A complot theory (or conspiracy theory) is a hypothesis that argues that the covert influence of some powerful organization is at work in an unexplained or secretive manner, usually to conceal the “truth” from common knowledge. The key aspect of any such theory is that it reflects and responds to a contemporary state of affairs and has strong political or moral implications for society.
The term is often used to describe any speculation of this nature and is usually associated with such topics as politics, entertainment (especially films), the state, capitalism, socialism, religion, and terrorism. It can also be applied very broadly to theories that do not necessarily stem from a specific suspicion of conspiracy but that nonetheless present an alternative explanation for a historical or existing trend that is at odds with what is widely perceived as accepted history.
History of complot theory:
A complot theory is a hypothesis that contends that events or facts are being manipulated or covered up to benefit those controlling them; having an alternative explanation for the reason things happen, and strong moral and political connotations. Conspiracy theories rely on the view that leaders operate in secret against their own people and further exploit vulnerable parts of society, such as women, children, racial minorities.
The term complot theory was coined by science fiction author Umberto Eco in his 1995 essay “Three die-hard fallacies of the conspiratorial mindset” featured in the posthumous anthology The Search for the Perfect Language (1995). A conspiracy theory had been used as early as 1950 by David Icke.
Eco saw this conspiratorial perspective as the emergence of a type of myth, where history is subverted by many false narratives that are hegemonic in society. It was opposed to scientific rationality; explanations had to be simple and feed into “mass culture” or they were dismissed. The book warns against complot theory on all scales, be it against the “grand complot” that sees events as being controlled by an elite or else a “gutter complot” that thinks all history is simple manipulation.
Eco saw this idea of conspiracy theories as becoming more vivid with increased people’s education, but at the same time resulting in a critical view toward them. The reason is that people tend to see themselves as intervening in history, which is due to an assumption that all significant events are the result of plans by other humans. This would be the basis for complot theory.
Social media has been seen by some commentators as a fertile ground where conspiracy theories are propagated, to create social movements based on conspiracy. When such an activity is propagated on the Internet, it creates a story that is resistant to facts and can spread spontaneously at great speed.
Theories involving multiple conspirators that are proven to be correct, such as the 1969 moon landing hoax or other aspects of conspiracy about NASA, can cause those who hold to complot theory to distrust all conspiracies.
Eco sees the term as belonging to an ancient tradition of storytelling, although it has become more popular in modern times due to reduced censorship and greater political participation.
As a result, he argues that the trend will continue into the near future. It would be hard for society to turn itself around on such a large scale. Eco sees complot theory as a false and “metaphysical” attempt to find an explanation for the complexities of society, rather than staying focused on one’s own understanding of what is going on in contemporary society. He claims that it takes no great skill to create a conspiracy theory from scratch without any reference to facts at all and that with the rise of multimedia it is even easier to do so.