While there are many women involved in numerous areas of pseudoscience and health fads, it appears that being a hardcore conspiracy theorist is pretty much exclusively a male domain. In fact, searching the internet for “women conspiracy theorist” brings up only a few message board posts asking why women are so uninterested in the topic. Believing in silly things with no evidence to support them isn’t gender-specific, so this didn’t make much sense to me. So I went looking for prominent women involved in various conspiracy movements, and it didn’t take much research to find them. Here’s a list of just a few, both past and present:
Michele Bachmann – Well known for her devotion to conservative political causes, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann is one of the most right-leaning members of the US Congress. She’s also one of the most conspiracy-minded, at least since the McCarthy years. Bachmann is staunchly anti-vaccine, pushing the dangerous and unproven idea that the HPV vaccine Gardasil causes “mental retardation.” She’s advocated for any number of discredited conspiracies about the Affordable Care Act, from it being designed to “literally kill people” to it giving the IRS power to deny healthcare to anyone it wants. And her belief in gay conversion therapy flies in the face of responsible science.
But Bachmann’s new claim might be her most McCarthy-esque – that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government. In 2012, Bachmann and four other Republican representatives sent letters to five different federal agencies accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of having achieved “deep penetration” into the highest levels of the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency. Sticking to the conspiracy theorist handbook, when Bachmann was challenged to provide proof to support these allegations, she simply repeated and expanded them. Her witch-hunt drew sharp criticism from both political parties, but didn’t cost her a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Rima Laibow – I’ve written before about Dr. Rima Laibow’s conspiracy theories regarding the Codex Alimentarius, the UN’s food and nutrition guidelines. She’s become a leader in the movement to expose the Codex as a plot to depopulate the planet through starvation, food control and the banning of mineral supplements – becoming so successful that some other Codex opponents believe she’s a disinformation agent of the UN. Though the usual suspects have embraced her theories as part of the overall depopulation conspiracy, no credible evidence supports them.
But Laibow is also an ardent anti-vaxxer and opponent of psychiatric medication, claiming that she’s never written a single prescription in her decades-long career. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, she gained some notoriety for a YouTube video called “I am Adam Lanza’s Doctor,” railing against the “forced drugging” of students, the vice-grip that pharmaceutical companies have on us and shilling for detoxification and “natural solutions.” Of course, while she’s sternly against Big Pharma, she’s also happy to sell you wildly overpriced and useless detox products through her Natural Solutions Foundation. Because to her, things that don’t work are superior to things that do.
Elizabeth Dilling – Decades before Michele Bachmann was hunting for Muslims in the government, Elizabeth Dilling was crusading against communists and Jews in the Oval Office. Convinced of the horrors of the Soviet state by a 1931 visit to Russia, Dilling self-published the 1934 polemic The Red Network: A “Who’s Who” and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots. Written as an expose of Communist infiltration, The Red Network gives detailed notes on thousands of Communists or Communist-controlled organizations in all walks of life, from the Roosevelt administration to the arts and sciences. It was a hit with the paranoid set, with over 100,000 copies circulating.
Dilling later specifically attacked FDR and his “socialist” policies in her second book, The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background and went full-blown anti-Semitic in another book, The Octopus. She was an avowed Nazi sympathizer and isolationist, and was tried for sedition – though the case ended in a mistrial, with anti-sedition laws later being found unconstitutional. President after president, from Roosevelt to Johnson, were attacked by Dilling for their perceived ties to a gigantic Communist/Jewish alliance bent on world domination. She died in 1966, but briefly came back on the radar when Glenn Beck, who apparently hadn’t bothered to do the slightest bit of research, encouraged his listeners to read The Red Network.
Stella Tremblay – Just like every family has its crazy uncle, the New Hampshire state senate had Stella Tremblay. While representing the good people of Rockingham, Tremblay managed to advocate for every conspiracy theory under the sun, including 9/11 trutherism, Barack Obama’s fraudulent birth certificate and a hilarious theory that the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) was “deleted” by the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, questioning the legitimacy of the entire federal government.
