Exploring Conspiracy Theories
February 5, 2022
When it comes to conspiracy theories, people debate about which aspects are true and how to view them. Although conspiracy theories evoke great speculation, they compensate with explanations for unknown phenomena. As people attempt to distinguish between what is real and fake when analyzing conspiracy theories, they must consider how negative sentiments toward the government and people in power influence these views and constantly look for sources of verity.
Conspiracy theories have a detrimental impact on society
Was John F. Kennedy really assassinated? Do Covid-19 vaccinations contain traceable data-collecting microchips? Is the Illuminati secretly pulling the strings of society and watching your every move? Are there aliens that sink boats and aircrafts in the Bermuda Triangle? These are just a few of the countless conspiracy theories that plague social media and the world wide web. While they seem jocose for the most part, some of them can be potentially harmful, especially for those paranoid about them.
For example, a New York Times article quotes Karen Douglas, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kent in England, and her colleague, Daniel Jolly, who found that “people who were exposed to anti-government conspiracy theories were less likely to want to vote than those who had read information refuting conspiracy theories.” They also similarly found that people who do not read about global warming conspiracy theories are more likely to “take action to reduce their carbon footprint.”
However, conspiracy theories can be beneficial to a degree, because they implant a sense of skepticism in their believers. Skeptics are more likely to question the things they read and hear, which could prevent them from mindlessly agreeing with something, whether it be a legal contract or an argumentative statement within a conversation. They are less gullible, and in turn, could make more conscious decisions by examining and researching information, as well as engaging in discussions with others.
For the most part, though, conspiracy theories are damaging to society and its followers Take Stella Immanuel, a Houston pediatrician, who helped perpetuate a conspiracy theory that hydroxychloroquine could “cure” Covid-19 in a video posted online. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) readily responded that hydroxychloroquine is “unlikely to produce an antiviral effect”, Immanuel’s video, according to Vox, “quickly went viral, drawing millions of views on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in a matter of hours.” It’s likely that a portion of the viewers truly believed Immanuel, without even second-guessing her claims. Imagine if hydroxychloroquine was an extremely dangerous and toxic drug. The effects could have been devastating for Immanuel’s followers.
Conspiracy theories, such as Immanuel’s, have been around forever, which is why, according to the New York Times, “some scientist or therapist will eventually try to slap a diagnosis on believers in Big Lie conspiracies that seem wildly out of line with reality.” Still, today, a diagnosis to prevent or stop people from believing conspiracy theories seems both inhumane and uncanny. That’s exactly why Dr. Gordon Pennycook, a behavioral scientist at the University of Regina’s school of business, in Saskatchewan, simply says that as a rule, you should not spread false content or information. Pennycook also says that it’s important to be focused when forwarding headlines or stories to others because distracted people are more likely to do so without vetting their information or sources.
Even with Dr. Pennycook’s advice in mind, people should not completely steer away from conspiracy theories and social media, where they are often spread like wildfire. Instead, in schools and universities, students should be taught to separate credible sources from shady and false ones, if they are not already. Educators should continue to teach students to question what they read and hear and help them understand why, for instance, a certain article or historical document was created. How else can humanity prevent itself from senseless submission to online lies and misinformation? If students are taught to untangle the truth from the lies, the next generation may have a better chance at winning the war against conspiracy theories.
Spreading the truth and dismantling the theories one reads and sees is the first step that anyone can take to fight on the right side in the internet’s most turbulent information war. Together, humanity can take a stand against senseless submission, and Eastside is doing exactly just that, with our package below on some of the biggest conspiracy theories today.
Fake News vs. Conspiracy Theories
While investigating for the truth through news and sources, scholastic papers, research publications and the wide expanse of social media outlets, people may encounter fake news and conspiracy theories. If they do not scrutinize the information for credibility, veracity, and authenticity, they may fall into the trap of disseminating false information like a forest fire. But, is this spurious information fake news or conspiracy theories? More importantly, how do we differentiate between the two?
