Barry Glassner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Barry Glassner is professor of sociology and executive vice provost at the University of Southern California, which honored him in 2002 with its highest research award.[1] He has received a Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, a visiting fellowship at Oxford University and “best book” designations from the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Choice Magazine and Knight-Ridder newspapers. His research specialties include cultural sociology, qualitative methods and media studies.[2]

Glassner has authored or co-authored nine books, including The Culture of Fear, which discussed the similarly named phenomenon, culture of fear. His research has found that many of Americans' concerns and fears are largely unfounded. He has studied scary stories in the media; scares about adolescents, crime, minority groups, and related social issues; false fears in marketing and politics; and fear and the power of exploiting it for product sales and political careers. His articles have been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, American Journal of Psychiatry, and Journal of Health and Social Behavior.[2]

His latest book, The Gospel of Food, was released in hardcover in January 2007 and softcover in January 2008. In this book he addresses U.S. food beliefs, his premise being that much of what Americans read and hear about food is inaccurate and unhelpful. He discussed this topic in depth in his interview on the Skeptics' Guide podcast.[3] Michael Moore interviewed him in the film Bowling for Columbine and some of Moore's statistics and a story about President George W. Bush mentioned in the movie can originally be found in Glassner's writing.

Barry Glassner was appointed executive vice provost in June 2005. A professor of sociology in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Glassner is the former Myron and Marian Casden Director of USC’s Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. He has been instrumental in raising more than $7 million in donor support for the Casden Institute and allied programs. He has served on the university’s Development Committee, Provost’s Advisory Committee and Budget Advisory Committee, among others.

Glassner has published his research in leading journals in the social sciences and medicine and was chair of academic departments at Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut prior to arriving at USC, where he was recruited to become department chair.

[edit] External links

The writer Jennie Bristow believes that the culture of fear that emerged following the September 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks were not so much emergent fears but rather top-down manufactured ones by politicians and reflected by an uncritical media. She also believes that the fears engendered, although irrational, allowed patriotism to emerge which eventually led to military adventurism in places not even connected to either 9/11 or the anthrax attacks.

The culture of fear is not a spontaneous reaction by the public to a truly dangerous world. The worldwide anthrax panic sparked by a handful of anthrax-related deaths in America shortly after 9/11 was not caused by a genuine and widespread mortal danger facing US and European citizens. Our propensity to panic about everything from child abductions to mobile phones does not come from the fact that modern life contains more risks than ever before - on the level of everyday reality, the opposite is the case. . . . The culture of fear comes from the top down. It comes from society's leaders, and their inability to lead. . . . The USA was propelled outwards and backwards, to attacking its safe-bet rogue state. In doing so, it revealed its weakness, prompting other nations to pick, parasitically, at America's weakness for their own short-term gains. These antics have been played out to the public, whose disenchantment with politics and immersion in the culture of fear makes them cynical and scared about any attempt by political leaders to exercise anything that looks like power. And the media, rumour-heavy and analysis-lite, has faithfully reflected the depth of confusion that characterises the current times [4].

[edit] Emergent fear

At the other end of the spectrum, a Culture of Fear is presented as a sensibility that emerges from every corner of contemporary society, spontaneously. Frank Furedi, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent (UK), who also founded the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain, exemplifies this end of the spectrum with his books, Culture of Fear: Risk-taking and the Morality of Low Expectations (1997) and Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right (2005). Furedi's account locates the source of the phenomenon in what he characterises a 'failure of historical imagination', a symptom of what he identifies as the exhaustion of 20th century systems of political meaning.

It was my experience of the 1995 contraceptive Pill panic that motivated me to write Culture of Fear. I carried out a global study of national reactions to the panic, and it quickly became clear that the differential responses were culturally informed. Some societies, like Britain and Germany, responded in a confused, panic-like fashion - while countries like France, Belgium and Hong Kong adopted a more calm and measured approach. [1]

By Furedi's account, a universal sense of fearfulness pre-exists and underpins the expression of fears by media and politicians. While media and politicians might amplify and exploit this sensibility, their activities are not decisive in its cultural production. Furedi levels the charge at various 'anti-establishment' voices that they are at least as complicit in the exploitation of fears (ecological catastrophe, for example) as the 'establishment' that is more commonly held to benefit from the culture of fear.

[edit] Political context and criticism

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argues that the use of the term War on Terror was intended to generate a culture of fear deliberately because it "obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue". [5]

The writer Victor Klemperer described the Nazis' use of language to create fear in his 1947 book LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: The language of the Third Reich: A Philologist's notebook.. George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four describes a government that uses language to control its citizenry, using an invented language known as Newspeak.

The phrase "moral panic" has been used to describe a widespread, irrational scare brought about by a lack of scientific or general education among the public, intrinsic human biases in the assessment of risk, a lack of rational thinking, misinformation, and giving too much weight to rumor.

[edit] Language as a conditioner for fears

Language is a powerful and often subliminal tool to condition the development, internalization and habituation of fear. The association or words and ideas with negative sentiments is an effective means of promoting a culture of fear. It echoes the Nazi use of language to infiltrate the minds of a population, as described in Klemperer's 1947 book. [6]

This upturning of language as a means of mind control seeped further into public consciousness when George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, with its version known as Newspeak. [7]

Michael Foucault the French philosopher has written extensively about the power of language on thought, in his book The Order of Things, the French title being Les Mots et les choses, French for Words and Things. and the book that was a result of critique on that book, "The Archaeology of Knowledge". According to Foucault knowledge isn't primarily the result of rational thinking, but arises from the structure of Discourse [8] [9]

In more recent times in the U.S., publicly-funded health care is often labelled as socialized medicine by its opponents to give the concept an air of socialism. [10] [11] [12] [13]

Similarly, the adjective liberal, which began use, politically, as a word with positive associations related to the philosophy of maintaining freedoms and liberties, has over the last half-century, been increasingly associated with negative political connotations, particularly in the parlance of conservative politicians seeking to portray their opponents in a negative light.[14]

More recently, participants in the debate over man-made climate change have used terms such as "catastrophic", "chaotic", "irreversable", or "rapid" alongside the term "climate change". The use of such generalized terms to describe climate data can stir emotions and create fear. Using such terms can, paradoxically, make the implementation of political solutions more challenging, as members of the public feel helplessness and disempowerment. [15]

[edit] See also

[edit] Books

[edit] Documentaries

[edit] External links

Conspiracy theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Conspiracy theories)
Jump to: navigation, search
For a list of conspiracy theories see: List of conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theory is a term that originally was a neutral descriptor for any conspiracy claim. However, it has come almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning.[1][2]

Conspiracy theories are viewed with skepticism and often ridiculed because they are seldom supported by any conclusive evidence and contrast with institutional analysis, which focuses on people's collective behavior in publicly known institutions, as recorded in scholarly material and mainstream media reports, to explain historical or current events, rather than speculate on the motives and actions of secretive coalitions of individuals.[3]

The term is therefore often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe. Such characterization is often the subject of dispute due to its possible unfairness and inaccuracy.[4]

In the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, conspiracy theories have become commonplace in mass media. This has contributed to conspiracism emerging as a cultural phenomenon and the possible replacement of democracy by conspiracy as the dominant paradigm of political action in the public mind.[5] According to anthropologists Todd Sanders and Harry G. West, "evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today…gives credence to at least some conspiracy theories."[6] Belief in conspiracy theories has therefore become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore.



[edit] Terminology

The term "conspiracy theory" may be a neutral descriptor for any legitimate or illegitimate claim of civil, criminal or political conspiracy. To conspire means "to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end."[7] However, conspiracy theory is also used to indicate a narrative genre that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies.[8]

The word "theory" is, in this usage, sometimes considered to be more informal as in "speculation" or "hypothesis" rather than mainstream scientific theory. Also, the term conspiracy is typically used to indicate powerful figures, often of the Establishment, who are believed to be deceiving the population at large, as in political corruption. Although some conspiracies are not actually theories, they are often labeled as such by the general populace.

