The rise of “conspiracy theory”
On the question of the use of the term “conspiracy theory” the trajectory over recent decades is pretty clear. It’s on the up.
This is just a search for “conspiracy theory” OR “conspiracy theories” in the title of articles on google scholar, excluding patents and citations. It’s only in the early 1950s that we find anything at all, with a slight increase from the mid-70s and a big increase from the 1990s up to today. There are a few spikes, but given the time it takes to research, write, review and publish a journal article, those spikes are probably less important than the general trend.
So scholarly interest in the phenomenon of conspiracy theories, it is safe to say, is on the up. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that conspiracy theorizing itself is rising. Uscinski’s and Parent’s claim (about which I’ve yet to see the details) is that most of the uses of the term “conspiracy theory” on the internet are in the context not of presenting a conspiracy theory, but rather mocking or debunking conspiracy theories and theorists.
A rise in the amount of scholarly research and general commentary on the phenomenon of conspiracy theories might be a sign of a rise in the phenomenon they claim to address. But it might not.