyone know why this material is not properly cited with a page number? --Nuujinn (talk) 11:04, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
That is NOT what WP:PRIMARY says: "Policy: Reliably published tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources, especially when those sources contradict each other." Being in the lead broad summary of topic certainly applies.
As for conspiracies not being conspiracy theories as the various sources show the two are connected at the hip like Siamese twins. Revealed conspiracies feed the conspiracy theory machine and those conspiracy theories that are proven (Mafia, MKULTRA, and Iran-Contra) just confirm the not all conspiracy theories are off in the ozone.
I would like to again point to Parker whose book [5] according to Wiley-Blackwell "differentiates between conspiracy theory and theories about conspiracies" And yet as explained on page 15 differentiation is hard because "In an oddly conspiratorial mapping, conspiracy theorizing and theories about conspiracy perpetuated by academics both share a quest to discover the truth against all odds." That in a nutshell is the problem with this article--a good number of the sources fail to differentiate between conspiracy theory and theories about conspiracies. Documented conspiracies, conspiracy theories, and theories about conspiracies are all thrown together into one bib mix master and blended together.--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:14, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
In this section, we're not talking about the lede, but rather the section Proven conspiracies and conspiracy theories

"'. PRIMARY also says "Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources." and as I pointed out, the RS guideline says "Tertiary sources such as compendia, encyclopedias, textbooks, obituaries, and other summarizing sources may be used to give overviews or summaries, but should not be used in place of secondary sources for detailed discussion". The section in question is part of detailed discussion. Reliably published tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics, but that doesn't mean we have to or should rely on them, and secondary sources are preferable according to PRIMARY. And Chang and Eng were connected at the sternum, not the hip, and were two distinct personalities. I like that analogy though, it supports what I'm saying--yes, conspiracies and conspiracy theories are related, but they are not synonyms, even if an event might be considered one, and then later the other as more is learned about it. In regard to Parker, I haven't read it but from what you say about it, it also seems to support my point--if Parker differentiates the two, but acknowledges that both conspiracy theorizing and theories about conspiracy share a common goal, that does not mean they are the same thing.

I'm going to remove the material in question, it doesn't add anything to this article, and I think it crosses the line into OR by attempting to establish an equivalency between conspiracies and conspiracy theories that the source does not make. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:06, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Agree. Unfortunately, because no-one is watching List of conspiracy theories, BruceGrubb is merely inserting the same material into that article's lede. Jayjg (talk) 23:41, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

More detailed lead

Here is my own stab at the lead using the Jesus myth theory article as a template:


Conspiracy theory is a term that has several meanings.

Its most general definition is the "idea that someone, or groups of someones, acts secretly, with the goal of achieving power, wealth, influence or other benefit. It can be as small as two petty thugs conspiring to stickup a liquor store, or as big as a group of revolutionaries conspiring to take over their country's government." (Hodapp) Using this definition "proven conspiracy theories" include the Dreyfus Affair, Sicilian Mafia, Project MKULTRA, Operation Mockingbird, Watergate, Tuskegee syphilis experiment, Operation Northwoods, Nayirah (testimony), Iran-Contra Affair, CIA drug trafficking, Business Plot, Operation Valkyrie, 1953 Iranian coup d'état, Operation Snow White, Operation Gladio, and Black Sox Scandal (Alex Jones InfoWars list)

However, conspiracy theory also has has a specific negative definition--a media buzzword for paranoid, outlandish, or implausible theories involving conspiracies generally requiring exceptionally powerful and cunning conspirators. (Bratich, pg 5; Knight pg 15-17) Under this definition theories that would fall under the more general definition are called something else--especially if they have been proven to be true such as with Watergate (Knight pg 17)

Finally conspiracy theory is used as a bridge term that links the two above definitions. Here it links the conceptual strategies of the negative definition (associated with the synonymous terms of paranoid style, political paranoia, and conspiracism) with narratives that investigate conspiracies seen in the more general definition (associated with synonymous terms of conspiratology, conspiracy research, conspiracy account). Until the "conspiracy theory" being presented is evaluated the term is on the bridge--literally between the general and negative definitions but having elements of both.(Bratich pg 6)

I think that combines everything we have in a reasonable package.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:50, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Great. Good work BruceGrubb. I have a few reservations (e.g. how can a conspiracy be perpertrated by a lone "someone"?). But on the whole I much prefer this suggestion of yours. And here's why: because if we change just the first sentence (to Shandy's amendment of Black-kite's amendment of my original edit;-), I believe that we still have a huge problem with the present lead. Which is that it then goes into Barkun's quite lengthy analysis of the perjorative 'buzzword' version WITHOUT making that clear to the reader. My problem with the lead has alweays been more than just the first sentence. It is that it concentrates initially almost exclusively on Barkun's analysis, which is presented without explaining that he is refering almost exclusively to a partial understanding and usage of this term. In fact people have argued against me by claiming there is ONLY ONE accepted use of this term. Your suggestion here fixes this problem. So...
  • I support your suggestion over all other suggestions, but with minor improvements--Mystichumwipe (talk) 08:33, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, it is too detailed, and not a summary of the article, and I do not agree with the use of an unreliable source (the editorial on the Alex Jones website), or the interpretation of Bratich presented. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:27, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Right now we need to see where the article is going rather than summarize it and for something this complex we are not going to get a simple definition (again look at Jesus myth theory for an example.) As for Alex Jones list the following also appear in Peter Knight's Conspiracy theories in American history: Sicilian Mafia (pg 451), Project MKULTRA (pg 490), Operation Mockingbird (pg 486), Watergate (pg 725), Tuskegee syphilis experiment (pg 38, 45, 538), Operation Northwoods (pg 117), Iran-Contra Affair (pg 349), CIA drug trafficking (pg 237), Business Plot (pg 625), and Operation Gladio (pg 231). Finally just what is wrong with the interpretation of Bratich?--BruceGrubb (talk) 12:58, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. As BruceGrubb says, we need to see what the contents of the article are first, and then summarize it. The proposed lede is far too detailed, and places undue weight on unreliable sources and misinterpretations of reliable ones. Jayjg (talk) 23:48, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Jayjg's points. John Shandy`talk 16:41, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Brief recap of our ongoing lengthy and multifaceted dispute

MiszaBot was previously configured to autoarchive talk page discussions after 1 week of no new replies. Given that our dispute has been lengthy and at times tangential, and given that it is ongoing, I have adjusted MiszaBot's autoarchive configuration to 30 days. I did this after noticing that MiszaBot archived a significant chunk of our debates here on the talk page about "fringe," the meaning of "conspiracy theory," and the like.

I won't move the archived discussions back to the talk page, because it would be messy and unnecessary. Instead, just note that the following discussions are central to the ongoing disputes that are reflected in most of the separate discussion threads that are currently on the talk page. This should help any outsiders or newcomers understand the nature of the unresolved content dispute.

Then, there are the threads on the current talk page:

  • Kate Zernike's article
  • Bratich's explanation of Conspiracy theory
  • Guts of the problem with the lead
  • Up or down !vote on Black Kite's suggestion
  • More detailed lead
  • New usage section

I'm just trying to keep this dispute mapped out for all of us. John Shandy`talk 05:09, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

I soon hope to find time to introduce some new reliable sources I have recently found, but I do face a busy rest of the week and weekend. John Shandy`talk 05:14, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Again I would recommend looking at the Jesus myth theory article for some ideas on how to clean this article up. Here is how we finally stabilized that article:
1. Use to lead to set up just what the article is about so other editors know what is going into it. WP:RS everything in the lead--right now we are trying to stabilize the article so forget about summarizing anything.
2. Document the controversy and differences in the use of the term with WP:RS out the wazoo--we can always trim back stuff that has WP:weight issues.
3. Now go into the history of the term--again WP:RS everything in sight.
4. If possible tighten up the article--in the case of the Jesus myth theory the subject matter is such a WP:RS definition mess we got stuck with a ridiculously verbose lead but here we have several WP:RS that actually address the problem so we likely won't need that here.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:18, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Interesting, asking what seems to be the main WP:RS for help on writing the article. And nice way to support his opinion:"I suspect that the people who object to the existing wording are people who are themselves on the fringe but don’t want to be stigmatized.", now with these qualities, how can this not be a good RS, right? ;-) DS Belgium (talk) 03:22, 13 September 2011 (UTC)

New usage section

I took the liberty of taking the specific definitions in the opening paragraphs and moved them with the Terminology section and renamed the lot Usage. I made some minor copy edits to improve flow. I think this needs substantial reworking but want to let others comment on the changes before getting started on that. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:48, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

This action misses the whole point of WP:lede: "It should define the topic, establish context, explain why the subject is interesting or notable, and summarize the most important points—including any prominent controversies."
Right now the lede is little more than a dictionary definition with
  • NO established context
  • NO explanation as why the subject is interesting or notable
  • NO summation of the "most important points—including any prominent controversies"
In short it has been stripped of nearly everything that should be in a lead.--BruceGrubb (talk) 13:48, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
It's fine for now. The lede should summarize the body of the text, so let's get the text body right first, and then summarize it. Jayjg (talk) 19:50, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Again the lead doesn't just "summarize the body of the text" and that is something the currently lead doesn't do either--BruceGrubb (talk) 02:59, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
To Jajyg. Just saying "it is fine" does not make it so. That is merely to express an opinion as if it were fact. And this opinion has already been debated/rebutted. A rebuttal to which you failed to respond. Please can't we try to work towards agreement.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:36, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Just saying "this opinion has been debated/rebutted" does not make it so. Jayjg (talk) 23:42, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Its either been debated or rebutted, depending on your opinion. I allowed for a difference of interpretation. You appear to be merely demonstrating further how you refuse to work towards agreement.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 08:55, 15 September 2011 (UTC)
I think we should leave the lede aside for the time being and work on the body of the article. Once that's improved, we can come back to the lede. That way we can construct a tight lede with proper weight for each element contained therein. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:37, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Conspiracy theory-definitions and meaning

"Thus, a 'conspiracy theory' is a set of ideas, partly based on reasoning and facts, but also based on speculations about a political or historical event, suspecting a certain group of people to have staged or induced that event for their own (political) purposes." (Schlegel, Christian (2007) "The Rhetoric of Conspiracy - Theories of September 11th" GRIN Verlag pg 5)

"The terms 'conspiracy theory' and 'conspiracism' defy easy definition, perhaps because there is such a breadth of discourses from such a variety of individuals and groups, all with varying goals and ephasus to their language. (Gray, Matthew (2010) Conspiracy theories in the Arab world: sources and politics Taylor & Francis pg 4)

Coady explains that part of the problem is that the term "theory" itself has negative connotations where "according to popular usage, theories are beliefs for which there is little or no supporting evidence." The inherent problem with that definition of theory is blatantly obvious when you hit things like Newton's Theory of Gravity, Darwin's Theory of Evolution, or Einstein's Theory of Relativity and shows where the problem actually is.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:29, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Here's another source, which itself cites Coady's work as well as the work of some other sources that have been introduced on this talk page in recent weeks. (The article presently cites a 1994 article by Ted Goertzel as well, btw.)