The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909. Originally it was a neutral term but during the political upheaval of the 1960s it acquired its current derogatory sense.[9] It entered the supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary as late as 1997.[10]

The term "conspiracy theory" is frequently used by scholars and in popular culture to identify secret military, banking, or political actions aimed at stealing power, money, or freedom, from "the people". Less illustrious uses refer to folklore and urban legend and a variety of explanatory narratives which are constructed with methodological flaws.[11] The term is also used in a pejorative sense to automatically dismiss claims that are deemed ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational. For example, the term "Watergate conspiracy theory" does not refer to the generally accepted version in which several participants actually were convicted of conspiracy, and others pardoned before any charges were filed, but to alternative and additional theories such as claims that that the source(s) of information called "Deep Throat" was a fabrication.[12]

Daniel Pipes, in an early essay "adapted from a study prepared for the CIA", attempted to define which beliefs distinguish 'the conspiracy mentality' from 'more conventional patterns of thought'. He defined them as: appearances deceive; conspiracies drive history; nothing is haphazard; the enemy always gains power, fame, money, and sex.[13]

According to West and Sanders, when talking about conspiracies in the Vietnam era, Pipes includes within the fringe element anyone who entertains the thought that conspiracies played a role in the major political scandals and assassinations that rocked American politics in the Vietnam era. "He sees the paranoid style in almost any critical historical or social-scientific analysis of oppression." [14]

[edit] Conspiracism

A world view that centrally places conspiracy theories in the unfolding of history is sometimes termed "conspiracism". The historian Richard Hofstadter addressed the role of paranoia and conspiracism throughout American history in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in 1964. Bernard Bailyn's classic The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967) notes that a similar phenomenon could be found in America during the time preceding the American Revolution. Conspiracism then labels people's attitudes as well as the type of conspiracy theories that are more global and historical in proportion.[15] The term conspiracism was popularized by academic Frank P. Mintz in the 1980s. Academic work in conspiracy theories and conspiracism presents a range of hypotheses as a basis of studying the genre. Among the leading scholars of conspiracism are: Hofstadter, Karl Popper, Michael Barkun, Robert Alan Goldberg, Daniel Pipes, Mark Fenster, Mintz, Carl Sagan, George Johnson, and Gerald Posner.

According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes: "belief in the primacy of conspiracies in the unfolding of history":[16]

"Conspiracism serves the needs of diverse political and social groups in America and elsewhere. It identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, and assumes that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power. As such, conspiracy theories do not typify a particular epoch or ideology".[17]

Throughout human history, political and economic leaders genuinely have been the cause of enormous amounts of death and misery, and they sometimes have engaged in conspiracies while at the same time promoting conspiracy theories about their targets. Hitler and Stalin would be merely the most prominent examples; there have been numerous others.[18] In some cases there have been claims dismissed as conspiracy theories that later proved to be true.[19][20] The idea that history itself is controlled by large long-standing conspiracies is rejected by historian Bruce Cumings:

"But if conspiracies exist, they rarely move history; they make a difference at the margins from time to time, but with the unforeseen consequences of a logic outside the control of their authors: and this is what is wrong with 'conspiracy theory.' History is moved by the broad forces and large structures of human collectivities."[21]

The term conspiracism is used in the work of Michael Kelly, Chip Berlet, and Matthew N. Lyons.

According to Berlet and Lyons, "Conspiracism is a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm".[22]

[edit] Criticism

Conspiracy theories are the subject of broad critique by academics, politicians, and the media.

[edit] Validity

Perhaps the most contentious aspect of a conspiracy theory is the problem of settling a particular theory's truth to the satisfaction of both its proponents and its opponents. Particular accusations of conspiracy vary widely in their plausibility, but some common standards for assessing their likely truth value may be applied in each case:

Noam Chomsky, an academic critical of the United States establishment, contrasts conspiracy theory as more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behaviour of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, e.g. scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.[23]

[edit] Controversy

Aside from controversies over the merits of particular conspiratorial claims, the general discussion of conspiracy theory is itself a matter of some public contention.

The term "conspiracy theory" is considered by different observers to be a neutral description for a conspiracy claim, a pejorative term used to dismiss such a claim without examination, and a term that can be positively embraced by proponents of such a claim. The term may be used by some for arguments they might not wholly believe but consider radical and exciting. The most widely accepted sense of the term is that which popular culture and academic usage share, certainly having negative implications for a narrative's probable truth value.

Conspiracy theorists on the internet are often dismissed as a "fringe" group, but evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today -- traversing ethnic, gender, education, occupation, and other divides -- gives credence to at least some conspiracy theories. [24]

Given this popular understanding of the term, it can also be used illegitimately and inappropriately, as a means to dismiss what are in fact substantial and well-evidenced accusations. The legitimacy of each such usage will therefore be a matter of some controversy. Michael Parenti, in his 1996 essay which examines the role of progressive media in the use of the term, "The JFK Assassination II: Conspiracy Phobia On The Left", states,

"It is an either-or world for those on the Left who harbor an aversion for any kind of conspiracy investigation: either you are a structuralist in your approach to politics or a 'conspiracist' who reduces historical developments to the machinations of secret cabals, thereby causing us to lose sight of the larger systemic forces."[25]

Structuralist or institutional analysis shows that the term is misused when it is applied to institutions acting in pursuit of their acknowledged goals, e.g. when a group of corporations engage in price-fixing in order to increase profits.

Certain proponents of conspiracy claims and their supporters argue that the term is entirely illegitimate, and should be considered just as politically manipulative as the Soviet practice of treating political dissidents as clinically insane.

But critics of this view claim that the argument bears little weight and that the claim itself serves to expose the paranoia common with conspiracy theorists. A similar complication occurs for terms such as UFO, which literally means "unidentified flying object" but connotes alien spacecraft, a concept also associated with some conspiracy theories, and thus possessing a certain social stigma. Michael Parenti gives an example of the use of the term which underscores the conflict in its use. He states,

"In most of its operations, the CIA is by definition a conspiracy, using covert actions and secret plans, many of which are of the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies? At the same time, the CIA is an institution, a structural part of the national security state. In sum, the agency is an institutionalized conspiracy."[25]

The term "conspiracy theory" is itself the object of a type of conspiracy theory, which argues that those using the term are manipulating their audience to disregard the topic under discussion, either in a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth, or as dupes of more deliberate conspirators.[citation needed]

When conspiracy theories are offered as official claims (e.g. originating from a governmental authority, such as an intelligence agency) they are not usually considered as conspiracy theories. For example, certain activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee may be considered to have been an official attempt to promote a conspiracy theory, yet its claims are seldom referred to as such.[citation needed]

Further difficulties arise from ambiguity regarding the term theory. In popular usage, this term is often used to refer to unfounded or weakly-based speculation, leading to the idea that "It's not a conspiracy theory if it's actually true".

[edit] Study of conspiracism

In 1936 American commentator H. L. Mencken wrote:

The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy.[26]

Belief in conspiracy theories has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore since at least the 1960s, when the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy eventually provoked an unprecedented public response directed against the official version of the case as expounded in the Report of the Warren Commission.

[edit] Psychological origins

According to some psychologists, a person who believes in one conspiracy theory tends to believe in others; a person who does not believe in one conspiracy theory tends not to believe another.[27] This may be caused by differences in the information upon which parties rely in formulating their conclusions.

