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Monthly Archives: May 2013

What is a conspiracy?
What is a conspiracy?

A conspiracy, according to the dictionary, is a group of two or more people who get together for some criminal or illegal purpose (it is thus different from a plot, which is the plan that the conspirators draw up). It follows that it naturally has to be secret, though this isn’t a central part of […]

31 May 2013
Conspiracy, Concealment and Persecution

In Bloomberg Business Week, of all places, I came across this piece on Proust and the Dreyfus affair by Caroline Weber, an associate professor of French at Barnard College. Weber draws on material from a secret dossier that was used by the French army to convict Alfred Dreyfus for treason. The dossier contains letters exchanged by two foreign […]

What does it mean to believe a conspiracy theory?

We had Michael Newton visiting the group yesterday to give a talk about conspiracy and the killing of the Kennedys. It was great to hear a rich and detailed account of the all-too-familar JFK assassination and the Robert F. Kennedy killing, about which I knew very little. He joined our meeting this morning and we […]

23 May 2013
Cover-ups and conspiracies

There is a good summary of many of the themes we’ve been discussing in this recent piece in the NYT: One claim here is that ‘conspiracy theories wouldn’t exist in a world in which real conspiracies don’t exist’.  The examples given of the latter are Watergate and the Iran-contra Affair.  In both these cases […]


Andrew drew our attention to this article on beliefs in contradictory conspiracy theories. It shows that people who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to believe contradictory conspiracy theories – i.e. that Diana could have both been murdered by the secret services and be still alive – than in the ‘official’ line. So a rejection of […]

22 May 2013
Conspiracy and intent

Take, for example, the requirement that a conspiracy must involve malign intent on the part of the conspirators. Lots of bad things happen in the world which are the outcome of informal collusion between agents.  But the collusion doesn’t explicitly involve malign intent: just a shared set of values, or a shared ideology. Take, for example, the […]

15 May 2013
The Conspiracy Theory of Society, the Paranoid Style and Conspiracy Theories

In invoking the term “conspiracy theory” to describe a central concern of this project, we are in actual fact latching onto what has simply become the most popular label for designating this phenomenon. In the twentieth century, scholars, in most cases working more or less independently of each other, came up with many other terms […]

14 May 2013
Death by Conspiracy

After almost a decade-long lull in state executions in India, two followed in quick succession recently. Both the capital punishments were handed out by the Supreme Court of India on the legal charge of “conspiracy”. The first “conspirator” to be executed was Mohammed Ajmal Kasab in November 2012. Kasab was the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 […]

10 May 2013
Second Thoughts on Conspiracy Theories
Second Thoughts on Conspiracy Theories

A few months back we all sent around our initial thoughts on conspiracies and conspiracy theories. These were anonymised and put together in one document, which has also been posted on this blog. I think the idea was to have a discussion in which we would come up with a working definition of conspiracy theories. […]

9 May 2013