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A conspiracy is when people make a secret plan or agreement to do something that breaks the law or hurts other people. There are many true conspiracies. A conspiracy theory is when an event is described as a conspiracy without evidence or when the evidence suggest it is not a conspiracy.
People who believe conspiracy theories usually believe that most or all conspiracies are part of the same conspiracy. Events are blamed on a secret unified group of people. Those people are so powerful that they are controlling the outcome of all events. People who believe in conspiracy theories also believe that anything that disproves their beliefs is part of the conspiracy and can't be trusted. In this way, it is impossible to prove or disprove anything.
Studies indicate that belief in conspiracy theories hurt the people that believe them. And people who believe them often have other problems such as paranoia (believing other people are out to get them), psychological projection (blaming others for things they are guilty of), are manipulative (try to secretly change other people's behavior or thoughts), unemotional, and don't care about right and wrong.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories
Examples[edit | edit source]
John F. Kennedy assassination[edit | edit source]
John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States from 1961 to his death in 1963. President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on 22 November 1963, in Dallas, Texas. He was being driven through the city in an open top car with the Governor of Texas when two shots were fired at Kennedy: one hit his upper back, the second hit his head. Oswald was murdered two days after the assassination.
President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. The commission said that Oswald acted alone and that he was emotionally unstable and that he hated America. Most people today do not believe that Oswald acted alone. Some of the people who are believed to have been involved include President Lyndon B. Johnson, the KGB (communist spies), Fidel Castro (leader of communist Cuba), the CIA (US spies), and the Mafia.
1969 Apollo moon landings[edit | edit source]
In 1976, Bill Kaysing, a former US Navy officer who worked at a company that built rocket engines, started the conspiracy theory with a self-published book claiming the Moon landings were faked. In 1978, the film Capricorn One showed NASA faking a trip to Mars and probably made the Moon conspiracy popular. In 1980, the Flat Earth Society claimed NASA, Walt Disney, Arthur C. Clarke (a science fiction author), and Stanley Kubrick (a famed film director) filmed the Moon landing in Hollywood.
9/11 terrorist attacks[edit | edit source]
The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attack killed 2,977 people (343 firefighters, and 71 law enforcement officers), injured 25,000 people, and health problems caused by the attack killed more people months and years after the attack.
Four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York. All 7 World Trade Center buildings, two 110-story towers, a 47-story tower and 5 others were destroyed. A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane was flying towards Washington, D.C., but the passengers overpowered the hijackers when they found out what had happened to the other planes. The plane crashed in a field.
Some people claim that the World Trade Center buildings were deliberately blown up from the inside. Some others claim that the Pentagon was hit by a missile launched by the U.S. government or that a commercial airliner was allowed to crash into the Pentagon. They say the attacks were either allowed or faked to justify an invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Illuminati[edit | edit source]
The Illuminati was a real conspiracy that started in 1776 but it was gone by 1787. In 1797 several people wrote books saying the Illuminati still existed and was behind the French Revolution. It took on conspiracy theory status when it was linked to other groups such as the Round Table Movement, the Bilderbergers, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Flat Earth[edit | edit source]
Modern belief that the Earth is flat started in 1849 by Samuel Rowbotham. The Universal Zetetic Society kept the idea around after Rowbotham died. In 1956 Samuel Shenton created the International Flat Earth Research Society. By 1997 the organization declined. But in 2004 the Flat Earth Society returned via the Internet. Members of the society say that NASA and the governments are deluding the public.
UFO's[edit | edit source]
In 1938, the night before Halloween, Orson Welles broadcast over the radio news of an alien invasion. It was the fictional story, The War of the Worlds, but many listeners did not know that and there was a lot of confusion and outrage.
In mid-1947, a device crashed at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. The US military said it was a weather balloon. In the 1970's ufologists claimed that it was an alien spacecraft. In the 1990s, the US military said it was a nuclear test surveillance balloon from Project Mogul, an attempt at detecting Soviet Union nuclear bomb tests.
In May 1989, Bob Lazar appeared on a televison show and said he worked near Area 51 studying a flying saucer and that he read documents that said grey aliens have been visiting the Earth for the past 10,000 years. His story made Area 51 a popular conspiracy theory topic.
Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories[edit | edit source]
Several studies have shown the biggest reason why people believe conspiracy theories is because they do not feel like they have control over their lives. Disagreeing with others makes them feel like they don't have to listen to authority figures. Adopting contrary beliefs make people feel smarter than everyone else. And when other people give evidence that contradicts their beliefs, they hold to their beliefs and call it faith. This can make them feel like they are doing the right thing and even morally superior. Roger Cohen described conspiracy theories as "the ultimate refuge of the powerless". Al-Mumin Said said they "keep us not only from the truth but also from confronting our faults and problems".
Many real events also created an environment that fostered conspiracy theories. The following are real events.
Cold War[edit | edit source]
During World War II the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom were allies against Nazi Germany. When the war ended, the United States and the United Kingdom began to have disagreements with the Soviet Union. Tension built and eventually each side supported opposite sides in smaller wars of other countries. So the Soviet Union and United States never went to war directly, but each were doing there best to defeat the efforts of the other country.
The secrecy, lies, illegal behavior and atmosphere of fear generated by the Cold War contribute to people's willingness to believe conspiracy theories. According to Richard Thieme, the CIA was pumping out so much propaganda and cover stories that even in the CIA, nobody knew what was real or lies.
Nuclear Bombs[edit | edit source]
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were accused and convicted of giving the Soviet Union top-secret information about radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines, and valuable nuclear weapon designs which lead to the Soviet Union developing nuclear weapons years before anyone thought possible. They were executed for treason in 1953.
This began a nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Second Red Scare and McCarthyism[edit | edit source]
Following this hundreds of Americans were accused of being communist spies, mainly government employees, entertainers, academicians, and labor-union activists. There were spies in the government, but not as many as were being accused. This was called the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism.
Operation Paperclip[edit | edit source]
Between 1945 and 1959 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were taken from Germany to America for U.S. government employment. Many were former members, and some were former leaders, of the Nazi Party. This was all done in secret and was done to make sure the Soviet Union did not recruit them for their purposes. The U.S. called this Operation Paperclip. One of the scientists, Wernher von Braun, went to work at NASA and developed the Saturn V rocket, which was the rocket that took people to the Moon. He was a Nazi SS officer during World War II.
The U-2 and the A-12 Oxcart[edit | edit source]
Because it was so difficult to know what was happening in the Soviet Union, the CIA began a top-secret spy airplane program in 1954 which led to the U-2 in 1955 and the A-12 Oxcart in 1963 (which became the SR-71 Blackbird). They were tested and flew out of Area 51. Both of these programs created many UFO sightings and the CIA told many lies to hide the existence of these planes (the A-12 Oxcart wasn't declassified until 2008).
On 1 May 1960, the Soviet Union shot down and capture the pilot alive. The U.S. did not believe any U-2 pilot could survive being shot down. The U.S. said the plane was not a spy plane and was off course and that the U.S. President Eisenhower didn't know anything about it. On May 7th, Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, revealed the pilot was alive, which forced President Eisenhower to either admit he lied or continue to lie and look like the CIA did whatever it wanted and he wasn't in charge. On May 11th, President Eisenhower gave a speech and revealed the spy program and confessed to knowing about the mission.
Project MKUltra[edit | edit source]
In 1953, the CIA started Project MKUltra. It was a mind control program. Many Americans were illegally given mind altering drugs, sometimes without their knowledge. The CIA wanted to produce a truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies and to see if they could control people's minds. Most of the MKUltra records were destroyed in 1973.
Fidel Castro assassination attempts[edit | edit source]
Fidel Castro was the communist President of Cuba from 1965 to 2011. The CIA attempted to assassinate him hundreds of times. This was all top secret because it was against the United Nations Charter. The last documented attempt was in 2000. The Mafia was even hired in 1960. Fidel Castro died in 2016.
Secret Societies[edit | edit source]
Secret societies hide various details of their society or even its very existence. Some are very open about their existence but hide what they do like Freemasons and the Skull and Bones. Some participate in criminal activities and hide everything they can like the Ku Klux Klan, and the Mafia. Many Christian churches forbid their members from joining secret societies.