Psychologists believe that the search for meaning is common in conspiracism and the development of conspiracy theories, and may be powerful enough alone to lead to the first formulating of the idea. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where a conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part. Some research carried out at the University of Kent, UK suggests people may be influenced by conspiracy theories without being aware that their attitudes have changed. After reading popular conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, participants in this study correctly estimated how much their peers' attitudes had changed, but significantly underestimated how much their own attitudes had changed to become more in favour of the conspiracy theories. The authors conclude that conspiracy theories may therefore have a 'hidden power' to influence people's beliefs.[28]

Humanistic psychologists argue that even if the cabal behind the conspiracy is almost always perceived as hostile there is, often, still an element of reassurance in it, for conspiracy theorists, in part because it is more consoling to think that complications and upheavals in human affairs, at least, are created by human beings rather than factors beyond human control. Belief in such a cabal is a device for reassuring oneself that certain occurrences are not random, but ordered by a human intelligence. This renders such occurrences comprehensible and potentially controllable. If a cabal can be implicated in a sequence of events, there is always the hope, however tenuous, of being able to break the cabal's power - or joining it and exercising some of that power oneself. Finally, belief in the power of such a cabal is an implicit assertion of human dignity - an often unconscious but necessary affirmation that man is not totally helpless, but is responsible, at least in some measure, for his own destiny.[29]

[edit] Projection

Some historians have argued that there is an element of psychological projection in conspiracism. This projection, according to the argument, is manifested in the form of attribution of undesirable characteristics of the self to the conspirators. Richard Hofstadter, in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics, stated that: is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship... the Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.

Hofstadter also noted that "sexual freedom" is a vice frequently attributed to the conspiracist's target group, noting that "very often the fantasies of true believers reveal strong sadomasochistic outlets, vividly expressed, for example, in the delight of anti-Masons with the cruelty of Masonic punishments."[30]

[edit] Epistemic bias

It is possible that certain basic human epistemic biases are projected onto the material under scrutiny. According to one study humans apply a 'rule of thumb' by which we expect a significant event to have a significant cause.[31] The study offered subjects four versions of events, in which a foreign president was (a) successfully assassinated, (b) wounded but survived, (c) survived with wounds but died of a heart attack at a later date, and (d) was unharmed. Subjects were significantly more likely to suspect conspiracy in the case of the 'major events' — in which the president died — than in the other cases, despite all other evidence available to them being equal.

Another epistemic 'rule of thumb' that can be misapplied to a mystery involving other humans is cui bono? (who stands to gain?). This sensitivity to the hidden motives of other people may be an evolved and universal feature of human consciousness. However, this is also a valid rule of thumb for detectives to use when generating a list of suspects to investigate. Used in this way "Who had the motive, means and opportunity?" is a perfectly valid use of this rule of thumb.[citation needed]

[edit] Clinical psychology

For relatively rare individuals, an obsessive compulsion to believe, prove or re-tell a conspiracy theory may indicate one or more of several well-understood psychological conditions, and other hypothetical ones: paranoia, denial, schizophrenia, mean world syndrome.[32]

[edit] Socio-political origins

Christopher Hitchens represents conspiracy theories as the 'exhaust fumes of democracy', the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people. Other social commentators and sociologists argue that conspiracy theories are produced according to variables that may change within a democratic (or other type of) society.

Conspiratorial accounts can be emotionally satisfying when they place events in a readily-understandable, moral context. The subscriber to the theory is able to assign moral responsibility for an emotionally troubling event or situation to a clearly-conceived group of individuals. Crucially, that group does not include the believer. The believer may then feel excused of any moral or political responsibility for remedying whatever institutional or societal flaw might be the actual source of the dissonance.[33]

Where responsible behavior is prevented by social conditions, or is simply beyond the ability of an individual, the conspiracy theory facilitates the emotional discharge or closure that such emotional challenges (after Erving Goffman)[citation needed] require. Like moral panics, conspiracy theories thus occur more frequently within communities that are experiencing social isolation or political dis-empowerment.

Mark Fenster argues that "just because overarching conspiracy theories are wrong does not mean they are not on to something. Specifically, they ideologically address real structural inequities, and constitute a response to a withering civil society and the concentration of the ownership of the means of production, which together leave the political subject without the ability to be recognized or to signify in the public realm" (1999: 67).

Sociological historian Holger Herwig found in studying German explanations for the origins of World War I:

Those events that are most important are hardest to understand, because they attract the greatest attention from myth makers and charlatans.

This normal process could be diverted by a number of influences. At the level of the individual, pressing psychological needs may influence the process, and certain of our universal mental tools may impose epistemic 'blind spots'. At the group or sociological level, historic factors may make the process of assigning satisfactory meanings more or less problematic.

Alternatively, conspiracy theories may arise when evidence available in the public record does not correspond with the common or official version of events. In this regard, conspiracy theories may sometimes serve to highlight 'blind spots' in the common or official interpretations of events (Fenster, 1999).

Conspiracy theorists on the internet are often dismissed as a "fringe" group, but evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today believe in some conspiracy theories.

[edit] Media tropes

Media commentators regularly note a tendency in news media and wider culture to understand events through the prism of individual agents, as opposed to more complex structural or institutional accounts.[34] If this is a true observation, it may be expected that the audience which both demands and consumes this emphasis itself is more receptive to personalized, dramatic accounts of social phenomena.

A second, perhaps related, media trope is the effort to allocate individual responsibility for negative events. The media have a tendency to start to seek culprits if an event occurs that is of such significance that it does not drop off the news agenda within a few days. Of this trend, it has been said that the concept of a pure accident is no longer permitted in a news item.[35] Again, if this is a true observation, it may reflect a real change in how the media consumer perceives negative events.

Hollywood motion pictures and television shows perpetuate and enlarge belief in conspiracy as a standard functioning of corporations and governments. Feature films such as ENEMY OF THE STATE and SHOOTER, among scores of others, propound conspiracies as a normal state of affairs, having dropped the idea of questioning conspiracies typical of movies of eras prior to about 1970. SHOOTER even contains the line, "that is how conspiracies work" in reference to the JFK murder. Interestingly, movies and tv shows do the same as the news media in regard to personalizing and dramatizing issues which are easy to involve in conspiracy theories. COMING HOME converts the huge problem of the returning injured Vietnam War soldier into the chance that the injured soldier will fall in love, and when he does, the strong implication is that the larger problem is also solved. This factor is a natural outcome of Hollywood script development which wishes to highlight one or two major characters which can be played by major stars, and thus a good way of marketing the movie is established but that rings false upon examination. Further, the necessity to serve up a dubiously justified happy ending, although expected by audiences, actually has another effect of hightening the sense of falseness and contrived stories, underpinning the public's loss of belief in virtually anything any mass media says. Into the vacuum of that loss of belief falls explanation by conspiracy theory.

Too, the act of dramatizing real or fictional events injects a degree of falseness or contrived efforts which media savvy people today can identify easily. "News" today is virtually always dramatized, at least by pitting "one side" against another in the fictional journalistic concept that all stories must contain "both sides" (as though reality could be reduced to two sides) or by using more intensive dramatic developments similar to feature movies. That is, by obvious dramatizing, the media reinforces the idea that all things are contrived for someone's gain which could be another definition of, at least, political conspiracies theories. --Dr. Charles Harpole in "History of American Cinema" Scribner/U. Calif Press.

[edit] Fusion paranoia

Michael Kelly, a Washington Post journalist and neoconservative critic of anti-war movements on both the left and right, coined the term "fusion paranoia" to refer to a political convergence of left-wing and right-wing activists around anti-war issues and civil liberties, which he claimed were motivated by a shared belief in conspiracism or anti-government views.

Social critics have adopted this term to refer to how the synthesis of paranoid conspiracy theories, which were once limited to American fringe audiences, has given them mass appeal and enabled them to become commonplace in mass media, thereby inaugurating an unrivaled period of people actively preparing for apocalyptic millenarian scenarios in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They warn that this development may not only fuel lone wolf terrorism but have devastating effects on American political life, such as the rise of a revolutionary right-wing populist movement capable of subverting the established political powers.[36]

Daniel Pipes, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote in the 2004 article Fusion paranoia:

Fears of a petty conspiracy – a political rival or business competitor plotting to do you harm – are as old as the human psyche. But fears of a grand conspiracy – that the Illuminati or Jews plan to take over the world – go back only 900 years and have been operational for just two centuries, since the French Revolution. Conspiracy theories grew in importance from then until World War II, when two arch-conspiracy theorists, Hitler and Stalin, faced off against each other, causing the greatest blood-letting in human history. This hideous spectacle sobered Americans, who in subsequent decades relegated conspiracy theories to the fringe, where mainly two groups promoted such ideas.

