Talk:Conspiracy theory/Archive 1

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"For a literature version of a conspiracy theory, try The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson."

And, so far as movies go, why not rent Conspiracy Theory, watch the first half and stop; then rent The Parallax View? --KQ (self-editing) :-)

Or perhaps "The Manchurian Candidate". A real head-trip conspiracy theory, even if the politics are now fairly antiquated. --Robert Merkel

Do Elvis sightings really belong in conspiracy theory?? Although I guess if I have to ask, nobody will tell me the truth anyway.  :-)

Yeah, even if only humorously.



Removed from parent page, because people don't seriously believe that Bert and ObL are involved in a plot . . . do they?

Osama bin Laden and Bert (of Bert and Ernie) Conspiracy in relation to the terrorist attacks on the United States.


IMHO, we should try to separate "real" conspiracy theories from "conspiracy theory humor" (an interesting, related, but distinct topic). Or is there something I'm missing here? Does anyone really believe anything other than some Bangladeshi nutball protestor (who must have been much wealthier than the average Bangladeshi, admittedly) did a search for "Osama bin Laden" on images.google.com to make a collage for his poster, found the doctored Bert and Osama image, had no idea who Bert was, and just happily went on photoshopping his poster together? --Robert Merkel

Fortunately, there's already a place for the Osama-Bert connection: September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Misinformation and rumors. --TheCunctator


I deleted quite a bit of text from the article (and included it below, complete). I deleted this:

Consequently, even in the absence of hard evidence, a conspiracy theorist may advance a theory which is supported by facts of which even he is unaware.

I'm not sure what this means; I suspect it just needs to be reworded.

A conspiracy, once proven to a reasonable extent, is no longer a mere hypothesis.

Well, that's true of anything, eh?

Hence, conspiracy hypotheses (or "theories" in common talk) are necessarily unproven -- and the majority of such are eventually disproved.

First, the point of the parenthetical comment seems to imply that conspiracy theories are not theories. Well, that depends, of course, on the claims being made by the conspiracy theorist, and the evidence behind them. I don't think that "conspiracy theory" is consistently used so that there are necessarily no conspiracy theories, but only conspiracy hypotheses. In other words, if one were to provide adequate evidence for you and I to establish that a nefarious conspiracy by the Council on Foreign Relations, McDonald's, and Michael Jackson were afoot, but not enough to "prove" it, and in that case we would have a conspiracy theory. Just because it would have moved past that vague stage of being merely a hypothesis, it would not therefore (??) not be a theory. More to the point, my understanding is that not everybody always uses "conspiracy theory" to mean something that necessarily has totally inadequate evidence in its favor. It's not always a pejorative term.

Second, I doubt very much that the majority of conspiracy theories are eventually disproven. I think that most of them are simply dismissed out of hand by experts as absurd and not worth considering. I could be wrong; perhaps the people who study conspiracy theories have studied who has responded to conspiracy theorists and wrote up this research, concluding, "Most conspiracy theories are eventually disproved (according to some standards or other)." --Larry Sanger


A lot of people, everywhere, refer to Freemasonry as a "secret society," but it obviously isn't. You can look up the address and possibly telephone number of your local Masonic Lodge in the phone book, and, especially in the US, most Masons are quite open about their affiliation. I'm not sure what to do about Freemasonry on the list, so for now I'm going to put it right above the heading "Secret Societies." --Alex Kennedy


Could we shift the Arab conspiracy theories somewhere else, and link to it? The point of conspiracy theories is that they're only taken seriously by a small minority. If, as is claimed, they're widely believed in the Arab world, they're a different animal. ---Robert Merkel

