Modern conspiracy movements come and go so quickly that it can be hard to keep up with the new threats and concepts that get tossed around social media and the water cooler. So here’s a quick and easy list of some of the basic ideas you’ll often see related to conspiracy theories and popular pseudoscience. And because everyone likes pedantic, grade-school learning tropes, I did it in the form of the alphabet.
A is for Agenda 21, a non-binding and unenforceable United Nations policy paper written over two decades ago, devoted to promoting sustainability and smart growth. Some conspiracy theorists, at the prompting of Glenn Beck, have decided that Agenda 21 is actually a plot to depopulate rural areas, enact a green genocide and cram the survivors into Soviet-style urban clusters. It’s really not, and you can read the “sinister plan” for yourself online.
B is for Bankster, a portmanteau of “banker” and “gangster.” This term has caught on as a reference to the wealthy financiers and global elites who are supposedly controlling every element of society and government, enslaving the rest of us through their octopus tentacles of Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Government. Often, the term is modified as “foreign bankster,” which usually just means “Jews.”
C is for Chemtrail, a spray of noxious chemicals, biological agents meant to control the population, weather modification material or unspecified “toxins” left behind by airplanes acting under the control of the global elite. No compelling evidence of chemtrails exists, and almost everything used as proof of them is either fake or out of context. In reality, “chemtrails” are either contrails left by aircraft when the heat of their exhausts meets cold air, or simply unusual looking clouds.
D is for Denialism. No matter what beliefs are held by the mainstream and supported by solid evidence, you can always find someone who thinks we’re being lied to about them. Everything from the existence of AIDS to the moon landings to vaccine safety has an accompanying movement that says “everything we know is wrong” about these subjects, usually with nothing to prove it. Most of these movements are tied together, because if you’re going to be contrarian, you might as well be really contrarian.
E is for Energy. Many conspiracy theorists believe there is a massive plot by the government and oil companies to suppress free energy machines, which would break the oil industry’s grip on us and deliver unlimited power. As evidenced by the free availability of patents and myriad videos showing the non-existent miracles worked by these machines, this is not true. The laws of physics dictate that free energy can not exist, so there is no need to suppress it.
F is for False Flag. In political terms, a false flag is an action fabricated as a pretext for war. False flags are real things that have happened, but conspiracy believers see them in virtually every terrorist attack and shooting of the last century, all done as a pretext for Bankster-controlled politicians to make money and take away our rights. One false flag consistently cited by conspiracy theorists is Operation Northwoods, a US plan to gin up a war with Cuba. It was pooh-poohed by President Kennedy and never implemented.
G is for Geoengineering. Like false flags, geoengineering is a real thing that has been turned into something else by conspiracy theorists. They see geoengineering as a way the global elite will reshape the planet to enslave us and keep us sick, using chemtrails, “weather warfare” and man-made natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes. In reality, geoengineering is being studied as a way to reverse the effects of climate change (see Denialism.)
H is for HAARP, short for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. This was a research station in Alaska that used high frequency antennae to bounce radio signals off the ionosphere. Some see HAARP as a powerful weapon capable of weather modification, earthquakes, massive storms and electromagnetic blasts. HAARP has no such actual powers and ionospheric research has no relation to earthquakes or hurricanes. In addition, HAARP closed in March 2013, due to funding issues.
I is for Illuminati, a catch-all term for almost anyone wealthy, powerful or wealthy and powerful. Historically, the Bavarian Illuminati was a secret society founded in 1776 to oppose religious influence over secular life. It lasted less than a decade before being banned. The pop culture version of the Illuminati was remade from a combination of antisemitism, anti-Communism and fear of One World Government. No evidence exists that this Illuminati is real, despite virtually every celebrity, executive and politician posited to be a member.
