Monday, January 19, 2009

Top Ten Conspiracy Theories.

An interesting list of the top ten conspiracy theories from LiveScience. I'm not sure how they are ranked, based on the implausibility of the idea or upon how widely believed the conspiracy is. Anyway the top ten consists of:
  • Big Pharma- The belief that they are suppressing alternative remedies.
  • Satanic Cults- These almost always turn out to be bogus.
  • Protocols of the Elders of Zion- One of the most morally offensive and widely believed in the Middle East.
  • The Roswell Crash- I'm not sure about this one, obviously it wasn't an alien craft that crashed but it is possible that there was a genuine cover up of a military aircraft crash.
  • JFK- Should be higher than 6th as it is the Daddy of all conspiracy theories and thanks to Oliver Stone, widely believed.
  • Paul McCartney's "death"- Very silly but did anyone ever really believe it to begin with?
  • The Moon Landings- I've known intelligent people who genuinely believe the Apollo missions were hoaxes.
  • Subliminal Advertising- I'm ashamed to say that I used to believe that this was plausible, but only when I was around 13.
  • Princess Diana's "Murder"- I blame the Daily Express.
  • 9/11- Obvious really. As with the Princess Diana one, I knew that the event would spawn a conspiracy theory from the moment it happened. It will be interesting to see if this one dies down when Bush leaves the White House.
There's no place for Reptilian overlords, Holocaust denial or Masonic conspiracies in the list but it's a pretty handy guide none the less.

Conspiracies can be sinister, like holocaust denial, but I must admit to having a sneaking admiration for peddlars of twaddle involving Aliens and ancient civilisations like Eric Von Daniken (sp?) and Graham Hancock. It's the brazeness of it that impresses me.


Anonymous said...

Anything involving the words "New World Order", obviously.

Oh, and: the entire life works of David Icke.

Ross said...

"the entire life works of David Icke."

Except for his sports broadcasting career I suppose.

Ross said...


richard said...

Would any of the following be considered more borderline?

1. David Kelly
2. Roberto Calvi
3. Carroll Quigley

Were any of these murdered, in other words, followed by an effective cover-up?

Quigley would be the most important case, if true. Bill Clinton's favourite teacher had been reading another history professor, Antony Sutton, the previous 3-4 years, as shown around minute 8 of the rambling interview here, a fact I only became aware of through YouTube last year.

Nobody's I've read has made much of the possibility that Quigley was bumped off in 1977. But I've always considered it a possibility, having followed the matter from 1976 onwards. And this tiny additional fact makes it more likely to my mind.

Meanwhile I definitely take the murder of Calvi as fact and think the same thing a very high probability for Kelly.

How much of a conspiracy loon does that make me?

It's always the difficult cases from which one learns, you see. So it'd be interesting to know which 'Satanic Cult' theory turned out to be true, in the author's view.

North Northwester said...

Oh, and the one that falsely says that Islam isn't a religion of peace and tries to slander it as somehow warlike, primitive and oppressive.


Evidence, please!

Ross said...

The death of Robert Calvi is a good counter example because it does look almost certain that the conspiracy theories were right and he was murdered.

"So it'd be interesting to know which 'Satanic Cult' theory turned out to be true, in the author's view."

I was allowing for cases like this that might technically count as satanic cults:

Mark said...


I'd add Gerald 'Supergun' Bull (bumped off in Brussels in March 1990)to your list of borderline instances. No case against the (unknown)assassins was bought (or is now likely to be).
One other 'conspiracy' not in the top ten, or on your 'borderline' list, but where the smell of the same lingers is that of the drowning of Robert Maxwell.
Would be smart aleck dismissals of the above with sniggers about 'tinfoil hats' and 'giant lizards' won't wash these events squeaky clean for a long time yet.

North Northwester said...

What was I thinking of yesterday, or with?

The biggest conspiracy theory of all time is Marxism.

Not content to believe that people sometimes make and sell things, or that they sometimes get others to make and sell them at variable and sometimes atrocious wages; Karl Marx taught us that this secret society called the bourgeoisie ran it all to maximise profits and thus impoverished the true owners of the work; the equally difficult to pin down proletariat.

And lots of people believed it, with hilarious results.And about 140,000,000 deaths.

I must have had my head so far up yesterday - it's the only place I can't hear the little voices.

richard said...

