Tag Archives | Conspiracy Theories

Finale Prep: Your ‘Mr. Robot’ Conspiracy Theory Field Guide

Are any of you into the TV series Mr. Robot? It’s developed something of a cult following, not least for its conspiracy and hacker culture dog whistles. The show’s finale was delayed from last week due to the live broadcast shootings in Virginia, but if you’re planning on catching the show tonight, Grantland has a convenient “conspiracy theory field guide” to use on your second screen:

Two weeks ago, I hadn’t really paused to think about how idiotic all my passwords are. If you asked me about honeypots or raspberry pi(e)s I’d assume you were talking Winnie the Pooh or sickly-sweet deserts. The closest I’d come to experiencing true paranoia about consumerism and brands was the hell of submitting to a baby shower registry. (Seriously, though: Big Baby is no joke.) And then I started binge-watching Mr. Robot.


If you’re reading this, I don’t have to explain to you what Mr.

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Why High-Profile Murders Are Ripe for Conspiracy Theories

A history professor examines an American phenomenon for The Marshall Project:

The recent on-air shooting of a Virginia television reporter and her cameraman by a deeply troubled former co-worker prompted the familiar outcry for stricter gun control laws and mental health screening. But a radically different reaction, circulating in various corners of the Internet, suggested that the shootings never happened.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward.jpg

WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward, from WDBJ7’s Twitter account.


Instead, these online theorists assert, the Aug. 26 attack near Roanoke was part of a vast government conspiracy to restrict their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Similar theories were put forth after the shooting deaths of 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, as well as the killing of 26 children and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Instead of actual gunfire and death, the theories go, the victims and their families are actually “crisis actors,” paid to portray scenes of artificial mayhem in order to gain political capital toward restricting access to guns.

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13,000 Year Old ‘Black Knight’ UFO Video Reignites One Of The Original Conspiracy Theories

Have you heard about the legendary “Black Knight” UFO? Huffington Post reports on its reemergence:

Conspiracy theories are a natural by-product of space exploration, surfacing to provide an answer when neither our eyes or governments are able to provide one.

Photo of the alleged Black Knight satellite during mission STS-88. (NASA)

Photo of the alleged Black Knight satellite during mission STS-88. (NASA)

One of the oldest theories around has to be the ‘Black Knight’ satellite, a mysterious black object which has been repeatedly referred to in reference to sightings all over the world and indeed even outside of this world.

After a period of absence from the limelight it appears as though the ‘Black Knight’ is back again, appearing in the sky above Jacksonville, Florida.

Believed to be a ‘13,000 year-old alien satellite’ (no, really), the ‘Black Knight’ story originates as far back as 1954, however theorists use a series of images taken in 1998 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour which showed a mysterious black object apparently in orbit around the Earth.

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Just How Gullible Are You?

Peter McGuire reports for the Irish Times on a recent experiment in which scientists deliberately made false claims on social media sites to find out how easy it is to dupe people into believing in spurious conspiracies (some of their conjured theories are pretty funny – Viagra chemtrails anyone?):

Earlier this year, Italian scientists and data researchers set out to chart how conspiracy theories – the idea that a secret society, politician or, increasingly, large corporation, is responsible for an unexplained event and cover-up – spread in the information age. And, if someone thinks, despite the lack of any evidence, that Princess Diana was murdered by the British royal family, the moon landings were faked and that secret, shadowy groups such as the Illuminati or lizard people rule the world, what else might they believe?

SCIE CHIMICHE A MATERA - ChemTrails in Matera (Basilicata) - Italy

Could these be Viagra chemtrails?

The scientists got together and, in more than 5,000 comments on Facebook, made deliberately false claims: the trails left by aircraft had been chemically analysed and were found to contain Viagra; an infinite energy machine has been created but is being suppressed; and mosquito sprays are toxic to humans.

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Fear From Above: Chemtrails vs. Conspiracy Theory in the Bay Area

Could the reason for alleged chemtrails spraying really be “Because they’re assholes”? From SF Weekly:

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Part I: Warriors for the Deep Blue Sky

Patrick Roddie films the sky every day. Two years ago, he rigged a camera on the roof of his apartment building in Lower Pacific Heights to record timelapses of the sun’s dawn-to-dusk arc, along with the sky’s usual bland traffic of birds, airplanes, and clouds.


