CIA Dispatch 1035-960: Narrative vs. Reality

A meme I created to poke fun at conspiracy theorist memes that use the same photo but falsely claim the CIA created the term “conspiracy theory.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: When I first looked into this issue, I was focused on the text of the document and didn’t think at all about the number commonly associated with it. Conspiracy theorists call it Dispatch 1035-960 and so did I. Then I was looking at Lance DeHaven-Smith’s very dishonest book, Conspiracy Theory in America, and saw him repeatedly the false claim I address in my original post below. According to Smith, “CIA Dispatch 1035-960 appears to be a straightforward memo with clear language and reasonable motives, but it is actually a subtle document, conveying many of its messages by indirection and implication. To grasp the nuances in the text requires a very careful reading… Take, for example, the dispatch number. This is probably unimportant, but the number could have at least two meanings. Most people would assume “1035-960” is a number in a numbering and fi ling system. However, 1035-960 can also be read as, “1035 minus 960.” Who is to say the dash is just a dash and not a mathematical operator? Thus 1035-960 could mean “75,” which might refer to the seventy-fifth day of the year or something else.” Since making things up is Smith’s idea of a, “careful reading,” I thought I should look into that number and find out what it actually means. It wasn’t hard. 1035-960 has nothing to do with the CIA. That is the number stamped on the document when it was released under the Freedom of Information Act, nine years after the dispatch was originally sent out. It is a FOIA number, given to documents when they are released, and has nothing to do with the original document or its meaning. I suspect that if I talked with Smith, or an apologist for him, they would say something like, “Well, the book says this is, “This is probably unimportant,” so who cares?” But we should care, because the truth matters and you cannot trust people who put speculation before research. Who make arguments based on the story they want to tell and never bother to check the facts. Yes, anyone could mistake this number as part of the original document, as I did, but no actual researcher, investigator, historian, etc. who care about the truth would suggest that this number is mysterious simply for effect, without bothering to learn anything about the number. In academic circles, and apparently Smith is a professor, this is unconscionable behavior that speaks to the true nature of his work and the conspiracists mindset.


I have discussed CIA Dispatch 1035-960 previously, in my list of 55 reasons to believe Oswald acted alone, but it is worth exploring again in more detail, because the lies surrounding this document have become an article of faith for many conspiracy theorists (CTers) and this tells us a great deal about how they think.

One of the countless tweets alluding to CIA Dispatch 1035-960. I see at least a dozen similar claims on Twitter each day.

According to CTers, they are not, “conspiracy theorists;” they are critical thinkers and truth seekers, who have been unfairly vilified for questioning, “the narrative,” sold to us by, “elites,” through government officials, members of the mainstream media (MSM), scientists, and academics. Under a widely accepted version of this story, the CIA is responsible for making CTers look crazy and branding them with the “conspiracy theorist” label. CIA Dispatch 1035-960 allegedly proves this claim.

As usual, CTers are the ones pushing a narrative here and distorting reality into a sensationalistic movie version events, with easily identifiable bad guys. They have little understanding of how actual history unfolds, in all its complexity, yet they call the rest of us, “sheep,” or worse, for accepting actual history and not joining thrift herd.

Like many on Twitter, this user uses “conspiracy” interchangeably with “conspiracy theory,” but otherwise tells the same basic lie.

BACKGROUND

On April 1, 1967, the CIA issued a dispatch, 1035-960, to overseas personnel, with the subject line: “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report.” The Warren Report was the popular name for the report issued in 1964 by The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, which was headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren and found there was no conspiracy behind JFK’s murder. CTers, who feel insulted by others calling them, “conspiracy theorists,” have come to believe that this dispatch is the cause of their troubles. They tell themselves they are not nutty or misguided; they are the victims of a CIA campaign to disparage them. Depending on which CTer is telling the tale, the CIA either coined, created, popularized, or weaponized the term, “conspiracy theory,” in this document, and CTers have been unfairly maligned ever since. (Note: Some less savvy CTers say it was the FBI or the government, in general, which created the term, and some have no idea which document allegedly proves their phony accusation, they just accept that it’s true because all the other CTers are saying it.)

