Conspiracy “theories” just keep piling up. Probably one of the easiest things for any conspiracy to achieve would be to foment suspicion, among susceptible elements of the populace, of some new conspiracy. I suspect that master manipulators of public opinion have taken notice. With this in mind, here is a run-down of some bizarrely popular beliefs, with my judgments regarding whether a conspiracy has at least encouraged each. Opportunity and motive are key:
- All of the moon landings were faked. I can’t imagine what group would want to encourage Americans to question this achievement, except the Soviet Union. But I’m unaware of any evidence that they fostered this idea. Instead, it’s just nuts. Note to viewers of Capricorn One: suspension of disbelief is supposed to end with the movie.
- Global warming is not occurring or it’s not anthropogenic. Bingo! The guns are smoking all over the place, and most of them belong to the fossil-fuel industry. Exxon et al., my hat is off to you. Where were you when the cigarette industry needed you?
- The appearance of scientific consensus on genetic evolution is the result of a secular-humanist conspiracy against contradictory evidence. This is clearly the result of dis/misinformation campaigns from religious literalists. The PBS show, Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial presents some of the best evidence of this conspiracy conspiracy.
- The US government orchestrated or knowingly permitted the attacks on 9/11. This just seems to be nuts. If the goal was to invade Iraq, why invent an attack by Saudis based in Afghanistan? I do not know of a group that both could and would want to foster this belief. Not even Al-Qaeda has a reason to support this idea.
- The Bush administration invaded Iraq to secure US access to oil in the region. Oops, I believe this one! And I believe it because individuals who became high-level officials or advisers under Bush had published calls for this kind of war before his election and because the “need” to invade Iraq was bogus regardless of its possession of the alleged weapons of mass destruction. I’m unaware of a secretive cabal fostering my belief in this, but who knows?
- Reptilians from the Pleiades have secretly invaded Earth and begun to control our governments. No conspiracy; just crazy. Nut jobs might consider learning about the extreme vastness of space and relativity’s limits on speed, in addition to the goofiness of such similar life forms evolving on another planet and finding us and then taking over stealthily in such a bizarre fashion.
So, to summarize, publicly available evidence suggests that conspiracies have encouraged the belief in conspiracies related to global warming and evolution. Most of the others seem to be grassroots phenomena, exacerbated by individual entrepreneurs who want to make a buck off of the suckers who believe in these conspiracies.
Indeed, on websites and talk-radio shows addressing most of these conspiracy beliefs, it is difficult to distinguish disingenuous displays of ignorance – modeling behaviors for the susceptible – from displays of actual ignorance. Agents spreading conspiracy beliefs must be constantly fighting paranoia, wondering whether the person with whom they’re having a ridiculous conversation is actually insincerely trying to encourage their belief in the same way.