Cabal

From Academic Kids

A cabal is a number of persons united in some close design, usually to promote their private views and interests in church or state by intrigue. Cabals are secret organizations composed of a few designing persons; a political cabal is often called a junta. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons. The term also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. Its usage carries strong connotations of shadowy corners and occult influence; a cabal is more evil and selective than, say, a faction, which is simply selfish.

The term cabal derives from Kabbalah (which has numerous spelling variations), the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew scripture, and originally meant either an occult doctrine or a secret.

The term took on its present insidious meaning from a group of ministers chosen in 1667 by King Charles II of England (including Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale), whose initial letters coincidentally spelled Cabal. The Cabal Ministry, never very unified in its members' aims and sympathies, fell apart by 1672; Lord Ashley, who became Earl of Shaftesbury, still later even became one of Charles II's fiercest opponents. The explanation that the word originated as an acronym from the names of the group of ministers is an urban legend, although the coincidence was noted at the time. The group was rather called the Cabal because of its secretiveness and lack of responsibility to the "Country party" then out of power.

In 1777 a supposed conspiracy, known as the "Conway Cabal," took place. A series of criticisms of General George Washington's leadership abilities as commander-in-chief during the American Revolution has been taught as a cabal, but little evidence exists for it being an actual conspiracy.

During the rise of Usenet, the term gained great notice as a semi-ironic description of the efforts of people to maintain some order over the chaotic, anarchic Usenet community; see backbone cabal, There is no Cabal. As in this specific case, references to an alleged cabal often fall within the realm of the conspiracy theory.

See also zealot, thug, and assassin for other negative words which came from words describing religious extremism or religious sects.


Cabal may also refer to:

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