'Conspiracy' is an essentially contested rhetorical concept that people apply to different events depending on their point of view (Gallie, 1964). It is almost always pejorative. The Oxford English Dictionary defines conspiracy quite loosely as "an agreement between two or more persons to do something criminal, illegal or reprehensible". While the law can precisely define the criminal act in any conspiracy, 'reprehensible' is in the eye of the beholder. When Hillary Clinton protested that her husband US President Bill Clinton was the victim of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" and US President Lyndon B. Johnson accused the media and liberal actiists of a "conspiracy" to oppose his Vietnam War policies, they were intentionally vague as to whether they referred to illegal or merely reprehensible behaviour (Kramer & Gavreili, 2005). Calling something a conspiracy makes it sound much worse than just saying, "people are ganging up on me."

Invoking the word conspiracy also implies that something is secret and hidden. Pidgen (2006) defines a conspiracy as "a secret plan on the part of a group to influence events in part by covert action". Conspiracies so defined certainly do take place; they are not necessarily a figment of anyone's imagination. These include the failed conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the September 11 attacks and the Watergate conspiracy. However, in history and social science, the term 'conspiracy theory' usually refers to claims that important events were caused by conspiracies that have heretofore remained undiscovered (Coady, 2006). The claim that the World Trade Center was destroyed by al-Qaeda would not be a conspiracy theory in this sense, but the claim that it was bombed by Israeli agents, or that the American authorities knew about it in advance, would be.

Historians and social scientists are generally sceptical of conspiracy theories because they believe that most conspiracies fail and that historical events can be better understood without recourse to unverifiable speculation (Keeley, 2006).

Goertzel, Ted. (2010). Conspiracy theories in science. EMBO Reports, Vol. 11 No. 7. John Shandy`talk 05:11, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Good source and ironically the Keeley, 2006 above (Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!) is in the Coady David (2006) "Conspiracy theories: the philosophical debate" Ashgate Publishing I previously pointed out (it starts on pg 107) However, it should be noted in his earlier 1999 work Keeley makes a distinction between Unwarranted Conspiracy Theories (UCT see pg 83 of Coady for a reference) and Conspiracy Theories in general. In the 1999 paper he lists six Conspiracy Theories and one of them should ring a bell because it is a watered down version of the Great American streetcar scandal I listed a while ago.
Having read the 2003 Keeley paper I am left scratching my head over Goertzel's "most conspiracies fail" statement--Keeley doesn't even mention "historian" or "social scientist" in "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!" The closest Keeley does mention along these lines is "Jared Diamond, in his Guns, Germs, and Steel (1999, 48–49), offers an argument with a structure that parallels the one I make concerning how the credibility of conspiracy theories erodes over time as corroborating evidence fails to turn up." Ie it is not the conspiracy itself failing but the finding of evidence for said conspiracy that make people skeptical regarding such theories.
Earlier up in the paper Keeley states "In my original paper, I ask whether there is a class of theories that matches well with a number of currently popular conspiracy theories, such as those concerning the Kennedy assassination, control of the world economy by a small group of individuals, or U.S. government complicity in the Oklahoma City bombing, that we can determine a priori to be epistemically unwarranted."
So was Keeley's 2003 paper about GCT or UCT?--BruceGrubb (talk) 11:21, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Good source, John, and it clearly outlines the difference between a "theory of a conspiracy" and a "conspiracy theory" - "claims that important events were caused by conspiracies that have heretofore remained undiscovered". Jayjg (talk) 21:35, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Actually Goertzel makes a point about looking "cascade logic in conspiracy arguments" and "exaggerated claims about the power of the conspirators" contrasting the Moon Landing Hoax conspiracy theory with Watergate. It is akin to Keeley's conspiracy theory to unwarranted conspiracy theory.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:10, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm surprised Moral_panic is only mentioned once in the article, given the similarities and overlap, and the prominence Satanic_ritual_abuse attained in the 1980s. Any sources that go into some detail? DS Belgium (talk) 13:15, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
The Moral_panic article doesn't help as there is no clear distinction between it and scapegoating--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:50, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Notable writer?

I've recently asked a question about Arthur Goldwag. He appears to be in conspiracies etc. Is he known as a reliable/notable writer? See my question here: Talk:Aum_Shinrikyo#Arthur_Goldwag.27s_book. 81.68.255.36 (talk) 10:51, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with him, sorry. John Shandy`talk 03:09, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Fiction section

Given that there is another article on this subject, is there any reason to keep this here? My inclination is to remove most all of it, as it's not sourced and appears to me to be redundant. Thoughts? --Nuujinn (talk) 21:28, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

I agree with your suggestion to remove it, for the reasons you've given. John Shandy`talk 03:09, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909? WRONG!

I found the phrase "conspiracy theory" in History of the United States from the compromise of 1850 copyright 1895 in New York, Harper which shows whoever is claiming the 1906 date needs to go back and do a little better research.

And that is not the end of it. "Such a view of the case, if it were generally entertained, would have an important bearing on the conspiracy theory." (Ellis Thompson, Wharton Barker The American: a national journal: Volumes 19-20 May 10, 1890 Page 67)

"There is more and more doubt of the conspiracy theory. None of the Cabinet officers approve it, and the President himself does not believe in it." (McCabe, James Dabney (1881) Our martyred President ...: The life and public services of Gen. James A Garfield pg 556)

"It was at least more plausible that the conspiracy theory of Mr. Charles Eeade, and the precautionary measure suggested by Dr. Sankey of using a padded waistcoat in recent cases of mania with general paralysis..." The Journal of mental science: Volume 16 Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane (London, England), Medico-psychological Association of Great Britain and Ireland, Royal Medico-psychological Association (1871)--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:51, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