    1. The majority of the American public believes that the assasination of Kennedy was a conspiracy. This is perhaps the most widely-attacked "conspiracy theory" there is (Oliver Stone's name has become a joke because of it). I think it prejudicial and unrigorous to try to build concepts like "unpopular" and "ridiculous" into the very definition of conspiracy theory. The concept should be definiable in a neutral way. The definition also should be such that actual historical conspiracies would qualify. Many of these were just "conspiracy theories" before they were verified, and if one calls a theory a "conspiracy theory" while holding it to be false and something else if it turns out to be true, the term is not denoting the thing, but your judgement of it. - -How about this: A conspiracy theory is a belief that an event of historical significance has been manipulated by the covert action of the powerful. - -The only difference between these and the "casual conspiracies" mentioned is the historical significance. I've noticed lately that people are using "conspiracy theory" to describe (and usually to dismiss) more casual situations like office politics. As noted, low-level conspiracies happen all the time, and theorizing about their existence is not a different kind of operation depending on whether or not they are important on an historical scale. So I really think this "historical significance" part of the definition is questionable. I don't think there is any problem with saying that conspiracies are ubiquitous, and conspiracy theories are ubiquitous, but only a small percentage of each concern events of general interest. However, I can be flexible on this point, I guess.
That is incorrect. Some conspiracy theories are believed by millions of people all across the world. Conspiracy theory is certainly mainstream in the Arab world, and many Arab scholars ahve written about this phenomenon. For example, many Arab countries teach about "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in their middle school, high school and colleges in official government approved textbooks. They also teach in the government funded press that Jews hav secretly been murdering Christian children for centuries, using their blood to make pastries. This (sadly) is accepted as a historical fact by a great many Arabs. And what about the central United States, where tens of thousands of white American Christians have joined or support "militias" which preach various conspiracy theories as fact (e.g. the claim that the Geroge Bush has joined with the United Nations to create a New World Order to take over the United States; or the claim that the original America literally no longer exists, and was replaced by the ZOG - Zionist Occupied Government.) This is not merely what a couple of dozen of people believe; this belief is widely accepted. And who can forget the black helicopter conspiracy theories? [[RK]]

Further, their presence here, picking out Palestinians for conspiracy theories, is unfair. There are apparently all sorts of conspiracy theories floating around Africa as to the origin of AIDS. Many in Indonesia think Australia is conspiring to split it up. Eurosceptics have all sorts of conspiracy theories about the EU being some left-wing plot. The anti-globalization movement thinks the WTO is the seat of immense power (when it's really just a creature of governments and the multinational companies that influence their policy). And so on. --Robert Merkel

The existence of conspiracy theories in various ethnic groups is neither fair nor unfair. It is simply a fact. Did you realize that there is now a substantial and growing section on American conspiracy theories? If you re-read the article you will find this section, which links to many Wikipedia articles on the many conspiracy theories believed by millions of Americans. Does this mean that Wikipedia is anti-American? No, it just means that this article is describing conspiracy theory among United States citizens. Finally, I note that you say there are many other conspiracy theories that this entry does not yet have a section on. Why, then, delete what we already have? Wouldn't it make more sense to add material on the subjects you bring up? Let's be productive. [[RK]]

Does calling something a Conspiracy Theory fit with the principle of NPOV? In my opinion, in practice it has an implicit value judgement that the idea is absurd and only believed by the gullible. -- Khendon

But there are obvious, objective ways to identify conspiracy theories: the fact that the term has a connotation of being "kooky" is simply a consequence of the fact that most of them are. It is not in itself a value judgment, it has just come to be one for good reasons. In other words, calling something "ridiculous" or "kooky" is a judgment. Calling it a "conspiracy theory" is merely a description (if accurate); if that makes the reader think of "kooky", then sobeit. --LDC

-But the "obvious objective" ways do not seem to include verified conspiracies, so uncontroversal examples of the genre are excluded. It also seems to exclude quotidian conspiracies, so limiting the purview to the exotic. Finally, the article implies that conspiracies inevitably have little or no evidence. Ones that do have enough evidence to be accepted as "true" fall into a different category called "actual historical conspiracies". This biases the case by eliminating cases where such theories have proven correct and looking only at ones where they are still dubious. Judging from some comments on this thread; some people seem to think the discussion should be limited to the openly outrageous - all of this without a defined difference in kind other than the judgement of the one making the classification as "outrageous" etc.