The politically disaffected: Blacks (Louis Farrakhan, Cynthia McKinney), the hard Right (John Birch Society, Pat Buchanan), and other alienated elements (Ross Perot, Lyndon LaRouche). Their theories imply a political agenda, but lack much of a following.

The culturally suspicious: These include "Kennedy assassinologists," "ufologists," and those who believe a reptilian race runs the earth and alien installations exist under the earth's surface. Such themes enjoy enormous popularity (a year 2000 poll found 43 percent of Americans believing in UFOs), but carry no political agenda.

The major new development, reports Barkun, professor of political science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, is not just an erosion in the divisions between these two groups, but their joining forces with occultists, persons bored by rationalism. Occultists are drawn to what Barkun calls the "cultural dumping ground of the heretical, the scandalous, the unfashionable, and the dangerous" – such as spiritualism, Theosophy, alternative medicine, alchemy, and astrology. Thus, the author who worries about the Secret Service taking orders from the Bavarian Illuminati is old school; the one who worries about a "joint Reptilian-Bavarian Illuminati" takeover is at the cutting edge of the new synthesis. These bizarre notions constitute what the late Michael Kelly termed "fusion paranoia," a promiscuous absorption of fears from any source whatsoever.[37]

[edit] Political use

In his two volume work The Open Society and Its Enemies Popper used the term "conspiracy theory" to criticize the ideologies driving fascism, Nazism, Marxism and communism. Popper argued that totalitarianism was founded on "conspiracy theories" which drew on imaginary plots driven by paranoid scenarios predicated on tribalism, chauvinism, racism or classism. Popper did not argue against the existence of everyday conspiracies (as incorrectly suggested in much of the later literature). Popper even uses the term "conspiracy" to describe ordinary political activity in the classical Athens of Plato (who was the principal target of his attack in The Open Society & Its Enemies).

In his critique of Marx and the twentieth century totalitarians, Popper wrote, "I do not wish to imply that conspiracies never happen. On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena."[38]

He reiterated his point, "Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted. But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproved the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy."[38]

Popper proposed the term "the conspiracy theory of society" to criticize the methodology of Marx, Hitler and others whom he deemed to be deluded by "historicism" - the reduction of history to an overt and naive distortion via a crude formulaic analysis usually predicated on an agenda replete with unsound presuppositions.[39]

[edit] Examples

[edit] Fiction

Because of their dramatic potential, conspiracies are a popular theme in thrillers and science fiction. Complex history is recast as a morality play in which bad people cause bad events, and good people identify and defeat them. Fictional conspiracy theories offer neat, intuitive narratives, in which the conspirators' plot fits closely the dramatic needs of the story's plot. As mentioned above, the cui bono? aspect of conspiracy theories resembles one element of mystery stories: the search for a possibly hidden motive.

Dr. Strangelove was a 1964 comedy about modern nuclear warfare. The end of the world is precipitated by the delusions of General Jack D. Ripper who happens to be in control of a SAC nuclear air wing. General Ripper believes there is a Communist conspiracy which threatens to "sap and impurify" the "precious bodily fluids" of the American people with fluoridated water.

Conspiracy Theory is a 1997 thriller about a taxi driver (played by Mel Gibson) who publishes a newsletter in which he discusses what he suspects are government conspiracies, and it turns out that one or more of them are true.

The X-Files was a popular television show during the 1990s and early 2000s, which followed the investigations of three FBI agents, Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and John Doggett, who were sometimes helped by a group of conspiracy theorists known as The Lone Gunmen. Many of the episodes dealt with a plot for alien invasion overseen by elements of the U.S. government, led by an individual known only as the Cigarette Smoking Man and an even more mysterious international "Syndicate". The famous tag line of the series, "The Truth Is Out There", can be interpreted as reference to the meaning-seeking nature of the genre discussed above.

Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum is a broad satire on conspiracism in which the characters attempt to construct an all-embracing conspiracy theory starting with the Templars and including the Bavarian Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, hollow Earth enthusiasts, the Cathars, and the Jesuits.

The three-part novel Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (published in 1975) is a highly satirical, psychedelic novel dealing with complex, Byzantine conspiracies nested within other larger conspiracies—with the scale of the plots and the audacity of their plotters expanding to enfold more and more minds as the story progresses, evolving to wrap itself around many extant conspiracy theories such as the ones revolving around the Bavarian Illuminati, the Masons, the Vatican, the Mafia, governments large and small, and fringe groups of both left and right-wing persuasions. Their plottings merge with the overarching plans of several fictitious organizations—and also an actual "religion" which conceives of itself as a joke (the Discordians.) In an ironic twist of fate, Illuminatus! may have even caused the development of a real-world Discordian society (which manifests in loose clusters of affiliation, rather than as any formalized group) when the novel's cult success as a countercultural mainstay brought the "holy writ" of the Discordians, the Principia Discordia, out of obscurity over the final three decades of the twentieth century. Shea and Wilson used witty quotes drawn from this comedic pamphlet glorifying Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos and discord, as opening lines for chapters of the Illuminatus! books.

The 2003 novel Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy by Mark McGinty tells the satirical story of the 1969 moon landing, where Elvis Presley accompanies astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the lunar surface and becomes the first man to walk on the moon. An accident on the surface causes NASA to abort the mission and broadcast a version of the landing without Elvis, later dubbed a "hoax" by a little known reporter named Dani Mitchell. Proving a humorous look at several conspiracy theories from the 1960s, the book ties together the assassination of JFK, the deaths of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and the first moon landing.

Conspiracy theories have even influenced video games. The critically acclaimed RPG/shooter Deus Ex, and its sequel (albeit to a lesser degree), Deus Ex: Invisible War, draw upon current-day conspiracy theories such as Majestic 12, Area 51, and the Illuminati.

Other novels, such as Dan Brown's 2000 controversial book "Angels and Demons" have also popularized the idea of conspiracy theories. According to the novel's Wikipedia page, the book surrounds the quest of Robert Langdon, a fictional Harvard University symbologist who is bent on uncovering the mysteries of a secret society known as the Illuminati. Brown's novel, and others alike, harp on the ideas of the unknown, a life source for conspiracy theorists.

Michael Barkun, a political scientist specializing in the study of conspiracism in American culture, notes that a vast popular audience has been introduced by the 1997 film Conspiracy Theory to the notion that the U.S. government is controlled by a secret team in black helicopters - a view once confined to right-wing extremists.[40]