Fake news refers to inaccurate information that is presented as factual while conspiracy theories are the belief that some concealed but influential organization takes responsibility for an event or phenomenon. They both induce skepticism and scrutiny because of their inaccuracies that people adopt as truths, and they also drive the need for fact checks and credibility.
With fake news, the information is widely shared to promote or disrepute a public figure, political movement, business, or institution. For example, during the 2016 presidential election, fake news spread through various media outlets, like WTOE 5 News, about how Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump. While it is difficult to rebuke false information after it has been disseminated so rapidly and widely, researchers in the Social Action Lab at the University of Pennsylvania believe to correct misinformation, debunkers should have succinct explanations. Although detailed rectifications were previously seen as effective since all the reasons were presented, they will remind the public of the misinformation, strengthening the impact of fake news. For more recent news, check this new post about Jimmy John Shark.
Conversely, conspiracy theories are centered around a mysterious event or circumstance with a clandestine source. With a desire for an explanation to unexplained events, to seek reassurance or control in unprecedented times, or to have a sense of social belonging. Slightly different than fake news itself, conspiracy theories are often challenging to rebuke with believers. Advocates of these theories typically fall into the group of distrusting the government, authority, or powerful people involved. In general, these adherents share the belief that these people in power are corrupt, so they are less likely to listen and understand counterarguments to their theories. While often rooted in fake news, conspiracy theories place the blame on a specific organization or group of powerful people like how people believed the Chinese government engineered the Covid-19 virus or that the U.S government is using the vaccine to change human DNA. In an unprecedented time like the Covid-19 pandemic, people did not like to feel powerless or out of control. For these people, conspiracy theories are a way of providing an explanation for the new obligations that are required of them to adapt to these new circumstances. With the unknown effects of the vaccine, people turn to these theories to explain how the government takes the vaccine out of their control and their fear of a recently developed immunization.
Overall, conspiracy theories are grounded in fake news, but they are often suspicious of a powerful group’s actions to benefit themselves rather than
The assassination of John F. Kennedy
Since November 22, 1963, several conspiracies regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have circulated throughout the nation. On this day during a motorcade in Dallas Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK in the neck, and also injured the Governor of Texas. Oswald himself died two days later when he was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred to county jail.
The conspiracy theories regarding the assassination do not revolve around who shot JFK, but rather question if Oswald was working alone. Many of these theories, including Lyndon B. Johnson or the military ordering the hit, have been debunked. However, one popular theory that remains in the limelight today is that the CIA was involved.
At the time, the CIA was attempting to kill Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba, which Kennedy did not support. Oswald himself supported a Soviet-backed Cuba, which means he would have supported the actions of the CIA. This explains their possible alliance.
Eventually, the Warren Commission investigated the assassination. The commission included the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles. If the CIA was in fact involved, a high-ranking member on the commission could have covered up their actions. This caused the committee to ultimately come to the conclusion that nobody was working with Oswald.
Years later, after the event of Watergate and the emergence of a lack of trust between the government and the public, the House Select Committee on Assassinations was formed to review both the assassination of JFK and of Martin Luther King Jr.. After Watergate, the Zapruder film also emerged, allowing the general public to watch the assassination. While this committee too determined that the CIA and the Cuban government were not involved, they did believe that there was a second gunman.
One popular theory on who the second gunman could be is shown through was labeled as “Umbrella Man”. During the assassination, there is a man seen ominously holding an umbrella, although the weather was sunny. The theory goes on to say that the mysterious figure shot not a bullet, but a poison dart at JFK, which allowed Oswald to shoot him. This theory has long since been disproved. Louie Steven, the man holding the umbrella, brought the umbrella as a joke, to make fun of JFK’s support of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister.
Going off of the CIA’s possible involvement, many theorists believe Cuba and the Soviets themselves might have been directly involved. Prior to the assassination, Oswald took a trip to Mexico City, where it is believed he received his orders to move forward with the assassination. Many of the documents that contain Oswald’s actions while in Mexico City are still classified. A deeper look into Oswald’s actions in Mexico City also convey the idea that the CIA and the FBI may have known that Oswald was a threat prior to the assassination. According to New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, “these agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released their incompetence and bungling could be exposed.” While the CIA may not have been directly involved, it is possible that they did nothing to prevent what they knew could be a possible assassination. Some believe that the Cubans and Soviets would not have involved themselves, however, because they preferred JFK over Lyndon B. Johnson.