Why isn't the idea that Al Qaeda was responsible for the Sept 11th attacks included in this page? That's a conspiracy theory, surely? -- Khendon


What's the difference between conspiracy theory and urban legends ? The Sex Gum story seems IMHO is more urban legends than a conspiracy theory. I heard the same in France (only difference it was not Israelians but a group of pedophiles). A urban legend reports imaginary facts. A conspiracy theory should have something more : the governement knows but he hides evidences because it's also involved in the conspiracy and some secret message (but strangelly not so secret for conspiracy theorist) has revealed the truth to the Pope John Paul I but unluckily the catholic church is also a part of the conspiracy (to be continued) ....... for instance.


Being French I have the strong feeling that the United States produce more conspiracy theories than most European Countries. Maybe it's related to JFK asssination ? Or maybe it's just that Holywood does good job turning them into blockbusters (MIB). Ericd 22:22 Sep 12, 2002 (UTC)


"Many African-Americans in the US believe that HIV,...." has nothing to do with american this is a worldwide belief (atr least for some).... than americans or russian invented the HIV virus in some biological warfare research and it escaped by mistake. This obviously impossible for those who are some culture in genetics.... I still wonder why there is no conspiracy theory about extra-terrestrial origins of the virus ?


Classyfying conspiracy therory by country is neither fair or neutral HIV conspiracy theory as nothing to do with arab moon landing hoax is not american it's believed by many peoples in Europa and Africa, Area 51 is worldwide famous. Ericd 00:12 Sep 14, 2002 (UTC)

How can this neutral, dispassionate discussion be called and non-neutral? You say that there is something here that violates Wikipedia NPOV policy, but you don't say what that something is. Do you hold that noting that regional differences exist must somehow be bigotry? I would disagree. Many of these theories are peculiarly American, and its not anti-American to say so. Similarly, many of these theories only exist to a significant degree in the Black American community, or in the Arab Muslim community, or in Canada, etc. It would be an intellectually dishonest gap in the entry if we removed this information, to appease overly-sensitive people whose feel that someone is out to hurt them. (No one is doing so.) This article isn't anti-American, anti-Canadian, anti-black, or Anti-Arab. (I am picking these groups because they have specific conspiracy theories assocated with them.) RK

-##No. But it is anti-conspiracy theory. That is not neutral.

As for Area 51, its true that many people around the world know of this American conspiracy theory, but its still a conspiracy theory based on American history, sociology, politics and folklore. This myth was created in America, and it is most widely held among Americans. It would be inaccurate to say otherwise. And I don't believe that anyone here is being anti-American in saying so. We are just just trying to describe the emergence and acceptance of this conspiracy theory in a historic and neutral fashion. RK
RK conspiracy theories are believed when they have some fear to hook on a lot of conspiracy theory dealing with Israel were circulating in Europe in the 1980s just repplace Israel by The communists or The KGB and it worked (at least for some people). September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack conspiracy theories are believed by a significative number of people in France Thierry Meyssan has made a best -seller with this kind of garbage. I heard about moon landing faked in West Africa (Burkina Faso)around 1987 I think people believed in it because they refused to admit there was such a huge gap in technology and development between Africa and USA. Theory about Princess Diana's murder are also believed by numerous non-muslims in Europa. I may have been excessive in writing it's "nor fair or neutral" but IMHO it is to simplistic to relate conspiracy theory to some group as in the article. I don't deny that some theories are mostly believed by some groups but IMHO it should be precised as a comment after describing the theory instead of being emphasized as a title.
I believe it would be more interresting to devellop somewhere the idea that conspiracy theories can be instrumented by political groups. They often play a major role in tolitarian propanganda. IMHO it's obvious the nazi ideology is based upon a conspiracy theory, that's why I take this article so seriouly even if most of the argument in conspiracy theories are simply ridiculous.
I hope I haven't been to fuzzy, my english is not so good.

