The first question is very obvious. What is a conspiracy theory: Dictionary.com defines it this way:
a theory that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization; a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a group.
the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.
Among the best known is the Bilderbergers control the world, the conference does happen every year, however. It is is a conference of the who’s who in the economic leadership of nations. It goes back to the end of World War II, and its real influence is debated. These years the Davos group, that meets in Switzerland, has more influence on economic policy. However, that one is expected to wane.
Many of these theories come out of fear for a particular group or change. The ever so popular George Soros is behind every protest in the United States, and the world is a good example. It is also a good example of a sub-layer of many conspiracy theories. They tend to have an element of racism, blaming small groups for outside influence. In the case of Soros, he is Jewish and it is a revival of the still kicking Rothschild family controls the world. That one is old and Adolph Hitler, among others, believed in it.
These old ones have been joined with some new ones. They range from weather modification and the use of Chem Trails, to well, the Democratic National Committee murdered one of their own, Seth Rich, or President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Some of these things have a root in some reality. The government did test chemical warfare agents on U.S. troops during World War Two. Most of these troops were what at the time was called colored troops, that be African American personnel. The medical experimentation in Tuskegee for Syphilis is another good example. Both were secret government projects. Both were also denied for decades.
Then there is the Democrats and Seth Rich. The root of this is that the Democratic National Committee engaged in less than ethical behavior during the primaries. In the conspiracy world, Seth Ridge was killed by the DNC, or the Deep State, or both, after he leaked to Wikileaks. He is supposed to be the source, not the Russian hack. Incidentally, Snopes says this one is false. Not that it matters.
Another theory that has some root, in reality, is the control of the CIA of U.S. Newsrooms. It was never even close to the total control modern conspiracy theories say it is, However, there was some infiltration of the CIA into newsrooms, by placing people in them or just having very close cooperation. This was at the height of the cold war and has to be understood in this environment. This was uncovered during the Church Committee hearings in 1976. It was titled Operation Mockingbird, detailed here by Carl Bernstein. Some people believe that this is still going on. They have even used the internal memo creating Public Affairs Officers from the 1990s as evidence. This campaign was dubbed The CIA Goes P.R. by the Weekly Standard back in the day. It might still be going on. However, this does not mean the government controls every piece of news you read or hear from mainstream sources.
There are means of control within the mainstream media. It is far more who they write for, and who owns them. So if you have corporations, large ones, running a newspaper, at the very least there will be a corporate bias against organized labor or stories that show globalization in a bad light. It is not a conspiracy. It is actually simpler than that. It is self-interest. It is also related to pay, and self-identify among the press corp. When a reporter makes a six and seven figure salary, and the top does, there is no reason for them to be interested in poverty issues.
Why are these theories so dangerous?
Conspiracy theories are not something you should just ignore. They change how people think, and can create an environment of paranoia and fear. The most extreme form is the person who does honestly believe that those dental implants are used by the government to track his every move and listen to his very internal thoughts.
One conspiracy, in particular, has led to the rise of a political movement. The Tea Party was premised on two things. The Affordable Care Act will create death panels and President Barack Obama is a Muslim born abroad. That corner of conspiracy land took over a good portion of the Republican Party. The distinction you are seeing right now is partly due to the success of something driven by fear and change.
It was also fed by powerful interests. The money needed to fund the movement came from the Koch brothers. They were fully behind this movement since politically it also matched much of their libertarian impulses.
The Freedom Caucus in Congress was formed chiefly by freshmen that came to office in 2010 and have become more powerful over the years. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is not just a proponent of them, but he funded the investigation into the birth certificate. These actions made the conspiracy far more mainstream than it should be.
How pervasive are they in the United States
The United States has. always had a subculture that believes things are not quite what they seem. It is part of that tension between the rational part of the country, and the less so. Also, the populist strain that does not trust the government is part of a subculture. They usually speak to worries of the age. Whether it is the search for Communist who are hiding under every rock or a black president.
The John Birch Society was not unlike the Tea Party, but the Republicans at the time recognized the danger and rejected them. But starting with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, we have had an ecosystem in the right grow into a whole cultural subset of news, information, opinion and views. Most of them are threatened by the government, and most are also afraid of changes in the society.