Throughout the years, researchers and theorists have complained that the federal government continued to prevent the public from examining all the evidence, because “10,000 documents [are] either partially redacted or withheld entirely”, according to CNN. In October Biden issued a delay in the publication of some documents because the possible harm they could cause outweighed public interest.
This reveals the overarching dilemma regarding JFK’s assassination. The general public does not trust the actions of their own government. A lack of transparency, not only regarding the assassination but in day-to-day life has left the nation with dwindling faith in their own government. While it may never be uncovered if the CIA was involved or if Oswald truly acted on his own, the trust between the government and the public can be rebuilt. In order for this to happen, politicians and public agencies need to reanalyze their methods of protecting the public and reestablish a firm foundation of trust with American citizens.
The Bermuda Triangle
It is no secret that Americans and many others have always been fascinated by the prospect of conspiracy theories. One of the most famous conspiracies of all time, however, is the conspiracy surrounding the infamous Bermuda triangle. Its existence sparks debates in every corner of the world and those with opinions on the topic are fiercely committed to their own belief.
The Bermuda triangle is located in the space made up between Puerto Rico, Florida, and Bermuda, which forms a triangle, hence the name. There have been unexplained disappearances in the region dating back to Christopher Columbus’ time and still, the mysteries remain unsolved. Some of the most famous include the disappearance of the Navy cargo ship, the USS Cyclops which had over 300 passengers, and Flight 19, a “navigational training flight” according to history.navy.mil, that lost 14 people. In addition, once Flight 19 lost communication, a rescue attempt was made and the PBM Mariner also didn’t return, with an additional 13 people going missing.
There are two ways to look at the situation: one chalks it up to be a series of coincidences, while the other supports that there could be some other explanation as to why many ships and aircrafts have disappeared in this area. The conspiracy list is endless with theories such as a wormhole, which is essentially a time travel shortcut, and even aliens. However, it must be acknowledged that during many of these disappearances as well, pilots and sailors communicated that they were having issues with their compasses. Could this be a reason for the disappearances, and why would the compasses start malfunctioning?
The most realistic theory in my opinion, however, is strange weather occurrences. Whether there were sudden storms or underwater earthquakes, these seem to be the most logical theories, especially when some believe that the reason behind it all is Atlantis. Still, it must be mentioned that if this were the reason behind the disappearances, why has no evidence been found? There have been no ships found underwater or any aircraft found in nearby areas. Not only have the transportation methods been lost, but so have the people, yet this should not be the case if ships and aircrafts have safety measures such as lifejackets and parachutes.
The mystery of the Bermuda triangle is ongoing and nearly everyone has an opinion on it. My advice: avoid the region altogether.
The assassination of Princes Diana
On August 31, 1977, Lady Diana Spencer, or Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash at the entrance of Paris’s Pont de l’Alma. Although she was the Princess of Wales and a member of the Royal Family, the effects of her death were felt all over the world.
Princess Diana was largely associated with the fashion world, and she was best known for her charitable work. She was either the president or patron of over 100 charities, and worked on behalf of the homeless, disabled, and children. After marrying Prince Charles and having two sons, Diana was forced further into the public eye and began to feel unhappy as a Princess. Therefore, after feeling too pressured in her very public role, the two separated in December of 1992, and later divorced in August of 1996.
When Diana’s tragic death occurred in Paris, Henri Paul, head of security at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, was driving. Diana was also with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, who died alongside her. Later, in 2008, an inquest revealed that both Paul and the paparazzi following her car were at fault for the deaths, as he was driving under the influence of alcohol and several paparazzi photographers chased their car.
Despite the fact that several theories swarmed the media, one of the most popular conspiracies of the crash was claimed by Mohamed Al-Fayed, a businessman who then owned Harrods, the London department store. He believed that Diana was assassinated by the Royal Family, or Prince Philip more specifically, due to the fact that she was planning to marry a Muslim man and was pregnant with his child.