This is one of my personal favorite paranoid tweets on the subject. Not only does it suggest that the subject line of the memo was, “call them conspiracy theories,” but it includes a fake American Girl doll who refuses to wear a mask in public and carries a handgun while shopping to defend her right to be an idiot.
A few CTers take the, “own it,” stance, like rappers using the n-word, in an effort to remove the term’s stigma and throw it back at the world.
While this CTer is particularly open about his/her unwillingness to look at any evidence against their position, the tweet is reflective of the majority of CTer’s I have tried to engage with. They have done their “research” and they aren’t “sheep,” like the rest of us who use Google and let the MSM brainwash us, so it is pointless for them to listen to anything we have to say.
Another element of the CTer mindset is to assume that anyone who opposes you in any way is on the other side of the political divide. Left, right, Marxist, Fascist; what’re ideological group you hate, the people allegedly controlling the media, government, etc. must be hardcore members of that ideology.
Some CTers will provide links to a copy of Dispatch 1035-960, or an article making false claims about the document, but most seem to expert you to, “do your own homework” and brainwash yourself.

It doesn’t take long for a clear picture to emerge of how CTers perceive themselves within the Dispatch 1035-960 narrative. They are heroes. They are oppressed champions of the truth, fighting against “the” conspiracy (whatever it might be) and they cannot be silenced by allegedly unfair labels, like, “conspiracy theorist,” or, “crazy.” The CIA, according to this narrative, is at the center of this slander against them, with the power to make up terms that everyone in the MSM will deploy on command to stop the truth from being widely accepted. Like so many things CTers believe, there is no factual basis to this story.

THE FIRST THREE PAGES

So, what does CIA Dispatch 1035-960 actually say? It’s first word, as many CTers have told me, is, “PSYCH,” meaning psychological operation. This sounds very frightening to some, who immediately focus on the CIA’s failed mind control program, MK-Ultra, and assume the worst. But psychological operations, these days commonly referred to as PSYOPS, cover many different types of actions; most of which have nothing to do with mind control through drugs or hypnoses, or anything like that. To put it in marketing terms, PSYOPS is simply, “messaging.” Dispatch 1035-960 lays out ways in which CIA Agents working abroad could potentially influence public opinion in other countries, regarding the assassination of President Kennedy. The fact that they call it a psychological operation does not make it criminal or shameful.

The first three pagers of the dispatch explain its purpose and detail its directives, which I will go through point by point. The bulk of the dispatch, nearly fifty pages, is comprised of background material about JFK’s death, the finding of the Warren Commission, and the arguments being made by CTers at the time. I will not go into detail on that evidence, but you can read it for yourself if you like. I think you will find that it filled with factual, reasonable rebuttles to conspiracy nonsense and lies.

Note: Each block of italicized text that follows is taken verbatim from Dispatch 1035-960.


1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy’s assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder. Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report, (which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now had time to scan the Commission’s published report and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books and articles criticizing the Commission’s findings. In most cases the critics have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission’s report, a public opinion poll recently indicated that 46% of the American public did not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved. Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse results.


CTers can try their best to twist this into something it is not by saying that the CIA is trying to maintain, “the coverup,” allegedly perpetrated by the Warren Commission, but I insist on reading this document as it was actually written. The concern here is not that some horrible secret will be exposed, but that disingenuous critics are looking for any opportunity they can exploit to misrepresent the facts, and these misrepresentations were likely having a negative impact on public opinion about the United States throughout the world. (Again, it is import to highlight the fact that is dispatch was only sent overseas. There were no domestic operations connected with it.)


2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. The members of the Warren Commission were naturally chosen for their integrity, experience and prominence. They represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination.

Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.