In recent years these have grown into small time media empires, some of whom have a following that surpasses that of CNN and MSNBC combined. These days these are also fed by the Russian influence campaign, seeing, even more, doubt into the American democratic system. While we have many questions as to how it is working, the stories that these places peddle and spread, have led to a sharp rise in white supremacy and sovereign citizens. Some may even have some ties to the Russian government beyond having interviews with Alexandr Dugin.
Overall there are two distinct ecosystems, though people are starting to feed on both. This may mean that soon both will mix. Time will tell, but that will only increase the danger that this thinking may pose. We will give you examples of both ecosystems. More are being created as we write.
These are some of the Right Wing Ecosystem:
Alex Jones Infowars
The Gateway Pundit
The left ecosystem is starting to take form and it is just as toxic. Here are two examples.
The Palmer Report
These publications have some elements in common. It is time to look at some of them.
Both believe that dark forces within the intelligence community are trying to bring down the presidency of Donald Trump. Why we have all those leaks to media. For the record, we know who Deep Throat was. It was one person, Mark Felt, not a full series of them. I suspect the leakers are in the same category. There is little coordination, and all are singing out of deep love of country or concern for what is happening, or whatever else is driving them. An actual conspiracy, legally speaking, requires coordination.
There is no deep dark conspiracy. The Deep State exists, however. This is your civil service. The term was coined decades ago by political scientist to speak of the continuity, in particular in the intelligence community, but includes people in Interior for example, who serve from administration to administration. It is quite powerful, but it is not the nefarious, secretive organization that this cottage industry makes it be.
There are real concerns with it. Some have been raised by academics over the years. But an actual discussion will not happen until some of these other ideas stop having a lock on the imagination of many Americans.
Yes, every time you see a plane above leave a train of mist, ice behind, that is the government spraying you with something. What this something depends on who you chose your reading from. It ranges from tranquilizers to chemicals to make you infertile.
Given the government did spray a few cities in the 1950s and 1960s, this one has a tad more meat to it. The army was trying to find the effects of these chemicals and in St. Louis it might have had nuclear material. So this one has a tad more of a reason to exist.
The mainstream media is hiding things, or not reporting things
As we said above, there are reasons why the media chooses to cover some stories and not others. Quite frankly, things like the Seth Rich story, none has found anything on it beyond so thin gruel, that well, calling it thin gruel is being generous.
Then there are stories that the media has chosen to hide. For example, when the CIA was dumping Cocaine and Heroin in Los Angeles. And other situations, like Judith Miller, where she frankly got it wrong and her New York Times editor trusted her too much, we ended up in a war we should not have. Partly because until that moment, she was truly a Pulitzer-winning reporter.
Globalization is a bad thing
For many of the people on both sides, globalization has been terrible. They have reasons not to like it since they were left behind. I admit, in the current form, I am hardly a fan. However, when these people start blaming the Bilderbergers and the World Government, we have crossed into something beyond the normal economic critique of globalization.
I predict that as robots replace workers, this will morph into something slightly different. Regardless, it will continue to be a simple story with white hats and black hats. It also prevents the real critique of what is slowly developing into a very different economy than the one we live under.
Vaccines are bad for you
Vaccination has saved millions. We have eliminated one disease already that killed millions. However, a snake oil salesman had a research study in the Lancet (since retracted), and we are off to the races. Dr. Andrew Wakefield has also lost his license to practice medicine. This article from the National Institutes reports the whole saga in detail.
What the “study” did was to link autism to vaccines. It claimed that vaccines were dangerous and should be taken off medical practice. This is in many ways an outbreak of stupidity among the wealthy and it is a first world problem. Most of the clusters where parents refuse to vaccinate are populated by people who are very well to o, and otherwise very well educated. One good example is Marin County in California.
This is where a conspiracy crosses into killing people. They have convinced themselves that they are keeping their children pure and from heavy metals contamination. However, we are seeing things like Measles have come back. This is not a nice disease. Yet, we still see it. We should not.
Ironically one reason this is so popular is that parents can worry about autism, something that is happening and is related to brain formation before the baby is born, and not scarlet fever. Nor have most of these parents seen a case of Measles in their lives. Why they have the “luxury” of thinking somebody is lying to them and the government is hiding this from them.