Another theory depicted in the media was that her crash was an accident arranged by Prince Charles so he could marry his son’s nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Diana’s butler released a note written by Diana stating that her husband, Charles, was staging an accident in her car to give her a serious head injury. When investigated, Charles told police he had no intention of marrying Legge-Bourke.
The media also speculated that the CIA was involved in the assassination of Diana. Mohamed Al-Fayed explained how both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) closely monitored Diana’s calls, meaning that they would be aware of her engagement announcement to Dodi Fayed that following Monday. Despite this, it was said that all the documents possessed by both agencies were not related to Diana’s crash or the plot of her death.
Although there are numerous theories surrounding the devastating death of Princess Diana, the world still grieves the kind-hearted and selfless woman that lost her life on that day. Whether or not Prince Philip, Charles, or even the CIA was involved in her death, Princess Diana will be remembered for generations.
From 2000 to 2009 speculations of the government-formed “Illuminati” often circulated the streets and the media. Teens tweeting their hypotheses for who might possibly be in this select group became the talk of the Internet, spanning the entire decade and continues today Even with a quick search of the topic on Twitter, there are 90 results in the past minute alone.
While these conspiracies may have gotten out of hand in nature, the Illuminati was actually real at one point in time. In 1776, a group of aristocrats and educated men formed the Order of Illuminati in Bavaria, Germany. The group conversed regarding their mutual opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. Adam Weishaupt, a German philosopher who is speculated to have started the original Illuminati group, wanted to be a Freemason, one that spreads the teachings of the immortal soul and a supreme being that rules over all, but did not have sufficient financial resources. People say he went on to start his own society instead. While the group started with five individuals it grew dramatically. These secret societies became a legal crime, one punishable by death, ending the Illuminati….or did it?
Despite the original group forcibly being shut down, Illuminati-linked groups formed, making it impossible to catch all of the subgroups connected to the one topic sweeping nations worldwide. Modern theorists believe the Illuminati is ongoing-this time aiming to create a “New World Order” with the government in complete control of the country’s inhabitants.
According to these beliefs members of the Illuminati spread out to brainwash society through all forms of content, movies, government, music, etc. This plan would mean the government is secretly planning out how to become a totalitarian state without the public even noticing
People often question the Illuminati’s presence in events that appear to be unexpected, unexplained, or underreported. Examples of these include Tupac, Micheal Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and Princess Diana’s deaths, as well as the 9/11 attack, but the list goes on and on.
Demonic and satanic symbols often are linked to references to the Illuminati, such as burning crosses present in Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” music video and Beyoncé being hung upside down representing human sacrifice at the 2003 VMA’s. Symbols like a snake also have come to represent the Illuminati. Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and Rihanna have all been spotted with this animal, leading to claims that they partake in the group.
Building on this, certain hand signals have been connected to the Illuminati, such as one’s pointer finger and thumb pressed together making an “OK” sign and a pyramid formation with both hands that looks like a triangle.
While the topic still surfaces in the media today, many sources have debunked this debate with concrete evidence. In each situation speculated to be started by the Illuminati, photos and witnesses have been used to shut down these false claims. Even if it’s not true, it’s understandable why people worry about this. With the government having an extreme supply of money and power, there’s no telling how quickly the citizens of one nation could just as easily become prisoners to those in these positions.
Covid-19 Vaccine Microchipping
The government and vaccines are hardly ever a calm topic in our country, but recently they have become absolutely a firebrand. Determined international efforts to discover and produce a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 have been underway since the WHO declared the disease a pandemic in March of 2020. In December of the same year, distribution began for the earliest COVID-19 vaccines. Yet as vaccine rollout increased early in 2021, fears and rumors began to spread that would throw a major dent in America’s fight against the pandemic.
The American public has always had an issue with vaccination. In 2018, a survey conducted by Zogby Analytics found that 18% of Americans did not trust the government to provide proper and safe administration of vaccines. And similarly, a Gallup poll in June 2021 showed that approximately 20% of Americans were staunchly opposed to ever taking the COVID vaccine, which is approximately 66 million people in the nation.
