The Atlantic has an article about conspiracy theories that you could almost call standard issue by now. Here you have all the poor quality argumentation about conspiracy theories you might want to find, in one article. You could comment on the poor reasoning here for a long time.
Consider a recommendation that improves discussion. Let’s drop the term conspiracy theory from our political vocabulary. Let’s drop the adjectives, too, like paranoid, reprehensible, and dangerous. We have a few simple starting points: some explanations are true, some are not, some are partially true. Some hypotheses are more useful than others. Some evidence is more valuable than other evidence. We can rule out some things more readily than we can rule out other things. Let’s use these forensic elements to find out what happened, to determine which explanations are the best ones.
If we approach political crimes in this way, you start to see that the arguments in Adrienne LaFrance’s article are misdirected. For her, the term conspiracy theory stands in for paranoid, false explanation. She faults people like Donald Trump for using conspiracy theories to win political battles, but she does not appear to care in her article about the means we use to evaluate alternate explanations. For her, all conspiracy theories are equally bad.
Related thoughts on discernment
If you believe government protects you, secures your safety, then you will interpret what you see around you in light of that belief. If you believe government preys upon you, as predators prey upon the weak in order to maintain their own strength, then you will interpret what you see in light of that belief.
That is why I cannot persuade you to change how you interpret what you see in the Zapruder film. That is why I cannot persuade you to change how you interpret what you see in films that record destruction of World Trade Center 7. Beliefs that fashion what you see do not change due to arguments about specific pieces of evidence. They change only after long periods of discernment.
Raids on the Unspeakable, by Thomas Merton