By Dan Collacott
In an era where lies and ‘alternative facts’ form a central part of mainstream politics, where anyone can denounce things they don’t like the sound of or agree with as ‘fake news.’ Conspiracy theories have somehow found a new lease of life across social media and online forums. So are keyboard warriors just picking and choosing the theories, rumours, conspiracies that support their own fears, prejudices and hatred, without the need for pesky things like actual facts to ruin their fun? Or are most conspiracies just a form of escapism from the mundane aspects of everyday life, are they a way of challenging established norms? A refusal to believe that some terrible things can and do happen? Let's take a look at some of the most popular conspiracy theories and see what you think!
6) Covid is a hoax
Probably the newest conspiracy is that Covid 19 isn't a real disease and was created to control the population. Many Chinese believe the American's created and released the virus, the Americans think the Chinese created and deliberately unleashed it. Tens of thousands feel that lock down's breach their human rights, some think the impact or potency of the virus has been greatly exaggerated or the whole thing is a hoax.
Other's think it is just nature's way of bringing the overall population of the planet down to manageable levels. Either way the fact the virus 'IS REAL' means that conspiracies denying its existence or believing it's all a big fuss about nothing are dangerous. If such rumours continue to grow and spread, more people will stop wearing masks and taking the necessary precautions and ultimately this will lead to more infections and deaths.
5) The Earth is Flat
Despite the fact we have numerous photos and footage from space of our planet, other planets and moons around us, despite the rules of physics, gravity and 200 years of evidence to the contrary. There are several flat Earth societies who deny our planet’s sphericity, they even argue amongst themselves what the ‘reality’ of Earth being flat really means. With some incredible theories describing a giant wall at the end of the Earth, and a lot of online bickering about what is beyond the wall (not sure if that includes Game of Thrones fans).
4) JFK Wasn’t killed by Lee Harvey Oswald
On November 22nd of 1963, JFK was shot during a Dallas motorcade. Becoming the fourth sitting president to be assassinated.
The angle and impact of the bullets have led some to suggest there were multiple gunmen. Many also believe Lee Harvey Oswald was secretly ‘groomed and coached’ by shady elements of the American Government, Mafia and even the Russians. Some state he was a carefully chosen fall guy who never even took the shot that killed the president.
Another urban legend describes the Babushka lady who was seen by several eyewitnesses and on film footage allegedly filming the assassination. She is said to have given that film to two FBI men. Needless to say she was never formally identified and no film associated with her was ever recovered.
Whilst there has never been any concrete proof the JFK was killed by anyone other Oswald, there are still plenty of people even today that believe he was murdered by people within his own Government (or by ‘the deep state’). The tragic death of many other members of the Kennedy family just adds fuel to this conspiratorial fire.
(Below still from the Red Dwarf episode Tikka to Ride about the crew accidentally foiling JFK's assassination)
One of the biggest tragedies to befall any country in modern times has proven ripe for a series of conspiracy theories, most have been disproved but many still continue to linger.
Here are some of the most prevalent 9/11 conspiracy theories:
A) The two towers fell too quickly, their build and structure and the impact points of the planes suggest that the towers would have either taken far longer to collapse or shouldn’t have collapsed at all. This idea was partly disproved after experts stated that the breakdown and spread of molten metal due to extreme heat generated by plane fuel essentially expedited the downing of the towers. There is even footage showing the liquid metal dripping down from floor to floor.
B) The timing of several explosions heard by witnesses suggests that the buildings were brought down from within. Some suggest a bomb actually felled the second tower. Which brings us to theory (c).
C) The US Government blew up the buildings, or ‘let it happen’ in order to justify a war for oil and/or a war against Islamic aggression.
D) The third plane was shot down rather than crashing. According to many, the location of the crash site suggests the plane was brought down rather than crashing. Some of the transcripts of conversations from passengers on board the plane to loved ones below, also suggest the a different account of what was actually meant to have happened. Many even suggest the target was the Whitehouse and not the Pentagon.
Like many conspiracies sometimes people refuse to believe that such a horrific event like 9/11 could ever be allowed to happen. Questioning how anyone behind such an atrocity could be that calculating or evil. But if the Holocaust taught us anything, there is no low which humanity is capable of stooping to. Which funnily enough is why there are plenty of people even today who don’t believe the Holocaust happened. Sadly many more deny it because they are anti-Semitic and actually believe in some or all of the ideals the Nazis stood for. I refuse to include Holocaust denial in this list, as it is by far the most vile and utterly disrespectful form of conspiracy to have ever been cooked up by the minds of some of the worst people ever to be born.
