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People use various tactics to discredit conspiracy theory or conspiracy theorists.

One tactic is to ridicule a conspiracy theory proponent as irrational. At first glance, this qualifies as a fallacy known as poisoning the well.

But what if Mr. A says nothing bad about Mr. B's character, aside from the fact that he supports a particular conspiracy theory? In other words, Mr. A is saying "Mr. B believes in conspiracy theory, therefore he must be a kook."

Would this circular argument qualify as poisoning the well, or is there a better term for it?

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This book makes an argument that the CIA developed the term "conspiracy theory" with the expressed intention of poisoning the well - that they introduced the term in the common parlance in order to brand those who might have more reasonable questions about important events with those who deny those events happened, or concoct preposterous explanations as to their occurrence.

https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/dehcon

This of course is a conspiracy theory in itself, and I wouldn't vouch for all the material in that book, but it makes an interesting point. I think it is common for people to express the argument that Mr. A made, and I do think it is an example of poisoning the well. However, there are certain cases (Flat Eartherism, Moon Landing Hoax, whatever convoluted Judeo-Masonic conspiracy is curently popular) where dismissal of Mr. B on their acceptance of such a conspiracy may not be valid logically, but I think it's more than understandable for you to want to call their judgment into question.

Remember though, there have been real conspiracies, and Mr. A's argument could in fact help to derail investigation into genuine wrongdoing (which was the CIA's plan all along!).

I would say you would have to take it on a case by case basis - it's a cliche, but "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Maybe hold off on branding Mr. B a "kook" until the conspiracy theory he's proposing has been shown definitively to be "kooky".

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  • Yes, I've heard of that conspiracy theory Re: the CIA. I've always found it hard to believe, as "conspiracy theory" is such a simple term, but I've never explored the CIA theory in any detail. There's certainly no question that conspiracy theorists are demonized in the media and on the screen. – David Blomstrom Aug 1 '17 at 2:40
  • Well, there's definitely an uptick in the use of the term after the Kennedy and MLK assassinations - and according to the book I linked, the strategy was developed in direct response to these events. Supposedly evidence was discovered from a FOIA request, but I didn't do any independent research into it. The CIA, however, has probably comitted the most verifiable conspiracies in recent times - so you can't put it past em! – smb3 Aug 1 '17 at 4:16
  • Guess I'll just have to co-opt the CIA's term. ;) – David Blomstrom Aug 1 '17 at 13:28
  • You know, David himself believes those Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories. Well, maybe he doesn’t have anything against Freemasons. – Obie 2.0 Jan 10 '18 at 2:33
  • How do you define "Judeo-Masonic"? I believe any conspiracy theory that is supported by a combination of facts, evidence and logic. – David Blomstrom Jun 19 '19 at 2:04

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