Conspiracy

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Illustration of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, a secret plan devised in 1605 to blow up the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

A conspiracy is an agreement between persons (called conspirers or conspirators) who intend to gain some collective advantage while keeping their agreement secret from the public or from other people affected by it. Depending on the circumstances, a conspiracy may also be a crime, or a civil wrong.[1] The term generally implies wrongdoing or illegality on the part of the conspirators, as people would not need to conspire to engage in activities that were lawful and ethical, or to which no one would object.

There are some coordinated activities that people engage in with secrecy that are not generally thought of as conspiracies. For example, intelligence agencies such as the American CIA and the British MI6 necessarily make plans in secret to spy on suspected enemies of their respective countries, but this kind of activity is generally not considered to be a conspiracy so long as their goal is to fulfill their official functions, and not something like improperly enriching themselves.[2] Similarly, the coaches of competing sports teams routinely meet behind closed doors to plan game strategies and specific plays designed to defeat their opponents, but this activity is not considered a conspiracy because this is considered a legitimate part of the sport. Furthermore, a conspiracy must be engaged in knowingly. The continuation of social traditions that work to the advantage of certain groups and to the disadvantage of certain other groups, though possibly unethical, is not a conspiracy if participants in the practice are not carrying it forward for the purpose of perpetuating this advantage.[2] On the other hand, if the intent of carrying out a conspiracy exists, then there is a conspiracy even if the details are never agreed to aloud by the participants.[2]

A "conspiracy theory" is a belief that a conspiracy has actually been decisive in producing a political event of which the theorists strongly disapprove.[3] Political scientist Michael Barkun has described conspiracy theories as relying on the view that the universe is governed by design, and embody three principles: nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected.[4] Another common feature is that conspiracy theories evolve to incorporate whatever evidence exists against them, so that they become, as Barkun writes, a closed system that is unfalsifiable, and therefore "a matter of faith rather than proof".[5][6]

Types of conspiracies

  • Conspiracy (civil), an agreement between people to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights or to gain an unfair advantage.
  • Conspiracy (criminal), an agreement between people to break the law in the future, in some cases having committed an act to further that agreement.
  • Conspiracy (political), an agreement between people with the goal of gaining political power or meeting a political objective.
  • Hub-and-spoke conspiracy, a conspiracy in which one or more principal conspirators (the "hub") enter into several similar agreements with others (the "spokes") who know concerted action is contemplated, usually where the success of the concerted action depends on the participation of the other spokes.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Conspiracy". merriam-webster.com. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Peter Knight, Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia (2003), p. 15-16.
  3. ^ Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent, American Conspiracy Theories (2014) excerpt
  4. ^ Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 3–4.
  5. ^ Barkun 2003, p. 7.
  6. ^ Barkun, Michael (2011). Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security Since 9/11. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 10.

External links

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