But why has there been such vehement opposition to the vaccine? One explanation is the widespread COVID-19 microchip conspiracy. The first public mentions of the conspiracy appeared in early October of 2020, well before the first vaccines began, in radio shows, websites, magazines, seminars, and most prominently- social media posts. Such outcries have since gained remarkable traction and remain a major reason for vaccine hesitancy among the public.
The conspiracy claims that the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore vaccine, are a ploy by the government and Bill Gates to implant Americans with microscopic tracking devices through their injection. The conspiracy has been repeatedly disproven and denounced by doctors, the CDC and national medical authorities. However, this has not done much to significantly lower the number of vaccine doubters and oppositionists in the country.
In 2019, the WHO declared vaccine hesitancy as a top threat to global health, and now that threat is manifesting severely in America as the nation battles yet more waves and variants of COVID-19.
The Mystery of Anastasia Romanovs Death
We’ve all seen the Disney movie Anastasia, but few people know how this hit movie came to be. In 1918, the Romanov Imperial Family, which ruled over Russia at the time, was murdered by the Bolsheviks. Since then, around 10 people have come forth and claimed to be Anastasia Romanov, princess of Russia, and therefore had the right to inherit her fortune.
In the mid-1920s, the most infamous of these imposters was a woman named Anna Anderson.
After Anderson’s death, it was confirmed that her identity was Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish munitions worker who had been institutionalized after a suicide attempt in 1920.
Anderson seemed to know intricate details of the Romanov family experiences that only immediate family would know. Anastasia Romanov’s uncle had asked her details of what happened the night that her family was murdered, and she made an entire story up, of how she had been thrown on a truck with dead bodies and was brought to safety by one of the guards. Anastasia Romanov’s childhood friend, Gleb Botkin was sure that Anna Anderson was Anastasia after she remembered and described a game that they played as a child.
She claimed that she had suffered a great deal of memory loss of her childhood when she could not remember something and was often reminded of family memories such as the family trip to Riga, Latvia in 1910.
The bodies of the Romanov family completely disappeared during the massacre, and many people believed that Anna Anderson could be Anastasia Romanov, especially since both of them had a deformed foot. Many scars and birthmarks also seemed to line up.
Anderson made newspaper headlines, was on television, and garnered public attention throughout the country.
In 1991, seven years after Anderson’s death, a grave in Russia was found with nine bodies. Only three of those bodies had been the Romanov children, meaning that two were missing (Alexei Romanov and another one of the girl’s). A Bolshevik leader revealed that two of the other bodies were burned and buried somewhere else, but many people thought this was a cover-up for proof that they were still alive.
Though DNA evidence proved that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia Romanov, the mystery persists on how physical markings seemed to match up, as well as some strange and specific memories that Anna Anderson retold. Was it coincidental that two bodies were missing from where the rest of the family was? Are they yet to be found? These are questions that only time will tell, but this nonetheless does not take away from the fact that Anna Anderson was never able to fully prove her identity before her death.
Did the United States fake the moon landing?
72 government-controlled space agencies, scattered around the world, receive billions of dollars in funding each year. 14 possess space launch capabilities and actively work to send people, who oftentimes devote their life to becoming astronauts, into space. Tens of thousands of astrophysicists, astronomers, engineers, and scientists work together each day, utilizing powerful tools and large sums of money, to build rockets and satellites. Mixed in with the countless years of research, scientific reports, and publications on spaceflight, it seems absurd to even doubt whether or not the Apollo 11 moon landing actually occurred.
To believe that the United States government lied about the moon landing, discredits the work of hundreds of thousands of professionals over the past few decades, and implies that all 72 space agencies, in addition to private space companies, created a conspiracy to fool the general public. Yet despite the vast amount of information debunking such beliefs, tens of thousands of theorists stubbornly think that the government still faked the moon landing. Such conspiracists think Bill Kaysing, one of the first people to bring to light what he believed to be the truth: NASA staged the landing and filmed the entire thing in a TV studio.