Maybe the author of the source cited is in error, but correcting sources is not within the scope of the Wikipedia project. The source was published and vetted by the Oxford University Press, so it is certainly a reliable source. This is another one of those instances in which "verifiability, not truth" is what matters for Wikipedia. It can be verified that the author claims that the first recorded use was from 1909, whether or not his claim is accurate. In this case, it looks like you're correct that the phrase appears in earlier publications, but it's beyond us to counter the author's claim because doing so would be original research. I'm not so sure that this is necessarily important to the article anyway. Noting the specific year the phrase was first used doesn't really have much impact on the terminology/usage/etymology for our purposes. We could consider trimming that line out of the section. John Shandy`talk 04:52, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't get it. BruceG has AGAIN provided numerous verifiable reliable sources that demonstrate that something we have in the article is clearly and unequivocally incorrect. And the response is to argue "it's beyond us to counter the author's claim because doing so would be original research." ! and weakly suggest "we could consider trimming that line out of the section." :-o
Only "...could consider"? What is there to discuss? I would say OF COURSE, we just take it out. And put in these new verifiable, reliable sources from Bruce G stating that here are some of the earliest examples of its usage.
And sorry if this rocks the boat, but this raises for me the wider question of what are we trying to do here? Assuming everyone wants an accurate and informative article that helps people gain a better understanding of the subject, is there perhaps a subconscious attachment with some people to preserving the page as it is as much as possible, in spite of all evidence and argument of weaknesses and suggestions for improvements? If we have to have a discussion about removing something that has now been clearly shown to be wrong, how do we ever get the more tricky issues sorted?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 08:24, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Actually Mystichumwipe, the statement "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates back to a history article from 1909." was made in a BBC Two article (Plots, paranoia and blame) by Knight and the ending to that article (The first episode of The Conspiracy Files: How Diana Died was broadcast on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 2100 GMT on BBC Two.) makes me wonder if it is promotional piece. The only related reference in that article (or Knight's book) to Oxford is "The phrase first entered the supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1997" so the "vetted by the Oxford University Press" claim doesn't apply; in fact when I looked for "conspiracy theory" inpublisher:"Oxford University" inauthor:"Knight" I got "Your search - "conspiracy theory" inpublisher:"Oxford University" inauthor:"Knight" - did not match any documents." in Google books.
Furthermore I found "I must content myself with saying that the class-conspiracy theory of economic development may generally be considered false,..." in The Economic review: Volume 1 Christian Social Union (Great Britain) Oxford University Branch 1891 Page 540.
"....that no one had heard of until the paper announced it lent some plausibility to the conspiracy theory." Washington: Capital City, 1879-1950 Princeton University Press, 1879 pg 267.
There you are--the phrase "conspiracy theory" in two University Press books before 1909 one which was published by branch of Oxford University in 1891! As an expert in museum anthropology (which is what Goode classified the Smithsonian as) I know how to research and if it exists I can find reliable sources that can show errors in the statements being cited.--(talk) 08:26, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it is interesting material. We do recognize that reliable sources often conflict one another, because this kind of thing happens. We've been considering Knight's encyclopedia as a reliable tertiary source, and he certainly has academic credentials, so the BBC interview is reliable as well, I think. So it seem to me we have two choices, either to remove that particular bit or to see if we can work in the material without violating OR. The former is not particularly attractive and the latter would be difficult as some of the sources BruceGrubb has found are primary sources, and I'm not sure that the secondary sources are about conspiracy theories per se but may be passing mentions. Do any of these source appear usable to others? I'll see if I can get at them for a closer look. In the mean time, I think attributing the 1909 statement makes sense, that's a common way of introducing some distance. --Nuujinn (talk) 09:34, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that the statement is that the phrase "conspiracy theory" was first used in 1909--not that the phase was used in any particular way. The statement can be shown via WP:RS to be incorrect--the phrase "conspiracy theory" was used before 1909 and doesn't matter how it was used only that it was used before 1909. Certainly a 1879 Princeton University Press primary or not that uses the phrase "conspiracy theory" proves Knight wrong in this case--just as Stephen Barrett's statements about Weston Price were proven to be inaccurate with quotes by Weston Price himself.
Knight's ABC-CLIO book on page 17 states that the 1997 Oxford dictionary suggests "that the first recorded usage of the phrase was in an article in the American Historical Review in 1909". Now that is a very weird turn of phrase. He does NOT say that the Oxford dictionary states this only that it suggests this. In other words the actual reference is itself a Tertiary source which can be demonstrated to have gotten it wrong.
"The conspiracy theory is based on a misconception of the so called Union minorities in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana." (New outlook, Volume 52 1895 pg 394)
"The trial below being conducted on the conspiracy theory manifestly enlarged the scope of investigation and testimony, greatly to the disadvantage of Hamilton; and it seems to me, that common justice and fairness appeal..." Teasdale v State Alabama. Supreme Court, Florida. Supreme Court, Louisiana. Supreme Court, Mississippi. Supreme Court,... 1888
"In that connection I want to say that that conspiracy theory was a pure invention of the prosecution..." Congressional edition-Senate of the United States United States. Congress 1888 pg 390
I have more if you want.--BruceGrubb (talk) 10:43, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't disagree with that, but with respect, I think you misunderstand my point. An editor here proving Knight wrong by researching primary texts which are not about conspiracy theories, but which happen to use the phrase, would be a pretty clear violation of NOR. That's different than one expert arguing that another expert is wrong in secondary sources. So I think we need to take a close look at these sources and see if we can get the text right while conforming to core policies. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:28, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
You missed the point. Knight says the the source he found suggests the phrase conspiracy theory being no older than 1909--something that WP:RS aver WP:RS shows is not correct. Or are you saying the US SENATE is not reliable (as a source)?!?
The official record of the Parnell Commission (1889) has "conspiracy theory refuted 226, 227" in it index.
"The fact, however, which makes the conspiracy theory completely illogical is that the political leaders in the slave states were not united in support of the southwest- ward movement, nor those in the free states against it." (Garrison, George Pierce (1906) Westward extension, 1841-1850 Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart LLD Professor in history in Harvard University
While there are some duplicates searching end date:12/31/1908 Google books is finding 181 books, papers all using the phrase "conspiracy theory". A 1905 talks about the "Republican Conspiracy" theory; a 1901 book wonders "How does Rhodes disprove the "conspiracy theory" as to the secession of the South?"; Sir Edward Tyas Cook in 1901 talks about "Conspiracy theory of a Dutch"; a 1890 source talks about "Mr. Hodgson, in addition to inventing the great conspiracy theory," and the for mentioned 1881 McCabe source.
You are contesting a history professor of freaking Harvard University?!? Again and again the 1909 date does down in flames. When a statement in even a reliable source can be demonstrated to be doing the equivalent of saying the sky is pink with purple stripes it time to either rephrase the thing or throw it out.--BruceGrubb (talk) 10:56, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
  1. Looking for sources using the phrase "conspiracy theory" is indisputably original research, and we simply don't publish our own work here.
  2. A convincing case has been made that the reference to 1909 comes from a source that is not necessarily reliable.
  3. In the face an unreliable source making an extraordinary claim (one we have disproved), we have every reason to remove the unreliable information and make no further mention of it until such time as we can find a reliable source. Rklawton (talk) 12:13, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
I recast the first paragraph of that section, since Knight says that the Oxford supplement suggests that the earliest recorded usage was 1909, and that's pretty vague. Since we know the term was used earlier, but have no sources we can use for a specific date at this time, that seems the best course. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:15, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
Yep, I agree with Rklawton and Nuujinn, and this is essentially the course of action I suggested, to just reword the article to make no assertions about a first date of usage. I don't know why that was so difficult for Mystichumwipe and BruceGrubb to grasp, or why Mystichumwipe (erroneously) feels I am invoking some kind of cop-out tactic. All I can recommend is that you guys read WP:NOR inside and out to understand why we have been so adamantly pointing out bits of original research proposed here on the talk page or introduced into the article. There are simply many things beyond the scope of an encyclopedic work in general, and Wikipedia in particular. John Shandy`talk 03:20, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps it is you who should read WP:NOR front to back: "The policy says that all material challenged or likely to be challenged, including quotations, needs a reliable source; what counts as a reliable source is described here." WP:RS.
I would also point to WP:NOTOR which expressly states "Comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources. If reliable references cannot be found to explain the apparent discrepancy, editors should resist the temptation to add their own explanation. Present the material within the context contained in reliable sources, but avoid presenting the information in a way that "begs the question". An unpublished synthesis or analysis should not be presented for the readers' "benefit". Let the readers draw their own conclusions after seeing related facts in juxtaposition.
Pointing out that Knight's claim is wrong is NOT OR by WP:NOTOR DEAL WITH IT.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:18, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources. If reliable references cannot be found to explain the apparent discrepancy, editors should resist the temptation to add their own explanation. Present the material within the context contained in reliable sources, but avoid presenting the information in a way that "begs the question". An unpublished synthesis or analysis should not be presented for the readers' "benefit". Let the readers draw their own conclusions after seeing related facts in juxtaposition.
The bold emphasis denotes the parts that pose a problem for your desire to right the wrong. Here, there's no facts to juxtaposition, because the primary sources you've provided use the term, but don't state that it's been around since whenever. If we had one source saying "since year X" and another saying "since year Y," we could just juxtaposition them and let the reader deal with the conflicting sources. In this case, you'd be synthesizing if you left the 1909 line in and then did something to the effect of putting a quote that uses it in an older source, or did something to the effect of "However, such and such phrase was used in so and so's 1890 title of book." The best and most appropriate option was to simply remove the 1909 claim from the article. We're supposed to summarize and characterize, not synthesize or correct or draw linkages or juxtaposition things that aren't presented by sources as facts. To paraphrase an editor from the talk page of another article I watch over, if even one link in a chain of logic is from your own thinking, own findings, or own understanding of the topic, then it is a synthetic statement and is original research, even if the logic chain is accurate. In this case, you're correct that the source got it wrong, and you pointed that out. However, analyzing the correctness of a source by drawing on primary sources that demonstrate the discrepancy but don't discuss or explain the discrepancy, is not within the scope of any Wikipedia editor. John Shandy`talk 04:41, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
You seem to doing OR of your own. Nowhere did I analyze anything--I said was the statement it was factually wrong and produced sources that proved that and THAT WAS IT. Trying to claim OR to handwave the verifiable fact that a statement is factually wrong is not OR and no amount of fig-leafing is going to change that FACT because it is verifiable.--BruceGrubb (talk) 10:05, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
I have to reluctantly agree with others' readings of the OR policy. Literally speaking, citing early uses of the phrase is OR, until someone else publishes the claim that the phrase goes back that far. It is, in my opinion, a fairly absurd consequence of the OR policy, but I think it does follow from that policy. Phiwum (talk) 11:02, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
What?!! :-0. Have we all entered some kind weird twighlight zone?
"WP:OR is used on Wikipedia to refer to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published source exists....To demonstrate that you are not adding original research, you must be able to cite reliable, published sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and directly support the material as presented.
BruceG provided verifiable reputable sources (which were not original research, EVEN if they were primary sources). What's the problem? The 1909 date was wrong. It's been deleted. Let's move along...--Mystichumwipe (talk) 15:16, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
I really don't understand what's so difficult to grasp about this. Source X says "the earliest use was X," while Source Y simply uses the word earlier. Source Y doesn't say "the earliest use was Y." Therefore, it would be inappropriate to do something akin to: According to Source X, the earliest use was X. Source Y states that the earliest use was Y. -- Why? Because Source Y only uses the phrase, but it doesn't assert any claim about when the phrase was first used. Instead, we'd need something like Source Z, that might contain something like "the earliest use was Z" - then we could juxtaposition that statement with the statement in Source X... Or, Source Z might say "Source X claims the earliest use was X, however one can find an earlier usage in Source Y." Original research isn't just about providing reliable sources, it's also about using them correctly, in ways that don't reflect editors' own discoveries or thinking. In this case, BruceGrubb made a very interesting discovery that disproves a fact from a reliable source, but that discovery needs coverage in a published source from a third party. Wikipedia's policy on verifiability states that the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. What matters is whether readers can verify that content in Wikipedia was first published in a reliable third party source - not whether editors think it is true. WP:NOR is an extension of that concept that provides us with specific instructions for how best to achieve verifiability and render content that is encyclopedic. We have already taken the appropriate action by recasting that paragraph to remove a contested claim, but juxtapositioning or comparing the sources introduced here by BruceGrubb are not things we can do. John Shandy`talk 16:24, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
This is the most obvious sort of original research, editors attempting to disprove the statements of reliable secondary or tertiary sources by doing original research on primary sources. And I don't "reluctantly agree with others' readings of the OR policy" here, nor is this "a fairly absurd consequence of the OR policy" - rather, it's exactly the kind of thing the OR policy is meant to stop, and thank goodness for it. Jayjg (talk) 21:41, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── BruceGrubb has brought up this "long battle" at Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/First_sentence#Verifiability_Fact_vs_Truth, in case anyone would like to comment. Since he has shown that the statement isn't true, I'm just going to delete it, as we really do not need it. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:46, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

And Wikipedia:Inaccuracy was born and I hope it becomes a guideline.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:58, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Okay, I'm really starting to get bent out of shape over this deceitful tactic being headed by BruceGrubb.
  1. First, he goes to a policy talk page to create an illusion that we invoked a principle of WP:V to keep factually inaccurate material in the article on grounds that it was reliably referenced (we did not do this, rather we removed the content upon discussion of BruceGrubb's discovery).
  2. Second, he uses such an illusion to further his cause in ongoing policy discussions about the "verifiability, not truth" statement in the WP:V policy.
  3. Third, he participates in a new Wikipedia essay, Wikipedia:Inaccuracy, which he is rooting for to become policy. In this essay, BruceGrubb has yet again furthered the illusion by listing the conspiracy theory recorded usage example there. The example itself is fine and demonstrates that reliable sources can get their facts wrong. However, I think this has been placed there only to try and justify BruceGrubb's desire to introduce verbiage to discuss the discovery of the error, which would result from editors' lines of thought rather than source authors' lines of thought.
BruceGrubb wishes to use synthesis to counter the factually inaccurate content, while we advise that this is not within an editor's prerogative, and we instead advocate omitting the factually inaccurate content. The proposed essay, even if it became a guideline, would never trump the three core content policies. Also, the essay contains some pretty dubious ideas that would allow editors to introduce their verbiage on their own discoveries into the article.
I have tirelessly explained to BruceGrubb that omission is as far as we can go with his discovery of the factually inaccurate content. He insists on responding with commentary that shows how his discovery is demonstrated with primary reliable sources. However, those sources demonstrate the point. What those sources don't do is discuss the point itself. Therefore, we cannot include discussion of the inaccuracy or narrate BruceGrubb's discovery in the article. As to why on Earth he wishes to include a description of how the source was found to be incorrect rather than simply omit the incorrect statement is beyond me. I have explained, reexplained, and exemplified this small yet critical nuance. BruceGrubb has ignored, side-stepped, and dodged it. I am sorry, but I can no longer assume good faith on behalf of BruceGrubb with regard to this particular content dispute. I think BruceGrubb is well-intentioned, and a very capable editor and obviously a very capable researcher given his extensive introduction of new sources here on this talk page. However, I do not think that BruceGrubb understands the extents and limitations for what we can write about the sources he finds and I can no longer assume that he isn't simply interested in showcasing his discovery in the article text and in policy discussions, despite that we already resolved this dispute by removing the contested statement about 1909 being the first recorded usage. So, BruceGrubb, please drop this already. John Shandy`talk 15:48, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── BruceGrubb, my recent edits today and yesterday that address you sound to me like I am upset with you. I apologize if it seems like I'm being a bully or trying to nitpick at your edits. That is not my intent. My responses to you sound heated because I am admittedly upset, but only because I feel like you are misunderstanding me, despite my efforts to repaint my point and recast my arguments in a way that will make sense to you. I am also a bit upset over what I perceive to be misleading tactics by using this dispute to engage in the WP:V sub-talk pages and the WP:Inaccuracy essay, because they only detract attention from the actual issue that myself, Jayjg, Nuujinn, and others have tried to describe here on this talk page.

The problem I am trying to emphasize is a small, but critical nuance related to WP:V and WP:NOR. While it may seem like I am making a mountain out of a molehill, that is only because it's a sophisticated nuance that is hard for me to describe.

What we have here is a source that claims a certain date as being the first recorded usage. What you introduced were sources that are earlier recordings of its usage. There is then a conflict of accuracy with the first source, as demonstrated by your primary sources. So the 1909 date is obviously erroneous. It could be erroneous for a number of reasons - perhaps the author simply missed the sources that you found. Whatever the case may be, the 1909 claim is inaccurate and should be addressed.

That much, I agree with you on.

Where we part is what we're able to do with the secondary source (asserting a date for first recorded usage), and the primary sources (recordings of earlier usage).

  • We can't say "However, the phrase can be found in an earlier source from the late 1800s.", because that is WP:SYNTH, since the "However" analysis is your, my, or another editor's analysis. Even if we used different wording than "However," this would be inappropriate to do.
  • We can't juxtaposition "The first recorded usage was 1909." with "The phrase can be found in (insert source) from 1890." (or whatever date), because the (1890) source is primary, and such a juxtaposition reflects an editor's own discovery (your discovery).
  • We can't juxtaposition "The first recorded usage was 1909." with a direct quote of the earlier source using the phrase, because that would also be original research by WP:SYNTH, and plus the sources using the phrase so far appear to be irrelevant, as they don't themselves discuss "conspiracy theory," they simply use the term.

