Conspiracy theory

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A conspiracy theory is, technically, any theory (formal or informal) which supposes the existence of a conspiracy of some kind. The term has gained a number of implicit connotations, however, which depart from this definition:

  • The term is generally used in contrast to "the official explanation" of any given event, even if the official explanation itself involves a conspiracy (as in 9/11, where the official theory claims a conspiracy of Muslim extremists). Hence it has the connotation of not being officially accepted.
  • There is a derogatory connotation due to the widespread belief that anyone who doubts an official explanation must be a "nutcase". Describing a theory as a "conspiracy" theory carries the implication that the theorist is credulous and the theory lacks credibility.
  • The term is generally used when the conspiracy in question is high-level, i.e. a conspiracy of people with significant power, authority, or influence who therefore command significant respect and trust from many people. Although the official theory to explain the events of 9/11 also involves a conspiracy, it is not generally referred to as a "conspiracy theory" because the individuals involved were private citizens with no special authority.

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