Who made conspiracy-theories disreputable?
Hint: it was not the CIA.
In recent years I have heard it said many times that the CIA invented the term conspiracy-theory to discredit investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy beyond the official conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman and nobody else was involved.
Paul Craig Roberts, for example, has this on his website:
The Term “Conspiracy Theory” Was Invented by the CIA In Order To Prevent Disbelief of Official Government Stories.... [Paul Craig Roberts, 24 August 2014]
Paul Craig Roberts may be a fine economist, but he is wrong about this. It is easy to prove that the CIA did not invent the term conspiracy-theory. It appears in a news-item from 1881 about the assassination of President Garfield by Charles Guiteau, in the following passage:
NO CONSPIRACY.Chief Brooks, of the secret service division, says he has followed up every clew and every theory of conspiracy, and has proven satisfactorily that there was none. He has reported to Secretary Windom that Guiteau had no confederate, not even a confident; that he was alone in the assassination. The conspiracy theory has been abandoned by everybody. [Crawfordsville Star, 7 July 1881]
The CIA certainly could not have invented the term by 1881.
Furthermore, the claim that the term conspiracy-theory was invented to discredit conspiracy-theorists reminds me of the claim that the word racism was invented to embarrass racists -- also demonstrably false. There is nothing objectively negative about the word racism, just as there is no inherent reason why a conspiracy-theory must be wrong. Those who complain about these intrinsically neutral and harmless words seem to lack the mental fortitude to reject their enemies' value-judgments about what the words convey.
Conspiracies certainly have existed, and the belief in conspiracies is not limited to a fringe. There was no shyness about asserting the existence of a conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln, and the term conspiracy was also tossed about freely during both wars against Germany. Hillary Clinton had no shame about using the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" unironically in 1998 and again in 2016.
What really makes conspiracy-theory disreputable is not any quality inherent in the word, since it is generally admitted that some conspiracy-theories are correct. It is the abundance of poorly founded conspiracy-theories that denigrates the term.
For example, in regard to the assassination of President Kennedy, the obvious facts are that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist and that a Jew, Jack Ruby, killed him after he was arrested, with the likely motive of preventing him from talking. We also know, thanks to two women employed in Ruby's nightclub, that Ruby and Oswald were not strangers to each other. The well known facts of this crime thus give clear evidence of some degree of conspiracy: a Jewish and Communist conspiracy to create a backlash against the segregationist South, which was the instant reaction that the shooting generated. If the conspiracy-theorists used these obvious facts as their starting-point, they would be on solid ground.
Instead, most conspiracy-theorists that you will hear or read completely ignore the obvious facts and what the obvious facts imply, and instead strain after the obscure and paradoxical. Many take seriously the statements of Oswald and Ruby that were intended to skew the investigation, with Oswald saying, "I'm a patsy!" and with Ruby alleging that he had shot Oswald spontaneously, being emotionally overwrought, and also claiming that he was the victim of an anti-Semitic conspiracy that controlled the U.S. government.
The same pattern is evident in "9-11 Truth." Everyone concedes that the attacks on 11 September 2001 were the work of a conspiracy. On its face, it seems to be a conspiracy of Muslims angry because of the USA's pro-Israel foreign policy. If there was something else behind it, the most obvious culprit would be Mossad, which is known to have done several false-flag attacks in the past, sometimes even (in the case of the Achille Lauro hijacking, according to Ari ben Menashe) tricking Arabs into doing their dirty work for them. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has even said that the 9-11 attacks produced good results for Israel: obviously meaning that it facilitated the Neoconservative agenda of regime-change in the Near East. All of this makes the State of Israel look bad. So whom do the 9-11 Truthers want to blame? Dick Cheney! And, they soak up a lot of energy with arguments about how the Twin Towers fell. As in the case of the Kennedy assassination, the reasonable suspicion of a conspiracy that points to Jews is drowned out in a cacophony of far-fetched alternate theories that put the blame on anybody other than Jews.
It seems that there are different kinds of people motivated to indulge this kind of twisted theorizing.
First, there are various degrees of crazy people. They have exaggerated worries about being under surveillance, or about impending calamities. Many of them are religious fanatics. Because they have overactive imaginations, and in many cases have been raised to put faith in the illogical and fantastic, they are easily misled, and form a medium in which absurd conspiracy-theories can easily gain support.
The disorder in most of these people is not as conspicuous as in Francis E. Dec, but it is of a similar nature. (Nobody who wants to tell the truth will always fail at it. I concede that even Francis E. Dec sometimes, in some ways, adumbrates the truth with his paranoid but entertaining rants, but like anyone stabbing in the dark, he generally errs or goes too far.)
I notice in these crazy people a tendency to believe that the conspiracy's power is so pervasive and absolute that resistance really is hopeless. They believe, for example -- despite a demonstration to the contrary in 2016 -- that only somebody agreeable to the conspiracy could ever win a U.S. presidential election. (What we see is that it is only difficult, not impossible, for a real dissident to win, and so far only billionaires, Perot and Trump, have come close to accomplishing it.)
It is possible that they derive some comfort from the belief that there is nothing that they can do, since it relieves them of responsibility to act. The truth is that Jews succeed in running the West, not so much because they are omniscient and omnipotent, as because attempts at opposition have been disorganized and incoherent. White Westerners generally have balked at organizing for their collective wellbeing, because personal sacrifice would be involved. A belief that the enemy is unbeatable naturally reinforces that kind of shirking.
Also not to be underestimated is the gratification of believing that one has a solid grasp of the big picture, which the false awareness of an all-powerful conspiracy supplies.
Then there are those who invent the lies. There is a Jewish and Marxist interest in obscuring and, to the extent possible, inverting the blame for the Kennedy assassination, so that instead of Communists and Jews it is the CIA and Nazis who are seen as the culprits -- a 180° role-reversal. This is not to say that the CIA has been an entirely virtuous organization, but the Communist interest in besmirching the KGB's adversary during the period when the Kennedy assassination occurred is clear. Project Paperclip is invoked as a convenient way to tie the CIA and "Nazis" together (although the German scientists brought to the United States after World War II were all relatively apolitical). The Jewish far left (e.g. Mae Brussel, Dave Emory) generates this kind of propaganda, and the crazy people uncritically embrace it.
Jewish influence has been traceable in the kinds of conspiracy-theories fed to the "patriot movement" through mouthpieces like broadcasters William Cooper and Alex Jones, and the writer Jim Marrs. Cooper and Jones, for example, both used the Reichstag Fire as the paradigm and metaphor for all false-flag operations, even though this was a lie invented by Communist Jews (as admitted by Arthur Koestler, who was one of them) and, furthermore, facts strongly indicate that the Reichstag Fire was not a false-flag operation. So you have three main categories of people propagating outlandish conspiracy-theories: crazy people, Jewish/Communist manipulators, and the opportunists who make money by going along with it.
Finally, there are those who are not so committed as these other groups but just enjoy the gossip as entertainment and cannot be bothered to make sure that it is correct.