Once again, the CTer can spin these paragraphs to suggest that President Johnson really was involved, and Oswald really was part of the CIA, despite all the evidence to the contrary, but that’s not what the document says. If you read these paragraphs in a non-paranoid manner, you can see they were written by patriotic Americans, concerned for America’s reputation in the face of an onslaught of lies. Which brings us to those all important terms, conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists.

To being with, notice what is not being said here. The document never says, “We have a new derogatory term you need to use against anyone who asked questions,” or anything remotely like that. The dispatch simply uses these terms, as they were already understood, to classify people and ideas not rooted in reality. Furthermore, the document is not focused on these terms in any way and simply using them in passing. They could have just as easily talked about fiction told by hucksters or lies told by con artists; the meaning would be largely the same.

Despite the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary cites the first use of the term conspiracy theory in print some 38 years before the creation of the CIA (as I have noted before), and other sources date the term as much older, I have encountered several people who insist that the term was virtually unknown until this particular CIA dispatch was sent out. The strongest evidence any of them gave for this is the fact that Richard Hofstadter did not use the term in his 1964 Harper’s Magazine article, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which is basically about conspiracy-based politics. Why Hofstadter didn’t employ this term is anybody’s guess, but assuming it was unknown based on this choice alone is extremely dubious.

In 1945, the philosopher Karl Popper published his influential book, The Open Society and It’s Enemies, in which he discusses, “the ‘conspiracy theory of society’… This view of the aims of the social sciences arises, of course, from the mistaken theory that, whatever happens in society — especially happenings such as war, unemployment, poverty, shortages, which people as a rule dislike — is the result of direct design by some powerful individuals and groups.” Popper saw this thinking as, “the secularization of a religious superstition. The belief in the Homeric gods whose conspiracies explain the history of the Trojan War is gone. The gods are abandoned. But their place is filled by powerful men or groups — sinister pressure groups whose wickedness is responsible for all the evils we suffer from — such as the Learned Elders of Zion, or the monopolists, or the capitalists, or the imperialists.”

Popper didn’t deny the existence of conspiracies throughout history (nor do I, despite the fact that this strawman argument is often thrown at me), but he understood that there are too many, “unforeseen reactions in [the] framework,” of society for most conspiracies to be successful, and no opportunity for one hidden group of puppet masters to dictate everything, as conspiracy theorists envision. Popper also understood that, “people who sincerely believe that they know how to make heaven on earth are most likely to adopt the conspiracy theory, and to get involved in a counter-conspiracy against non-existing conspirators. For the only explanation of their failure to produce their heaven is the evil intention of the Devil, who has a vested interest in hell.”

In short, Popper was saying that the great secular faiths that arose in Europe in the wake of the First World War, Nazi style Fascism and Soviet style Marxism, were based on conspiracy theories about who ruled the world and what needed to be done to stop them and create an earthly paradise. It is not hard to see how such thinking would have resonated with CIA men, who came off the fight against the Nazis and into the fight against the Soviets. This doesn’t prove that everyone in the CIA read, or even new of Popper’s work, but the early CIA was dominated by privileged, well-educated, and rather elitist patriots. It is more than likely that they were familiar with Popper and prone to make similar conclusions themselves. Seeing conspiracy theorists as intellectually lazy and simplistic fanatics. For them to use the term as a negative identifier was no different then identifying someone driven by bigotry, “a racist.” It would have seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do.


3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active, however, addresses are requested:

a. To discuss the publicity problem with liaison and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.


Not only was this dispatch limited to overseas offices, but CIA personal were directed to take no actions in countries were there was no overt discussion of the assassination already taking place. And, once again, the danger here is not that the CIA fears a deep, dark secret might be revealed; they feared the harm that liars might do with their lies (“the critics are without serious foundation”). They also suspected, with good reason, that communist propaganda was driving these lies, to some degree, because the Soviets (and the Russian Empire before them) had a long history of using disinformation for propaganda purposes.

