Last updated by The POOG on March 01, 2021.

if you’re taking flak you know you’re over the target

Apocryphal expression from WWII. No referencable origin.


debunked as a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories in the early usage of the term go back more than a century. However, it is only in the modern era beginning in the 1950s that the term has taken on a pejorative connotation. As such it may be used as a psyop by parties wishing to discredit close scrutiny.

First recognize that when the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is used as an attack and that one may have touched a sensitive point of the opponent. This is on itself valuable information. It may be considered to be a validation of the proposition that invited the attack. Also, it may give insight into critical points in the opponent’s position or strategy which are otherwise hidden.

I emphasize ‘may’ because the use of the term may be a Pavlovian response devoid of any information other than that you have hit a nerve.

To conspire is “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement“. The definition has two parts. The first is that the act must be”unlawful or wrongful“. The second is that it must be a “secret agreement“. As a result, a ‘conspiracy theory‘ would be a proposition that the conspiracy exists. It is a prime function of science to formulate and prove theories.

Far from being a dismissive term designed to marginalize and stigmatize a proponent of a theory, it should be viewed as an invitation to critically examine the proposition and prove either its truth or falsehood. So if you are accused of creating a conspiracy theory, take it as encouragement that you are likely on the right track and undertaking a worthwhile endeavour that many may benefit from.

In my earlier blog post Conspiracy Theory vs Conspiracy Fact, I noted how contempory ‘conspiracy theories’ around the COVID-19 pandemic are turning into conspiracy facts.

Attack/Response Strategy

There are two classes of attacks. The first is rational argument. The second is emotional diatribe. Their common element is that they both can be construed as an attack on a person or organization, and a stated claim that they have made.

There are three ways of answering such an attack:

  1. Ignore it;
  2. defend your position; or
  3. attack the attacker.

Of the first strategy, one may do a quick cost/benefit analysis of a proposed response. Is it worth the potential aggravation and possible emotional engagement? Is there a perceived cost in not responding?

The second strategy is the strategy to avoid. It cedes control of the situation to the opponent and reveals a weakness that you have. A defensive response is to invalidate your position while validating that of the opponent. In a siege, the advantage is with the attacker over time.

The third strategy is one of counterattack. The goal is to place the opponent on the defensive. The most effective application is to attack the opponent’s person psychologically. Read their emotional state and draw it out: “you seem awfully angry.” Since the attack is often a form of emotional diatribe, key on and question the emotion exhibited. Politicians are masters of misdirection.

Your inclination to respond rather than the response that you use is something important to observe and work with. Our natural response to a threat is to flee or fight. Once your emotions are triggered, you are at a severe disadvantage against a more powerful opponent. Emotional response is designed to lead directly to action bypassing the mind. In many situations such as physical combat, if you try to analyze the opponent and calculate a response, you’re dead.

Find your weak points. Insecurity, lack of confidence, memories of past events, and many oter personal characteristics when confronted, can be reduced and overcome. This means that you will be less likely to be triggered, or if triggered, not to a debilitating degree. Train like a martial artist.

Rational Discourse and Emotional Diatribe

These two states are mutually exclusive. In any situation, decide which state you want to be in and operate from. Emotion trumps reason. If you are looking for rational discourse and you encounter emotional diatribe, break off the discussion immediately. There is nothing positive to be gained from it.

Unfortunately our culture is heavily polarized between the two states. It is difficult to bridge the gap. The accusation of conspiracy theorist is an emotional attack. Most individuals who engage in verbal attack are using ideological talking points. They are key phrases designed to force the opponent into the second response state. Rarely do these individuals have any depth of knowledge or critical thinking ability to sustain this kind of attack. Use this against them.

Name Calling

Name calling is a form of infantile or juvenile behaviour used to attack another person. It is used to avoid rational debate. When used by adults, it is a strategy designed to deflect attention from an issue that is either indefensible or at least one that the name caller is incapable of defending using rational debate. It may indicate a room-temperature IQ.

Politicians are masters of this strategy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada uses it regularity as is seen in this short video.

PSY – Trudeau name calling1.

In this video, in under 1 minute, he uses “conspiracy theories” twice and “disinformation” once. The other favourite term, “misinformation”, he didn’t get to use here.

To respond, use the attack/response strategy above. If you assess the encounter to be insignificant, then use the first response: ignore it. Any active response costs you mental and possibly emotional energy. As above, strategy #2 is a losing one to be avoided.

This leaves strategy #3. Ask “What theory specifically are you referring too?” Ask if the person knows can articulate what constitutes a conspiracy theory. Apart from forcing the oponent tobegin the process of self-examination, the use of the word ‘articulate’ implies if he can’t respond, that he is inarticulate.

This last point which just occurred to me is actually brilliant. Pose a question forcing the focus to move away from yourself to the opponent using words like ‘rational’, ‘articulate’, ‘knowledgeable’, etc. such that if – and this is what you expect – the opponent can’t give a positive reply, he paints himself with the opposite state. “What is the specific knowledge that you possess to support your claim?” Failure to supply any examples then implies lack of knowledge or ignorance.

Once you have placed your opponent on the defensive and begun to see his weak-spots, press the attack until he goes down.