Quotations about   conspiracy

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[A man who] counts the pain of the state as his own glory; as if, indeed, your consulate were not the reason for that conspiracy and through which the republic was torn apart when it possessed you as its protector.”

[… qui civitatis incommodum in gloriam suam ponit. Quasi vero non illius coniurationis causa fuerit consulatus tuus et idcirco res publica disiecta eo tempore quo te custodem habebat.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Invectiva in Ciceronem [Invective Against Cicero], sec. 3 [tr. @setentiq (2020)] (Spurious)
    (Source)

In reference to the Catiline conspiracy. Most scholars believe this was not Sallust's work, but that of a 1st Century rhetorician, likely the one who penned the provoking Invective against Sallust, ostensibly by Cicero.

Alt. trans.:
  • "[He] who caused the state injury to augment his own glory. As though your consulship were not the cause of that conspiracy! That is the reason the state was torn apart at that time with you as its guardian." [tr. Novokhatko (2009)]
  • "[A] man who makes disaster to his country the means of his own glorification, was sent as a protector to this city and its citizens, and not as its executioner. As if, forsooth, your consulship was not the cause of that conspiracy, and as if the reason why the commonwealth was not rent asunder at that time was because it had you for a protector." [tr. Loeb ed. (1921), sec. 2]
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.

Bernard Ingham (b. 1932) British journalist, civil servant, press secretary
Quoted in The Observer (17 Mar 1985)

Often paraphrased, "Cock-up before conspiracy." Cf. Hanlon.
Added on 1-May-20 | Last updated 1-May-20
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It’s one thing to be aware of complex strategies and lies that might be going on around you. It’s another to let yourself become so worried about deception that you become paralyzed.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Dragon (1998)
Added on 19-Aug-16 | Last updated 19-Aug-16
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Once you get it into your head that somebody is controlling events, you can interpret everything in that light and find no reasonable certainty anywhere.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Foundation’s Edge, ch. 12 “Agent” (1982)
Added on 12-Jul-16 | Last updated 12-Jul-16
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The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damnfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy. If these villains could be put down, he holds, he would at once become rich, powerful and eminent. Nine politicians out of every ten, of whatever party, live and have their being by promising to perform
this putting down. In brief, they are knaves who maintain themselves by preying on the idiotic vanities and pathetic hopes of half-wits.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (15 Jun 1936)
Added on 8-Mar-16 | Last updated 8-Mar-16
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Physicists and astronomers see their own implications in the world being round, but to me it means that only one-third of the world is asleep at any given time and the other two-thirds is up to something.

Dean Rusk (1909-1994) American politician and diplomat
Speech, American Bar Assoc., Atlanta (22 Oct 1964)
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-Oct-15
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There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religious beliefs. Such a society is like a cockroach — it thrives in the dark. So do those who combine for such an end.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Speech, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, New York (20 Dec 1914)
Added on 27-Jul-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent — in fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)

Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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In public affairs, stupidity is more dangerous than knavery.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) US President (1913-20), educator, political scientist
The New Freedom, ch. 3 (1913)
Added on 19-Mar-15 | Last updated 19-Mar-15
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As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964).
Added on 4-Mar-15 | Last updated 4-Mar-15
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Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up. … The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptilioids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening: no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.

Alan Moore (b. 1953) British writer
In Dez Vylenz (dir), The Mindscape of Alan Moore, film (2005)
    (Source)

Discussing his research about conspiracy theories while writing "Shadowplay: The Secret Team" (1988).
Added on 31-Oct-14 | Last updated 31-Oct-14
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Rebels and dissidents challenge the complacent belief in a just world, and, as the theory would predict, they are usually denigrated for their efforts. While they are alive, they may be called “cantankerous,” “crazy,” “hysterical,” “uppity,” or “duped.” Dead, some of them become saints and heroes, the sterling characters of history. It’s a matter of proportion. One angry rebel is crazy, three is a conspiracy, fifty is a movement.

Carol Tavris (b. 1944) American social psychologist and author
“Anger in an Unjust World,” Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (1982)
Added on 11-Mar-14 | Last updated 17-Jul-16
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Bad rulers … are in constant fear lest others are conspiring to inflict upon them the punishment which they are conscious of deserving.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 3, ch. 6 (1517) [tr. Detmold (1882)]
Added on 21-Aug-13 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) American computer inventor, entrepreneur
Interview, Wired (Feb 1996)
Added on 1-Nov-12 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Other Authors and Sources
Robert J. Hanlon, “Hanlon’s Razor,” Murphy’s Law, Book Two (ed. A. Bloch) (1980)

Cf. Heinlein, Napoleon, and Goethe. See here for more information, including discussion that "Robert J. Hanlon" may be a corruption or obfuscation of "Robert A. Heinlein."

Various variants in combinations with "ascribe," "what can be," and "incompetence."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Nov-17
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Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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