It should also be noted here that propaganda is not inherently good or bad, honest or dishonest. I know it has some scary connotations, because it is easily associated with totalitarian states, like the Nazis and the Soviets, but it is just another form of messaging. The first office of propaganda was created by the Catholic Church in 1622, “to propagate the faith,” and regardless what you think of Catholicism, the goal was not to lie to people; it was to spread the faith as they understood it. Governments and political groups have increasingly used propaganda to advance their view of the world, their faith, for both noble and wicked ends.


b. To employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (i) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (ii) politically interested, (iii) financially interested, (iv) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (v) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein’s theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher Knebel article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane’s book is much less convincing that Epstein’s and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)


If the goal of this dispatch was to popularize or weaponize the terms conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorists, it seems only logical that it would direct people to use these terms, or at least ask them to. No only does the document fail to do this, it even fails to us the terms consistently and opps for the more neutral, “criticism,” and “critic,” despite the fact the people in question are notably dishonest.

The different motives that the dispatch ascribes to CTers is still true today, as I have seen time and time again, and none of them is rooted in a sincere pursuit of the truth. CTers then, and now, repeat ideas and fake facts that began circulating before the Warren Report was even completed. They have a vested political and/or financial interest in only seeing the case one one. They overlook far more then they focus on, and they are driven by an ego-centric version of history, where their feelings matter more than the facts or anyone else’s expertise.

I realize that the CIA has a questionable track record, but they are hardly the Gestapo-style organization that CTers often make them out to be. Rather than targeting phony critics of the Warren Report and trying to murder them, or setting them up with a dead hooker in a hotel room, all the authors of this dispatch did was to call for serious rebuttals to be published against the critics; countering lies with facts. It is hard to argue that they are irredeemably evil for writing book reports.


4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:

a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider. The assassination is sometimes compared (e.g., by Joachim Joesten and Bertrand Russell) with the Dreyfus case; however, unlike that case, the attack on the Warren Commission have produced no new evidence, no new culprits have been convincingly identified, and there is no agreement among the critics. (A better parallel, though an imperfect one, might be with the Reichstag fire of 1933, which some competent historians (Fritz Tobias, AJ.P. Taylor, D.C. Watt) now believe was set by Vander Lubbe on his own initiative, without acting for either Nazis or Communists; the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Communists, but the latter have been more successful in convincing the world that the Nazis were to blame.)


Dreyfus was a French officer who was wrongly convicted of treason because he was Jewish and many people at the time did not trust Jews to be loyal, patriotic citizens. Unlike the critics of the Warren Report, who go off in a hundred different direction with different theories about who, “really,” did it and how, the critics of the Dreyfus case were able to make a consistent, fact-based rebuttal showing how and why he was not guilty.

The Reighstag fire, was a fire set at the German Parliament building, which gave Hitler the excuse he needed to arrest communist leaders and suspend the constitution (which remained, “suspended” for the next 12 years, until Hitler’s suicide and the division of Germany at the end of World War II). Some are convinced that the Nazis set the fire themselves but most of the evidence pointed to a loan communist, Vander Lubbe, who the Nazis falsely accused of being part of a wider plot.


b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent–and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence. A close examination of the Commission’s records will usually show that the conflicting eyewitness accounts are quoted out of context, or were discarded by the Commission for good and sufficient reason.


I continue to see this same behavior today, in the JFK case and many other conspiracy theories. As I have said before, these people can’t see the case through the evidence. Only their particular obsessions are important, no matter how wrong or out of context they tend to be.

This is not a denigration of heroic freedom fighters for the truth. This is a factual breakdown of why such critics have nothing of substance to offer. I understand why CTers don’t like hearing this, but they are not being ill-treated. Their actions are simply being identified.


c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc. Note that Robert Kennedy, Attorney General at the time and John F. Kennedy’s brother, would be the last man to overlook or conceal any conspiracy. And as one reviewer pointed out, Congressman Gerald R. Ford would hardly have held his tongue for the sake of the Democratic administration, and Senator Russell would have had every political interest in exposing any misdeeds on the part of Chief Justice Warren. A conspirator moreover would hardly choose a location for a shooting where so much depended on conditions beyond his control: the route, the speed of the cars, the moving target, the risk that the assassin would be discovered. A group of wealthy conspirators could have arranged much more secure conditions.


