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10 Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy. Just saying the word in conversation can make people politely edge away, looking for someone who won’t corner them with wild theories about how Elvis, John F. Kennedy, and Bigfoot are cryogenically frozen in an underground bunker.
Yet conspiracies do exist. In the corporate world, major companies we buy products from everyday have been found guilty of conspiring to fix prices and reduce competition. Just about any planned criminal act committed by more than one person could be considered a conspiracy, from simple murder-for-hire to the Watergate break-in.
Many conspiracy theorists go much further, though, and see a hidden hand behind the world’s major events. While some of the theories have a grain of truth to them, conspiracy theories are impossible to disprove, because the hardcore believers will find some way to rationalize away evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Eyewitnesses who dispute their conclusions are mistaken—or part of the conspiracy.
At least that's what they want you to think ...
The 9/11 ConspiraciesSlide 2 of 21
The 9/11 Conspiracies
The evidence is overwhelming that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were indeed the result of a conspiracy. There's no doubt about it: A close (or even cursory) look at the evidence makes it clear that it was carefully planned and executed by conspirators. The question, of course, is who those conspirators were. Osama bin Laden and the crew of (mostly Saudi) hijackers were part of the conspiracy, but what about President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney? Did top Bush advisors, including Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld, either collaborate with bin Laden, or intentionally allow the attacks to happen?
Put another way, was it an inside job? Conspiracy theorists believe so, and point to a catalog of supposed inconsistencies in the "official version" of the attacks. Many of the technical conspiracy claims were debunked by Popular Mechanics magazine in March 2005, while other claims are refuted by simple logic: If a hijacked airplane did not crash into the Pentagon, as is often claimed, then where is Flight 77 and its passengers? Are they with the Roswell aliens at Hangar 18? In many conspiracy theories, bureaucratic incompetence is often mistaken for conspiracy. Our government is so efficient, knowledgeable, and capable—so the reasoning goes—that it could not possibly have botched the job so badly in detecting the plot ahead of time or responding to the attacks. I find that hard to believe.Slide 3 of 21
Princess Diana's MurderSlide 4 of 21
Princess Diana's Murder
Within hours of Princess Diana's death on Aug. 31, 1997, in a Paris highway tunnel, conspiracy theories swirled. As was the case with the death of John F. Kennedy, the idea that such a beloved and high-profile figure could be killed so suddenly was a shock. This was especially true of Princess Diana; royalty die of old age, political intrigue, or eating too much rich food; they don't get killed by a common drunk driver.
Unlike many conspiracy theories, though, this one had a billionaire promoting it: Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Dodi Al-Fayed, who was killed along with Diana. Al-Fayed claims that the accident was in fact an assassination by British intelligence agencies, at the request of the Royal Family. Al-Fayed's claims were examined and dismissed as baseless by a 2006 inquiry; the following year, at Diana's inquest, the coroner stated that "The conspiracy theory advanced by Mohamed Al Fayed has been minutely examined and shown to be without any substance." On April 7 of this year, the coroner's jury concluded that Diana and Al-Fayed were unlawfully killed due to negligence by their drunken chauffer and pursuing paparazzi.Slide 5 of 21
Subliminal AdvertisingSlide 6 of 21
Ever been watching a movie and suddenly get the munchies? Or sitting on your sofa watching TV and suddenly get the irresistible urge to buy a new car? If so, you may be the victim of a subliminal advertising conspiracy! Proponents include Wilson Bryan Key (author of "Subliminal Seduction") and Vance Packard (author of "The Hidden Persuaders"), both of whom claimed that subliminal (subconscious) messages in advertising were rampant and damaging. Though the books caused a public outcry and led to FCC hearings, much of both books have since been discredited, and several key "studies" of the effects of subliminal advertising were revealed to have been faked.
In the 1980s, concern over subliminal messages spread to bands such as Styx and Judas Priest, with the latter band even being sued in 1990 for allegedly causing a teen's suicide with subliminal messages (the case was dismissed). Subliminal mental processing does exist, and can be tested. But just because a person perceives something (a message or advertisement, for example) subconsciously means very little by itself. There is no inherent benefit of subliminal advertising over regular advertising, any more than there would be in seeing a flash of a commercial instead of the full twenty seconds. Getting a person to see something for a split-second is easy; filmmakers do it all the time (watch the last few frames in Hitchcock's classic "Psycho"). Getting a person to buy or do something based on that split-second is another matter entirely. (The conspiracy was parodied in the 1980s television show Max Headroom, in which viewers were exploding after seeing subliminal messages called "blipverts.")Slide 7 of 21
The Moon Landing HoaxSlide 8 of 21