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The epithet conspiracy theorist can be understood as what C. Wright Mills called a "vocabulary of motive:' This vocabulary of motive is routinely used to dismiss scholars, journalists, and citizens who question, or worse yet document, the consolidation or abuse of political, economic, and cultural resources. The micropolitics of the term conspiracy theory have become so intense that grassy knoll (a term relating to belief in conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy) and other terms have become shorthand for those who on the one hand wear "tinfoil hats" to protect themselves from government mind-control rays and for those on the other hand who don't accept inside-the-Beltway wisdom.

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This document was originally published in pp. 82-93 of Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe in Them, by/edited by Joseph E. Uscinski, 2018, and is reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. Copyright restrictions may apply.

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