On March 18, 2014 Cass Sunstein released his latest collection of essays, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas. Like his other works geared toward a mainstream readership, the prominent Harvard law professor, former Obama administration regulatory czar, and NSA advisor  points to numerous alleged dangers posed by even “rational people” who are susceptible to adopting “crippled epistemologies.” What Sunstein fails to explain throughout his most recent medley of gentle authoritarianism is how the “conspiracy theory” term has received vigorous promotion from the editorial practices of certain major corporate news media.
“Conspiracy theory” is not merely a flippant or off-handed water cooler term, but rather a powerful tool of political discourse. “Deployed as a pejorative putdown,” political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith observes,
the label is a verbal defense mechanism used by political elites to suppress mass suspicions that inevitably arise when shocking political crimes benefit top leaders or play into their agendas, especially when those same officials are in control of agencies responsible for preventing events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.
Along these lines, “conspiracy theory” and its common variants, “assassination buff,” “crackpot,” “wacko,” and so on, were essentially interpolated into news reports and commentary in the late 1960s by CIA media assets as the agency maneuvered to bolster the Warren Commission’s “lone assassin” explanation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.