But Tremblay’s claim to fame, as well as her downfall, was her immediate embrace of the Boston Marathon bombing conspiracy theory. Right after the bombings, Tremblay publicly agreed with Alex Jones’ accusation that the US government had planned the bombings as a false flag. She endorsed the theory that bombing victim Jeff Bauman was a “crisis actor” who hadn’t lost his legs. And in an egregious misuse of the “reply all” button, she emailed all 424 members of the New Hampshire legislature a manifesto entitled “Follow Up Reports,” containing dozens of links to conspiracy websites that all called the bombing a black ops job. She drew the wrath of both state political parties and resigned a few days later, never backing down from her belief that “a full investigation” of the bombings should be undertaken.
Ingrid Rimland – Author and historical revisionist Ingrid Rimland might be unique in the whole of history: the world’s only Nazi hunter turned Holocaust denier. A refuge from a Ukrainian Mennonite community, Rimland’s 1977 novel The Wanderers won the California Commonwealth Club’s award for Best First Fiction. Her subsequent novel The Demon Doctor was a thinly veiled roman-a-clef about tracking down notorious Nazi butcher Josef Mengele in a Paraguay Mennonite colony. She wrote of how Simon Wiesenthal financed an expedition to Paraguay, and how she intersected with the mostly Jewish Nazi hunters working alongside Wiesenthal to help track and capture Mengele.
It’s not clear how much of the book is true, and it’s just as much a self-hating anti-Mennonite screed as it is a tale of Nazi hunting. But what is clear is that the anti-Semitism burbling around the edges of Rimland’s work exploded when she met and married Ernst Zundel, one of the godfathers of Holocaust denial. In the mid-90’s, Rimland essentially became Zundel’s mouthpiece, webmaster and biggest fan. She writes daily emails to his supporters, maintains his archives of historical revisionist nonsense and published a trilogy of tales covered in Nazi glory and vicious Jew-hating, collectively called Lebensraum. Her fans refer to her as an “ethnic novelist,” while her critics are much less kind.
Orly Taitz – Lawyer. Dentist. Senate candidate. Real estate agent. Even if Orly Taitz (Or “Dr. Orly Taitz, Esq. as she labels herself) were just all of these things, she wouldn’t have anywhere near the notoriety she does. Instead, one label has stuck to Taitz: Queen of the Birthers. The Orange County-based Taitz serves as the defacto head of the movement that alleges President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and is therefore ineligible for the office.
Taitz’s claims about Obama are numerous, detailed and lofty. She believes that Obama and his circle have killed numerous people to preserve his secrets, that he has dozens of Social Security numbers and an authentic Kenyan birth certificate, forged his Selective Service papers, that he was raised as a radical Muslim and groomed by the Chicago mafia, and that those who dissent against him are bound for FEMA concentration camps. And Taitz backs these claims up with lawsuits. Many lawsuits. She has filed, testified or represented plaintiffs in dozens of cases related to President Obama’s origin and history. Almost all are dismissed, though a few have been prolonged by legal technicalities, prompting Taitz and her followers to declare success, when they’ve only postponed the inevitable. Fortunately, the legal profession has little time for her quest. Over the past five years, Taitz has racked up a slew of fines and court sanctions – but nothing approaching a legal victory.
Constance Cumbey – Numerous skeptics are highly critical of the New Age movement and what it espouses. Michigan attorney and author Constance Cumbey attacks the New Age movement for a different reason: because it’s hastening the onset of the Antichrist. Cumbey belongs to a small but vocal subset that could best be described as “Christian conspiracy theorists.” Her 1983 book The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and Our Coming Age of Barbarism kicked off the idea of New Age not as an offshoot of the Human Potential Movement, but as a Satanic plot to destroy Christianity, linked to the false prophets who developed New Age, Buddhist esotericism and, of course, the Nazis.
Since then, Cumbey has written a number of books and articles alleging that the Buddhist messiah Maitreya, seen to be the natural successor to the teachings of Buddha, is actually the Antichrist. She sees New Age infiltration in any number of humanistic endeavors and non-Judeo-Christian religions – everything from the Guardian Angels to the gay rights movement (the rainbow flag actually being a secret sign for fellow New Agers to identify each other) to the Unitarian Church to Whole Foods. And all of it wrapped in an organized hierarchy devoted to Hitler and Buddha.
Many other women have played prominent roles in conspiracy culture and deserve rightful places alongside their male counterparts in the pantheon of crap.