When the world’s most powerful journalistic institutions resort to name calling there is something seriously amiss in the broader intellectual climate. Much like 1964, it involves a conscious betrayal of the historical record and the attendant consequences of such.
The conspiracy theory/theorist soubriquet is reflexively feared by professional journalists and academics alike who believe (with some justification) their reputations will be undermined by such thought crimes against the state. Thus, like an instrument that would easily be at home in the most extreme totalitarian regimes, intellectual workers self-discipline themselves as the “conspiracy theory” mechanism determines the trajectory and parameters of public discourse, dissent, and recollection.
Intellectual cowardice is reinforced by a set of circumstances whereby even if alternative accounts questioning the official line are exhaustively researched and documented with credible information and sources, mobilization of the “conspiracy theory” label by state censors and their journalistic accomplices will render the counter-arguments suspect. And, in an on-the-go culture where citizens are heavily reliant for information on headlines and sound-bites versus deliberate analysis, such lines of reasoning are destined for the memory hole.
James F. Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University