Conspiracy theory  

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This page Conspiracy theory is part of the mysticism series. Illustration to the Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum (1618) by Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens
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This page Conspiracy theory is part of the mysticism series.
Illustration to the Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum (1618) by Teophilus Schweighardt Constantiens

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A conspiracy theory attempts to attribute the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social, or historical events), or the concealment of such causes from public knowledge, to a secret, and often deceptive plot by a covert alliance of powerful or influential people or organizations. Many conspiracy theories claim that major events in history have been dominated by conspirators who manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes.

The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates back to an economics article in the 1920s, but it was only in the 1960s that it entered popular usage. It entered the supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary as late as 1997.

The term "conspiracy theory" is used by mainstream scholars and in popular culture to identify a type of folklore similar to an urban legend, especially an explanatory narrative which is constructed with particular methodological flaws. The term is also used pejoratively to dismiss claims that are alleged by critics to be misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish, irrational, or otherwise unworthy of serious consideration. For example "Conspiracy nut" and "conspiracy theorist" are used as pejorative terms. Some whose theories or speculations are labeled a "conspiracy theory" reject the term as prejudicial.

The term "conspiracy theory" may be a neutral descriptor for any conspiracy claim. To conspire means "to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end." However, conspiracy theory is also used to indicate a narrative genre that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies, any of which might have far-reaching social and political implications if true.

Whether or not a particular conspiracy allegation may be impartially or neutrally labeled a conspiracy theory is subject to some controversy. Conspiracy theory has become a highly charged political term, and the broad critique of 'conspiracy theorists' by academics, politicians, psychologists, and the media cuts across traditional left-right political lines.

The US academic Noam Chomsky contrasts conspiracy theory as more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behaviour of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, e.g. scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Conspiracy theory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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