The Inception of Conspiracy Theory
The Information Wars Part X
There are printed stories on the internet about how the CIA invented the term "conspiracy theory" to deride those looking into JFK's assassination, which most Americans (over 80%) immediately believed involved elements of the U.S. government. Since JFK had noteworthy disagreements with the CIA, the CIA would have likely been opened up to greater public scrutiny had such opinions held at such a high level. Regardless of the truth of the assassination, there was an immediate propaganda campaign waged to improve public relations over the murder.
There are also printed stories about how the KGB used the same term, in Russian of course, to deride those who sought truth about the nature of their government. But neither of these stories reaches the first historical use of the term "conspiracy theory".
Via Mike Caulfield:
So now we come to the first mention of “conspiracy theory” I’ve found, apparently missed by the OED and others. It will take a little explaining to set up. But it’s particularly surprising others have not found it since it’s from an exchange in the New York Times.
It’s from 1863, and it’s a response to a letter that had run the Sunday before. That letter had dealt with the question of why England — whose papers and elites had spent so much time attacking the United States over the institution of slavery in the 1850s — was now taking the side of the South in the Civil War.
The answer, the writer says, is obvious. America had been exerting influence on English institutions, and this had threatened the aristocracy, which feared loss of power. So they had embarked on a plan. They would support whatever side was weaker, in the hope that America would be destroyed. Once America was destroyed, then the governing classes could point to the failure of the U.S. as proof that democratic reforms don’t work, and reclaim power. In order to do this they would support the South verbally, but, importantly, not intervene on their behalf since the point is to avoid any decisive action that would hasten the conclusion of the war. Their best play was to draw out the conflict.
The ultimate endgame? Creating the “most terrible financial explosion ever seen in a civilized country” — all to benefit the small class of English aristocrats!
New York Times, January 4, 1863. Page 2.
Since I have not researched this particular conspiracy theory, and am only beyond amateur historian level in a few sparse areas, I don't intend to comment on it except to say that given the historical rivalry between the U.S. and Britain, it would not shock me in the least if this were true. In fact, England was the dominant economic power of the day, while the U.S. was rising rapidly. While the British East India Company was mostly responsible for knocking down China during the Opium Wars, which took place around the same time as the American Civil War, the U.S. did participate somewhat in Round 2 in the very early 20th century.
Deriding Conspiracy Theory
Conspiracies at the highest levels are about making secret moves to control the world's resources. The truth of such a statement is historically obvious, though in modern times, speculation about current events has been commonly derided. then noble lies are often fed to citizens of aggressive nations to quell their moral concerns.
Each independent nation finds itself in a prisoner's dilemma.
If I do not make a play to control this important resource, my rivals certainly will.
I hate to call this "natural paranoia", but that's the way game theory works. Just as equilibria of natural cooperation produce good actions, the presence of Kunlangeta at the tops of other nations makes the Kunlangeta of each nation wary.
Though since the advent of independent corporate governance, deception for the purpose of sabotaging whole nations (essentially all other nations) ramped into overdrive. Divide and govern is no longer a matter of power projection in a region, but over the whole of the world. So, for the purpose of public relations, you are told to stay in your lane. Stop thinking about it, serf.
But this is the path that leads to the problem of technological asymmetry.
And the prospect of being removed from the game as a player (bound by a prisoner's dilemma) through technological dominance has become a common conversation about not just weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), but tools of mass extinction (TMEs).
If you're wondering if TMEs could be the story of either genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, so am I. And I wish that I had an answer beyond, "the economic tea leaves."
In the meantime, do not be afraid to be mocked for conjecturing knowledge frameworks for examining the world. Those who do not participate lend themselves to a tall hierarchy that becomes a top-down system of human governance. Most all of the game theoretic worries we have stem from that. That's why the Kunlangeta are necessarily an element of the problem that we (who maintain our moral agency) all have to think through and confront together. The quest for large systems of top-down control will always risk catastrophic failure, and eventually end in ruin.
Russia and Ukraine
I'm not here to tell you what side to pick or how to pick sides. That's a silly social game in the public sphere at the moment. But it is worth understanding some aspects of world affairs at this level.