By Jovan Byford (auth.)
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Additional info for Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction
Much of contemporary literature on the subject assumes that it is necessary to make an analytical distinction between what Jeffrey Bale (2007: 45) calls genuine conspiratorial politics – ‘a regular if not omnipresent feature of national and international politics’, and bogus conspiracy theories – ‘elaborate fantasies that purport to show that various sinister, powerful groups with evil intentions, operating behind the scenes, are secretly controlling the course of world events’. Similar distinctions have been made between dysfunctional ‘clinical’ or ‘pathological paranoia’ and the more acceptable ‘healthy’ or ‘critical paranoia’ (Harper, 2008; Kellner, 2003) or between explorations of ‘the natural threat of global conspiracy’ – posed by the secretive and hierarchically organised international political and economic order – and the ‘sort of mindless McCarthyian witch-hunts’ that are to be discarded (Basham, 2003: 101–102).
Conspiracy theories thus become ‘the only theories for which evidence against them is actually construed as evidence in favour of them’ (Keeley, 1999: 120). It is important to mention, however, that unfalsifiability is not something that a priori disqualifies conspiracy theories. In the natural sciences, where falsifiability – the logical possibility that a claim could be proven to be false – is indeed the principal requirement for a good theory, the object of knowledge (the natural world) is devoid of agency with respect to the scientific investigation.
In the 1985 update of Gary Allen’s classic conspiracy theory pamphlet None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1972), Larry Abraham argues that the Watergate affair is not what it seems and that Nixon was in fact set up by Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller and a suite of other members of the Council on Foreign Relations intent on subverting the presidency (Abraham, 1985). At the same time, conspiracy theorists will occasionally allude to real conspiracies, but as mere starting points, as a kernel of truth upon which implausible stories about the activities of the would-be rulers of the world can be constructed.