We’re approaching the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that wrenched this nation and spawned countless conspiracy theories. Was Kennedy killed by the Cubans? The CIA? The Mafia? The military-industrial complex? Time to spread your blanket on a grassy knoll and examine these 10 conspiracy theories:
- Some Pakistanis doubt the story of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who received worldwide support after she was shot and wounded by the Taliban for promoting the education of girls. Suspicion that she is a CIA plant or a greedy hoaxer is so common in Pakistan that a journalist there ridiculed doubters with a satirical piece revealing that Malala’s “real name was Jane” and that the DNA in her earwax showed that she was “probably from Poland.” But other media outlets missed the joke, citing the report as yet more evidence of the Malala plot.
- Psychologists say the best predictor for someone believing a conspiracy theory is belief in other theories, even if they’re contradictory. Researchers at the University of Kent in England found that survey respondents who believed that Osama bin Laden died long before the U.S. Navy SEAL attack in May 2011 were actually more likely to also agree with the theory that he was still alive.
- The Illuminati was a Bavarian secret society founded by Adam Weishaupt in the late 18th century that was extinguished within a few years. Or was it? Conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati remains alive and is bent on world conquest. It’s certainly bent on domination of book lists, with Dan Brown’s novels as best-sellers, and other authors offering such titles as “Hip-Hop Illuminati: How and Why the Illuminati Took Over Hip-Hop” and “Mary Todd Lincoln and the Illuminati.” Then there’s the video “Die America Die!: The Illuminati Plan to Murder America, Confiscate Its Wealth, and Make Red China Leader of the New World Order.”
- The struggling New York Knicks desperately needed the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 1985, certain to be Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing. But seven teams were in the running, with the draft order determined by Commissioner David Stern picking envelopes out of a bowl. When the Knicks won the top pick, the “Frozen Envelope Theory” was born. Some suspect that the Knicks’ envelope was chilled so Stern could identify it by touch. Others think a corner of the envelope was bent for the same purpose. But no one has ever proved anything.
- Conspiracy theories are big business. Alex Jones is an Austin, Texas-based talk radio host with millions of listeners over the airwaves and on the Internet who peddles apocalyptic tales of doom. He believes the U.S. government was behind the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings. As Jones spouts his dire warnings, his main advertising sponsor is a gold company called Midas Resources, which benefits from such hysteria as people seek out the traditional financial safety of precious metals. Midas Resources is owned by Ted Anderson, who also owns Genesis Communications — the network that carries Jones.
[Read about their other five choices at the Chicago Tribune]