You knew it would happen. No sooner did R.I.P. flash on TV screens around the world and the conspiracy theories surrounding Michael Jackson's death began surfacing (and resurfacing) faster than he could moon walk.
The Telegraph has compiled a short list of the most, um, compelling, and ranked their prospects. Among them:
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad killed him to distract attention from Iranian protests.
- Jackson faked his own death to escape financial problems.
- He actually died two years ago.
Paul McCartney knows all about that last one. McCartney, the ex-Beatle, never actually left the band, it's believed. Rather, he died in 1966 and was then replaced by a lookalike (and a darn good soundalike! — I'd sure like to see that replacement in concert before he dies.).
What takes a simple rumor or silly myth to the level of conspiracy theory, anyway?
Gullibility is at the root of many of them; illogical thinking is a key component; fraudulent characters (who may by trying to make money, or just like a good laugh) are often behind them. As our Bad Science Columnist Benjamin Radford has said, "Rumor and logical thought don't mix well."
Many people desperately want to believe in things, scientists say, and facts (typically, rather, a lack of facts) don't matter. It's part of human nature, an odd and largely inexplicable aspect of our strange species. Mass media contributes to the conspiracy theories, and the Internet has made it easier to promote one.
Meanwhile, we're still waiting to learn the truth about the Obama Conspiracies — he's a Muslim, or a terrorist, or both. (Hey, maybe he helped Ahmadinejad!)
While we're on the topic, here's our Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of all time. We might have to revise it now.
In The Water Cooler, Imaginova's Editorial Director Robert Roy Britt looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond. Find more in the archives and on Twitter.
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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.