As some of you know, in a previous life I (along, with my brother, Karl), published some conspiracy books, They can be found on Amazon .com under the name Simon Trinculo; we were just experimenting with the notion of self-publishing some original theories about how things were not always as they seem. The books haven’t set the publishing world on fire, but they’ve done reasonably well considering the total lack of a marketing or promotional budget. Our first offering, The New Conspiracy Handbook, has received over 50 user reviews with an average three-and-a-half star rating. It was a fun project and gratifying to see that people read and for the most part enjoyed it.
“Conspiracy theories” are an interesting thing, not just the theories themselves, which range from plausible to absurd, but the way people simultaneously distance themselves from them as a general rule while at the same time embracing or even advancing certain theories that happen to make sense to them or appeal to their confirmation bias. For example, how often have you heard or read somebody say, “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…”?
Unfortunately, the term “conspiracy theory” has come to be used as an easy way to dismiss critical thinking. People who suggest or even wonder if things are not always as they seem can eventually expect to get hit with the conspiracy theorist label, or perhaps one of its cousins (“truther”, “denier”, “birther”). Adding to the irony is that there are a fair number of conspiracy theories that are generally accepted by the public, and to question those will cause you to get marginalized in the same manner as people as who propose less popular ones. For example, those who suspect that 9/11 was an “inside job” are labeled conspiracy theorists, even though the official story of the attacks is a conspiracy theory itself.
Equally interesting is the role the government and mainstream media play in deciding which conspiracy theories are lunacy and which ones should not be questioned. At one point, if you had suggested that the government is building a massive database to collect information on private citizens’ emails and phone calls, you would have been dismissed as crazy. But then when the media reports it, suddenly the same people will say, “of course the government does this, you’d have to be naive to think otherwise”. If I had told you back in 2005 that the CIA was setting up secret “black sites” to torture prisoners, you might have told me to adjust my tinfoil hat. Now, it’s considered common knowledge.
Just for kicks, here’s my quick take on some of the more popular conspiracies in our culture:
- JFK: almost certainly killed by a conspiracy, but I have no idea who exactly.
- Martin Luther King: see above
- Moon Landing Faked: I think the moon landings did happen, but I also think the original footage shown to the American people was produced in a studio. Why? Because the government had no idea what was going to happen and couldn’t risk showing a possible disaster in the making.
- UFOs/Aliens: I think most UFO sighting are best explained as being airplanes or in some cases experimental military craft. I tend to doubt that we have been visited by aliens or that the government has in its possession alien creature remains.
- 9/11: This is tough one – there are so many theories out there, and obviously at best only one can be true. Not to mention there seems to be a massive amount of misinformation (or perhaps disinformation) floating around the web so it’s hard to really know which individual facts are true. But…the official story seems to have a lot of holes, and at least from a layman’s point of view there is something just not quite right about the way the twin towers and especially WTC7 collapsed. But even if one concedes that the events of that day went down the way they appeared to, I can’t help but wonder who was really behind it all. It has always been strange to me that Osama bin Laden denied being behind the attacks – that’s the exact opposite of what terrorists do; hell, it kind of defeats the whole point.
- CIA Mind Control: there seems to be little doubt that the CIA engaged in mind control experiments, MK ULTRA being the most infamous. I would guess there is a 99% chance they still are doing it, to what level of success one can only guess.
- New World Order/Globalism: Tough to say that this is a true conspiracy, but it seems obvious that a tiny number of individuals with vast economic power are using that power to further consolidate wealth and influence. Doesn’t mean they are literally working in conjunction with each other, or meeting in secret cigar-smoke filled rooms, but certainly the idea of individual nation-states is slowly giving way to multinational corporations as the primary driver of world politics.