This is the kind of simple, but not simplistic, reasoning that CTers try hard to ignore. For example, they claim Robert Kennedy was too upset to be thinking clearly and didn’t have the authority to take on the conspirators. This ignores the fact that he had the presence of mind to order the White House staff to remove all his brother’s papers before the new president came back to Washington; something he had no authority to do. He also ordered his people to start looking around and asking question about the mob and anyone else who might have been involved. In short, he was fully able to do whatever he felt needed to be done, be there any legal precedent for it or not.

CTers generally refuse to understand logistics and how silly a plan like this would be. Everything about the shooting points to a lone gunman, not a conspiracy, and there were way too many people who could have profited from exposing, “the truth,” for them to all remain silent.


d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other. Actually, the make-up of the Commission and its staff was an excellent safeguard against over-commitment to any one theory, or against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties.


More simple, but not simplistic, reasoning. It is easy for one person, or a group of likeminded people to talk themselves into anything they want to believe. It is much harder to get important and powerful men, each with their own agenda and careers to think about, all on the same page. About 300 people worked on the Warrent Report, from collecting evidence and interviews to reviewing Oswald’s taxes and travels to reviewing everything in context and determining what could or could not be said with any degree of certainty. The only way to keep them all on the same page was for them all to be pursing the truth. A massive lie would have massively crumbled, quickly.


e. Oswald would not have been any sensible person’s choice for a co-conspirator. He was a “loner,” mixed up, of questionable reliability and an unknown quantity to any professional intelligence service.


CEters can pretend that Oswald’s entire life was an act, from childhood on, but there is no reason to believe that this guy who couldn’t hold down manual labor jobs for long, or stop himself from beating his wife in frustration over his failures, was some kind of ultra-secret, super operative. Even the misrepresentation that he was just, “a patsy,” assumes that he was associating with the people who did this and they could count on him to show up to work with a package in his hand that day and not be photographed out on the street, watching the motorcade, and hundreds of other mistakes that could have blown, “the cover story.”


f. As to charges that the Commission’s report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.

g. Such vague accusations as that “more than ten people have died mysteriously” can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses (the FBI interviewed far more people, conduction 25,000 interviews and re interviews), and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected. (When Penn Jones, one of the originators of the “ten mysterious deaths” line, appeared on television, it emerged that two of the deaths on his list were from heart attacks, one from cancer, one was from a head-on collision on a bridge, and one occurred when a driver drifted into a bridge abutment.)

5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission’s Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics.


This is more elaboration on the kinds of phony complaints and selective facts that critics fixate on, along with a reiteration of the fact that their speculation does not measure up to the quality of the Warren Report. Most importantly, look at what is not here. The dispatch never tells anyone to use the term conspiracy theory or conspiracy theorist. It never even asks. It simply using these terms, one time each, in a way that was already understood. The dispatch also never instructs anyone to defame CTers or, “critics;” to make them look crazy or disloyal. It simply identifies motivations other than the truth with often guide them and points out how their ideas are not a reasonable interpretation of history. And what are the countermeasures they propose to these falsehoods? They simply ask their people to stand up for the quality and accuracy of the Warren Commission’s work. There is nothing here that could be reasonably interpreted as creating, popularizing, or weaponize the terms conspiracy theory or conspiracy theorist. There is nothing here that is could be reasonably interpreted as in infringement on people’s rights or an unfair attack on their character.

As with so many things in the CTer worldview, CIA Dispatch 1035-960 has become an article of faith in their narrative, rather than a fact to be carefully examined in the context of history. This dispatch, and it’s mischaracterization, is a great example of why the CTer perspective is not helpful in determining reality. They are not looking for the truth; they are making up stories.