[edit] See also

[edit] Concepts

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Berlet, Chip (September 2004). Interview: Michael Barkun. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  2. ^ Barkun, Michael. 2003. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California.
  3. ^ Domhoff, G. William (2005). Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 5 edition. ISBN 0072876255. 
  4. ^ Fenster, M. 1999. Conspiracy theories: Secrecy and power in American culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  5. ^ Barkun, Michael. 2003. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California.
  6. ^ Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. (2003) Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Duke University Press. pp 4.
  7. ^ Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 243 (8th ed. 1976).
  8. ^ Ramsay, Robin (2006). Conspiracy Theories, Pocket Essentials. ISBN 190404865X.
  9. ^ "20th Century Words" (1999) John Ayto, Oxford University Press, p. 15.
  10. ^ Plots, paranoia and blame by Peter Knight, BBC News 7 December 2006.
  11. ^ Johnson, 1983
  12. ^ Slate Magazine
  13. ^ Daniel Pipes, in Orbis, Winter 1992: "Dealing with Middle Eastern Conspiracy Theories".
  14. ^ Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. pp 207.
  15. ^ Bailyn, Bernard (1992). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution:. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ASIN: B000NUF6FQ. ISBN 978-0-674-44302-0. 
  16. ^ Mintz, Frank P. (1985). The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. p. 4. ISBN 0-313-24393-X. 
  17. ^ Mintz, Frank P. (1985) [1985]. The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood. p. 199. ISBN 0-313-24393-X. 
  18. ^ Arendt, Hannah (1973) [1953]. The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 
  19. ^ Fenster, Mark. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 
  20. ^ Dean, Jodi. Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 
  21. ^ Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. II, The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947-1950. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 
  22. ^ Berlet, Chip; Lyons, Matthew N.. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press. 
  23. ^ Michael Albert, quoting from Zmagazine. "Conspiracy Theory". Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  24. ^ Transparency and conspiracy: ethnographies of suspicion in the new world order. Harry G. West, Todd Sanders. pp 4.
  25. ^ a b, "The JFK Assassination II: conspiracy phobia on the left", Michael Parenti, 1996
  26. ^ H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, June 15, 1936
  27. ^ Goertzel (1994). "Belief in Conspiracy Theories". Political Psychology 15: 733–744. doi:10.2307/3791630. Retrieved 2006-08-07. 
  28. ^ Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton (in press). "The hidden impact of conspiracy theories: Perceived and actual influence of theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana". Journal of Social Psychology. 
  29. ^ Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard; Lincoln, Henry (1987). The Messianic Legacy. Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 0805005684. 
  30. ^ Hofstadter, Richard. The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Harper's Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.
  31. ^ "Who shot the president?," The British Psychological Society, March 18, 2003 (accessed June 7, 2005).
  32. ^ "Top 5 New Diseases: Media Induced Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (MIPTSD)," The New Disease: A Journal of Narrative Pathology 2 (2004), (accessed June 7, 2005).
  33. ^ Vedantam, Shankar (2006-06-05). "Born With the Desire to Know the Unknown". The Washington Post (The Washington Post): p. A02. Retrieved 2006-06-07. "Conspiracy theories explain disturbing events or social phenomena in terms of the actions of specific, powerful individuals," said sociologist Theodore Sasson at Middlebury College in Vermont. By providing simple explanations of distressing events — the conspiracy theory in the Arab world, for example, that the September 11, 2001, attacks were planned by the Israeli Mossad — they deflect responsibility or keep people from acknowledging that tragic events sometimes happen inexplicably."
  34. ^ Ivan Emke, "Agents and Structures: Journalists and the Constraints on AIDS Coverage," Canadian Journal of Communication 25, no. 3 (2000), (accessed June 7, 2005).
  35. ^ "The Blame Game". 6 September 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  36. ^ Barkun, Michael. 2003. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: Univ. of California.
  37. ^ Pipes, Daniel (2004). Fusion Paranoia. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  38. ^ a b "Extracts from "The Open Society and Its Enemies Volume 2: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath" by Karl Raimund Popper (Originally published 1945)". Lachlan Cranswick, quoting Karl Raimund Popper. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  39. ^ Popper, Karl (1966). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Princeton University Press. 
  40. ^ Barkun, Micheal (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. University of California Press; 1 edition. ISBN 0520238052. 

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Conspiracist literature

[edit] External links

List of conspiracy theories

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

A conspiracy is defined by law as an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.[1] While in the strictest sense a "conspiracy theory" is a theory about a conspiracy, the term usually refers to a theory that attributes the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social, pop cultural or historical events), or the concealment of such causes from public knowledge, to a secret and often deceptive plot by a cabal of powerful or influential people or organizations. Proven historical conspiracies (e.g. the conspiracy to assassinate U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and members of his cabinet in 1865) are not discussed in this article. This list of conspiracy theories is a list of some of the most prevalent conspiracy theories which have not been recognized as true by most mainstream academics.[citation needed] In some cases, rebuttals have been offered to counter the theories; in other cases the theories have merely been summarily dismissed.[citation needed]



[edit] New World Order

This conspiracy theory claims that a small group of international elites controls and manipulates governments, industry and media organizations worldwide. The primary tool they use to dominate nations is the system of central banking. They are said to have funded and in some cases caused most of the major wars of the last 200 years, primarily through carrying out false flag attacks to manipulate populations into supporting them, and they have a grip on the world economy, deliberately causing inflation and depressions at will. Operatives working for the New World Order are said to be placed in high positions in government and industry. The people behind the New World Order are thought to be international bankers, in particular the owners of the private banks in the Federal Reserve System and other central banks, and members of the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group.[2] The New World Order is also said to control supranational and global organisations such as the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the proposed North American Union. The term gained popularity following its use in the early 1990s, first by President George H. W. Bush when he referred to his "dream of a New World Order" in his speech to the United States Congress on September 11, 1990, and second by David Rockefeller in a statement to the United Nations Business Council in September 1994, sometimes cited as evidence that the New World Order had a motive for carrying out the September 11, 2001 attacks:

"We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order."[3]

The concept of this shadow government pre-dates 1990; it is accused of being the same group of people who, among other things, created the Federal Reserve Act (1913), supported the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), and supported the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, all for their own agenda.[4] The World Bank and national central banks are said to be the tools of the New World Order; war generates massive profits for central banks because government spending (hence borrowing at interest from the central banks) increases dramatically in times of war.[5] Many conspiracy theorists believe that Denver International Airport is the western U.S. headquarters of the New World Order, and a massive underground base and city is believed to exist underneath the airport. Reasons for this include the airport's unusually large size (larger than some major cities), distance from the Denver, Colorado, city center, and the set of bizarre murals depicting burning cities, gas-mask wearing soldiers, girls in coffins, Masonic symbols and strange writing.[6]

[edit] Federal Reserve System

The New World Order is said to control the wealth of nations through central banks, via the issuance of currency. The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States, created in 1913. There is a theory that the Federal Reserve System is designed to transfer wealth from the poor and middle classes of the United States to the international bankers of the New World Order.[7]

[edit] False flag operations

False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities. Numerous conspiracy theories have developed suggesting that false flag operations have been carried out throughout the 20th century, and the secrecy of the true nature of the events have been maintained by successful cover-ups. The following are some attacks that are believed by some to be examples of false flag attacks:

[edit] Wars

The motivations for nations starting, entering, or ending wars are often brought into question by conspiracy theorists. Munitions suppliers are often blamed[10] for devising, coordinating and precipitating the events that lead nations into war, either in part or in toto. According to this view, there is always a party within a nation that benefits from war, on whatever pretext: the suppliers of weapons and other military material. President Dwight Eisenhower referred to this source of potential conflict of interest as the military-industrial complex. President Abraham Lincoln is known to have made a similar observation near the close of the American Civil War.

Related is the allegation that certain wars which are claimed by politicians to be in the national interest, or for humanitarian purposes, are in fact motivated by the conquest and control of natural resources for commercial interest. In the Spanish-American War, the explosion of the USS Maine prompted the United States annexation of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. Opponents of the war, such as Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie, claimed that it was being fought for imperialist motives.

In recent times, wars in the Middle East such as the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq have been described as wars for oil. In many cases, critics have accused the U.S. of engaging in realpolitik in the cynical sense of political action without regard for principle or morals. A war planned for economic gain can be seen as a conspiracy in the conventional sense of a secret plot — particularly when the public is presented with false pretexts for war. It has been suggested that war is a perfect way of distracting citizens, as an electoral tactic, from difficulties facing the current administration. This premise is the basis of the film Wag the Dog, and the George Orwell novel 1984. Some have claimed that this was the motivation behind the Falklands War. At that time El Proceso de Reorganizacion Nacional, the right-wing dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983, was facing increasing discontent among the population and this may have contributed to the decision to invade The Falkland Islands.

[edit] Coups d'état

Governments, particularly the United States government, have been accused of carrying false flag coups d'etat, in order to install friendly governments in foreign countries. Some of these have since been acknowledged - such as Operation Ajax (1953), a covert coup to topple the democratically elected leaders of Iran. Some other coups that some believe may have been actively supported by the United States government include the following:

[edit] Official Conspiracy Theories

Some conspiracy theories have been advanced by governmental organizations for transparently political reasons.