J is for Jones, Alex. The popular radio host, film producer and founder of conspiracy clearing house Infowars.com is seen as the “face” of the conspiracy theory movement. Jones helped mainstream the view that a cadre of governments and businesses serve as a global elite, running the planet for their own benefit. His media platforms are a haven for those looking to “wake up” the rest of us to what’s “really going on,” despite being wrong pretty much all the time about pretty much everything. He’s also really entertaining to watch be interviewed.
K is for Kennedy, John, the center of a 50 year conspiracy theory regarding his assassination. Dozens of ideas have been put forth as to who “really” killed JFK, from the CIA to the Corsican Mafia to a nebulous group of businessmen to a Secret Service agent to Jackie Kennedy. Despite the weight of research on the subject (as many as 2,000 different books alone) and the staggering percentage of Americans who reject the “official story,” no theory has emerged with enough compelling evidence to displace Kennedy being shot by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald.
L is for Logical Fallacies, the poor arguments used in an attempt to make points lacking supporting evidence. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the many fallacies used against skepticism, such as the Gish Gallop (238234 Reasons Vaccines Are Evil, And You Can’t Possibly Respond to Them All), the argument from authority (we should listen to Dr. Oz about nuclear power because he’s a doctor) and post hoc rationalization (I caught the flu after I got the flu shot, therefore the flu shot did it). Good lists of fallacies can be found here and here.
M is for Murder. Find someone who died unexpected and you’ll find someone else who thinks they were murdered, “suicided” or killed in a staged accident because they “knew too much.” Examples include hundreds of 9/11 witness, UFO researchers, JFK conspirators and Clinton family associates who “died mysteriously,” politicians assassinated for running afoul of the New World Order and celebrities bumped off by the Illuminati because they were about to “turn on them.” In reality, the longer a list of people is, the more of them are going to die eventually, and most of the “victims” had little to do with the conspiracies said to have killed them.
N is for Natural Cures, the heroic resistance to Big Pharma as an alternative to corrupt western medicine. These beliefs often dovetail with conspiracy theories about governmental bodies banning supplements, the evils of chemicals, vaccine horror stories, generalized scaremongering about Monsanto, a heavy dose of dangerous sham treatments and, of course, Nazis. The focal point of this movement is Natural News, a crazy quilt of New World Order gibberish, ads for expensive natural products and absolutely terrible science. Avoid.
O is for Obama, Barack, perhaps the most polarizing President since the last guy (and the guy before him, and so on). President Obama is the center of a multitude of conspiracy theories regarding his origin, religion, citizenship and Antichrist/Non-Antichrist status. Some of these, like the so called “birth certificate” question, have caught on with the public. Others, such as Obama teleporting to Mars or intentionally destroying the economy at the behest of Muslim masters, have not. None have any real legitimacy or solid evidence to support them.
P is for Paid Shill, an accusation often leveled at skeptics that says anyone advocating for the “official story” must be on the payroll of whoever is suppressing “the truth” about that subject, and is paid to spread “disinfo.” For example, someone claiming that the Fukushima disaster won’t destroy humanity is paid by the nuclear industry, or a person advocating against sham medical treatments is a shill for Big Pharma. While paid fake reviews on sites like Yelp are a problem (“astroturfing”), for the most part, the huge army of paid globalist shills debunking “the truth” is simple paranoia.
Q is for Questions, which many conspiracy theorists claim they are “just asking” when they make inflammatory accusations. Many of these questions are extremely leading and not able to be answered, and most aren’t even questions. While asking questions is the center of good scientific research or journalism, it’s easy to distinguish someone who is asking questions from someone who is “asking questions” by how they respond when those questions are answered. Do they accept the answer, or simply repeat the question louder and call you a nasty name?
R is for Reptilians, the race of humanoid/lizard hybrids thought by some to be in control of world governments and prominent industries. Conspiracy theorist/former soccer player David Icke is the chief architect of the reptilian mythology, a mish-mash of UFO’s, history, genetics and The Matrix. The most comprehensive proof of reptilian infestation is on the internet, where you can find scores of pictures of everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Beyonce with circles drawn around “odd looking” features in their faces. Shockingly (or not), 4 percent of Americans believe this theory.
