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Conspiracy Theory 101: The Origins of Our Most Popular Conspiracy Theories
I have a confession to make, I am a conspiracy buff. I have loved conspiracies since I was a little kid. My great uncle believed in conspiracies and he used to tell me as a kid about how the moon landing was faked and there was a cover up over the JFK assassination. He was an eccentric guy who never married and had no kids and was more than a little paranoid. I loved him very much and when he died of cancer many years back it was pretty tough on me. But despite all the conspiracies he fed to me even before my teens I never really believed in them. I enjoyed them as fiction because I realized that was what they were. So I would read comic books by Alan Moore like Watchmen, From Hell and V for Vendetta that had conspiracy overtones. I would watch Oliver Stone movies and The X-files. I even read the ultimate conspiracy author Robert Anton Wilson, whose books The Illuminatus Trilogy (written with Robert Shea) I consider to be the best conspiracy novel ever. It is The Lord of the Rings for paranoids.
The point of this hub is to deal with the origins of conspiracy theories. Most of them come from fiction. Somebody writes a novel about some idea and the paranoids read it and become convinced it is true. The point of this hub is not to debunk conspiracies because I can't do it with a single hub. One of the cheif criticisms I get is that when I don't believe wild conspiracy theories is that there are real conspracies that have exsisted in history. Of course there are. We know that because they were exposed. These conspiracies are just too absurd to possibly be true. I'm just showing you where they come from in order to give you a briefing on many of the main conspiracy theories out there. If you would like to see these things debunked go to http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/ and they will meet your needs. I will also give you where I got most of my information, mostly books, so if you are interested in the subject you can read more about it.
ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT
The most common group to be blamed for ruling the world is, of course, the Jews. One of the earliest work of conspiracy literature known to exist is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The book was published in 1903 and was plagiarized from previous works of political satire. The work is completely fictional but is often presented as fact by conspiracy theorists who think that it is plausible for Jews to sit around like James Bond villains bragging about how evil they are. This is where the conspiracy theory originates and you can read a full text of the work on the web.
If you do you will realize that anybody believing that this is true is a bunch of insane craziness.
But there are other groups that are accused on ruling the world, one in the Bavarian Illuminati, a group that was formed back in 1776. The Illuminati were a secret society of "freethinkers" from the enlightenment era. The reason they were secret is because the word freethinker is a euphemism for agnostic or atheist, so they kept themselves secret because they feared persecution. You will notice a theme as we go through these that many of these groups that are accused of ruling the world are groups that fundamentalist Christians are afraid of or hate. Most conspiracy theorists claim that the Illuminati is really where it all began.
Also because of the year of their forming, many theorists claim that Illuminati symbols are all over the US government, such as the eye of the pyramid on the dollar bill. And if you really want a good laugh take a look at all the websites that claim pop singers like Lady Gaga are actually members. Conspiracy theorists love symbols and you will find that if you talk with them and disagree they will tell you that there are symbols that you are part of the conspiracy all around you.
Freemasons are another group. I never really understand the opposition to Masons except that in order to become a Mason you must petition and be voted in by other members. They have been implicated in the conspiracy seemingly because any group that doesn't allow everybody to join must be up to no good. Curiously, Masons do not allow atheists or agnostics to join which you think would make them less scary to conspiracy theorists. They are also active in charity. In my personal opinion they seem like an archaic institution but I don't think they are scary.
The conspiracy theorists usually doesn't think that the Illuminati, Jews and Freemasons are three separate groups but one group. This might confuse you at first if you talk to one but often times they believe in every version of the conspiracy simultaneously even if they contradict each other.
The blanket term for this group that controls the world is the New World Order. Woodrow Wilson used the term after the first world war and Winston Churchill used it after the second. The phrase was of course referring to the massive social changes after such wars but never mind that. George H. W. Bush most recently used it after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Samples of Bush using the term appear in the song by the rock band Ministry entitled New World Order. It is a pretty sweet song, I think. The term of course is also used in professional wrestling.
A great book on this particular aspect of the theories is Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson the author of Men Who Stare at Goats. A documentary was made at the same time called The Secret Rulers of the World parts of which you can find on youtube. (search for the title and Ronson or you'll get conspiracy nut videos.) Ronson spends time with Islamists, white supremacists, Alex Jones and David Icke and investigates their claims of a secret one world government. He also tries to find "The Bilderberg Group" which is another one of those secret groups that control the world. At the end of the book after being refused an interview by everybody he can find who has attended a Bilderberg meeting he is granted one by one of the groups’ founders.
Unlike most of everything else that conspiracy theorists say the group is actually real. Once a year a bunch of politicians and businessmen get together and discuss globalization. The group was founded after World War II in order to discuss how to avoid such a war from ever happening again and to deter future Hitlers. The group is secret because the point of the meetings is to speak candidly, and since most members are in the public eye, if the press were allowed in ideas that could be mocked or distorted by "snarky journalists" would not be discussed. It is also true that Jimmy Carter, Margret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton and George Bush have all attended meetings. Do they secretly run the world? Well, that is your call.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
I can't give you the whole history of the book of Revelation in this hub but a good book would be A History of the End of the World by David Kirsch. In the interest of full disclosure Kirsch hates religion a lot and he is ethnically Jewish. I'm only telling you this because the conspiracy theorists will bring it up. His book is heavily researched and footnoted so it makes no difference but they will think it does. Kirsch traces the entire history of the book and points out that it is highly unlikely that Revelation was written by the same John who wrote the book of John we all know and love. First off, the style is completely different and the book of John seems to be written by somebody much more educated. Also John would have had to be in his nineties to have written Revelation. Kirsch points out that historical documents reveal that including Revelation was extremely controversial and debated because many church officials judged it to be "too hateful."