The most radical form this conspiracy has taken is that vaccines are a form of birth control and population control. Natural News and Mercola News is where that has a home, with a few other medical conspiracies.
This most be said. The people who consume this material and believe in it, on both sides of the political aisle, believe the other are the enemy. Never mind that some of the belief systems is very much the same. They see the other side as something to be feared and destroyed.
There are differences, however. None of these groups is monolithic either. Where they differ is chiefly on two sides.
For the people on the right, and the reasons vary from group to group, Trump is the best thing ever. He will turn the country around and destroy those liberals.
For the religious minded, and this is not the first time this happens, he was selected by God to lead the country in a time of crisis. The same groups that see Trump in this way, spoke the same way about George W Bush. This is a strain of particular American religiosity that tends to see world events through the prism of the final coming and the end of days. The apocalypse is here, and has been here for decades,
Then there are political minded who see Trump as the way to fulfill many of the Right’s most cherished beliefs and see anybody on the left as a commie belief system. They are in many cases the Tea Party and other factions. The irony of Trump being helped by the Russians is not something they are even getting in their so called news consumption. And when they do, it is the deep state, and the “fake news media.” They have some agreement on this from their mirror images.
Of course there is no agreement on this from the right. But the people reading things things like The Palmer Report and Patriobiotics, created by Louis Mensch, are sure that this will happen sooner than later, and the New York Times is just not on it.
Their mirror images, if they are even aware, see this as a coup by the deep state and the media.
Fixation on DNC shenanigans.
For the people on the new left ecosystem, which is short hand really, the media has refused to cover the DNC, or the trial in Florida. There is a blackout and they have somewhat of a point. However, local trials are rarely covered by national news, The trial has received some coverage tough. This is from Newsweek, and for political reasons both Fox and Newsmax are also following it.
However, when they jump though hoops and take us down the Seth Rich murder, or that their parents approve of things after the family has demanded a retraction, that is when we enter conspiracy territory. These are the same people who were spreading the pizza gate theory that alleged a pedo ring for the DNC. Mind you, these rings are popular on both sides. Things got very real when somebody went rifle in hand, to carry out a citizens arrest at that pizza parlor in DC.
There is Discontent, Distrust and Tension Afoot
What is going on? Why it seems you cannot turn and hit a conspiracy theory with a dead cat? Part of it is that all these theories are magnified in social medial. Twitter is the natural environment for the people pushing the impeachment theory incidentally. Others are all over Facebook. When the Birchers started, all they had was a mimeograph and a street corner. So most people never heard of them.
The Sovereign Citizens did not have the effect they have until now, because of the internet. Social media is allowing these disparate groups to find each other and for self radicalization. They feed on each other and from each other. Soon you will see things posted and believed. We already see some cross feeding. When the Gateway Pundit and Rush Limbaugh start spreading the Seth Ridge story, as well as Fox News, we have entered new territory. Of course, it is not accidental. The story turns out to be true, Russia-Gate dies.
We must add that on the morning of the May 23, Fox retracted the Rich story on their site.
Remember, this story started on “the other side of the spectrum.”
Now, why are people doing this? We are talking of intelligent, mature, well-educated people.
Part of it is what happened last summer. It shattered any remaining trust in Americans institutions for many Americans. This was one objective of the Russian influence operation, incidentally. They know us better than we knew ourselves. The idea that a foreign government might try to influence our elections (it appears successfully) and that a national party might try to put a person in place, regardless of the voters, is too far fetched for many Americans. American exceptionalism is short-circuiting this thought process because it could never happen to us. It happened, we do it all the time, and other countries have no problem with this.
This is why you are seeing this take an uptick.
Are you supposed to trust the media implicitly? No, you should not. All media organizations have a bias, whether it is conscious or not is another question. Should you believe your government implicitly? No, of course not. But the listed above conspiracies, like the 911 truthers are just handy explanations to complex problems. They will give you a sugar rush, and give you a high, but nothing more. In some cases, they are downright deadly. And yes, they can be not just attractive, but addictive. Once you go down one of the rabbits’ holes, and there are many, you will find your way to others.
Updated to reflect a small change.