“Conspiracy theory” is a derogatory term as is the term “conspiracy theorist.”
These terms are used not only to discredit individuals, but also to discredit the very discussion of specific topics.
One frequently hears these terms used with this intention in the news media and in casual conversation. Certainly no one in academia would like to be called a “conspiracy theorist” in print and being called one is not helpful for one’s career in any field.
Rebecca Moore herself points out that historians “use (the term) to indicate a lack of veracity and objectivity.”
Later in her paper, Professor Moore claims that she has her own unique definition for this term and nothing derogatory was intended by its use.
I will leave it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions as the soundness of her use of the language.
However, I do strenuously object to having my work on Jonestown characterized as a “conspiracy theory.”
My web site is nothing more or less than a collection of photographic and documentary evidence that shows that Jim Jones was a well connected member of the political establishment of the City of San Francisco, the place where he operated before moving to Guyana.
I fail to see how this thoroughly documented historical fact merits being classified as a “conspiracy theory” either in the commonly used sense of the term or in Professor Moore’s personal lexicon.
Besides being unfair, this kind of name-calling does nothing to advance the spirit of inquiry which I’ve always thought is at the foundation of what academics do.
(Editor’s note: Rebecca Moore’s reply to Mr. McCarthy appears here.)