Who was Jack the Ripper? Where is Cleopatra buried? Can Lea Michele read? All of these questions appear to have no answer, puzzling generations, and leaving expansive gaps in our understanding of the world. The innate human response to these suspicions: the emergence and imagination of conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories have always intrigued me, the outlandish lengths that intrigued individuals reach in order to answer the unanswerable is fascinating. From falling down the rabbit holes of YouTube to podcasts debating the validity of certain ‘theories’, I have consumed an ungodly amount of media surrounding this topic. So to bring you up to speed with my vast knowledge I will now discuss some of my favourite theories.
Obama can control the weather. American weather is something to be feared, hurricanes and tornadoes have become a frequent occurrence with god-like strength. On watching the news it sometimes feels as though Americans are living in a post-apocalyptic war zone (and I’m not just talking about their politics) the explanation for this … the former president Barack Obama. Before you doubt my certainty there is proof…kinda. In 2012, a week before election day Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S., reducing the number of voters able to reach polling booths. As a direct result, Obama secured his re-election. Too convenient if you ask me.
NASA hides cameras in our food. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it won’t deter NASA. A classic rhyme told to all schoolchildren. It is a seemingly widespread theory that NASA embeds cameras into our food, keeping surveillance on us as well as tracking our whereabouts. Though I am sure The Central Intelligence is concerned about what I am doing when I eat a pack of quavers, I’m pretty sure their money could be better directed.
At this point in writing, I am beginning to grow concerned that I have painted every Conspiracy Theorist as a form of socially inept individual with no grip on reality. Whilst I am very sure that this is the case for some of them, on the rare occasion it becomes apparent that they were onto something. I now introduce my second chapter: Conspiracy Theories that turned out to be true.
The Canadian government was so scared of homosexuality that they attempted to build a gaydar. Echoing the iconic words of Jenifer Coolidge in White Lotus, “Please these gays are trying to murder me” – well, trying to corrupt the Canadian military in the eyes of the government. In the 1960s the Canadian government hired a University professor to develop a form of gaydar which evaluated responses to images of the same sex, for fear that the gays were trying to dismantle their military. This device resulted in around 400 men losing their jobs, and was later found to be completely untrustworthy – who would’ve guessed?!
Cigarettes cause Cancer. Yes, this fact is glaringly obvious today but in the 1950s when research was first released surrounding this correlation many chose not to believe it. How could something so popular, so “decadent” be so bad for you? In addition, prior to this research cigarettes had been seen as beneficial to one’s health. For 40 long years large cigarette manufacturers adamantly disputed this evidence, stating it as pure fabrication, this scheme was named Operation Berkshire. Eventually, in 1990, Phillip Morris, America’s largest cigarette maker at the time came clean admitting the dangerous side effects of the cigarette. Since then it is public knowledge and individuals are able to make informed decisions when choosing whether or not to smoke.
There is poison in the booze!! During the prohibition a conspiracy theory began to rise that the U.S. government was putting poison into the bootlegged booze in order to ensure nobody was drinking. Alcohol has always been produced with strong and dangerous chemicals, during prohibition however, the government persuaded manufacturers of such chemicals to increase the levels of poisonous materials. This was done in an attempt to discourage bootleggers from producing moonshine – it didn’t work and more than 10,000 individuals died as a result.
Overall, whilst it is indisputable that a vast majority of conspiracy theories present as outlandish, cult-like belief systems that enable blame to be shifted away from the guilty parties, it is apparent that not all of these theories are unfounded. Whether it is a secret government operation to uncover their soldier’s crushes or surveillance cameras shoved into Weetabix, the tip of the conspiracy iceberg unveils a plethora of debates surrounding the fabric of our so-called reality. Regardless of their truth, I truly believe there is something to be learnt from each hypothesis, commenting on public opinion and their lived experiences of the world around them.