CURRENT DISHONEST ARTICLES ABOUT THE DISPATCH

While most Twitter users have ignored me when I point out how they are wrong about the CIA’s alleged involvement with the terms conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorist, a few do respond. They tell me I’m stupid, or worse, and they go off about all the real and imagined things the CIA has done over the years, but none has offered any real argument against the basic facts. The best they can do, is to link me to some pro-conspiracy theory articles that tell the same lie they are spreading.


Zero Hedge has a piece by George Washington (A pen name?) from February 2015, entitled, “In 1967, the CIA Created the Label “Conspiracy Theorists” … to Attack Anyone Who Challenges the “Official” Narrative.” According to George, “The Magna Carta, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and other founding Western documents were based on conspiracy theories. Greek democracy and free market capitalism were also based on conspiracy theories.” His proof for this? There is none. George also thinks that psychological operations means “disinformation,” and claims that, “the CIA’s clandestine services unit created the arguments for attacking conspiracy theories as unreliable in the 1960s as part of its psychological warfare operations.” His proof for this? There is none. After that he goes on to give some bait and switch arguments about why conspiracy theories aren’t nutty.

For example, he claims that, “One hundred and thirty thousand (130,000) people from the U.S., UK and Canada worked on the Manhattan Project. But it was kept secret for years.” This allegedly proves that secrets, liked the imaginary conspiracy that killed President Kennedy, can be kept indefinitely. But these two events do not line up in any meaningful way.

To begin with, the Manhattan Project wasn’t as secret as they hoped it would be. When President Truman decided to tell Soviet Leader Stalin that we had a A-bomb, Stalin already knew. More importantly, the Soviets were able to make a bomb of their own much faster that we expected them to, thanks to stolen information from the Western Powers.


Survival Update has a May 2019 article the Survival Update Team entitled, “It Was the CIA That Coined the Phrase Conspiracy Theory.” Their claim: “In 1976 the New York Times obtained a document they requested via the Freedom of Information Act. This document was a CIA Dispatch labeled “psych” for “psychological operations” that was distributed in 1967, indicating they coined the phrase “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorists” and used it as a derogatory term to attack anyone who challenged the official narrative from the Warren Commission.” It is true that the New York Times were the ones who obtained this dispatch in 1976, but the rest of this is smoke and mirrors to make you believe that, “conspiracy theorist,” is a, “badge of honor.”


Corey Lynn, writing at Corey’s Digs in March of 2018, with the title, “CIA Coined and Weaponized The Label “Conspiracy Theory,”” admits that the CIA was not the first to use the term, but claims this doesn’t really matter. “There are some disputes out there as to whether the C.I.A. was the first to use the term because it has been printed in a handful of political books from the late 1800’s. The inception of the C.I.A. was in 1947 and this “psych” dispatch went out in 1967. It is from that point on that the term “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist” have been shoved down our throats. It was weaponized, just as so many other labels have been used to distract, manipulate and change the narrative to suit their agenda.” Where is the proof for any of this? You guessed it. There is none.

These first three discussions of the dispatch make much of the fact that is was stamped, “CS COPY,” when it was released to the Times. This they note, is, “clandestine services,” which makes it extra sinister in their minds. It is not clear to me, however, what this stomp means or how it changes the relatively banal nature of the dispatch?


Ron Unz at The Unz Review, entitled his September 2016 post: “American Pravda: How the CIA Invented “Conspiracy Theories.”” Amid rambling about his belief that there are “good” conspiracy theories and “bad” conspiracy theories, questioning the truth behind the 9-11 Attack, Ron cites a book, Conspiracy Theory in America, by Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith. Most of the article is a summary of deHaven-Smith’s work, which claims that, “the CIA was very likely responsible for the widespread introduction of “conspiracy theory” as a term of political abuse, having orchestrated that development as a deliberate means of influencing public opinion.” But the piece does acknowledge that others, like Karl Popper, contributed to the idea that “conspiracy theory” should be used in a negative way. In short, his piece doesn’t justify it’s title. Even by the facts he offers, readers can see that the CIA did not invent the term.

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