We could do any of the 3 options above if we found a reliable secondary source that said something to the effect of:

  • "The first recorded usage was in 1890." (or whatever date)
  • "So & so notes that the first recorded usage was in 1909, however the phrase can be found in an earlier work from 1890." (or whatever date)

However, so far we have not found a secondary source that does one of the two things above. Until we do, omission remains the best option, because it involves no verbiage that can only be attributed to Wikipedia editors or their own discoveries/thinking. Fortunately, we omitted the erroneous claim of 1909 rather quickly after you brought forth this good discovery. John Shandy`talk 17:40, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Actually, per WP:NOTOR (comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources) the second WOULD be allowable but only if it was done like this:
Peter David states "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909" (ref); however, the phrase "conspiracy theory" also appears in Garrison, George Pierce (1906) Westward extension, 1841-1850 Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart LLD Professor in history in Harvard University pg 31(ref) and The American: a national journal: Volumes 19-20 May 10, 1890 Page 67(ref).
Here each individual part of the compound sentence meets the Verifiability requirement: Peter David did indeed make that statement in a RS (a fact) and the phrase "conspiracy theory" is indeed found in the specific reliable sources provided (again a fact). Sure in this case it is better to throw out the original referenced statement but that is not always an option (see Focal infection theory, Rorschach test, Jesus myth theory article for examples of where throw it out does NOT work).
I again can't help but draw parallels between this article's problems and those suffered by the Jesus myth theory article which were finally solved to the point the article is no longer the lightning rod it once was. It turns our solution mirrored that suggested by WP:NOTOR even though no one even knew about it (if we had it might have save us the two years plus of head banging that article produced)
1. Definition problem (the various definitions we have don't really mesh well)
2. Scale problem (Nazis setting the Reichstag fire vs Area 52 being used to research the Roswell spacecraft. There is a mammoth gulf between those two conspiracy theories)
3. Alternative names especially when said conspiracy theory come from the government. The International Communist Conspiracy fostered by US government officials during the 1950s comes to mind. Or how about this little gem: "The Mafia is a secret conspiracy against law and order which will ruthlessly eliminate anyone who stands in the way of its success in any criminal enterprise." (1951 International Association of Chiefs of Police) all the while J Edgar Hoover was saying as the time the Mafia did not exist (Hoover finally admitted the Mafia did exist in the fall of 1958).
We seem to have a Jesus myth theory part two with this article.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:14, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh well. I've quite lost my interest in this particular dispute anyway, we batted it around far longer than was worthwhile. Let's move onward back to the distinctions between conspiracies and conspiracy theories. The usage/terminology section still needs some work and we haven't had a chance to discuss the sources in the bottom thread very thoroughly. John Shandy`talk 15:07, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
As we kicked around in Talk:Conspiracy_theory/Archive_14#Conspiracy_Theories_vs_Theories_of_Conspiracy the source material doesn't do a very good job of separating conspiracy, conspiracy theory, and theory of conspiracy.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:17, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

I think this discussion is a good example why misunderstandings of "verifiability, not truth" hurt Wikipedia: It's a ridiculous argument for excluding a demonstrable early use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" from the article, totally detached from the goal of writing an accurate and unbiased encyclopedia. And it is so convenient for its habitual over-users that they don't even mention the actual problem with the 1850 source (sorry if someone did and I just missed it): The 1850 source (actually, it's about events in 1850, but was printed in 1896) uses the words "conspiracy theory" not in their modern sense, but in the highly specific sense of "the theory that the secession of the [American] South was caused by a conspiracy rather than the genuine will of the people in the South", which, in the right context, could be abbreviated to "the theory that it was caused by a conspiracy", or just "the conspiracy theory". At least in the beginning, this was an example of a mere ad hoc juxtaposition of two words. This juxtaposition apparently became a fixed technical term referring to a very specific theory about a very specific event. This technical term, in turn, may well have given rise through generalisation to the modern term conspiracy theory. But we don't know this.

I don't know whether that kind of information is usually named in dictionaries where it lists early occurrences of a term. One can argue either way, and I just don't know the established conventions -- if there are any. I suspect most if not all editors here are in the same position. This is what makes the claim that the term conspiracy theory was used as early as 1896 original research, and the claim that it was used in 1850 is additionally original research because it tacitly assumes that the words used in 1896 to describe events in 1850 were already used in 1850. Some wikilawyering based on unreasonable fundamentalist interpretations of policy is not the reason why it's original research.

This wikilawyering is bad because it prevents compromise and alienates editors. There is no chance of convincing BruceGrubb that he is wrong as long as he has good reason to believe that he is just dealing with pure wikilawyering based on a perverse desire to prevent accuracy, or maybe just despicable process wonkery. "Verifiability, not truth" is being abused here, as it is so often.It is abused to push through a position without discussing its merits. (Actually, sometimes this is not an abuse and I would argue that this kind of wikilawyering is actually appropriate: When defending mainstream views against severe fringe, this kind of shortcut can prevent acutal productive editors from being stressed to breaking point.)

The obvious solution in this situation appears to me to be a brief discussion in the article of the old theory that the secession of the South was due to a conspiracy. Entire books seem to have been written about this, it's at least close to being a conspiracy theory in the modern sense, and the words "conspiracy theory" were used to describe it at least as early as 1850. It shouldn't get much weight, as it doesn't seem to be mentioned frequently, if at all, in modern sources. But by briefly mentioning this we will give the article depth. I must point out, however, that I haven't fully researched this yet, and might change my mind if I ever do. But it's an obvious, promising start. Hans Adler 17:59, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

The idea is that in respect to the articles, we let the reliable sources (i.e. the experts) establish what counts as fact. In discussion pages, we discuss the reliability of the sources, and here our insights based upon logic and common sense may play a role. If we would allow editors to establish what counts as fact inside the articles, the hell would break open, since anyone could devise original research for what he/she considers to be facts. And then such claims could only be fought with other claims based upon original research, and there would be no way to know who's right and who's wrong. What counts as fact can only be established by the consensus of the experts, there are no facts in lack of such consensus. This is how science and even journalism work: we trust those who have authority, reliability and credentials. We don't trust everybody. What I say about my neighbor is not news, unless a journalist publishes it as news. Hawking's latest papers are not facts, unless consensually accepted by the scientific community. Reliable sources can be wrong, but we cannot allow everybody to establish what counts as fact. We only trust the experts. Editors are not considered experts. If they wish to be considered experts, they have to publish in peer-reviewed, print-publish scientific journals or in mainstream newspapers. Only then their opinion may be included in Wikipedia. Tgeorgescu (talk) 19:32, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
Hans Adler, I disagree with much of your assessment about who did want in terms of lawyering and pushing POV, but there's no point in rehashing the discussion again. But I think your notion of adding a section on the use of the term relative to the secession of the South is a good one, assuming we can find sources that not just use the term, but discuss the term in relation to the civil war. There are some sources that treat the change in usage of the phrase, see for example Knight's work which gives a bare overview. And I think a case can be made for a bit about the attempts to rehabilitate the term in recent years, so we can possibly fashion a well sourced section on changes in usage over time. Does that seem viable? --Nuujinn (talk) 22:23, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
Hans, I take this as a subtle allegation that I, and other people who made arguments similar to mine, wikilawyered to block BruceGrubb from making a contribution by upholding an extreme interpretation of "verifiability, not truth". I have already refuted such an allegation during this discussion on WP_talk:V/First Sentence in which you readily swallowed BruceGrubb's misrepresentation of this debate. I have also refuted the allegation that there has been an abuse or misunderstanding of "verifiability, not truth" in this debate. I really would prefer not to have another go on this merry-go-round, but you seem interested in rehashing all of this, Hans.
  • We didn't exclude a demonstrable early use of the phrase conspiracy theory from the article. What we opposed being introduced into the article was an editor's own analysis of a discrepancy found between reliable sources, which the sources did not explicitly acknowledge or discuss. As a resolution given BruceGrubb's correct and interesting discovery, we removed the statement shown to be in error. We objected to his desired synthesis of primary sources. He didn't see it as synthesis, and probably still doesn't, but feel free to see all of the ongoing "V, not truth" discourse where other editors have independently argued the same points I have made. It was never about BruceGrubb wanting to demonstrate the earliest usage, but rather use his findings to attack another source's credibility by exploiting its error. (Even the most reliable sources contain errors, but we have appropriate ways to deal with them.)
  • What you are suggesting is not what BruceGrubb proposed. My arguments were against BruceGrubb's desired solution. BruceGrubb's desired solution didn't hold up to other editors who participated in the debate here, or the ongoing discussions of "verifiability, not truth" on WP:V's talk.
  • I am interested in someone pursuing Hans's proposal that we introduce content covering an early formulation of a conspiracy theory (given appropriate reliable sources, secondary to the primary sources found by BruceGrubb's commendable search skills). I think that would be a good way to incorporate BruceGrubb's findings, exclude the erroneous source, and simultaneously show an early formulation of "conspiracy theory" all without including any of BruceGrubb's comparative discourse on his discovery.
If you're going to carry on with the (refuted) view that I (who am not at all alone or in the minority with my interpretation of WP:V) have embraced an extreme or fundamentalist interpretation of WP:V or WP:OR, or have wikilawyered to block or discourage BruceGrubb from contributing, then it will be difficult to assume good faith on your part when you assume so little on mine or others' here. John Shandy`talk 22:41, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
Please consult a dictionary on the difference between refutation and contradiction. A contradiction doesn't become a refutation just because the person who contradicts thinks he is right. What has been going on in this thread was wikilawyering. When you look too closely, one can't write any article at all without 'original research', not even by copying it wholesale from a different, published encyclopedia. After all, isn't the decision to copy from Britannica rather than Encarta 'original research'? Many editors who are not regularly involved with high-quality content such as featured articles get this wrong.
An editor (BruceGrubb) wanted to do something that should not be done, at least not in this form. A number of other editors sensed that it should not be done, could not explain why, or did not bother to explain why, and instead used invalid arguments. That's wikilawyering, and it can easily destroy the local climate at an article and any chance of consensus.
Heck, I have often been wrong myself, and I have often realised this after I was confronted with good reasons against my position. However, there have also been a number of cases when I was wrong, and someone told me so but was unable or unwilling to articulate the reason. In such cases it took me a lot longer to revise my position because I had to do all the revising completely on my own, based on scraps of information that happened to come up randomly in the discussion. Hans Adler 23:00, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
Hans Adler, I think discussing the conduct of editors in this venue will not be productive. If you think my reasoning or actions were incorrect or inappropriate, I invite your critique of such on my talk page. If you'd like to discuss how to approach your proposal, I'm game for that here, but I'm not interested in discussing conduct here. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:15, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Nuujinn's comments, so I won't be entertaining your further attempts to beat this dead horse, but I will note that editors such as myself could explain why and did bother to explain why. I didn't simply parrot my arguments. I made my argument, explained and reexplained it in different ways, and exemplified it. I made a solid effort to articulate and demonstrate how BruceGrubb's desired solution was original research by synthesis/extension of sources to do something they don't do. That's not wikilawyering just because someone refuses to grasp the point, especially by selectively interpreting WP:NOR to mean "as long as I have sources, I can construe them however I want." Other editors (some who have not participated on this talk page) have attempted to demonstrate this to BruceGrubb, and to no avail. If you're interested in discussing your proposal, by all means please do as it is interesting. Otherwise, I don't see what you hope to accomplish here. John Shandy`talk 00:25, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Misrepresenting my actual position is not going to salvage this mess and if anything is putting those that do so in danger of violating Wikipedia:Libel. The closest I said regarding the actual article page was "When a statement in even a reliable source can be demonstrated to be doing the equivalent of saying the sky is pink with purple stripes it time to either rephrase the thing or throw it out."--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:44, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

