The AP's Erroneous Take on JFK 'Conspiracy Theorists'
Anatomy of a fact checking failure.
First in two-part series
On January 6, 2023 the Associated Press assessed the following claim, which has circulated on social media and reportedly gained 5,000 likes on one Instagram account:
The terms “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist” were created by the Central Intelligence Agency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as a way of discrediting people who doubted the government’s official reports
This statement, claimed AP fact checker Graph Massara, is “false.” The term “conspiracy theorist” was used as early as 1863, he wrote, citing a 1962 academic paper. The AP story is narrowly correct. It is clear that the term “conspiracy theorist” was in use before the CIA deployed it against skeptics of the official version of Kennedy’s murder. It was not “invented” by the CIA.
But the AP report is also erroneous, misleading, and under-informed in a profound (and perhaps unconscious) ways that requires, well, fact-checking.
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