You got that? In the first century when we could still stone people and women were property there were people who thought it was "too hateful."
Martin Luther considered removing the book from the bible when he formed his own church but he discovered that many of his followers believed that the pope was "the beast" and he could use this for recruitment purposes. This was both the beginning of a conspiracy about the Antichrist and the beginning of a belief system dubbed "premillennial dispensationalism" which I am sure you are all familiar with. Christians who believe in the New World Order believe we are living in the end times and this is the rise of the Antichrist. Despite the fact that they take Revelation dangerously literal they have no problem with the fact that neither the rapture nor the Antichrist appear in the book but are referenced by Paul in his letters in a way that doesn't really refer to the end times.
This belief system never caught on in Europe but in the US it is like a David Hasselhoff album in Germany. Two religions are completely built around it, The Seven Day Adventists and The Jehovah's Witnesses, and both have put a date on the end of the world and been wrong multiple times.
Tim LeHaye is the current hatemonger of this conspiracy and he is partially responsible for the Left Behind novel series and other books. If you want to know what Lehaye thinks read his book Revelation Unveiled which I read and couldn't believe a sane person could possibly not realize how stupid it was. I have also read all the Left Behind books and they are racist, sexist, anti-catholic, anti-intellectual, anti-science, homophobic and just all around hateful. One of the funny details about the books is that although Catholics are not raptured the Pope is. This was probably to make the books seem less hateful because the Pope in the novel has a conversion that changes him. Apparently he woke up and thought, "You know what? I'm not really feeling infallible today." Poof, he was in heaven.
The best book about Left Behind is Rapture Culture: Left Behind in America by Amy Johnson Frykholm. The reason it is the best is because unlike other religious scholars who spend their time just telling you how much they don't approve of the books, she actually interviews people who are fans of the book and asks about their beliefs. It was a dirty job but somebody had to do it.
ALIENS, LIZARDS AND LOVECRAFT (OH MY)
Back to my theme of everything coming from fiction and being fueled by it, there are conspiracies where the people who secretly rule the world are Alien Lizards. Now I know you will find this the most far-fetched of all so let me just reassure you that they are Jewish, Satanist, Catholic, alien, lizard ,Freemason, Communists. So as you can see it isn't as far-fetched as you might have first thought.
All of this originates from H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft's later and most influential work all revolves around an ancient alien race that secretly has manipulated human existence. If this sounds familiar to you, even though you have never read Lovecraft, then you may have heard of a book called Chariot of the Gods written by Erich Von Daniken. I read it as a teenager and was so into it that I had never wanted a crazy conspiracy to be true so much in my life. A book debunking this theory and revealing how it was all stolen from Lovecraft (who was still obscure in the 70s) is The Cult of Alien Gods by Jason Colavito.
In addition to being a great horror writer Lovecraft was a hateful Anti-Semite and racist. He was so bigoted that his wife divorced him because of it. Once again this was in the 1920s when being a racist was socially acceptable so think about how much of a bigot he was. So this has allowed conspiracy theorists to read Lovecraft as either an allegory for the Jews or other group or as an actual description of a reptilian alien conspiracy.
David Icke, a former British Soccer star and sportscaster, is the popular hate monger when it comes to this theory. A lot of ink has been spent on whether Icke is anti-Semitic but I don't think it matters because his theories are so rooted in anti-Semitism. Others think his work is satire which is funny because the guy is so crazy that I've never even seen him crack a smile or show self-awareness enough to understand satire.
The lizard conspiracy has now merged with the UFO conspiracy surrounding Roswell. I have heard these all my life because I live in Dayton, Ohio where Wright Patterson Air Force Base is located. According to conspiracy theorists there is a secret underground installation where the alien bodies were sent and experimented on.
OTHER CONSPIRACY NONSENSE
We all know about the 9/11 conspiracies. If you would like to see them thoroughly debunked go to conspiracy science, look up debunk 9/11 conspiracy on youtube or go find that article in popular mechanics that already did it. This conspiracy originated from a college kid named Dylan Avery who just wanted to make a movie that would catch attention in Hollywood. So fiction strikes again.
Fluoride, Vaccines and Flu Shots
They claim that fluoride and vaccines are part of the conspiracy. The fluoride conspiracy comes from a movie, Dr. Strangelove (1964) by Stanley Kubrick. In the US fluoridation started to occur right before Kubrick’s movie was made so to make the fact that he was able to unravel this conspiracy make any sense it is a common claim that Kubrick was a member of the illuminati and his movies are full of their symbols.
This one really makes me angry. It originates not from fiction but a racist biologist named Peter Duesberg. Duesberg is a groundbreaking cancer researcher who also has a history of hating blacks and gays. When AIDS was first discovered he was the only dissenting voice, claiming that HIV didn't cause AIDS but that drug use and "unhealthy lifestyles" (pssstt...he's talking about gay people.) were the real cause of the disease and deaths. Despite the fact that he is very obviously wrong many people all over the world believe him. In addition, Duesberg claims that it is the drugs that are given to HIV patients that actually kill them. This is convenient because he has to explain how everybody who gets diagnosed with HIV eventually dies.
Online is a list of AIDS denialists who have died of AIDS even though they refused treatment after being diagnosed with HIV.
Proponents of Duesberg will tell you what a genius he is even though he is an expert on cancer and not viruses. They will ask you about how some people who have died of AIDS did not test positive for HIV. (this is because the test looks for antibodies that aren't always present.) They will also ask why AIDS patients have a variety of symptoms. (It is because HIV attacks your immune system. It is something else that kills you.) They will tell you that "Big Pharm" is the cause of the conspiracy and they apparently have so much power they control the UN, world health organization, every developed country and every scientist in the world except for Duesberg.
Obviously they have a good point there. How can we all be so hopelessly naive?