“Rethinking Conspiracy” by Shawn Hamilton
The terms “conspiracy theorist” and “conspiracy nut” are used frequently to discredit a perceived adversary using emotional rather than logical appeals. It’s important for the sake of true argument that we define the term “conspiracy” and use it appropriately, not as an ad hominem attack on someone whose point of view we don’t share.
According to my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the word “conspiracy” derives from the Latin “conspirare,” which means literally “to breathe together” in the sense of agreeing to commit a crime. The primary definition is “planning and acting together secretly, especially for a harmful or unlawful purpose, such as murder or treason.”
It was in this sense that Mark Twain astutely observed, “A conspiracy is nothing but a secret agreement of a number of men for the pursuance of policies which they dare not admit in public.”
Conspiracies are common. If they weren’t, police stations would not need conspiracy units to investigate and prosecute crimes such as “conspiracy to import cocaine” or any other collusion on the part of two or more people to subvert the law.
Unfortunately, too many people smugly chide “conspiracy theories” as if they imagine that such a derisive characterization reflects superior intellect—whether or not they know anything about the issue in question. It’s a pitiful display of ego inflation and intellectual dishonesty, yet it appears to be a common approach preferred by those either short on information and critical thinking skills or harboring a hidden agenda.