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Conspiracy Theories

Challenges to official explanation of the 9/11 attack are generally labelled "conspiracy theories" to prevent their rational consideration. That use of the term has been common in mainstream press descriptions of suggestions of insider complicity in past crimes, but it seems to have reached a new pitch in coverage of '9/11 truth'.

e x c e r p t
title: Conspiracy Theory as Naive Deconstructive History
"Conspiracy theory" is usually used as a pejorative label, meaning paranoid, nutty, marginal, and certainly untrue. The power of this pejorative is that it discounts a theory by attacking the motivations and mental competence of those who advocate the theory. By labeling an explanation of events "conspiracy theory," evidence and argument are dismissed because they come from a mentally or morally deficient personality, not because they have been shown to be incorrect. Calling an explanation of events "conspiracy theory" means, in effect, "We don't like you, and no one should listen to your explanation."

In earlier eras other pejorative labels, such as "heresy," "witchery," and "communism" also worked like this. The charge of "conspiracy theory" is not so severe as these other labels, but in its way is many times worse. Heresy, witchcraft, and communism at least retain some sense of potency. They designate ideas to be feared. "Conspiracy theory" implies that the ideas and their advocates are simple-minded or insane.

The effect of the conspiracy theory label shows the power that language has to frame ideas and manage perceptions of them. Consider how differently the two phrases "inside job" and "conspiracy theory" frame the same kinds of allegations about the crime. Since "conspiracy theory" is applied to the range of allegations of insider involvement in the attack -- from foreknowledge to execution -- "inside job" denotes a stronger allegation with a higher burden of proof. But most people won't tend reject the idea of an inside job out of hand the way they will tend to reject the same idea presented as a conspiracy theory.

The use of the term conspiracy theory to distinguish alternatives to the official story from the official story is of course inaccurate since the official story rests on a conspiracy theory -- that involving the participation of at least the 19 alleged hijackers in executing the crime. People commonly assume that the engineering of the attack by insiders would have required the knowing participation of large numbers of people, but this need not have been the case.


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