The term ‘Conspiracy Theory’ has been misappropriated as a pejorative catch-all for those who dissent from officially promulgated positions, in the same way as ‘liberal’ has been misappropriated by many in the USA.
When someone uses ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘conspiracy nut’ as a rebuttal to legitimate questions based on factual evidence, you know you are dealing with the duped, but it is a difficult one to deal with, because, firstly you have to unravel the fallacy behind the use of the lexically misappropriated term before you deal with the argument, which, argumentatively, puts you on the defensive. And secondly, it personalises the argument; ad hominem is an often used ploy of dishonest arguers. In this way, it is an excellent rebuttal, since it dismisses the argument as risible by lumping legitimate arguments with the genuinely outlandish.
So, if your argument is valid and someone tries to dismiss it with ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘conspiracy nut,’ be assured that you have won the argument, since your adversary has no further effective arguments to pursue and has to use a brain-washed mantra of the duped, like the above.
To dismiss legitimate arguments as nut-jobs says more about the adversary’s fears and need to believe. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” The converse of this is that if you believe casuistry, then you are helplessly enslaved. As Goethe said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. Or as Bill Hicks said, “You are free to do as we tell you.”
Accepting analysis based on selective and/or fraudulent evidence absolves the believer from responsibility for actions based on those analyses, that other analyses, based on all available evidence, would not. This is because the truth carries with it the responsibility of speaking the truth, which, as Orwell pointed out, “In a time of universal deceit, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act.” So dangerous, in fact, that someone was arrested recently for using this quote.
So, ‘conspiracy theory’ is a lexically misappropriated, ad hominem argument, which would itself be risible, if it were not so pitiful.
The lexical misappropriation of the term might itself be a conspiracy to stymie all intelligent discussion that looks at all sides and all the evidence, and seeks rational explanations for them and how they may or may not be connected. In this sense, it is very much like book-burning and purges against intellectuals beloved of fascists everywhere.
The term carries with it an assumption and righteous, withering disdain. The assumption that just about any degree of dissent, by way of asking pertinent questions arising, e.g. from apparent inconsistency in the plot of an official account, or between plot and evidence, that an alternative plot has been constructed in the absence to the aforementioned pertinent questions to introduce consistency in the plot; a conclusion for which does not follow syllogistically, since the minor premise is an assumption that the dissenter has assumed answers to the pertinent questions.
The righteous, withering disdain that is often afforded the accuser arises from the ideas that the ‘theorists’ are malevolent and/or stupid and so beneath further discursive engagement, and so stigmatizes the dissenting ‘theorists’. Here, the user of the term looks suspiciously like those of the Death-to-the-Infidel, God-Told-Me-to-Do-It brigade.
It is the fear of the ‘infidel’ epithet that makes the accusation so effective as argument annihilation.
The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état
1953 Iran Musadegh
1964 Gulf of Tonkin
1967 USS Liberty
1942 Pearl Harbour Attack (at least 9 hour warning)
1898 USS Maine (Spanish American War/Hearst’s War)
The Dodgy Dossier
The Magic Bullet/Back and to the Left/JFK