[edit] Assassinations

Conspiracy theories sometimes emerge following assassinations of prominent people. The best known is the assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963), which has caused a number of conspiracy theories to develop. Central to this theory is the claim that the injuries received by Kennedy and Governor John Connally could not have been caused by a lone gunman behind the motorcade and to the right. This theory was popularised by the Oliver Stone movie, JFK. Three polls conducted in 2003 suggest that there is widespread disbelief among the U.S. public about the official story of a lone gunman between 68% and 83%.[11]

The assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X are also the subject of conspiracy theories. In many cases, it is asserted that a "Manchurian candidate" may have been used. Often evidence for such theories includes the reactions by individuals and government agencies following the events, such as the creation of biased commissions to conduct official investigations. The question of "Who benefits?" is also often asked, with conspiracy theorists asserting that insiders often have far more powerful motives than those to whom the assassination is attributed by mainstream society. Earlier examples of assassinations about which there are conspiracy theories include those of Abraham Lincoln and Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The assassinations of historical figures, such as Eric V of Denmark, remain subject to conspiracy theories. More recent examples include those of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Carrero Blanco, Benigno Aquino, Jr., Olof Palme, Yitzhak Rabin, Alexander Litvinenko, Tupac Shakur and Benazir Bhutto.

Some deaths that are officially recorded as accident, suicide or natural causes are also the subject of some conspiracy theories. Examples include the car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed in 1997, the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in a plane crash in 1999, and the death of Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in 2002. Other examples include: the suicide of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster; the plane crash that killed United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown; the Mayerling Incident; and the deaths of U.S. Presidents Zachary Taylor and Lyndon B. Johnson, Władysław Sikorski, James Forrestal, British political leader Hugh Gaitskell, Australian prime minister Harold Holt, James P. Brady, New Zealand prime minister Norman Kirk, Jimmy Hoffa and David Kelly. There are also theories about untimely deaths of celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe, Sam Cooke, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, John Lennon,and more recently Michael Jackson.

There are also theories that some assassination attempts have been carried out by secret conspiracies, in some cases failures but in other cases entirely staged events. The motive for staging an unsuccessful assassination attempt can be to augment the popularity of the person involved; public opinion polls tend to be boosted by unsuccessful attempts on the life of a prominent politician. There have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to assassinate U.S. Presidents. Some of them, such as the attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush have aroused suspicion from conspiracy theorists that the events might have been staged.

[edit] Clinton Body Count

The Clinton Body Count, as it is popularly known, is a conspiracy theory that Bill Clinton, while he was president and before, was quietly assassinating his associates (ostensibly anyone who got in the way of his career, such as Vince Foster) was started in retaliation the Bush Body Count (which ostensibly had various members of the Bush family responsible for events like JFK assassination and the October surprise merrily killing lesser co-conspirators on their way).[12] The Clinton Body Count is a list of about 50-60 associates of Clinton who have died "under mysterious circumstance".[13] The list began circulating over the Internet starting in the mid-1990s. [14][15] The list grew out of a 1993 list of about 24 names prepared by the pro-gun lobby group American Justice Federation[16] which was led by Linda Thompson. The list was posted to the group's Bulletin board system.[17] has debunked this list, noting 1) many of those claimed to be assassinated actually died from very well documented accidents that leave no possibility of assassination 2) a political figure who becomes President of the United States will have a loosely defined circle of "associates", and many of these associates are in dangerous positions (police officers, pilots, soldiers) or older men in high stress jobs (therefore at greater risk of dying of stress related disease or suicide).

[edit] Technology and weapons

[edit] Suppression of technologies

[edit] Development of weapons technology

[edit] Weapons testing

[edit] Surveillance, espionage and intelligence agencies

Particular technologies of surveillance and control arouse concern that has bordered upon, or crossed over into, conspiracy theory. These are technologies being developed by governments which are intended to intrude into the privacy or harm the persons of citizens, particularly dissenters. Conspiracy theories of this sort cast government agencies as pursuing vast technical powers in order to spy on people, control their minds, or otherwise suppress an alienated populace. The plausibility of establishing such surveillance capabilities, by technical means or by a widespread network of informants, should perhaps be viewed in the context of events in former Eastern bloc countries, particularly the activities of the East German Stasi before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The various services provided by Google have also been considered to invade people's privacy, thus enabling intelligence agencies to monitor their activities.

Many governments use intelligence agencies to promote national policies in secretive ways — in several cases including the use of sabotage, propaganda, and assassination. Intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), KGB, MI6, BND, Inter-Services Intelligence, Internal Security Act (ISA) and Mossad, are a common element of political conspiracy theories precisely because they are known to participate in some activities similar to those described in conspiracy theories..[27] Indeed, conspiracy theories about espionage agencies go back at least as far as the 1600s, with allegations the English spymaster Robert Cecil was responsible for the Gunpowder plot of 1605. Some examples include the Pine Gap satellite tracking system in Australia, which is believed by some to be a global database used to track individuals Big Brother style, and the Government Warehouse, which is a conspiracy that alleges that the government has secret warehouses which contain articles that they do not want people to know about.

Numerous theories have been put forward surrounding Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747 that was shot down by the Soviet military after it strayed into prohibited airspace in 1983.[28] These theories started in a Cold War era of heightened tensions and mutual distrust, and have been fanned by subsequent misinformation, deception, suppression of evidence and political events.

[edit] Media

[edit] DTV Transition

Some theorists claim that forced transition to Digital television broadcasting is practical realization of "Big Brother" concept. They claim that miniature cameras and microphones are built in Set-top boxes and newer TV sets to spy on people. Another claim describes use of mind control technology that would be hidden in the digital signal and used to subvert the mind and feelings of the people and for subliminal advertising.[29]

[edit] Medicine

The subject of suppressed-invention conspiracy also touches on the realm of medical quackery: proponents of more unlikely forms of alternative medicine are known to allege conspiracy by mainstream doctors to suppress their cures. Such conspiracies are often said to include government regulators, to the extent that a legal decision may be relevant. Some medical conspiracy theorists argue that the medical community could actually cure supposedly "incurable" diseases such as cancer (like the noted Luigi di Bella's medicines) and AIDS if it really wanted to, but instead prefers to suppress the cures as a way of extorting more funding from the government and donors, as well as from the patients themselves. The costs for long-term treatment are generally higher than for a one-time cure. Other medical conspiracies charge that pharmaceutical companies are in league with some medical practitioners to 'invent' new diseases, such as ADD, ADHD, HSV and HPV.

[edit] Drug legalization

Activists and spokespersons for legalization of drugs (especially marijuana) have long espoused a theory that government and private industry conspired during the first half of the 20th century to outlaw hemp, allegedly so that it would no longer provide inexpensive competition to pulp paper and synthetic materials.[30] William Randolph Hearst is often pointed to as one of the businessmen responsible due to his involvement in the printing industry and his eminence in the public eye.[30] An extensive study on the subject has been done by Jack Herer in his book The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

[edit] Diet

This type of theory posits that, with the help of the food industry and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the medical industry is generating billions in drug and treatment revenue from consumers who have become unhealthy as a result of poor or incomplete diet guidelines from the FDA. It is claimed that as long as the medical industry's dietary research studies are accepted and enforced as the measure, they will continue to suggest a minimum calorie intake above the actual healthy level, and will also continue to suppress any findings of the greater benefits of fasting and other calorie restriction type diets, and as long as the consumer continues to eat at the level suggested by the FDA, the incidence of obesity will continue to rise and the medical industry will continue to profit. Thus, it would be self-defeating for the medical industry to produce a cure for the many services that they depend on to generate revenue from unhealthy dietary practices of their customers.[citation needed]

[edit] Creation of diseases

There are claims that AIDS is a man-made disease (i.e. created by scientists in a laboratory). Some of these theories allege that HIV was created by a conspiratorial group or by a secretive agency such as the CIA. It is thought to have been created as a tool of genocide and/or population control. Other theories suggest that the virus was created as an experiment in biological and/or psychological warfare, and then escaped into the population at large by accident. Some who believe that HIV was a government creation, see a precedent for it in the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which government-funded researchers deceptively denied treatment to black patients infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

It has been claimed that the CIA deliberately administered HIV to African Americans and homosexuals in the 1970s, via tainted hepatitis vaccinations.[31] Groups such as the New Black Panther Party and Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam assert that this was part of a plan to destroy the black race. Others claim that it was administered in Africa as a way of crippling the development of the continent.

