Do your friends call you a conspiracy theorist? Well, you’re in good company. It turns out that even The New York Times appreciates a good conspiracy.


Lazy and imitative journalists and academics like to bandy around the term “conspiracy theory.” It is a one-size-fits-all putdown. But those who are unafraid of the real world know that conspiracies happen, and not only on House of Cards.

Conspiracies are prosecuted every day in courthouses throughout the land. As for outfits like the FBI and the CIA, journalism’s job is to continuously forget all the abuses and outright illegalities perpetrated over the years by these institutions, and to treat their claims with respect and trust.

The use of “conspiracy theory” is highly selective. When powerless people say that the CIA is doing something like illegally entering others’ computers, they are conspiracy theorists. But when Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says it, she’s…well, a senator condemning an illegal act by the Central Intelligence Agency.


Sometime back, we ran a piece here in response to an op-ed in the New York Times that poked fun at those of us who don’t trust everything the authorities say about the Boston Marathon bombing. (We’ve had a few more things to say on that subject, such as this and this.)

Now, we’re pleased to present a little graphic that our friends at SwayWhat put together to illustrate a point: 63 percent of Americans believe at least one thing that someone else has labeled a “conspiracy theory.” The question always is, who’s doing the labeling? Anything involving more than one person committing a crime and conspiring in secret to do it is a conspiracy. Therefore, anyone who posits that 19 hijackers were behind the 9/11 attack is in fact a “conspiracy theorist.”

Of course, what exercises The New York Times most is when ordinary citizens smell a conspiracy in some kind of governmental cover-up which the mainstream media has failed to explore. Despite evidence of previous U.S. government involvement in conspiracies and cover-ups galore (from Watergate to Iran-Contra), the mainstream media is predictably shocked when someone suggests it might be happening again.


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  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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