There are problems with the term 'conspiracy theory'.
What better way for the state, media and politicians to dismiss anyone asking awkward questions than to dismiss someone as a conspiracy theorist? Apart from calling someone a racist, it has become the ultimate reflex term of abuse.
Conspiracies certainly do exist. For one very simple reason - people do conspire against one another. How long did Gordon Brown plot and scheme against Tony Blair for? Travel back 20 years and Michael Heseltine was playing much the same game against Margaret Thatcher - leaking information to tame journalists, fighting proxy wars between his supporters and Thatcher's and even at times fighting mini-war's - such as that over Westland.
As a broad peace settles in Northern Ireland, we come to learn more and more about the extent to which elements of the British state colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in order to murder rivals. But does that really mean, as Sinn Fein and some posters on Internet 'truth' forums would have it, that Ulster Loyalist terrorism was the creation and creature of the British state? That view hardly fits with the realities of the history of Loyalism, which has always used violence against its political opponents, nor does it equate with the sometimes complex relationship between Northern Ireland Protestants and the British state.
The analyst Tim Pendry has provided us with a strong examination of some of the issues around Conspiracy Theory on the website As It Happens. He is probably correct to point to a small decline in conspiracy activism in recent years. Pendry argues that the increased focus on and examination of such theories wounds them, whilst the election of Obama and a recession that governments are clearly not in control of further weakens belief in the ability of all encompassing cabals who run absolutely everything to their advantage, at all times.
Whilst Pendry notes the commercial and cultural base of conspiracy theory, he does not stress the rich tapestry nor range of theories that are out there. Black America for example, often has very different conspiracy theories to white America. Over 20 years ago I seemed to spend most of my time listening to Hip-Hop that 'explained' the conspiracy to destroy the black race, that all too often regurgitated some of the more crackpot views of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, over the best music I had ever heard. I was not convinced, but then again I was never part of the core target audience.
Pendry also misses the fact that conspiracy theories, when widely adopted, can be dangerous. The BBC's recent Conspiracy Files programme on 7/7 presented an extremely worrying insight into a section of the British Muslim community, at Birmingham Central Mosque. What price ideas of Muslim rationality, and indeed our community relations, when conspiracy theories about 7/7 are widely held by British Muslims? It is one thing to believe the government and police may not have given a clear account of 7/7, another entirely to believe the sort of rubbish propagated in DVD's such as Ripple Effect.
Pendry concludes that conspiracy theory will always be with us until we have real reform, replacing the elites of Brussels, London and Washington. Well, reform or revolution suits us at 9/11 Cultwatch. Although revolution sounds considerably more fun!
It is hard to move towards either if irrational ideas, anti-semitism or fantasy dominates progressive movements. We should not be afraid to burst the bubble of theories or movements that make progressive change harder - and the more we see of the 9/11 and 7/7 'truth' movements, the more they fit that description.