If Kim Dotcom is a conspiracy theorist…

…then so is the Prime Minister.

This story, from our great and glorious news paper, the New Zealand Herald, reports John Key as saying:

[Kim Dotcom] is a well-known conspiracy theorist. He has never ever found a piece of evidence to support that.

Key is referring to Dotcom’s claim that the Prime Minister has deceived the New Zealand public about numerous aspects of his foreknowledge about the raids on the Dotcom/Chrisco mansion (the event which, arguably, has lead to the government deciding to amend the act which governs the GCSB).

Key is using “conspiracy theorist” here in the pejorative sense of “Someone who believes a clearly ridiculous proposition (about a purported conspiracy)”, which kind of plays to the Prime Minister’s style of denigrating people who dare disagree with him. Key could have simply dismissed Dotcom’s claims by saying “He has no evidence to support that” but he decided to play the “conspiracy theorist” card.

As I have long argued, there’s nothing wrong with being a conspiracy theorist. Any political or historically literate person knows conspiracies have occurred and some of the theories about those conspiracies have turned out to be warranted. Rather than simply dismiss such claims as being the fantasies of conspiracy theorists, we should judge individual conspiracy theories on their merits.

However, if Kim Dotcom is a conspiracy theorist (in either the pejorative or non-pejorative sense), then so is John Key, at least with respect to his theories about the opposition to his party’s new GCSB bill. Take, for example, this claim by the Prime Minister:

“By the way, very senior Labour members within that caucus understand completely the importance of national security and of keeping New Zealanders safe and the very question they might have to ask themselves if one day there was a equivalent of the Boston bombings in New Zealand would they be the very same members who would stand up and say they prevented New Zealanders from being kept as safe as they otherwise could be.”

So, Labour understands the serious of the matter but is playing a political point-scoring game? That’s a claim of conspiracy. ((It might even be a plausible one.)) John Key, by advancing such a claim, is presenting a conspiracy theory to account for Labour’s opposition to the GCSB bill.

If you want to use “conspiracy theorist” in the pejorative sense, it’s probably wise not to advance conspiracy theories of your own. That just makes you a conspiracy theorist too. Now, I’m happy for both Dotcom and Key to be called conspiracy theorists, and I’m also quite content to look at their respective conspiracy theories and make judgements about the plausibility of each. However, I suspect that if you were to tell John Key that he’s a conspiracy theorist just like Kim Dotcom, then the look in his reptilian eyes would be that of a scandalised man. I mean, he’s a sensible guy (or so it’s claimed), and sensible guys can’t be conspiracy theorists…

Except they can. In either sense.