This article is from the Conspiracy Theory Literature FAQ, by Xavier Poez email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
An interesting overview of how conspiracies tend to work is given by
[Icke95]. He proposes a typical pyramid structure in which a secret
organization is hierarchical, and knowledge among the members is
greatest at the top and least at the bottom. Members on the bottom are
pawns and dupes, who can be manipulated through their beliefs and
vices. The tendency of members to fight among each other is useful to
their controllers as it keeps them focused on a narrow view of
reality, precluding the discovery that they are pawns. "Dupes" outside
of the group are people who can be tricked into following the group's
agenda because of their ignorance or belief system.
Another major mechanism is that of double agents and agent
provocateurs. The former might infiltrate the government but work
under the agenda of some other secret group. They tend to focus on key
positions in government involving the most power and the least public
view. Provocateurs are useful in creating diversions and distractions
or the illusion of problems where there are none, so that "solutions"
favorable to the conspirators can be introduced.
In the middle of the pyramid are the middlemen, who function like
managers in handing down commands from the upper echelons into the
lower hierarchy. They are better informed and aspire to climb the
pyramid. The Elite at the top of the pyramid have the full agenda and
care only about their own power.
Perhaps most critical of all to the whole framework is a vast,
unsuspecting, uncritical general public composed of people who would
rather watch a sitcom or sporting event than participate in holding
the government accountable for its actions, yet continue to send it
tax money to finance its plans. Authors sometimes refer to this class
as the "sheeple" for their timidity. Convincing this class of its
inability to effect any change is another key ploy required.
Toward the ends of herding the "sheeple", the media must be controlled
using various means. Stories that are critical or expose anything the
Elite is interested in need to be snuffed out or muffled with
smokescreens. The earlier players such as "pawns, dupes, double
agents, agent provocateurs" etc. are ideally involved in part in the