The argument from conspiracy fallacy occurs when an argument is proclaimed to be false or suspect solely because the argument involves a conspiracy of some kind. The argument from conspiracy fallacy is an informal fallacy because it does not have an invalid logical form. Instead, the fallacy results from the misuse of the term “conspiracy theory”.
When a person is derisively referred to as a conspiracy theorist or an argument is rejected simply because it involves a conspiracy, one of two implicit claims are tabled. The implicit claim is that either there are no conspiracies or that all theories involving a conspiracy are necessarily wrong. Both positions are easily falsified by looking to history.
It is a fact not theory that Nixon administration officials conspired to steal the 1972 presidential election. It is a fact that the Reagan administration conspired to sell arms to Iran and channel the profits to the Contras. It is a fact that the Bush-Cheney administration conspired to lie to Congress and the American people that they had strong evidence of Iraqi possessing weapons of mass destruction. It is a fact that the Nazi political regime conspired to exterminate Jews. Before these conspiracies became regarded as fact they would have been evidence-based speculation. In other words they would have been theories, conspiracy theories.
Since history is rife with government and corporate conspiracies there should be no problem hypothesizing that members of governments or corporations could conspire together to commit crimes as long as there is evidence to support this explanation. Indeed, before the JFK assassination the term “conspiracy theorist” was a neutral term. The term only became pejorative after a CIA-initiated a propaganda campaign to discredit skeptics of the Warren Commission report.
People entertain conspiracies because it is natural to doubt that those in power are telling the truth. It is natural because so many times in the past these authorities have lied. What is unnatural is to believe there can be no conspiracies or that leaders cannot conspire together to do something wrong. So the anti-conspiracy theorists we regularly see in mainstream skepticism and on the corporate media are in actuality denialists or posing as denialists. They are denialists like deniers of the Holocaust or the flat-earthers who deny the overwhelming evidence that the Earth is round.
1. “20th Century Words”, John Ayto, Oxford Univeristy Press (December 2, 1999)
2. “Conspiracy Theory in America”, Lance deHaven-Smith, University of Texas Press (April 15, 2013)