Friday, April 13, 2007

A system of structure and definitions for Conspiracy Theory - Pt 1

Like most people who have studied conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists for any given period of time, I have formed my own opinions on the nature of the CT field, and how it really interacts with the world around us. Rather than focus on a single subject within the field I have "shopped around", so to speak, and looked at many corners of the field.

One area that seems to be somewhat vacant of research by the conspiracy theorists themselves, in my opinion, is the nature of what a conspiracy theory really is and what conditions must be present to qualify as a conspiracy theory. While there are many academics who have taken the subject of conspiracy theory as a whole as an area of their research and writing, it seems we are lacking in being able to fully describe who we are or even what it is that we do, and why we do "it."

I'd like to present for your consideration, in two parts, a system of hierarchical structure and definitions that I use in my research and how you can use this system. This system will help you define a conspiracy theory, how to categorize the theory itself and how to use this system of classification and categories. A researcher can link seemingly unconnected theories together if they know how and by the same token a researcher can separate the wheat from the chaff and bring order to a seemingly unorganized CT.

In his "Octopus" research, the late Danny Casolaro was reportedly able to find the connecting points for a multitude of conspiracies and weave them together into a cohesive structure that created a unifying conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, we will never see his work but we can work toward a more formal approach to our work which may help us create an overview that may resemble what he was trying to achieve. I'm not looking to create a unifying theory for conspiracism but using this system has helped me find the connections between seemingly unrelated events and strip away the disinfo planted in some theories. Here is my system.

The definition of a Conspiracy Theory (CT)

1) A situation and/or event where an individual or group of individuals conspires with another individual or group of individuals, to maintain and/or gain power in one or more of the three systems of society:

- Polemic
- Economic
- Theocratic

2) The true nature of the situation or event that is the subject of the conspiracy must remain secret to protect the physical and/or legal security of those involved in the conspiracy.

3) The base motivation of the conspiracy is gaining and/or maintaining power.

4) Any theory which does not involve the gain or maintaining of power and cannot be directly linked to at least one of the three systems of society, cannot be identified as a conspiracy theory.

The three systems of society that I refer to; Polemic, Economic and Theocratic, are the foundations of any conspiracy theory and the foundations of our society itself. If the theory does not have a direct connection or implication of that connection with one of those three foundational systems, it is not a conspiracy theory. This point is essential.

For example, Bigfoot research if not a conspiracy theory field of study however, if a theory were proposed regarding the suppression of Cryptozoology study which addresses the consequences of unknown hominid proof and it's effects on the structure of scientific review, then it could be defined as a conspiracy theory. The field of Bigfoot studies would still not fall under CT but the theory proposed would be a CT. There is a hierarchical structure within the scientific community which maintains a level of power over the community. This is a Polemic system, and depending on the subject there may be connections to the Theocratic and Economic systems.

High Weirdness and the Weirdness Confluence

Using this guideline it is easy to classify Bigfoot studies as Cryptozoology and not Conspiracy Theory. The guideline also classifies instances and conditions where Cryptozoology can overlap with Conspiracy Theory. The two fields are not directly related but they can be conditionally related. Any High Weirdness subject can be defined by the fields of study that it belongs to, but it can have a conditional relationship with others in the Weirdness Confluence. High Weirdness subjects are any subject that followers of the Church of the SubGenius may find of interest, or derision. The study of kooks, art, obscure writings, politics, consumerism/anti-consumerism, Discordianism, Evangelism are all examples of High Weirdness. The Weirdness Confluence is the area where those strange interests intersect with the reality defined by non-Church of the SubGenius members.


Any conspiracy theory which has interlocking connections to all three of the societal systems and is totally dependant on all three, is classified as a Pure Conspiracy Theory (PCT). An example of PCT is the fabled Rand report which states that if Extra-Terrestial life were proven, it would require absolute secrecy from the public at large as it would cause a complete breakdown in the society that would effect religion, the economy and government. Many UFO and Alien conspiracy theories can be classified as PCT because of this foundational structure.

Any conspiracy theory which has interlocking connections to two of the societal systems, is classified as a Crossover Conspiracy Theory (CCT). An example of a CCT are the theories that swirl around the response to Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. Those theories propose that financial gain is the cause of inaction and those in political power furthered the agenda because they are somehow directly connected to the economic gain. This CCT has direct ties to the Polemic and Economic foundations with no connection to the Theocratic foundation.

Any conspiracy theory which is directly connected to one of the societal systems and no connections to the remaining two, is classified as a Standalone Conspiracy Theory (SCT). An example of a SCT is the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by extreme fundamentalists. This SCT involves power over a Theocratic system and it's members and any polemic or economic gain is wholly incidental.

PCT, CCT and SCT are not hierarchical when compared to each other. All three categories have equal standing among each other. The hierarchical structure of CCTs and PCTs are defined by which of the systems appears to take precedence in the function of the CT. It is my belief that unless a unifying theory of conspiracism is formed, no CT will have a higher importance over another, only direct or conditional connections. Even within a unified structure I believe there could be instances where an SCT could be removed from the overall structure simply because of it's conditional connection.

Part Two

I will post part two within the week. Part two will define how to use this system of definition and categorization. I will include examples of how to clarify a theory with this system and how to expand a theory as well. I'd love to read any comments, suggestions, rants, ravings or insults that you may have. Please feel free to write me at

Update - Part 2 can be found here:

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