The CIA Coined the Term Conspiracy Theorist In 1967


The CIA Coined the Term Conspiracy Theorist In 1967

In the 1960s. Specifically, in April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” … and recommended methods for discrediting such theories.  The dispatch was marked “psych” –  short for “psychological operations” or disinformation –  and “CS” for the CIA’s “Clandestine Services” unit. The dispatch was produced in responses to a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times in 1976. The dispatch states:

2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization.
The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the [conspiracy] question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active addresses are requested:

a. To discuss the publicity problem with and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors) , pointing out that the [official investigation of the relevant event] made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by …  propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.

b. To employ propaganda assets to and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories.
Summarizing the tactics which the CIA dispatch recommended:

* Claim that it would be impossible for so many people would keep quiet about such a big conspiracy
* Have people friendly to the CIA attack the claims, and point back to “official” reports
* Claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable
* Claim that this is all old news, as “no significant new evidence has emerged”
* Ignore conspiracy claims unless discussion about them is already too active
* Claim that it’s irresponsible to speculate
* Accuse theorists of being wedded to and infatuated with their theories
* Accuse theorists of being politically motivated
* Accuse theorists of having financial interests in promoting conspiracy theories

In other words, the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable in the 1960s as part of its psychological warfare operations.

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