Ericd 14:21 Sep 14, 2002 (UTC)


I'm going to remove the riff about Quebec. Since it refers only to future events, it is not a conspiracy theory, but a conjecture about possible consequences of modern political actions. A conspiracy theory would be something like "the sovereignists are trying to ensure that Quebec/the ROC is swallowed by the States" or "the federalists are trying to drag us along into being swallowed by the States" or some such, that imputes a past or present action. - Montréalais


Okay, Wilsonians and X-Philes ... This subject is sufficiently important, culturally speaking, that disconnected lists of conspiracy topics aren't really adequate to explain it. I've taken a stab at writing a clear introduction and starting to turn this page from a list into an article. Anyone interested in taking a few of the topics and other messiness from the bottom of the page and summing them up into actual paragraphs composed of actual sentences would be greatly appreciated. --FOo


Dennis -- adding Kennedy next to Trotsky there is misleading. The point of mentioning Trotsky in that sentence is that Trotsky is uncontroversially known to have been assassinated by a government and not by a conspiracy: i.e. that not all assassinations are subject to conspiracy theory. Kennedy's assassination is a popular subject of conspiracy theory, and so it should be mentioned in this page, but not in that context. I'm moving it.


M149, if you're watching this page -- IMHO, the chief "reorg" this page needs is to have the material below the "needs encyclopediafying" line rewritten into summary paragraphs, and incorporated in an organized fashion into the section on subjects of conspiracy theory. Those are the ones which I didn't incorporate into my rewrite of the upper half of the page.

As the number of topics in that section increases it will need some form of subsection organization. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge there is no academic study of conspiracy theory to parallel the study of (for instance) urban legends, and so the categorization of subjects is of necessity rather ad hoc. I don't think this is avoidable, and we should probably avoid artificial categorization. --FOo


"Another theory is that life on Earth or at least the human species was created by extraterrestials. This ancient astronaut theory has been promoted by Zecharia Sitchin and various religous cults."

Is it realy a conspiracy theory ? Not every stupid theory is a conspiracy theory.

By the way this is also believed by the Raelians


Are conspiracy theories about JFK assassination so incredible ? I don't mean large theories involving (for instance) the mafia, the CIA, the Roman Catholic Church, Exxon and the Walt Disney company. But is it stupid to believe that there's no evidence that Oswald was acting alone ? Ericd

No, and we need to reorganize this article to properly separate the theories according to adherents. There's a body of conspiracy theories that is regarded as credible by people in the leftist/progressive political spectrum, and there is another body of CTs which are almost universally rejected except for a small, often heterogenous crowd of followers. The conspiracy theory claim is also frequently used by conservatives to discredit unwanted political claims, e.g. allegations of corruption. --Eloquence

I rewrite a phrase I have written before because I think it's worth to discuss :

"the idea that conspiracy theories can be instrumented by political groups. They often play a major role in tolitarian propanganda. IMHO it's obvious the nazi ideology is based upon a conspiracy theory." Ericd

    1. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are probably the canonical example of cynical use of a conspiracy theory to advance political goals. Though written by the Russian secret police, the document later influenced Hitler. However, forging a document to fuel a huge anti-semitic movement and thus take the heat off the ruler is itself a conspiracy - a covert manipulation of world events by the powerful. So, regarding the Protocols, there are no non-conspiratorial positions.

Does this qualify as a conspiracy theory? According to Islam, the early Jewish leaders deliberately faked the contents of the Hebrew Bible, and the early Christian leaders deliberately faked the contents of the New Testament, in order to secure their own power and hide the true message of God. If this idea developed today, it would qualify as one. RK

I am more certain that this next idea does qualify as a conspiracy theory. Any comments? Within the Arab world there is the growing belief that the entire idea of a Biblical Jewish state is a hoax and a lie. According to a number of Arab writers, the entire history of the Jewish people in the Bible is an outright fiction, and that the progenitors of the Jewish people actually lived in Yemen or some other part of the Arabian peninsula. In this view, even the broad strokes of later Biblical book have had their historical correctness totally refuted. (This view, obviously, is rejected by the majority of the world's historians, archaeologists and Bible scholars.. While the details of the earlier books have been called into question, so serious historian disputes the fact that a Jewish nation of Israel did exist in the land of Israel.) RK

Examples:

"Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds...There is no tangible evidence of Jewish existence from the so-called 'Temple Mount Era'...The location of the Temple Mount is in question...it might be in Jericho or somewhere else." (Walid M. Awad, Director of Foreign Publications for the PLO's Palestine Ministry of Information, interviewed by the IMRA news agency, Dec.25, 1996.)
A Palestinian tv show broadcast on PLO Television in June 1997 featured Palestinian Arab historian Jarid al-Kidwa. He claimed that "all the events surrounding Kings Saul, David and Rehoboam occurred in Yemen, and no Hebrew remnants were found in Israel, for a very simple reason--because they were never here." Al-Kidwa said: "Most of the Khazars [a Turkish tribe that converted to Judaism in medieval times] are the Ashkenazic Jews who arrived in Palestine. As Allah is my witness, in my blood flows more of the Children of Israel and the ancient Hebrews than in the blood of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu."
According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz (July 6, 1997), al- Kidwa also said: "The stories of the Torah and the Bible did not take place in the Land of Israel--they occurred in the Arabian peninsula, primarily in Yemen. The identity of our father Ibrahim [Abraham] who is mentioned in the Koran is clear. From the Koran's description of him it arises that he lived in the southern Hejaz [Saudi arabia], near Mecca."
Numerous Palestinian Authority textbooks for their children teach them that Jews and Chrisitans lie about being connected to the land of Israel. Here is one such example: "The Zionists turn[ed] their attention towards Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews, while relying on false historical and religious claims." From Modern Arab History and Contemporary Problems, Part Two, for Tenth Grade p. 50
When Palestinian Authority school books discuss sites of religious interest, Muslim as well as Christian sites are included but not Jewish. Even the Jews' connection to the remnant of their holiest site, the Western Wall of the Temple, is denied: "The Jews claim that this is one of the places belonging to them and call it "The Western Wall", but this is not so." From Reader and Literary Texts for Eighth Grade #578 p. 103. Their textbooks also claim that Jews have nothing to do with the Temple in Jerusalem: "Jerusalem: I have many Islamic holy places and antiquities. This is al-Aqsa Mosque and this is the Dome of the Rock...To the west of the holy mosque you can see a vast stone wall called 'al-Buraq Wall', [Western Wall of the Temple] to which the angel Gabriel, peace be upon him, tied the beast of the Prophet Muhammad on the night of his journey [to heaven]... As for my Christian holy places - the most famous of them are 'The Church of al-Qiama' [Holy Sepulchre-ed], next to the mosque of 'Umar ibn al Khatab, and the church of 'al-Juthmana' opposite al-Isbat Gate, outside the wall. From Palestinian National Education for Third Grade #529 P. 14.
The Palestine Ministry of Information issued, on Dec. 10, 1997, the follow statement. They claimed that a century's worth of archaeological excavations in the Old City of [[Jeruslaem" have found "Umayyad Islamic palaces, Roman runis, Armenian ruins and others, but nothing Jewish." The Ministry then claimed that "there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces / rremains in the old city of Jeruslaem and its immediate vicinity."
Kamal Salibi is a Lebanese Christian Arab, and historian of Lebanon, and is the author of the following books (all of which have been totally rejected by mainstream historians in the non-Arab world. Some scathing reviews are available for reading at the below website.)
http://www.cwo.com/~thowoods/asirref.htm
Salibi, Kamal, The Bible Came from Arabia, London, Jonathan Cape, Ltd., 1985.
Salibi, Kamal, Secrets of the Bible People, Brooklyn, N.Y., Interlink Books, 1988.
Salibi, Kamal, The Historicity of Biblical Israel, London, NABU Publications, 1998.
A Muslim website which accept Salibi's claims, The Islamic Comparative :Analysis Site. http://www.jamaat.net/index.htm
Al-Ahram weekly, an Egyptian publication, accepts this view :http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/1998/383/pal1.htm
Here are some critical reviews of Kamal Salibi's bizarre historical revisionism:
Beeston, A.F.L., Review of Salibi's The Bible Came from Arabia, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1988, pp. 389-93)
Cardinal, P., "La Bible et L'Arabie", Revue des Etudes Palestiniennes 26 (1986, pp. 63-70)
Dahlberg, Bruce. "Comments" in the Ancient Near East Digest, 1994.