And just how have I misrepresented your position? You wish to point out how a source was wrong, it's somehow not enough for you to accept that we removed the erroneous content: here. You kept supporting this by saying that as long as something was reliably sourced that it wasn't original research (but I kept pointing out that WP:NOR prescribes not only that reliable sources be supplied, but that they be used appropriately). The sources you've supplied are primary and demonstrate an earlier use, but you provided no sources that discuss first recorded usage or that compare the primary findings to what other reliable sources assert is the first recorded usage. You however, have exhibited extremely bizarre behavior by creating illusions of WP:V abuse to use in your discussions on policy talk pages while misrepresenting the debate that took place here. Hans swallowed your misrepresentation hook, line, and sinker on the V/First sentence talk page. In fact, after re-reading through the ongoing "verifiability, not truth" disputes last night, I think it's pretty clear that you and Hans are on a campaign to grasp at talk page debates to further your agendas regarding the "verifiability, not truth" verbiage in the policy. I have made it abundantly clear that "verifiability, not truth" was not used to argue for inclusion of a source's erroneous statement on grounds that it was verifiable. Just as well, "verifiability, not truth" was not used to argue for exclusion of the primary sources found by BruceGrubb. "Verifiability, not truth" was used to argue for exclusion of your original thought as discourse comparing your findings with a source's error. This has been clear to pretty much everyone except yourself, Mystichumwipe, and your partner in "V, not T" disputes, Hans Adler. Lastly, we threw it out, because your suggested phrasing is not in compliance with collective guidance from core content policies and perhaps more importantly, didn't gain consensus here. John Shandy`talk 13:36, 29 September 2011 (UTC)
Here's my take on why this dispute is still going and what I see as the possible misunderstanding which drives it. I think people are wrongly assuming Bruce Grubb wanted to keep the original false statement and just amend the date of the earliest known usage. But is that what he has suggested or attempted to do? I think not.
The basic facts remain that:
1.) we had a false statement in the article regarding the EARLIEST usage of the term and
2.) Bruce Grubb proved it was wrong using verifiable reliable sources.
To John Shandy and others, you seem to be assuming he was trying to keep the erroneous statement but merely change the date to fit the dates from sources discovered by his own research. You have complained quite correctly that that would be original research.
BUT where in this discussion has he suggested he wanted to do that?
Did he attempt to amend the actual article by just changing the date? (If he did I missed that).
Could it be that you are perhaps arguing against a strawman of your own misunderstanding? His suggestion that we "rephrase the thing" does NOT necessarily imply that we rephrase the original false sourced statement. This is where I think the misunderstabding lies. There are of course other ways of inluding the information of his sources. Whether they are considered as primary sources, would be a slightly different discussion.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 07:48, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
With respect, the main reason this is still being discussed is because Bruce Grubb is trying to spin up a controversy where there really isn't one. People have disagreements and misunderstandings, and that is clearly the case here, but characterizing the discussion here as a disaster is excessive dramatic and completely unhelpful. I fundamentally disagree with some of his comments about what constitutes OR, but this issue was settled in the practical sense once the material was removed--and I was the one who removed it. All of the shouting and moaning, selective quoting, and snarky comments in various fora are becoming very tiresome, and I hope he dials it back a few notches. If Bruce Grubb had felt he was being misunderstood, and I think he was misunderstood, a simple "Hey, that's not what I meant, let me try to clarify" would have defused that misunderstanding immediately. And I would suggest the Bruce Grubb misunderstood a good bit, too, with statements like "You are contesting a history professor of freaking Harvard University?!?" when I was contesting nothing at all, and rather suggesting we take a close look at the sources to make sure we could get the text right without violating policy. But I'm done with this discussion, it has gone on way too long and been a complete waste of time. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:04, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
No that is not what we've taken issue with. BruceGrubb did not suggest keeping the statement and amending the date, and I have not assumed that he has. What BruceGrubb put forth as an example is a comparative statement that contrasts a source's error with examples of earlier usage, a contrast which is BruceGrubb's rather than a secondary source's. I am fine with including content from his findings. I'm against synthetic verbiage that would really serve no purpose other than to demonstrate the inaccuracy of source (which is unencyclopedic and which I and others think is unnecessary). The erroneous statement warranted removal. It would be great to include content from the sources BruceGrubb found, and I like Hans's suggested approach (it's only his policy revision agenda I take issue with). If there's been any construction of strawmen, it's mostly taken place in ongoing WP:V policy revision disputes. I don't see this letting up any time soon, despite that Nuujinn appropriately resolved this by removing the explicit date statement from the article (in that section, is it even imperative that we demonstrate the absolute earliest usage? I think an "early usage" is fine, even if it isn't "earliest" which has been everyone's focus). So, I WP:DGAF about this dispute at this point. You guys can do whatever you want with this article, I have other interests on Wikipedia and limited time to devote to them. For the record I do applaud BruceGrubb's findings and his research prowess, even if I do take issue with him over his interpretation of original research. Best wishes, John Shandy`talk 01:42, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
To Nuujinn. For the second time BruceG has again just made clear to you that "regarding the actual article page" his point was "When a statement in even a reliable source can be demonstrated to be doing the equivalent of saying the sky is pink with purple stripes it time to either rephrase the thing or throw it out."
So it is clear that THAT is NOT suggesting adding his own research, therefore an WP:OR infringement has NEVER really applied in this discussion and I again suggest has been a strawman you have been knocking down.
To JohnShandy, being against "synthetic verbiage" is fine but where has that been suggested by BruceG? I think that is an example of the strawman I am suggesting you have been railing against.
Can we not just add some of the early usage dates which he has found verifiable reliable sources for, and forget the "earliest usage" tag which seems to have been the sticking point here.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 09:19, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
Can we use those primary sources? Indeed, we can, and have--thanks to Bruce Grubb having found them, we used them to determine that a statement in the article was incorrect and we removed it. Can we use them to reference statements in the article? Sure, so long as we are very careful not to violate NOR, and in my opinion (and I'm strict in my interpretation of NOR) we simply cannot juxtapose Knight's statement to any statements referenced to primary sources absent a secondary source dealing with those primary sources. We might, for example, be able to say "Early uses of the term include X, Y and Z", but I think that's of limited value and not very interesting. Hans Adler has made, I think, an excellent suggest as a way to approach this, by looking for references treating conspiracy theories related to the Civil War--there should be good secondary sources that discuss "conspiracy theory" in that context. I'm willing to pursue that. Are you? --Nuujinn (talk) 13:32, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
It doesn't help nor move us forward to ignore the misrepresentation of BruceG (who clearly stated way back "...[all] I said was the statement was factually wrong and produced sources that proved that and THAT WAS IT". Subtly suggesting that maybe I'm not willing to "pursue" a certain line of action I suggest is precisely the type of misrepresentation and attitude that has caused the disharmony and lack of movement. Do you agree that YOU did resist and did write 3 weeks ago that "remov[ing]" the incorrect info was "not particularly attractive" to you. In the interests of harmony and constructive co-operation it would perhaps help if you acknowledge that. You also wrote at the same time that "work[ing] in the material without violating OR" was perhaps the way to go. Lets just do that and then that would be the end of this. --Mystichumwipe (talk) 07:23, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
My own difficulty with the article (and thus with JohnShandy and Loremaster's position) came about because of what I saw as the article lead's concentration on the perjorative usage of the 'conspiracy theory' definition without properly acknowledging that there has been for many years and still exists a more neutral definition and usage ALSO. I do wonder if it's just coincidental that this discussion of a reference to a longer history of the neutral usage has now also become a source of contention.--Mystichumwipe (talk) 08:49, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

arbitrary break 1

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────In order, he said that after I had already removed the material and the drama started before that; I'm not being subtle--reading into what I am saying is not a good idea; resist is to strong a word, and generally I am reluctant to simply remove cited material and I see no reason to apologize for that; yes--and I meant it, per what I just said; yes--and I meant that, too, but I'm still not going to advocate violating OR; the perjorative usage is the primary one according to sources, despite attempts to rehabilitate the term, , and this article should reflect thatand this is a fringe area; find some secondary sources that discuss usage prior to 1909 and we'll talk about it. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:09, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