Many of Roddie’s timelapses — which he uploads to YouTube — capture something else, too: hazy, white threads that thicken in the wake of airplanes and sometimes tattoo the sky in grids. To the uninitiated, these are contrails, the harmless water vapor that commercial planes spume as they track across the sky at 30,000 feet. To Roddie and his followers, however, these are chemtrails, the toxic signature of a covert government program to slow global warming and control the weather.

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The Conspiracy Effect

Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University, explains why exposure to popular conspiracy theories can make you less “pro-social” (whatever that means) at Psychology Today:

Is the government covering up evidence of alien existence? Are powerful elites plotting a New World Order? Is global warming a hoax? Are lizard people taking over the planet? And are vaccines really the government’s attempt at mass mind-control?

secrets of the founding fathers

There seems to be something inexplicably compelling about the nature of conspiracy theories; over 50% of Americans now believe in at least one conspiracy theory. You might think that even although substantial minorities of people endorse these type of “eccentric” beliefs, conspiracy ideation mostly seems harmless fun, food for those who are palpably out of touch with reality.

Think again! In a new study, I find that mere exposure to a popular conspiracy theory can make you less pro-social and less likely to accept established scientific principles.

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For Pluto ‘Truthers,’ the New Horizons Mission Is Only the Latest Lie

The latest in the ever-expanding cast of “truthers” are Pluto truthers, who apparently think that NASA is hiding something. From Newsweek:

Southwest Research Institute waited for their piano-sized New Horizons space probe to pass by Pluto. It finally reached the dwarf planet last month and beamed photos back to Earth from billions of miles away. The stunning images captivated the scientific community, revealing ice mountains, frozen tundras and other never-before-seen details on Pluto’s surface. Stunning, that is, if the scientists are telling the truth.

There’s a small but vocal group of conspiracists—bloggers have taken to calling them “Pluto Truthers”—who claim the recent images are fake. In fact, they argue, New Horizons is simply the latest bogus galactic mission to deceive the public, perhaps to divert tax money to more secretive or nefarious government projects. That trickery is nothing new, they charge; it goes all the way back to the first moon landing.

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Here’s Why People Believe In Conspiracy Theories

There’s a sudden rash of serious academic research being published on conspiracy theories. Earlier today we re-published Michael J. Wood’s paper, Some Dare Call It Conspiracy: Labeling Something a Conspiracy Theory Does Not Reduce Belief in It, originally published in the journal Political Psychology. Now Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Michele Acker have published the paper The Influence of Control on Belief in Conspiracy Theories: Conceptual and Applied Extensions in journal Applied Cognitive Psychology. Time analyzes their findings:

UFO sightings. Hoaxed moon landings. Reptiles who rule the world.

What, in the name of our alleged lizard overlords, convinces a person to believe in conspiracy theories?


According to a pair of new studies published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, conspiracy theorists—and there are a lot more of them than you may think—tend to have one thing in common: they feel a lack of control over their lives.

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Some Dare Call It Conspiracy: Labeling Something a Conspiracy Theory Does Not Reduce Belief in It

Glenn Beck: Conspiracy!


“Conspiracy theory” is widely acknowledged to be a loaded term. Politicians use it to mock and dismiss allegations against them, while philosophers and political scientists warn that it could be used as a rhetorical weapon to pathologize dissent. In two empirical studies conducted on Amazon Mechanical Turk, I present an initial examination of whether this concern is justified. In Experiment 1, 150 participants judged a list of historical and speculative theories to be no less likely when they were labeled “conspiracy theories” than when they were labeled “ideas.” In Experiment 2 (N = 802), participants who read a news article about fictitious “corruption allegations” endorsed those allegations no more than participants who saw them labeled “conspiracy theories.” The lack of an effect of the conspiracy-theory label in both experiments was unexpected and may be due to a romanticized image of conspiracy theories in popular media or a dilution of the term to include mundane speculation regarding corruption and political intrigue.

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22 Bizarre Conspiracy Theories

It’s silly season (a/k/a summer) and Mental Floss has decided to celebrate with a video about 22 bizarre conspiracy theories. They’re not really that bizarre (the usual fare: illuminati, reptilians, Skull & Bones, subliminal advertising, Area 51, Fluoride, Paul is dead, Elvis is alive, Jesus was married, Princess Diana was assassinated, Clinton deaths, 9/11, pro sports are fixed, etc.) but it’s a fun few minutes:

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