This is not according to Islam, this is according to some Arabs. But read what I wrote above anti-semitism has something to do with conspiracy theories. What are "the protocols of the elders of Sion" if they're not a conspiarcy theory. Ericd 15:10 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC)~~

We should clarify. The Islamic view that the Jews and the Christians deceptively altered their own Bible is a part of mainstream Islam, and one of the core beliefs that supports Islamic supercessionism. This idea is based on statements in the Quran, and expanded upon in the Hadith. However, as you point out, the belief that Jews never lived in ancient Israel is something that not all Arabs or Muslims believe; it is a very recent concpiracy theory. RK
The Protocols isn't a "conspiracy theory" -- it is a false document intended to support certain conspiracy theories which predated its own authoring. It is mentioned under false document, but of course should also be mentioned here. There are whole categories of antisemitic conspiracy theories which should be discussed in this article; however, when I was working out the "Subjects of conspiracy theory" section, I didn't have the stomach to address them. I still don't. --FOo
Sounds to me like the Elders of Zion had a plot to prevent you from writing about this...  :) RK
=smirk= No, it's just that the blithe and descriptive tone (call it "amused NPOV")

-## amused NPOV is an oxymoron. \ I can manage for most conspiracy theory, I just don't know if I can do for the antisemitic trash that has led to so much hatred, so much terror. Perhaps it's that the expression "conspiracy theory" is to some extent inherently trivializing (hence its abuse by propagandists against dissent) and that sort of lie should be taken trivially. Technically it belongs, but I ain't writing it. --FOo

I would overall be more interested in this article as a discussion of the structure and function of conspiracy theories -- what they mean to people, what broad categories they cover, and how they interact with mainstream history -- than as another "List of" page. I hate "List of" pages. But that's probably just me. --FOo

I don't think this page meets the standard of presenting views as their advocates would present them. The notion that conspiracy theorists routinely cite the very absence of evidence of a claim as evidence is something you hear all the time on conspiracy-bashing sites, but many conspiracy theorists never say anything like this. See if any of the following conspiracy sites do this:

http://www.fromthewilderness.com/ http://www.emperors-clothes.com/ http://www.globalresearch.ca/ http://www.questionsquestions.net/

There are also problems with defining conspiracy theories as "absurd". What happens when one turns out to be true? For example, for years and years, conspiracy theorists claimed that US intelligence agencies had recruited Nazi war criminals. In the late 80s, some bigwigs finally fessed up, and the story was documented in Christopher Simpson's book Blowback (1987, I believe). However, if it was not absurd to say this in 1987, it was not absurd in 1977.

In general, words that encapsulate a judgement into the definition of a thing are the hallmark of prejudicial language. They make it impossible to concieve of the thing independent of the preformed judgement. This, after all, is the difference between the words "African American" and the word "nigger". Both denote the same people - the literal meanings do not differ - but the latter encapsulates a (hostile) judgement into the very definition of those people.

Also, if you're going to bring up Popper, you should note that theories that events are the result of accident or coincidence are also not falsifiable; this, in fact, was exactly the issue Popper was grappling with. Any pattern you perceive could be the result of simple chance. For example, a scientist observes on several occassions that hydrogen fuses to helium and concludes that it always does. How can he prove logically that it doesn't sometimes fuse to oxygen, but it just didn't happen that way on the occasions he observed it? He can't. That's induction, which has no rigorous foundation in logic. Science simply postulates that the universe is consistent.

In this situation, the scientist is indeed in the position of the conspiracy theorist. He sees a pattern and wants to draw broader conclusions from it. But he can never offer definite proof. A doubter could always suspect it is all coincidence or that there are exceptions the scientists has not found (like miracles). That's where falsifiability comes in. A scientist's theory can be used to generate predictions, and, so long as these predictions are fulfilled, the theory can be accepted as provisionally true; we will assume it is true until it is proven false. The doubter cannot match this because his position can generate no predictions.

The problem with trying to apply this standard to conspiracy theory is that, while conspiracy theory fails at reliably generating correct predictions, so does every other mode of political or historical analysis. The tools that science has - controlled experiments and isolation of variables - are not available to those who study history. -Hieronymous


Indeed, many conspiracy theorists argue that the diagnosis of schizophrenia is sometimes used as a means of silencing political dissent. (See: anti-psychiatry)

The diagnosis of schizophrenia has been used as a means of silencing political dissent. Eg, Russia and sluggishly progressing schizophrenia. Fixing. Martin 12:42 17 May 2003 (UTC)