It is clear that BruceGrubb is violating our NOR policy. He might take this comment as an insult, I hope he does not. The reason why we have an NOR policy is because in the whole wide world, there are in fact a great number of topics that cry out for research, or better research — and because many Wikipedians are trained in doing research. There would be no point in having an NOR policy if there was no need for original research, or if none of us were capable of doing original research! The only reason to have a proscription is because people can and want to do the proscribed act! In the case of NOR, the policy is in effect a declaration on our pat that the proper place for original research is universities and other places, just not Wikipedia. As the policy says, or used to say, if you want to do original research (as Bruce Grubb has), by all means, submit your research to a peer-reviewed journal or academic press, the preferred publishers of original research.
It is a shame to see editors waste so much time arguing about something as basic as compliance with a core policy. If Bruce Grubb really wished to be constructive, rather than try to use dominate this page as a venue for self-publication, he would have said something like this: "Despite its title, Knight's Encyclopedia of Conspiracy Theories is not a reliable source for an etymology or dating of the coinage of the phrase "conspiracy theory. Knight is a lecturer in American Studies and his expertise is literature and popular culture. His expertise is not history or philology. Since his expertise is in interpreting literature and popular culture, we should use him for presenting a certain kind of interpretation of particular conspiracy theories. Since his expertise is not in history or philology, we should not look to him as an expert on the history of the term."
Reliable sources and significant views are not simply the views of people with PhDs. We had this debate at the race and intelligence article, I think, when James Watson made a widely reported comment about some group (I forget whether it was women or blacks) being innately less intelligent than others. Some editors thought that because he was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize for his contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA, that made him an expert on anything related to "biological inheritance." But he is not. His Nobel Prize testifies to his expertise in molecular biology and chemistry and was earned through careful focused research. The fact is, academe is highly specialized, and it is not enough just to have a PhD or even a Nobel Prize - it doesn't turn one into the Wizard of Oz. Watson never did any research on the heritability of intelligence and is no more an expert on this than anyone else is. To engage in debates about reliable sources, one needs to be able to recognize what expertise a particular person has, or whatever else might be the source of that person's authority. All one needs to do is look at Knight's university web-page to see that whatever his expertise is (and it includes conspiracy theories - that is, actual conspiracy theories) it does not include the history of language usage. But one needs to understand the way scholarship actually works to understand this. I have no doubt that Bruce Grubb has this understanding. Unfortunately, lots of WP editors do not. That is why they think it is enough simply to provide a citation to a real book or article to justify the inclusion of a view. We all know that most professional researchers and educators do not take Wikipedia very seriously and this is one reason why, in my opinion. I do not man that they have views about our policies, I mean that they can recognize the effect of well-intentioned policies being applied in sloppy and amateurish ways. WP editors don't need to be experts on a topic, but they do need to know enough to recognize real expertise and the limits of one's expertise to apply RS properly. This is the argument that we really should be spending our time on. We shouldn't use Knight as a source for the date of the first use of the phrase, not because our own research has proved him wrong (something a history journal might be interested in publishing), but because he does not have expertise on this particular question. "Verifiability, not truth" is a very useful guide here - but we must understand that "verifiability" does not just mean that we can verify that the view is published; we have to verify that the person whose view it is has sufficient expertise to be an authority with regard to what we are quoting, not the topic 'in general'"Slrubenstein | Talk 12:20, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
well said. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:24, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
While Slrubenstein means well it is clear he doesn't understand what expertise in literature and popular culture really means. Logically expertise in those fields would include their histories (including when a particular word or phrase came into common use, how it is used, etc.) Also if we take this to its logical conclusion then no history is reliable unless it is written by a historian--that is nuts.--BruceGrubb (talk) 17:23, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
What is nuts is believing that a scholar knows all there is to know about their area of interest. If this were so, there would be no need to continue doing research. And yet people who wrote their doctoral dissertation on say Ulysses might, twenty years later, write a new book on he very same novel and you know what? Twenty years later someone else might write another book on some other aspect of the novel. In fact, scholars are not even experts on the general topic of their doctoral dissertations — the PhD. means that the new scholar is deemed qualified to engage in doctoral-level research unsupervised, but there is an obvious expectation that they will go on to have an active careen in which they never stop reading works by others and developing their own analysis of their data. To believe that any scholar has such comprehensive expertise is simply naive. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:47, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
As with so many editors here you missed the point I was making. Most histories are written by non historians. By the logic you presented above Pallasch, Thomas J. DDS; MS, and Michael J. Wahl, DDS (2000) "The Focal Infection Theory: Appraisal and Reappraisal", Journal of the California Dental Association article is totally unreliable for the history of focal infection theory because Pallasch is NOT a historian. As I said before that position is just plain nuts.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:14, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Dude, you are the one who said Knight was wrong. my point is that despite his degree he does not know everything about his area of specialization. You prove my point. But now you say I am wrong. Please make up your mind, he is right, he is wrong, he is right again. That's nuts! Slrubenstein | Talk 18:24, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, when so many editors misunderstand you, you might consider what the common denominator to those misunderstanding is.
I understand expertise in Literature, and I can tell you that expertise in etymology is relatively rare. And surprisingly enough, we do generally regard histories written by historians as more reliable than those written by non-historians, as odd as that may seem. Non-historians do write histories, but most of them are not reliable, that is why we look for publications in peer reviewed journals and university presses as signs that they are reliable. I assume the Journal of the California Dental Association is such a journal, and that would be an important factor. And no one's arguing that such an article is unreliable, so you're using a strawman to push your agenda. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:28, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Despite writing that its a "shame to see editors waste so much time arguing about something as basic as compliance with a core policy" Slrubenstein has ironically reignited and effectively taken us back into what I see as an irrelevant argument where I think the "common denominator" appears to be male(?) egos merely battling it out for victory and supremacy on wiki core policy;-). C'mon guys...
How about instead we just follow this good suggestion of Nuujinn's:"work[ing] in the material without violating OR"
and try and apply his(?) suggestion - given as an example - that "we might... be able to say "Early uses of the term include X, Y and Z".
Maybe we should just start with that.... just for the time being?--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:28, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn's suggestion was that we "find some secondary sources that discuss usage prior to 1909". Do you have any? Jayjg (talk) 00:16, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
No I don't. Nuujinn also wrote:
"Can we use those primary sources? Indeed, we can, ...Can we use them to reference statements in the article? Sure, so long as we are very careful not to violate NOR, ...We might, for example, be able to say 'Early uses of the term include X, Y and Z'".
I support this solution of his to this discussion. Do you have a problem with this suggestion based upon wiki policy infringement? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mystichumwipe (talkcontribs) 08:12, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

Better defintion

"Conspiracy theory--a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means" (Pigden, Charles R (2007) "Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom" Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology - Volume 4, Issue 2, Edinburgh University Press pp. 222 DOI: 10.1353/epi.2007.0017)

A slight variant of this definition appear in David Coady's Conspiracy theories: the philosophical debate Ashgate Publishing on Page 140, Oded Balaban's Interpreting conflict Peter Lang on Page 66, and Jane Parish's The age of anxiety: conspiracy theory and the human sciences Wiley-Blackwell page 94.

We have a primary source and three secondary source backing it up. I say we go with this definition for the lead per WP:LEADCITE.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:48, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Recent edits (October, 2011)

There is text in our article implying that "conspiracy theory" gained an expanded meaning due to (or 'during') "the political upheaval of the 1960s", when the source I am reading only mentions the "mid-60s" as a date, with no context about 'political upheaval'. Am I looking at the wrong source? I've temporarily tagged that in the article while I check further. I've also removed the wikilinked "pejorative" word that was cited to a source that did not use that word. Xenophrenic (talk) 18:49, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

None of this explaines why you choose to ignore WP:LEADCITE which expressly states "The lead must conform to verifiability and other policies" and through our four high quality references.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:46, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, your recent edit might appear to push your personal view of what the lede should be. Please discuss the edit made by Xenophrenic. --Nuujinn (talk) 09:56, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Bruce, I didn't ignore WP:LEADCITE, I simply read all of it instead of just part of the first sentence. As for the "four high quality references" to which you refer, do you mean the citations in the immediately preceding section entitled "Better definition"? I haven't yet read past the first example where Pigden is cited but the wording is from his definition of "conspiracy", not "conspiracy theory". That appears to me to be problematic. Also, does your wholesale deletion of the previous lede indicate disagreement with what it, in whole or in part, conveys? It appears to me to be an accurate summary supported by cited material in the body of the article. Xenophrenic (talk) 11:44, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Xenophrenic, the lede used to be longer, and we trimmed it back after some long strong discussions, you can see that in the archives if you're interested in the background. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:31, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
”[A] conspiracy theory is simply a theory that posits a conspiracy – a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means.” (Pigden).--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:01, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, please stop inserting a version of the lede that makes selective use of often irrelevant sources, and which doesn't accurately summarize either the article or reality. Jayjg (talk) 01:06, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm curious why you guys are reverting him. His version seems better--it contains the basic sense of what's in the current version plus adding in the other definition which used to be there but which has been changed, but which most of the article is really about... what am I missing? Mystylplx (talk) 02:53, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
He's cherry-picked sources to support his attempts to rehabilitate conspiracy theories. The term is generally used to indicate theories that nefarious cabals are secretly controlling or guiding significant world events. BruceGrubb wants to "normalize" the term and remove its negative connotations. Thus, he has attempted to find sources indicating that a "conspiracy theory" is merely a theory about a conspiracy - and because there have been many real conspiracies throughout history, rehabilitating the term "conspiracy theory" means that a conspiracy theory is no longer mere twaddle, but something that should be taken seriously. In reality, however, the vast majority of reliable sources, including those used in this article, view conspiracy theories as nonsense at best, and a symptom of mental illness at worst. Jayjg (talk) 03:44, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
On the contrary, BruceG merely uses sources that refer to the more inclusive, general and more neutral definition and usage. As neutrality is a core principle of this online encyclopedia, I would have thought that would be welcomed way to start the article. That by some it ISN'T rather shows that others here who have a problem with this approach to a lede definition are the ones who are pushing a point of view and are therefore more in breach of wiki policy than BruceG.
The more general and inclusive definition and usage of the term is the currently accepted definition dictionary in the most reputable current dictionaries (as has been demonstrated here a few times). So he is NOT "rehabilitating" anything. It is others here who are pushing a more recent perjorative definition, which would be OK if they weren't also doing so to the exclusion of the older and more neutral usage. IT is THAT which goes against current consensus in the world of definitions, and therefore of wiki policy. [6]. You in particular Jayjg, at first denied that there even was a dual definition and accused me of inventing that. This despite me providing reputable reliable sources that prove that to be true, and despite the fact that Wiktionary itself points two definitions. And guess which one comes first and is the primary definition in Wiktionary ;-)? [7]--Mystichumwipe (talk) 06:51, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
I can't see how you call it cherry-picked. It looks like he has lots of sources. And his edit included both ideas on the meaning of the term. It was clearly superior to the current version. Is it possible he's being reverted simply because some here don't like him? Even if you disagree with some of his past edits I'm talking about this particular one--isn't the goal to make the best article? And since his version (in this particular case) was clearly better I say put it back. Mystylplx (talk) 10:02, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
Neutrality doesn't mean giving equal weight to all of the views, and it's pretty clear that common usage is the more pejorative meaning, so that is the usage we should have expressed in the lede, although we can certainly give a tip of the hat to the notion that that usage is disputed by some. We're not a dictionary, and dictionaries are not good sources for what we do here. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:40, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Please stop reverting the lede until there is at least some consensus that the lede should be reverted. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:52, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree with Nuujinn. It would be absurd for an article on the meaning, history and usage of Conspiracy theory to start by using a quaint definition that completely misses the point of what the term actually means (for a clue about that meaning, see the examples at Category:Conspiracy theories). Johnuniq (talk) 11:17, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
The constant appeal to a consenusus here whilst ignoring the consensus of most all current dictionary definitions is a curious one. Can you defend it Johnuniq, with something other than your own personal opinion? Sure this is an encyclopedia and not a dictionary, but that is to miss the point. Look at the discussion of the wiktionary page. There you will see the exact same argument that BruceG, Mystylplx, and myself are presenting has the consensus support. Look at this e.g. To give you an example of the usage of the term "conspiracy theory" that is not pejorative... many people believe that the Freemasons planned the Boston Tea Party in one of their meetings (the facts do not bear this out, which explains why it remains a theory and is not considered "accepted fact" by historians... nevertheless it is an oft repeated claim). This is usually presented in a way that praises the Freemasons for doing so (at least it is if the person talking about this theory is an American). It is nevertheless called a "conspiracy theory".
If we follow the "perjorative only" definition that you three are pushing, then in cases like this we would have to go down the road of resorting to the unconsenus and (to be generous) weak difference claimed here previously between "conspiracy theory" (perjorative) and "theory of conspiracy" (not perjorative).--Mystichumwipe (talk) 11:59, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
I've asked an administrator to look at this article and the removal of reliable sourced material despite what WP:LEADCITE says. I have also kicked this up to Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#Conspiracy_theory_definition with the actual quotes.--BruceGrubb (talk) 19:41, 28 October 2011 (UTC)


