I was sitting around with Elvis (of course, you know he’s still alive) and a few of the Illuminati (oops, shouldn’t have mentioned that… that’s my days numbered!) discussing conspiracy theories. (Which we all know are really true, don’t we?). Well, it seemed like a good idea (or maybe it was “suggested to me”) that I could write an article about them. Of course, it could be that I have been programmed by the CIA to write this article so they can deny knowledge of it later.
A conspiracy theory is when someone decides that a group or organisation has planned something and made it happen and/ or concealed the true nature of events. The event is usually illegal and may have harmful effects on an individual or group of people. Often there is a powerful group, such as the CIA, NASA, Mossad, the Royal Family or a religious group, such as the Jews, Muslims or Catholic Church. If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, such groups are responsible for killings, economic crashes and faked moon landings. Some sociologists have suggested that conspiracy theories are often a sign of feelings of helplessness and are sometimes found amongst people from lower levels of society, who have less influence, or persecuted minorities. Of course, the thing about conspiracy theories is that they are usually impossible to prove and often even harder to disprove. What makes them all the more plausible is that there have been some pretty nasty things happen which really were conspiracies, including CIA mind control experiments and governments faking military actions (something which echoes the conspiracies about 9/11 being a CIA plot or the infamous “weapons of mass destruction”). http://www.oddee.com/item_99023.aspx
These kinds of theories have been around for a long time. Some people feel they are started as a way of demonizing a particular group or organization. This is particularly relevant when the theory is aimed at certain nationalities or ethnicities. Perhaps the most famous example is a document called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was produced in Russia in the 1900s. The document is largely based on an anti-Napoleonic parody but changed, perhaps as a parody of the early Zionist movement, to suggest a huge conspiracy where the Jews would take over the world. The document is a literary forgery and a fake but it has been incredibly influential and is still believed by many people around the world, despite being debunked. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_ Protocols_of_the_Elders_of_Zion
Other conspiracies might involve national government agencies, especially the CIA, with theories of faked military activity, people being brainwashed and sent on secret missions or secret plots to kill famous people (like the American president John F Kennedy… although that might also have been the Mafia). Religious organizations are also a hot favourite, with such conspiracies as the Catholic Church being behind attempts to overthrow the Protestant King of Britain. The “Catholic Plot” has a wellknown hero – Guy Fawkes.
More recently, some theories have gone galactic. The NASA moon landings are held by some to have been faked as a way of trying to convince the USSR of the USA’s superiority in the space race. Likewise, the US government is thought to have had contact with aliens, particularly after a mysterious incident in Roswell, New Mexico which is purported to have been a UFO crash. http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Roswell_UFO_incident, https://uk.screen. yahoo.com/ufo-sightings/photos-alleged-alienemerged- 075925587.html
The US government is even believed to have a special department to silence those who have witnessed UFO activity, the Men in Black (who were the basis of the comedy films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black
Some conspiracy theories, however, are pretty weak and can be easily dismissed. An example I came across recently concerned the popular Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the film, there is a famous scene where Indiana Jones is confronted by a huge Arab swordsman who twirls his scimitar around only for Indiana to pull a pistol and shoot him. The scene has become a classic and was even referenced in the sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Indiana is confronted by two such swordsmen. Casually going to pull his pistol, he finds he has lost it. The audience, knowing the original film, get the joke. Like many moviegoers, I just thought this was a classic piece of film-making. However, I recently learned it was actually a CIA plot to undermine Arab/Islamic masculinity. Apparently the American with the pistol is symbolically emasculating Arab manhood (symbolized by the sword). As well as this, there is a story of how the film’s director, Steven Spielberg, decided to cut the scene to save money (being a Jew!!!) and the poor Arab swordsman, who had allegedly been practicing his moves for over a year, was denied his moment of glory. Damn the CIA/Mossad conspiracy, huh?
Well, there are several problems with this story. Firstly, the reason Spielberg and Harrison Ford decided to cut the fight was because many of the cast and crew were suffering from dysentery and the shoot was already days behind. Such a scene would take a long time to shoot normally and it would take even longer if they had to wait for Ford to keep running to the toilet. Harrison Ford came up with the idea of shooting the swordsman… who was played by Terry Richards, a professional stuntman from Britain. Whilst Richards had spent some weeks choreographing and practicing the fight scene, it certainly wasn’t years (he’d been a professional stuntman since the 1950’s, so probably knew a little about scimitars). So we can see how a bit of fact-twisting and some over-reading can create a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories can be fun… or very serious, depending on whom or what they concern (and who is orchestrating them). There are many different conspiracy theories out there and some have become so entrenched in our consciousness that they have even entered aspects of our culture and entertainment (which is what THEY want, of course). Programmes like The X Files or books and films like The Da Vinci Code have become very popular through their use of such theories and, amazingly, often find followers amongst people who believe the material they use is true. The Da Vinci Code is particularly interesting because much of what it is based on comes from an earlier book called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which purported to show the true history of Jesus and his continuing blood line, had been pretty much debunked. That didn’t stop a lot of people believing theories of the Knights Templar and the Opus Dei.
The internet, of course, has a wealth of information about conspiracy theories and it can be a fun activity to explore some of them in class. Students can read about some of the better known ones (the alleged murder of Princess Diana, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the “faked” moon landing, etc.) and discuss how plausible they think these could be. A second activity could be for students to invent their own conspiracies, deciding who wants to do what and how they do it, what is the aim of the conspiracy, etc. The beauty of this is that the students do not have to stay within the realms of reality, they can be as fanciful as they wish and really have fun with it. Example: a conspiracy theory that the government is stealing all the missing socks from the washing machines.
How do they do this? Well, washing machines are secretly equipped with a flap which opens on selected socks, removing them from the wash and storing them until “something goes wrong” and a “repairman” (actually a highly trained operative) removes the socks and takes them to a laboratory in his van. Here the DNA is extracted and clones of the sock owners are made who will replace them when the evil government decides to take over the world. Of course this is a highly fanciful idea… but then, THEY would say that, wouldn’t they?