Label someone as a “conspiracy theorist” and you might as well be calling that person a “wacko,” “nut job,” or any other phrase that questions his or her rationality.
Of course, depending on who you talk to, you might find out that this is all part of the biggest conspiracy yet.
In his book Conspiracy Theory in America, Lance deHaven Smith maintains that the phrase “conspiracy theory” only took on the negative implications after a successful conspiracy by the Central Intelligence Agency to discredit conspiracy theorists.
According to deHaven Smith it was CIA Document 1035-960 that outlined the CIA’s concern about the growing number of people who did not believe the Warren Commission’s conclusions concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As a result, the CIA began a systematic plan to discredit such skeptics by influencing the media to portray these individuals as being delusional. Prior to this conspiracy, deHaven Smith maintains, “conspiracy theory” was a completely neutral term.
This theory has been picked up and expounded upon by people who proudly call themselves “conspiracy theorists.” There’s only one problem with it: it just isn’t true. Robert Blaskiewicz, a professor at Stockton University, looked into the matter and discovered that the phrase “conspiracy theory” dates back at least to 1870, and even then it had a negative connotation, being used to describe a theory that was well beyond established evidence.
So is conspiracy theory a conspiracy theory? Did conspirators conspire to create a theory about conspiracy theorists? Do you have a theory about this? Maybe you, too, are a conspiracy theorist.