Conspiracy delusions cover a wide range of topics and originate from all along the political and ideological spectrum. No matter where your personal beliefs fall — liberal, conservative, somewhere in the middle — there is a conspiracy delusion to suit your needs. Are you a radical right-wing anti-government type? If so, you might be interested to know that George W. Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks far in advance and allowed them to happen for his own political purposes. In fact, he not only knew about them — his administration planned them and carried them out! The planes that hit the towers were remote controlled, and the passengers that were supposedly onboard were either removed to a secret location and killed, or fabrications to help sell the story, depending on who you ask. And of course we all know that 7 World Trade Center was deliberately demolished via explosive charges planted in advance, don’t we? So were the Twin Towers, incidentally. How else do you explain all that melted steel? Or that the building fell at freefall speed? Seems obvious to me.
Or perhaps you’re a paranoid African American. Did you know Kentucky Fried Chicken is secretly owned by the Ku Klux Klan? Yeah, and they inject a drug into the chicken that makes black men sterile. Or was that Church’s Chicken? . . . It’s probably both, actually; the KKK owns everything. The KKK owns Marlboro and Kool cigarettes, Timberland, and Tropical Fantasy soft drinks, and probably Snapple, too, since they used to have a slave ship on their bottle. And the Nazis own No Fear, and Coors, too — they put chemicals in the malt liquor that make you sterile and damage your intellectual capacity. Oh, and don’t buy Tommy Hilfiger, either; he went on Oprah a few years ago and said that if he’d have known black people would wear his clothes, he’d never have designed them. Everyone saw it.
Are you a loony lefty? Because you know AIDS was invented by the CIA, of course. In fact, there’s no such thing as HIV. It was made-up by the medical establishment so they could push more drugs on people. And did you know that the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. were orchestrated by Aristotle Onassis, who kidnapped and drugged Howard Hughes and used his fortune to help infiltrate the mafia and CIA, and later to direct the presidency of Richard Nixon? It’s true, it’s in a book.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children, and they have descendants walking among us to this day, though the Catholic Church doesn’t want you to know about that. There were no Apollo moon landings, either. Yeah, they were faked on a soundstage, clearly. They had to be, because photographs supposedly taken from the moon don’t show any stars, and they show a spherical Earth in the distance, when everyone knows the Earth is flat!
And I couldn’t forget my current favorite: you don’t have to pay income taxes. The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was never ratified, and there is no written law anywhere in the United States Code that imposes a tax on the income of individuals, you see.
None of the above claims are even remotely true. They are the fabrications of the paranoid, the delusional, the pathologically skeptical. The people who champion these various “theories” will cite what they identify as evidence, but what is actually rumor, innuendo, conjecture, misinformation, and often outright falsehood. Some conspiracy delusionists are otherwise reasonable folks who have been misguided in one way or another; Aaron Russo, maker of the tax protest film America: Freedom to Fascism strikes me as this type. Others, like Alex Jones (who believes the governments of the world are controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshipping elitists) or David Icke (who believes the governments of the world are controlled by reptilian humanoids from the constellation Draco) are operating in a completely different reality from the rest of us. Still others, like Loose Change filmmakers Dylan Avery, Jason Bermas and Korey Rowe, are very, very stupid.
As I said at the top, it isn’t the notion of conspiracy theories that I object to. If your premise is that citizens shouldn’t trust their government, that they should question and investigate and verify the claims made by their leaders, then I’m totally with you. The government of the United States has done countless unsavory things and demonstrated time and time again that we ought not invest it with our blind, unconditional faith. The problem with conspiracy theories is that they aren’t based on actual evidence, critical thinking, or the scientific method. Under rigorous scrutiny (often under not-so-rigorous, cursory scrutiny) they fall apart — claims about irregularities on the planes that hit the Twin Towers are easily disproved by the video evidence and by the vast majority of eyewitnesses, for example.
The really frustrating thing about conspiracy theories is that they not only discredit themselves and those who put them forward, but they also cast suspicion on the legitimate concerns they occasionally touch on. The relationship between the Bush family and the Saudis is something we should be aware of and be concerned about — but that doesn’t mean a single claim in Loose Change or In Plane Site is to be believed. The fact that the Federal Reserve is a private bank instead of a full-fledged transparent government organization is troubling, and the IRS does often behave like a pack of bloodthirsty jackals, and there are serious moral questions regarding the income tax and whether or not it’s even necessary — but by dragging those justifiable concerns into his film and presenting them alongside his “there’s no law that says you have to pay taxes” rubbish, Aaron Russo taints the whole lot as the ramblings of a misinformed nut-job. And racism is a sufficiently serious and pervasive problem without imagining that every organization is owned by people of another race dedicated to the destruction of one’s own. One of the most disturbing and persistent of all conspiracy theories is the banal notion that “the Jews” somehow control “everything.”
Those who believe in the conspiracy delusions I’ve described, and the many others I haven’t, hold to them tightly. I’ve received emails and comments from readers who have informed me that my rejection of their laughable hypotheses explaining the “truth” of what happened on 9/11 means that I am a sheep or on the government payroll.
I’ve not yet reached the point where a person who believes that Osama bin Laden is a CIA-created fiction or that the Pentagon was actually attacked by a missile can hurt my feelings by questioning my grasp of reality. I think it’s a shame, though, whenever we’re so closed-off to someone else’s point of view. I at least take the time to look into these various wacky theories before declaring them wrong, misguided, idiotic, whatever; the conspiracy delusionists ought to at least afford my perspective the same courtesy — especially since mine is reality.