The label "conspiracy theory" is commonly used to try to discredit criticism of the powerful in government or business.
For example, just this week - after Tony Blair was confronted by the Iraq Inquiry with evidence that he had used lies to sell the Iraq war - Blair dismissed the entire Iraq Inquiry as simply being part of Britain's "obsession with conspiracy theories". (Not only did Blair know that Saddam possessed no WMDs, but the French this week accused Blair of using of ‘Soviet-style' propaganda in run-up to the Iraq war).
Of course, the American government has been busted in the last couple of years in numerous conspiracies. For example, William K. Black - professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis - says that that the government's entire strategy now - as during the S&L crisis - is to cover up how bad things are ("the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts").Similarly , 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980's during the "Latin American Crisis", and the government's response was to cover up their insolvency.
And the government spied on American citizens (even before 9/11 ... confirmed here and here), while saying "we don't spy". The government tortured prisoners in Iraq, but said "we don't torture".
In other words, high-level government officials have conspired to cover up the truth.
Indeed, conspiracies are so common that judges are trained to look at conspiracy allegations as just another legal claim to be disproven or proven by the evidence.
But - while people might admit that corporate executives and low-level government officials might have engaged in conspiracies - they may be strongly opposed to considering that the wealthiest or most powerful might possibly have done so.
Indeed, those who most loudly attempt to ridicule and discredit conspiracy theories tend to focus on defending against criticism involving the powerful.
This may be partly due to psychology: it is scary for people to admit that those who are supposed to be their "leaders" protecting them may in fact be human beings with complicated motives who may not always have their best interests in mind.
Our immediate surroundings are based on trusting situations. Most people have a hard time associating bad acts, especially murderous acts, with trusted representatives of the community.
The more "unbelievable" the crime committed by trusted people (often wearing suits), the more unlikely people will believe that the said perpetrators are responsible- no matter how good the evidence.
However, regardless of how unlikely the crime, a conspiracy is only invalid when there is no good evidence to support it. In the case of the 911 attacks, there is scientific proof that shows this event involved inside help.
[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, February 12th, 2010.]