2) The Moon Landings Were Faked!
A personal favourite. This idea was all started a pamphlet called: We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle, written by Bill Kaysing.
His claims draw attention to the fact no stars were visible in the pictures along with the way the shadows fell, right down to the lack of a blast crater under the landing module. All of which have been thoroughly debunked by experts who have explained these “anomalies” (including camera-exposure times, reflective moon dust and the way thrust works in a vacuum).
It was even suggested the whole thing was filmed in a studio and directed by Stanley Kubrick!
Kaysing himself had some small involvement in the space race and believed that NASA’s previously inept approach to space travel meant that the possibility of them pulling off a moon landing was incredibly unlikely. To be fair to him at the time many scientists and experts would have agreed that the odds of NASA succeeding were pretty remote, although few would agree that it didn’t happen after the event. NASA had employed some of the finest Nazi scientists to help them win the race to the moon and that is a not even a conspiracy (look it up folks).
Kaysing died in 2005 but his theory lives on even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A recent YouGov poll showed that one in six British people agreed with the statement: “The moon landings were staged.”
Now to the most disturbing of our newer theories.
QAnon is not itself a conspiracy, more a right wing movement or cult that believe in a series of conspiracies. The most popular of those conspiracies seems to be that there is a cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles who when not busy running a human trafficking ring, are conspiring against Donald Trump. QAnon focus a lot of their attentions on accusing the Democrats and Liberal Media of a series of ever more strange and elaborate crimes.
Trump is firmly positioned as their savior, with the man himself re-tweeting a number of QAnon tweets (even though he claims he doesn’t understand who they are or what they are about). Trump does acknowledges they like him a lot.
Much of the group’s origins and messages come from various historic forum threads, with a number of posts shared presenting ever more bizarre claims, predictions and beliefs. More recently QAnon have been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, in a bid to halt their spread of misinformation. The FBI have even branded them as ‘domestic terrorists.’
An untouchable group or organisation, who secretly control everything an suppress the truth? Nothing new really...
David Icke had secretive lizard people running the world, before that there were many claims about a ruling illuminati or deep state. However you dress it up, the idea of a secretive power or an organisation controlling the world is nothing new. QAnon seem to have found a series of theories and claims that manage to trigger their right wing base, triggering groups who are by no means the majority but become the most active and shout the loudest (pretty much everything Trump did to gain power).
The anonymity of social media and forums seems to add to the strange ‘mystique’ that attracts rational people to baseless claims and ‘secrets’. Plus it seems you don’t need actual facts to amplify hatred and fear, the more ridiculous and outlandish the claims the easier they spread.
Whether or not QAnon will continue to inspire hate and division within their growing online following. Or will just quietly disappear, probably depends on Trump’s re-election. Expect them to be the first to call the election result a hoax and take to the streets if Trump loses.
So why do people still love a conspiracy even in the face of overwhelming proof to the contrary?
It builds ownership, a sense of belonging and identity, followers of conspiracies are able to break fee from what society dictates to them. Defying norms while finding escapism from the mundaneness of every day life.
Made up nonsense is largely more interesting and fun than facts. Outlandish beliefs and unfounded theories can also be used to re-enforce and support existing hatred, fears and intolerance.
Any theory, ideal or idea can be used to target people's worse fears and prejudices. A lot of conspiracies can be used to mask and even bury or disguise extreme and dangerous views and beliefs.
But there are also more harmless conspiracies, like the existence of ghosts or aliens. Many believe the masses aren’t trusted with the truth on alien existence. An individual or small group can be trusted with the truth but if thousands or millions knew, then the world would eat itself.
Whilst more and more Western countries succumb to populist, right wing Governments intent on isolationism, protectionism and views that seem to stoke division and apportion blame to others. It feels like the spread of disinformation, lies and dangerous views will continue unabated. With conspiracies no longer being the harmless irreverent fun they once were. Whatever the case, the internet and social media has created the perfect way to spread lies and disinformation and unless the biggest tech firms take responsibility for farming out our data and do more to the quell the lies their platforms spread, then dangerous conspiracies will continue to grow and thrive.
Listen to our recent podcast for more.
Emanating from London, UK, and hosted by Dan Collacott, Tee-J Sutherland and Imran Mirza, our 4ever in Electric Dreams website and accompanying podcasts are designed to help us celebrate the things we loved growing up and the things that continue to excite and inspire us today.