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Additional info for Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction
At first sight, Ramsay’s argument echoes the aforementioned efforts to differentiate between the legitimate analysis of secrecy in politics and ‘bogus’ conspiracy theories. However, the key issue is where Ramsay places the boundary between the two. In addition to Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair or the well-publicised secret medical experiments on American citizens carried out by US government agencies in the 1950s and 1960s, Ramsay includes, among real ‘political conspiracies’, also the assassinations of John F.
The fact that there is little historical data with which to compare these results, inevitably contributes to the belief that before the onset of globalisation or the arrival of the internet, conspiracy thinking was not as widespread as it is today. The relatively recent origin of the preoccupation with conspiracy theory is reflected also in the fact that it was only in the 1990s that the term got sufficiently firmly established in the English language to warrant a separate entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.
E. Erskine, a reviewer of Robison’s book, commented in 1800, that ‘some of the most shocking facts’ in Robison’s work ‘I knew before its publication’ (cited in Payson, 1802: 14). Clearly, Barruel’s Memoirs and Robison’s Proofs were building on a set of explanations which had developed in decades preceding their publication. Also, Barruel and Robison were certainly not the first to allege that a political event is explicable by reference to someone’s volition and design. ), which are invoked even today to justify intentionalist interpretations of political events, date back to antiquity.