Between the years 1956 and 1963, Kaysing worked for Rocketdyne, a company that helped to design the Saturn V rocket engines. However, his work in the space field did not prevent him from publishing a pamphlet called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle, which marked the beginning of widespread belief in the moon-hoax conspiracy. Now, according to The Guardian and a YouGov poll, at least 20% of youth think that the landings were staged. So, what exactly gives people reason to think NASA never landed on the moon, and why are they incorrect?
Moon-hoax conspiracists most often question why humanity has not returned to the moon since 1969, and how come video footage of the moon landing depicts the United States flag waving as well as a starless galaxy. These questions, according to Professor Anu Ojha, one of the Directors of the National Space Centre Discovery, are part of the maelstrom of disinformation that plagues the online community. As the information ocean gets more turbulent each day, Professor Anu Ojha said at a lecture at Royal Museums Greenwich, we must navigate through it with critical thinking skills.
Furthermore, these absurd questions can easily be debunked. For example, as aforementioned, some claim that because humanity has not returned to the moon since 1972, we never actually went in the first place. A simple lesson in geopolitics could address this concern. While NASA had ambitions to establish a permanent lunar base in the 1790s, the Vietnam War broke out. Keeping in mind the fact that the United States had already crossed the finish line in its race with Russia to the moon, priorities changed.
In 2009, a lunar reconnaissance orbiter, according to Professor Anu Ojha mapped “the lunar surface in three or four orders of magnitude more resolution than had ever been managed before.” The orbiter pictured the Apollo landing sites and the footprints and tracks of other lunar vehicles that roamed the moon. It provides even more evidence that the moon landings were not a hoax, that Apollo 11 was real, and that Neil Armstrong actually moonwalked and declared that space is “one small step for man, [and] one giant leap for mankind.”
The consequences of moon landing conspiracy theories are dangerous. In addition to spreading misinformation and discrediting the work of professionals, moon landing conspiracies make people have misbeliefs about their government and increase their susceptibility to other harmful theories. Believing in the moon landing will also help you steer clear of Buzz Aldrin’s dangerous side, especially because he once punched a moon-hoax believer.
Rebutting moon landing conspiracy theories
Extraterrestrial life at Area 51
Just north of Rachel, Nevada lies the highly classified Area 51. To the public, Area 51 is perceived as an Air Force facility located within the boundaries of Nevada’s Test and Training Range, but many wonder if it could be more.
Back in the 1950s, the area was commonly used to test different air and spacecraft prototypes and was well-known for doing so. However, as time passed, the facility grew quiet and the public began to wonder what was really going on behind its walls.
It wasn’t until the late 50’s that extraterrestrial life came into question. The topic had drummed up interest from people all over the world and the idea was starting to be further explored. By 1961, this question of life outside of our own was connected to the secrets within Area 51.
The idea of aliens being held in the area immediately skyrocketed. Aircrafts being tested over the facility were assumed to be UFOs. The fact that the testing site is only miles away from a nuclear power plant raised even more suspicions.
During an interview with reporter Bob Lazar back in 1989, the connection between Area 51 and Aliens was made in a serious manner. Until this point, the myth had not circled to any mainstream outlets and the debate caused much buzz in the Las Vegas area.
The most recent uproar surrounding Area 51 occurred in September of 2019 when a plan to storm the government zone was arranged. This plan was not taken into action, however, as it had grown so much popularity on social media that law enforcement became involved, and the scheme was shut down.
Since mentions of the possible raid two years ago, security has immensely improved in size and strength to prevent any further misdemeanors in the area.
After the shutdown, the base generals of the facility were interviewed and asked to share their thoughts on the possibility of invasion by the general public. The officers claimed that civilians will find nothing out of the ordinary, but they implore people to obey the law and stay outside of Area 51’s boundaries for reasons involving safety and privacy.
Still, many wonder what secrets Area 51 holds. Is it really just a governmental testing facility, or is there something more lurking behind closed doors? The untold may be out of this world.