It's not the case that a conspiracy theory is any theory about a conspiracy. Conspiracy theory, both in popular understanding and in the academic literature, is a particular thing. Nuujinn's version better describes the consensus among academics and researchers. Tom Harrison Talk 13:03, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
"But if a conspiracy theory is simply a theory that posits a conspiracy – a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means – and if a conspiracy theorist is someone who subscribes to a conspiracy theory, then the conventional wisdom itself is not just suspect, but obviously absurd. A theory, in my book, is a more or less organized body of propositions designed to explain some alleged facts. Theories can be true or false, well or badly confirmed, and when they are sufficiently well-confirmed, they can rise to the dignity of knowledge. Indeed in common parlance we can even talk about proving theories, though this is a usage that would shock true Popperians. Thus to call something a theory is not to suggest that it is tentative, speculative or unproven, though many theories are, of course, tentative, speculative or unproven. "(Pigden, Charles R (2007) "Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom" Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology Volume 4, Issue 2, Edinburgh University Press pp. 222 DOI: 10.1353/epi.2007.0017.)
"What is a conspiracy theory? The discussion so far suggests that a conspiracy theory is simply a conspiratorial explanation, and that an explanation is conspiratorial if it postulates a group of agents working together in secret, often, though perhaps not always, for a sinister purpose. This definition is consistent with our intuitive responses to many cases. It fits paradigmatic conspiracy theories, such as those according to which Lee Harvey Oswald not acting alone kill John F. Kennedy and those according to which James Earl Ray did not acting alone kill Martin Luther King." (Coady, David Conspiracy theories: the philosophical debate Ashgate Publishing Page 2) later on page 140 Coady reiterates that at it most basic level a conspiracy theory is the theory of a conspiracy.
Balaban, Oded (2005) Interpreting conflict: Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at Camp David II and Beyond Peter Lang Page 66 makes a distinction between the Conspiracy mentality and Conspiracy theories which using Pipes as an example says many authors do not make. Parish, Jane (2001) The age of anxiety: conspiracy theory and the human sciences Wiley-Blackwell page 94 points out the same problem.
Ignoring these scholarly articles claiming that Conspiracy theory is "simply a theory that posits a conspiracy – a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means" IMHO shows POV pushing and it needs to stop.--BruceGrubb (talk) 19:14, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
I see those. That's what make it look like cherry picking. No reasonable person could survey the literature and conclude that "conspiracy theory" was any theory involving a conspiracy. This looks like the result of searching for and then high-lighting references to support a pre-existing view. It has the effect of slanting the article and misinforming the reader. Tom Harrison Talk 23:20, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
(ec)BruceGrubb, I don't think we ignoring them. In my case, I disagree with you because:
  • I think you're placing undue weight in the lede for the "non-pejorative" usage. I would point out to you and Mystichumwipe that the current lede is very simple and very neutral, and does not take a position one way or another on the issue. In regard to scholarly sources, see [8] (which is one of the sources you're using--although the page is obscured in the preview, the subsequent pages discuss various of the "pejorative" usages), [9], [10], [11] (in which the author notes in a footnote that most philosophers do not treat conspiracy theories in popular culture because they are "silly and without merit"), [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17]. That's just a quick pass through google books--it seems very clear to me that the common usage of the term "conspiracy theory" does indeed predominate in scholarly works.
  • After discussions on this issue we came to rough consensus to simplify the lede, and you're apparently refusing to either accept that or really discuss the issue, and are simply pushing very hard for your particular version.
  • In your version of the lede, you're presenting the definition as a quotation, and none of the sources use that exact phrase. I believe that to do is wholly inappropriate--I would suggest that you've synthesized a definition, and working the definitions as you're doing borders or crosses into OR, since you're using these as primary sources to define the topic yourself.
I don't wish to be rude about any of this--you've done a significant amount of valuable research and we are all thankful for that, but I'm very much afraid that you are too narrowly focussed on the topic, and may be missing the bigger picture. We're here to summarize, not analyze. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:55, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry but it looks like you are just willfully ignoring sources when you disagree with what they say and calling it "cherry picking." It looks to me like there are at least as many sources that use the broader definition as use the narrower one, but if you can just throw out the one's you don't like under the accusation of "cherry picking" then you can write anything you want and we might as well do away with the requirement for reliable sources at all. Mystylplx (talk) 23:58, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
It would be helpful for those of us trying to follow the discussion if people would say whether they believe (a) that the primary meaning of "conspiracy theory" is merely a theory that a conspiracy exists (with no pejorative overtones), or (b) that since some sources provide that definition it should be placed first in the lead. Of course our beliefs are not relevant for the article content, but it is confusing to not know whether comments are made on the basis of a misunderstanding or a desire to be scrupulous with regards to some policy. Johnuniq (talk) 00:19, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Let me apologize for being long winded in advance. Mystylplx, I cannot disagree with three of the four sources that BruceGrubb would like to us in the lede because I cannot see them, and if I could, I don't know that I would. That being said, the one I can see does not contain the phrase that appears to be quoted, and in one of the three, I can see that the following pages do not, in fact, support that phrase. I do not think we should throw away any of the sources presented, but I am very concerned about the issues of due weight in their presentation (so I'm falling into Johnuniq's scrupulous in regard to policy camp). BG has said numerous times that the lede should define the topic, and I think that is correct, but I find the notion that we define the title of the article, and then confine our use of sources to fit that definition problematic--it seems to me that that puts the cart before the horse. My proposal was and remains that we use as plain and simple a lede as we can manage until we hash out the content issues in the body of the article, and having come to consensus, then return to the lede as an accurate summation of what we have written, and in that manner define the topic. As for what I believe, when I look for sources, what I see is the general acknowledgement in most sources that the common modern usage is pejorative, even in those sources which argue also for the non-pejorative meaning. There is a clear thread amoung the sources that show that some in the field are trying to rehabilitate the term, and that there are some modern non-pejorative usages. And as I've said, I believe a section could be worked out to treat the history of the phrase if we can find appropriate sources, and have suggested that we pursue the course suggested by Hans Adler in looking at the US Civil war history vis a vis theories of conspiracy. I'm still game for that, but nobody seems particularly interested in doing that.
Now, in regard to the current lede "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", in the case of a real conspiracy, the lede works just fine. Let us say that tomorrow morning the NYT publishes secret records gained by wikileaks that conclusively prove that Kennedy was killed by a CIA funded team of cubans with ties to the mafia. The conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination would still have "explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization" and also "that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public", it would just be that the theory would have been proven to be a fact. There's simply nothing in the current lede that is itself pejorative in regard to anyone's belief about whether conspiracy theories in general or in specific cases are true or not as the common thread to all the definitions is the notion that the motive force behind an event is largely unknown or covert. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:50, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, the fact that two of the sources are quoted at length throws out the whole "cannot see them" BS and the fact that you cannot see they raises serious question of any reverts you are doing.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:01, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps, but it could also mean that I regard context as very important--as I said, the bits I see don't really support the phrase you want prominently placed in the lede. And I disagree with the latter point, since it is my position that the lede I'm trying to keep in place is one that was put in place after we reached rough consensus. Consensus can change, but I do not think that has happened yet. Perhaps it would help if you and others could specifically address what you believe is wrong with that version? --Nuujinn (talk) 11:59, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
If you can't read the references then you can't judge context now can you? The logic you are presenting keeps falling apart and these scholarly sources show that "Conspiracy theory" has a very broad definition.--BruceGrubb (talk) 04:16, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not really opposed to the current lead, I just think BruceGrubbs is better. It contains both ideas. Plus the language " ...largely unknown to the general public..." is just weird--most conspiracy theories that I can think of are pretty well known. I have nothing against either lead--I just think one is clearly superior. Also I do think it is often used as a pejorative and that should be mentioned. Most conspiracy theories are pretty kooky and there are reliable sources that define it that way (as well as the more general meaning) and the lead should mention that. It should mention both. There are reliable sources to support both. Mystylplx (talk) 19:56, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Right and as pointed out in Talk:Conspiracy_theory/Archive_15#Conspiracy_theory-definitions_and_meaning some authors (like Keeley) make a distinction between conspiracy theories in general and Unwarranted Conspiracy Theories (UCT). The idea that the Nazi set the Reichstag fire is a conspiracy theory while the idea the Moon landing was a hoax is an unwarranted conspiracy theory and the article fails to make the distinction between the two.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:13, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Mystyplx, keeping WP:LEDE in mind, which part(s) of the article do you think BruceGrubb's lede summarizes? Jayjg (talk) 23:41, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

It defines the topic better and ironically does a better job summarizing the article than the current lead due to the inclusion of "but it is also used as a derogatory term to denote ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories." Mystylplx (talk) 01:51, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
I would also comment that Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#Conspiracy_theory_definition has been in favor of the version I am presenting and not the one that has no references.
It's not accurate to imply the opinions on the notice board are in favor of your version, nor does your version accurately summarize either the article or the consensus among academics and researchers. I've restored the better version. Tom Harrison Talk 12:47, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I concur. Collect made a wording suggestion for your version, all other comments are from editor who have been involved here. No uninvolved editors have commented in favor of either version, so far as I can see. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:36, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
I concur with Tom harrison and Nuujinn. Mystyplx, which section(s) of the article do you think BruceGrubb's lede summarizes? Please name the sections. Jayjg (talk) 00:37, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
The entire article. Clearly. Read the article (some of you may have gotten too close to it and haven't given it an overview recently) and then ask yourself which of these two summarizes the article better--

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.

Or

A conspiracy theory in its broadest sense is "simply a theory that posits a conspiracy--a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means." but it is also used as a derogatory term to denote ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories.

Most of the article is about the meaning in the derogatory or "whacko" sense. The current lead doesn't summarize that at all. But some of the article does deal with the "broader" sense of the term. BruceGrubb's lead summarizes both. I think the wording could be tweaked but even as it stands I think it's clearly better than the current lead. If we can make it better still with some tweaks then so much the better. Mystylplx (talk) 04:07, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
I mean seriously, let's look at the current lead. First we have

A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization

How does that differ from

A conspiracy theory in its broadest sense is "simply a theory that posits a conspiracy--a secret plan on the part of some group to influence events by partly secret means.?

So the first parts are essentially the same except in wording. But the current lead continues

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.

OK, that's not defining a conspiracy theory, that's defining conspiracism. Perhaps there should be a separate article on conspiracism, but this is not that article, and conspiracism is certainly not the same as a conspiracy theory. BruceGrubbs version is clearer and more accurate

but it is also used as a derogatory term to denote ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories.

Mystylplx (talk) 04:28, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
As expected, you were unable to name the sections being summarized - because, of course, BruceGrubb's new lede doesn't actually summarize much of the article. Jayjg (talk) 05:22, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
On the contrary, the very fact you asked me "which sections" it summarizes indicates you don't grasp the concept of summarizing the entire article. It summarizes the article better than the current lead. Which sections does the current lead summarize? Mystylplx (talk) 17:33, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
But we already know that BruceGrubb's lead doesn't summarize the entire article; the first and second sections, "Usage" and "Types", discuss the term in its common/negative/pejorative sense. So too do the fourth, fifth and sixth sections, "Controversy", "Conspiracism" and "Political Use". These five sections comprise over 95% of the article text. It is only the third section, "Proven conspiracies and conspiracy theories" – the one inserted by BruceGrubb – that discusses the term in the way that BruceGrubb's lede does. Furthermore, BruceGrubb's lede cites five different sources which are not cited elsewhere in the article, so we know that the material in it is not found elsewhere in the article. So, the question remains, what exactly does BruceGrubb's lede summarize? It appears that it summarizes perhaps 5% of the text, and even then, uses different sources. Jayjg (talk) 17:48, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
It appears that you've read neither BruceGrubbs nor the current lead. BruceG's lead mentions both the pejorative and non-pejorative senses. The current lead only mentions the non-pejorative sense. As you stated, the article talks about both senses. BruceG's lead talks about both senses. The current lead only one. Mystylplx (talk) 18:18, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
On contrary, I've read both leads, and BruceGrubb's starts by emphasizing the tiny-minority non-pejorative sense, and then provides the common use as a minority alternative. This is quite the opposite of both the article and reality; the article itself devotes 95% of the text to discussing the term in its common/negative/pejorative sense. Furthermore, BruceGrubb's lede cites 5 sources used nowhere else in the article. There is no consensus for this obviously inappropriate change; rather than making inaccurate comments about me, please address the actual issues raised in my posts. Jayjg (talk) 19:12, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
I really don't think you have read it. The lead you keep reverting back to is the non-derogatory meaning. BruceG's is the one that includes both the derogatory and non-derogatory meaning. Your arguments are good, but they are good arguments in favor of BruceG's version, not the one you keep reverting back to. Mystylplx (talk) 19:28, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
My comments refer specifically and accurately to this lede, which BruceGrubb has now inserted (with minor variations) seven times, as part of a weeks-long slow edit-war.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24]. BruceGrubb's lede starts by giving a tiny-minority definition of the phrase, which is only discussed in 5% of this article (in a section inserted by BruceGrubb), and only then follows with a mention of the normal usage. It contains citations to five sources, none of which are used elsewhere in the article. That is the lede I have been talking about, and it still contains the flaws. Now, stop speculating about what I have or haven't read – in fact, stop talking about me at all – and actually address the points I've raised. Jayjg (talk) 20:15, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Arbitrary break