There have been suggestions that either the HIV virus or a sterilizing agent has been added to polio vaccines being distributed by the World Health Organization in Nigeria. Since these claims have been in existence, there has been a marked increase in the number of polio cases in the country, because Muslim clerics have urged parents not to have their children vaccinated.[32]

[edit] Water fluoridation

Water fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to a public water supply to reduce tooth decay.[33] Although almost all major health and dental organizations support water fluoridation, or have found no association with adverse effects, efforts to introduce water fluoridation meet considerable opposition whenever it is proposed.[34] Since fluoridation's inception in the 1950s, opponents have drawn on distrust of experts and unease about medicine and science.[35] Conspiracy theories involving fluoridation are common, and include the following:[34]

Fluoridation researchers are accused to be in the pay of corporate or political interests as part of the plot.[34] Specific anti-fluoridation arguments change to match the spirit of the time.[37]

[edit] Global warming

Many writers have claimed that the theory of human-caused global warming is a deliberate fraud, perpetrated for financial or ideological reasons, most notably Michael Crichton in "State of Fear."

[edit] Peak Oil

There are theories that the "Peak Oil" concept is a fraud concocted by the oil industries to increase prices amid concerns about future supplies. The oil industry is aware of vast reserves of untapped oil, according to these theories, but it deliberately refuses to utilize them in order to maintain the illusion of scarcity.

Parallels have been drawn between this and the diamond industry, where it is recognized that a monopoly cabal maintains an illusion of scarcity of diamonds in order to increase their value. Such an idea was featured prominently in the novel Shock Wave by Clive Cussler.

The alleged presence of large quantities of oil has led to increased interest in the Western world in a theory of the origin of oil that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s in the Soviet Union and Ukraine—the Abiogenic petroleum origin theory.

[edit] Secret societies

[edit] Ethnicity and race

[edit] Armenian International Conspiracy

Samuel A. Weems (December 12, 1936January 25, 2003) was a writer and a disbarred lawyer in Arkansas, United States.[41] In his book, Armenia: The Secrets of a Christian Terrorist State (2002), he stated that the Armenian Genocide was a gigantic fraud designed to "fleece" Christian nations out of billions of dollars. He also claimed that the Armenian Church was a "state owned" entity that organizes and funds terrorist (including ASALA) attacks and that Armenians had "infiltrated" the United States.[42] That book states that Armenian Diaspora communities in the United States and throughout the world are actually "colonies:" political bases intended to gain money and support for Armenian Republic. The books also claims Armenia is founded on land stolen from Muslims and that Armenians have perpetrated enormous massacres against Turks and Azeris, both recently (in the Nagorno-Karabakh war) and in the past. He has been quoted as saying "The religion of the Armenians is fake" and that his research shows "that there is clearly an Armenian Master Plan that generates Armenian hate around the world."[43] Prior to his death in 2003, he was preparing to write a second book claiming the international Armenian community collaborated with and supported Nazi Germany.

The book, along with essays and homemade videos by Weems, have been criticized as racist and Anti-Armenian by the Armenian Assembly of America.[43] The book is available in several online bookstores in United States and Europe. It has also been translated in Turkish and distributed in Turkey.[44] Belief in an "Armenian International Conspiracy," that ethnic Armenians are attempting to change history and hide certain facts for political gain, can also be encountered in Azerbaijan,[45] which has clashed with Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh, a de facto independent republic, officially part of Azerbaijan. Many Azeris believe that the Sumgait pogrom, where ethnic Azeris massacred Armenians during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was in fact intentionally provoked by Armenians for propaganda purposes. Actual proponents of the "Armenian International Conspiracy" are scarce, and said theories are rarely found outside Turkey and Azerbaijan, countries which have histories of conflict with Armenians. The conspiracy also garners little if any support from scholars, as there exists ample historical evidence that shows the existence of Armenia before the arrival of Turks into Anatolia.

[edit] Jewish world domination

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are widely considered to be the beginning of contemporary conspiracy theory literature.[46] The Protocols are an antisemitic literary forgery that purports to describe a Jewish plot to achieve world domination.

The text takes the form of an instruction manual to a new member of the "elders," describing how they will run the world through control of the media and finance, and replace the traditional social order with one based on mass manipulation. Scholars generally agree that the Okhrana, the secret police of the Russian Empire, fabricated the text in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Among the most notable early refutations of the Protocols as a forgery were a series of articles printed in The Times of London in 1921. This series revealed that much of the material in the Protocols was plagiarized from earlier political satire that did not have an anti-Semitic theme. Since 1903, when the Protocols appeared in print, its earliest publishers have offered vague and often contradictory testimony detailing how they obtained their copy of the rumored original manuscript.[50]

The text was popularized by those opposed to Russian revolutionary movement and was disseminated further after the revolution of 1905, becoming known worldwide after the 1917 October Revolution. It was widely circulated in the West in 1920 and thereafter. The Great Depression and the rise of Nazism were important developments in the history of the Protocols, and the hoax continued to be published and circulated despite its debunking, becoming "a lie that would not die." Continued usage of the Protocols as an anti-Semitic propaganda tool substantially diminished with the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. It is still frequently quoted and reprinted, and is sometimes used as evidence of an alleged Jewish cabal, especially in the Middle East.[51]

[edit] Arab-Israeli relations

Daniel Pipes has written a book[52] and many essays in which he asserts that there is a prevalence of conspiracy theories throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Conspiracy theories in the Arab and Muslim worlds, he claims, largely blame Israelis or Jews for many problems facing the world. Some of these include the following:

Richard Landes and some other pro-Israel advocates[55] maintain that Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces in September 2000, was not in fact killed and the entire incident was staged by Palestinian cameramen (see Pallywood for more on this conspiracy theory).

[edit] "Babylon" and racist oppression

Some Rastas maintain that a white racist patriarchy ("Babylon") controls the world in order to oppress the African race.[56] They believe that Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia did not die when it was reported in 1975, and that the racist, white media (again, "Babylon") propagated that rumour in order to squash the Rastafari Movement and its message of overthrowing Babylon.[57] Other Rastafarians, however, believe in peace and unity, and interpret Babylon as a metaphor for the established "system" that oppresses (or "downpresses," in Rasta terminology) groups such as Africans and the world's poor.

[edit] Eurabia

Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci and British-Egyptian writer Bat Ye'or, author of Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, proposed a conspiracy they said was hatched between a cadre of French elites within the European Economic Community and the Arab League in the mid-1970s to form a strategic alliance against the United States and Israel, and to turn Europe into an appendage of the Islamic world.[58]

[edit] Arab-fascist axis

Radio talk show host David Emory claims that Nazi leader Martin Bormann never died and has built a global empire involving, among many others, the Bush family, Hassan al Banna, Grover Norquist, Meyer Lansky, and Michael Chertoff.

[edit] Paranormal

[edit] Evil aliens

A somewhat different version of this theory maintains that humanity is actually under the control of shape-shifting alien reptiles, who require periodic ingestion of human blood to maintain their human appearance. David Icke has been a devoted proponent of this theory.[59] Reportedly the Bush family and the British Royal Family are actually such creatures, and Diana, Princess of Wales was aware of this, presumably relating to her death.[59] David Icke's theory, which encompasses many other conspiracy theories, is that humanity is actually under the reptillians; with evidence ranging from Sumerian tablets describing the "Anunnaki" (which he translates as "those who from heaven to earth came"), to the serpent in the Biblical Garden of Eden, to child abuse and water fluoridation. This theory has been the subject of several books.