Thanks for the good answers and thought-provoking feedback. This further reflection could be long. Think of it as an inauguration day special! I'll try and connect to that theme as well, just a little.

What I didn't say first time around, but helped me want to ask the questions, is yes, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is one of the most morally offensive of all conspiracy theories. And the fact that it is widely believed in the Middle East is of great importance and concern.

Without then wishing to downplay its importance, in Cohn's classic study on the history of the Protocols, Warrant for Genocide, there's some interesting sociological research from within Germany at the time of Hitler (yes, really) that showed that only a small proportion even of Nazi party members believed such ridiculous stuff. Still, the same people, as a whole, were capable of executing mass murder of the Jews, women and children included. It's hardly surprising given that association that conspiracy theories of all kinds have such a terrible name.

But if you look at history another way the Nazis were themselves highly conspiratorial. If leaders like Neville Chamberlain had been more aware of this in regard to Czechoslovakia that would have helped them do the right thing, not least giving more of a chance to the Jews of Europe and the East. Even Winston Churchill was deceived by some aspects of the Nazi plots at that time. Which is a lesson in humility for all of us, either in dismissing one thing or making too much of another. We're dealing with what is hidden, by definition. Humility is very much in order.

So, to Roberto Calvi. The conspiracy theories were right, were they? Are you sure? To take the most obvious point, because Calvi was murdered does it automatically mean that Pope John Paul I also was? For David Yallop tried to show both in 1984 in In God's Name, the book that convinced me that Calvi's death could not possibly have been suicide.

So, if you say you accept now that Calvi was murdered, you are in fact only saying that one part of one conspiracy theory in the vicinity turned out to be right.

Sorry to be pedantic but it matters.

Next up, Robert Maxwell. Thank you very much for that suggestion Mark. I don't know if he was bumped off. But the story told in The Secret War against the Jews about Maxwell's involvement in getting Czech arms to the fledgling state of Israel after the War, and thus saving it from instant destruction at the hands of its loving Arab neighbours, is a fascinating one. It might just explain why someone so reviled over here - not least by those depending for their pension on the Mirror Group - was given the honour of a state funeral by Israel, with anybody that was anybody happy to attend.

The one thing doesn't prove the other, of course, but such an anomalous fact presumably needs some sort of explanation.

What's also characteristic of such things is that I only vaguely remembered the details of Captain Bob's funeral at the time. It was only when I read Loftus and Aarons on the subject that that rather salutary fact came more clearly into view.

So, though we like to think of ourselves as highly rational, picking the theory that best fits all the relevant facts, the chances are that the facts we remember are precisely the ones that best fit our current theory.

Conspiracy theorists are often accused of this. It's helpful to acknowledge that it's true for all of us, even when we pick something more prosaic as an explanation (as we often should).

So now, two further, more difficult questions, in honour of President Obama's big day.

In Bush's inauguration speech of 2005 why exactly did he use the term "fire in the minds of men" in the way he did? Google it. Do you agree with those that say it was a deliberate reference not just to The Devils by Dostoevsky (fitting in well with your latest point, North Northwester) but to the 1980 book of that name by James Billington, librarian of Congress? If the speechwriters (and/or Bush himself) were alluding to Billington, what does that say about their views on Illuminism today (a key subject of Billington's in the 1776-1848 timescale). Or was it even perhaps just a wind-up?

Going back thirteen more years, the same kinds of questions for Bill Clinton and his acceptance speech at the Democrat convention in 1992. When he took the trouble to pay tribute to Carroll Quigley was he really unaware of the number of conspiracy theories built on the Georgetown academic's works Tragedy and Hope and The Anglo-American Establishment? If he was aware, as a Rhodes Scholar (like Billington) and all the rest, of all that fuss, what was he trying at such a key moment to signal about it?

Back in the UK a further extraordinary example of a death that is very little discussed is that of King George V. It was definitely murder, his doctor admitted as much not long afterwards. (Murder is the only word for it, it was clearly without the King's consent and it led to his premature death, in all the accounts.)

But like the Calvi example, it's one thing to face the fact directly in front of you. It's the other bits that claim to explain it that can get one into controversy. Joseph Sickert's views on the subject still aren't considered mainstream, put it that way.

As I said earlier, more humility from all is a good start. Part of that, I've come to feel, has to be removing the automatic stigma of the conspiracy theory label. Otherwise some people could be getting away with, well, murder.