  • Xenophrenic, the lede used to be longer, and we trimmed it back after some long strong discussions, you can see that in the archives if you're interested in the background. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:31, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

My first involvement with this article was with this edit back in May of this year. My edit, at first glance, would appear to ally me with BruceGrubb's position, as I removed the "pejorative" descriptor and softened the frequency of phrase use to describe irrational theories from "almost exclusively" to merely "frequently". However, my edit was strictly motivated by the requirement to accurately convey the information in our cited sources at that time, not to change the complexion of the "conspiracy theory" phrase. I came to this article after a discussion arose on another article where it was asserted that referring to a living person as a "conspiracy theorist" was "defamatory" and "pejorative". A few days later, the lede paragraph was changed to this single sentence:

"Conspiracy theory" is a fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by exceptionally powerful and cunning conspirators to achieve a malevolent end.[7][8][9]

...without immediate objection, so I back-burnered this article.

My "personal", informed (based on the numerous sources above cited by all parties) position about the phrase is that contemporary use of the phrase is almost universally applied to irrational theories and speculation. It definitely carries with it an immediate negative connotation, but I am not convinced the phrase meets the definition of "derogatory" or "pejorative", anymore than the phrase "convicted felon" does. It is simply a descriptive phrase that has established over time a negative meaning. (Perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, and getting bogged down in semantics.) Anyway, the recent arguments above appear designed to highlight and elevate non-negative use of the phrase. I decided to take a closer look at some of the sources cited in support of those arguments. This one from from John Ayto's "20th Century Words":

conspiracy theory n (1909) the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties. Originally a neutral term, but more recent usage (dating from around the mid 1960s) is often somewhat derogatory, implying a paranoid tendency to see the hand of some malign covert agency in any unexplained event. The derivative conspiracy theorist is first recorded in the 1960s — Example — 1975 New York Times: Conspiracy theorists contend that two of the men have strong resemblances to E. Howard Hunt Jr. and Frank A Sturgis, convicted in the Watergate break-in.

That book has the phrases divided into individual chapters, one chapter for each decade. "Conspiracy theory" is in the 1900-1909 chapter, and conveys to me that for the last 50+ years, the phrase carries the "paranoia" connotation. The introduction to this book makes it clear that it gives definitions that are set "against their historical background" — basically contrasting possible earliest usage with today's usage. I can see citing this source in support of conveying that the phrase had a neutral meaning 100+ years ago and no longer does, but I do not see why it is cited in support of "but it is also used as a derogatory term to denote ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories." -- when there are much better sources supporting that. Oh, and as an aside for those involved in the "is 1909 the earliest usage" debate, the introduction also says this, "Each entry word has a date after it. I cannot emphasize too strongly that this represents the earliest date from which a printed or other written record of the word exists in the Oxford English Dictionary or its files—nothing more and nothing less. It is not meant to suggest that the word necessarily 'entered' the language in that year."

I also took a deeper look at Pigden's article in the Episteme journal — which not coincidentally cites David Coady, who also has an article in that very same issue of the journal, and Coady's article cites Pigden — both Pigden and Coady are cited by BruceGrubb. That baffles me, since Pigden and Coady, both admitted defenders of "conspiracists", still concede that the common, popular and most accepted definition of "Conspiracy Theory" is "an irrational theory". You can view their whole articles, not just cherry-picked quotes lacking context, if you or your library have access to Project MUSE (e.g., [25]) From the introductions to their articles, it is obvious that their opinions are outliers, and admittedly conflict with "conventional wisdom":

The conventional wisdom on conspiracy theories is that they ought not to be believed. To call something "a conspiracy theory" is to suggest that it is intellectually suspect; to call someone "a conspiracy theorist" is to suggest that he is irrational, paranoid or perverse.1 Often the suggestion seems to be that conspiracy theories are not just suspect, but utterly unbelievable, too silly to deserve the effort of a serious refutation. --Pigden
Conspiracy theorists are generally assumed to be irrational. This assumption is so deeply entrenched in our culture that when people learn that I defend conspiracy theorists against a variety of criticisms, they often assume that I am eo ipso defending irrationality. I am not. Neither of course am I denying that there are irrational conspiracy theorists. --Coady

Why are such folks being cited to define our article WP:LEDE, rather than cited in support of the minority-view definition of the phrase that they espouse, somewhere in the body of the article? I haven't checked the other citations yet, but I see that Bruce has added more to the list below ... and I have to be frank and say that I'm sensing a trend in how these sources are being selected, and also in how the quotes are being extracted from those sources. Xenophrenic (talk) 09:37, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Why are such folks being cited to define our article lead, rather than cited in support of the minority-view definition of the phrase that they espouse, somewhere in the body of the article? I've been wondering that for some time. Thank you Xenophrenic for bringing further clarity to the context of the content in these sources. Quite frankly, this all began with the effort to have fringe removed as a descriptor of conspiracy theories (in actuality, it's quite a fair paraphrasing of what mainstream sources have said in describing conspiracy theories). Jayjg pointed out several months ago that efforts to revise the lead of Conspiracy theory and remove fringe followed from attempts to label the official account of 9/11 as a conspiracy theory in the 9/11 conspiracy theories article. Although we must continue to assume good faith, these past several months have all felt like a movement to legitimize such theories. John Shandy`talk 16:59, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Again I point to Keeley who makes distinction between conspiracy theories in general and what he calls Unwarranted Conspiracy Theories (UCT). The idea that the Nazis set the Reichstag fire is a conspiracy theory supported by both Communist propagandists and serious scholars (Davidson, Eugene (2004) The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler University of Missouri Press pg 457)
I have to agree - a very specific minority view is being used (and often distorted) to try to rehabilitate the phrase "conspiracy theory" - in the case of Mystichumwipe, his activity at the 9/11 conspiracy theory and Criticism of Holocaust denial pages make it clear why he wants the term rehabilitated. In the case of BruceGrubb, the motivations aren't so clear to me, though I suspect the Jesus myth theory has something to do with it. Jayjg (talk) 05:22, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
It doesn't seem to be a "minority" view except in those circles where conspiracy theory is always used in a derogatory manner rather than in its original neutral manner. Martin Parker and Jane Parish's The age of anxiety: conspiracy theory and the human sciences is one of the few works that actually tries to differentiate between conspiracy theory and theories about conspiracies but it has no "smoking gun" quotes that nails down the difference.
John Ayto's "20th Century Words" noted that the term "conspiracy theory" was a neutral term that being in the mid mid 1960s has been more often used in a derogatory manner implying a paranoia mentality to see covert operations in nearly any event.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:23, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
Finding a very small number of tiny-minority views on what the term means (or what the author wishes it meant) will not change the reality, majority usage, or what this article actually discusses. Nor will promoting this tiny-minority view of the term's meaning rehabilitate or lend credence to 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, or the Jesus myth theory. Jayjg (talk) 19:19, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────These are non sequitur and excluded middle comparisons.

  • Right after 9/11 there were dozens of conspiracy theories ranging from Al Qaeda, to some home grown bag of nuts in the Timothy McVeigh mold, to the annoying popular "the government did it"--the Al Qaeda conspiracy theory was the one that turned out to be true.
  • Holocaust denial has the same basic problem all huge conspiracies theories do--too large a scope. This is not the problem with small conspiracies theories such as the Mob killing Jimmy Hoffa and burying him in an unknown location or modest sized one such as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy.
  • What the Jesus myth theory even is is quite frankly a mess. The literature is a confusing mismash of conflicting or vague definitions with no clear direction for WP:Weight. Even the more extreme fringe philosophical myth idea can point to the John Frum cargo cult as proof that their ideas are not totally off in tin foil hat land.

I would recommend watching Frank Capra's Why We Fight series as it presents what is now known to be a conspiracies theory (the Tanaka Memorial) as fact. The Cold War produced some really wild conspiracies theories--many of them taken seriously by the US government much to the chagrin of later generations. The CIA ESP experiments was a 20 year trip into something that today would be considered to be the ravings of someone hiding in their basement so the black helicopters can't get them.--BruceGrubb (talk) 01:20, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

Ad hominem = fallacious argument. @ Jayjg: Stick with the discussion, and not personalities. You imply a motive against me based on supposition only. Hmmm? Trying to discredit an argument by trying to discredit someone personally by innuendo and smear seems like a low trick. Is that in accord with core wiki policy? And HOW does that further your argument regarding the lead? The subject of this article DOES have a twin usage and definition. BG has provided reams of references for this. This really is an undisputable fact. No-one is trying to "rehabilitate the phrase". Just define it properly in accordance with the article. Whether its 5% or whatever the lead has to reflect that. Sheesh! Plus look at the definition and the discussion under wiktionary of this term. The consensus reached there is contrary to what you are arguing for here. Are you going to imply that all those who have been involved there are also all wacko, holocaust deniers?! :-0 The argument is whether this article should reflect the current dual definition and usage in the lead. Let's just keep it to that, please. --Mystichumwipe (talk) 16:34, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
    • ^ "conspiracy theory - definition". Macmillan Dictionary. accessed August 24, 2011.
    • ^ "conspiracy theory". Dictionary.com. accessed August 24, 2011.
    • ^ Floyd Rudmin (April, 2003). "Conspiracy Theory As Naive Deconstructive History". Retrieved 2011-08-24. 'Conspiracy theory' is usually used as a pejorative label, meaning paranoid, nutty, marginal, and certainly untrue. The power of this pejorative is that it discounts a theory by attacking the motivations and mental competence of those who advocate the theory. By labeling an explanation of events 'conspiracy theory', evidence and argument are dismissed because they come from a mentally or morally deficient personality, not because they have been shown to be incorrect.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
    • ^ "conspiracy theory - definition". Macmillan Dictionary. accessed August 24, 2011.
    • ^ "conspiracy theory". Dictionary.com. accessed August 24, 2011.
    • ^ Floyd Rudmin (April, 2003). "Conspiracy Theory As Naive Deconstructive History". Retrieved 2011-08-24. 'Conspiracy theory' is usually used as a pejorative label, meaning paranoid, nutty, marginal, and certainly untrue. The power of this pejorative is that it discounts a theory by attacking the motivations and mental competence of those who advocate the theory. By labeling an explanation of events 'conspiracy theory', evidence and argument are dismissed because they come from a mentally or morally deficient personality, not because they have been shown to be incorrect.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
    • ^ "Merriam-Webster: conspiracy theory". Retrieved 2011-06-04. a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators 
    • ^ 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. 
    • ^ 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.