[edit] Extraterrestrials

A sector of conspiracy theory with a particularly detailed mythology is the extraterrestrial phenomenon, which has become the basis for numerous pieces of popular entertainment, the Area 51/Grey Aliens conspiracy, and allegations surrounding the Dulce Base. It is alleged that the United States government conspires with extraterrestrials involved in the abduction and manipulation of citizens. A variant tells that particular technologies, notably the transistor — were given to American industry in exchange for alien dominance. The enforcers of the clandestine association of human leaders and aliens are the Men in Black, who silence those who speak out on UFO sightings. This conspiracy theory has been the basis of numerous books, as well as the popular television show The X-Files and the movies Men in Black and Men in Black II. The X-Files based the plots of many of its episodes around urban legends and conspiracy theories, and had a framing plot which postulated a set of interlocking conspiracies controlling all recent human history.

There are claims about secret experiments known as the Montauk Project conducted at Camp Hero, Montauk, New York. Allegedly, the project was developing a powerful psychological war weapon. The project is often connected to other alleged government projects such as the Philadelphia Experiment and Project Rainbow, both of which involved the use of the Unified field theory to cloak vessels. Experiments involving teleportation, time travel, contact with extraterrestrials, and mind control are frequently alleged to have been conducted in the camp. Preston B. Nichols has authored five books on the subject, including Montauk Project: Experiments in time.

[edit] Religion

[edit] Apocalyptic prophecies

Apocalyptic prophecies, particularly Christian apocalyptic and eschatalogical claims about the end times, the Last Judgment, and the end of the world have inspired a range of conspiracy theories. Many of these deal with the Antichrist. This Antichrist, also known as the Beast 666, is supposed to be a leader who will create a world empire and oppress Christians (and, in some readings, Jews as well). In apocalyptic conspiracy theory, some person from current events is alleged to be the Antichrist, and some supranatural organization is alleged to be the Antichrist's world organization of evil.[60]

Countless historical figures have been called "Antichrist" in their times, from the Roman emperor Nero to Ronald Reagan to Javier Solana. At times, apocalyptic speculation has mixed with anti-Catholicism to yield the interpretation that the reigning Pope is the Biblical Antichrist. A more recent conspiratorial interpretation sees the Antichrist as a world leader involved with the United Nations, who will create a one world government (aka New World Order) and establish a single monetary system. The latter is identified with the Mark of the Beast, which the Bible states that people in the end times will need in order to conduct trade.[60]

Two nations often involved in apocalyptic conspiracy theories are Israel and Iraq. The former is the location of both the Temple Mount and Armageddon (Megiddo), places seen as important in prophecy. The latter is the ancient location of Babylon, which also figures in the Book of Revelation. During the Gulf War, some suggested that Saddam Hussein had ordered the excavation and repopulation of the city of Babylon, thus casting Saddam as an Antichrist figure. Other interpretations have held that "Babylon" in the Book of Revelation refers to another mighty nation, such as the Roman Empire, the Vatican (in Rome) and the Catholic Church, or more recently the Soviet Union or the United States of America.

[edit] Bible conspiracy theory

Bible conspiracy theories posit that much of what is known about the Bible, in particular the New Testament, is a deception. These theories variously claim that Jesus really had a wife, Mary Magdalene, and children, that a group such as the Priory of Sion has secret information about the bloodline of Jesus, that Jesus did not die on the cross and that the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin was part of a conspiracy by the Vatican to suppress this knowledge, that there was a secret movement to censor books that truly belonged in the Bible, or the Christ myth theory, proposed for example in Zeitgeist, the Movie as a means of social control by the Roman Empire.

[edit] Miscellaneous


Several theories are advanced regarding the cause and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.[61] Because of its ineffectiveness, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is often jokingly referred to as "International Conspiracy to Catch all Tuna".


There is a theory that the famous "computer vs. human" chess game - between Russian grandmaster Gary Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue computer - involved cheating by IBM, to ensure they would achieve a victory that would be widely publicized. This theory is argued by the documentary Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine.

Another conspiracy theory related to advertising is that The Coca-Cola Company intentionally changed to an inferior formula with New Coke with the intent of driving up demand for their classic product, later reintroducing it for their financial gain. Alternatively, people believe the switch was made to allow Coca-Cola to reintroduce "classic" Coke with a new formulation using less expensive corn syrup.[62]


Theorists claim that some or all of the Apollo moon landings were "staged" in a Hollywood movie or other studio either because they never happened or to conceal some aspect of the truth of the circumstances of the actual landing.

Soviet space program conspiracy accusations suppose that some failed human spaceflights in the USSR occurred but were concealed by the government.

Also some theorists claim that China secretly tried a manned spaceflight in the winter of 1978/1979 but it was a failure.


Since the mid-1970s, a variety of conspiracy theories have emerged centering around British Labour Party Prime Minister Harold Wilson. These range from Wilson having been a Soviet agent, to Wilson being the victim of plots by right-wing members of the civil service. Żydokomuna is a theory that Communism in Poland during the Cold War was controlled by Jews. There is a theory that Lech Wałęsa was an informer of the SB, communist secret police in Poland.

Some extreme anti-Communists have claimed that many popular clothing companies have been selling "Marxist Pants" which are intended to convert consumers to Marxism [63]


In October 1969, a rumour began circling that Paul McCartney, one of The Beatles, died in a car crash in late 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike. Proponents of the theory, which is commonly referred to as the Paul is dead hoax, cite "clues" in the form of peculiar album covers, possible symbolism in strange lyrics, and backmasking. There have been many purported sightings of Elvis Presley over the years since his death in 1977. Several conspiracy theories have developed suggesting that he is still alive. Kurt Cobain, singer and guitarist of Nirvana was suggested to not to have committed suicide, but was in fact murdered. Some people believe that comedian Andy Kaufman faked his own death. Some believe Tupac Shakur also faked his death.


The “Frozen Envelope Theory” suggests that the NBA rigged the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery so Georgetown University standout Patrick Ewing would land with the New York Knicks, who had the first pick in that year’s draft. Conspiracy theorists argue that the New York Knicks' envelope was placed in the freezer so that when NBA commissioner David Stern reached into a bowl containing the envelopes of all the teams participating in the draft lottery, he would be able to identify the Knicks’ envelope by its being colder than the others.[64] The death of Phar Lap, the champion New Zealand and Australian racehorse, was purported to be a deliberate poisoning. There are also several theories concerning the disappearance of the champion racehorse, Shergar.

Electronic banking conspiracy

The Theory of Electronic Conspiracy is said to be a variant of modern New World Order conspiracy theories. The theory consists of the belief that a secret group has attempted for centuries to reach worldwide dominion, even if the result by design would be world destruction. According to this theory, the worldwide dominion has been planned from antiquity and follows the following phases:[65]

  1. The substitution of precious metal-based coin currency by paper currency. This process began in the Renaissance, with the beginning of the use of tickets which allowed for people to have a tangible good (such as silver or gold pieces) by paper—a more virtual, but comfortable, medium which the state was committed to provide the equivalent amount of precious metal if such was required.
  2. The appearance of virtual money, with credit cards: money approaches wholly virtual status. Money is no longer a tangible paper- or metal-based object but rather a series of numbers recorded in magnetic stripes.
  3. The proliferation of Internet and Electronic commerce: credit cards are no longer required in order to purchase or sell goods and services from an Internet-connected computer.
  4. The concentration of the worldwide bank into few hands, by means of continuous international banking fusions.
  5. The worldwide implementation of an electronic identity card.
  6. The great worldwide blackout. A tremendous disaster will take place when, after a great electrical blackout on a planetary scale, the data of all electronic accounts erase simultaneously. After this event, chaos and poverty will immediately ensue throughout the planet; and civilization will revert to its primitive forms of slavery to survive. This is the last aim of the "secret organization" which has spent centuries guiding this process. The worldwide blackout will be preceded by partial blackouts that would only be tests and "signals" to communicate that different phases of the process are being fulfilled. An example of these partial blackouts would be those that have been produced almost simultaneously in different parts around the world; and, at the beginning of the 21st century, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks: the blackouts in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.