S is for Sheeple. A portmanteau of “sheep” and “people,” this is a derogatory term for the vast herd of spoon-fed idiots who have not been “awakened” or had their “eyes opened” to what’s really going on. Characteristics of being a sheeple include taking stories proffered by the government at face value, listening to your doctor, getting information from the mainstream network media, taking medication, putting your money in a bank, subsisting on a diet of “toxic” fast food, giving up your rights at the drop of a hat and generally being gullible and easily led. If you do or have ever done anything on this vastly oversimplified list, you might be a sheeple. Baaaaaa.
T is for Tesla, Nikola, the brilliant scientist and inventor whose name comes up constantly in fringe circles, usually attached to things he had absolutely nothing to do with, or was attempting to develop and never completed. Some of these include wireless power transmission, ball lightning, death rays, HAARP and free energy. Most of this is based on wishful thinking or fanciful claims made by Tesla near the end of his life.
U is for UFO. Sightings of alien craft, claims of alien influence and stories of alien abduction of humans have been in pop culture for over a century, and for just as long, there have been allegations that the world’s governments have been suppressing their knowledge of these events. Most UFO mythology circles around a few key incidents, such as the Roswell crash, Area 51, a few famous close encounters, the Men in Black and Project Blue Book. All of these have been falsified with plausible explanations and really aren’t that mysterious – though the possibility of alien contact still fires the public imagination.
V is for Vaccines, a festering battleground in the conflict between rational thought and pseudoscience. While the anti-vaccination movement isn’t a really conspiracy theory, there are numerous conspiratorial elements at play, including poor logic, paranoia about what Big Pharma is doing to us, a heavy dose of denialism and unfounded claims that vaccines are the method by which the global elite sicken and control us. It’s certainly within your right to “do your research” on vaccines, but please use well-performed scientific studies and not misinformed celebrities, quack doctors or Natural News.
W is for World Trade Center, the attack on which was the defining moment in the conspiracy theory movement. Conspiracy theories had little hold on the public imagination until September 11th, 2001. But because of the complexity and scope of both the attacks and the investigation, it became commonplace to hear crank, unfounded theories about controlled demolition, “letting it happen on purpose,” missiles hitting the Pentagon, whether fire could melt steel, the definition of “pull it,” Flight 93 being shot down, insider trading, drills, Jews staying home and a thousand other notions. To date, not a single one has withstood scientific and journalistic scrutiny.
X is for X-Files, the popular television series that ran between 1993 and 2002. The X-Files hinged on the partnership between two FBI agents, one a believer in conspiracies and the other a skeptic. However, neither were completely dogmatic in their beliefs, and were willing to have their minds changed. While most current skeptics are open (and in fact eager) about the possibility of being incorrect about things like alien life not existing or natural treatments being superior to pharmaceutical ones, it’s becoming more difficult to find believers with a similar openness to being wrong.
Y is for YouTube, a massive source of “research” for conspiracy theorists and believers in many different forms of nonsense. YouTube is where you can find almost every denialist movie and home-made video, from the many different version of 9/11 truther bible Loose Change and Christian conspiracy polemic Zeitgeist to videos crudely slapped together the day of various events deemed to be false flags. Most rely on shoddy research, poor logic and bias; and should not be used for anything other than entertainment purposes. Even then, there are far more entertaining videos to be found on YouTube. For example, anything with a cat being cute.
Z is for Zionists, said by people who don’t like Jews to control the world through their banking cabals, political influence, stranglehold on the entertainment industry and cunning evil. Antisemitism is rampant in conspiracy circles, the continuation of a philosophy that dates all the way back to the crucifixion of Christ (who happened to be a Jew). Modern theories usually pull in the Rothschild banking family (see the comments section of my blog posts for examples), the current situation in Palestine, the recent financial crisis, Holocaust denial and the New World Order.
Now you know your A-B-C’s of conspiracy. Come now, won’t you weep with me?