Conspiracy Theories

Table of Contents

  1. Conspiracy Theories
  2. Conspiracy Theories vs Straightforward Explanations
  3. Unsupported Non-conspiracy Theories
  4. FBI Intelligence Bulletin, May 30, 2019
  5. Common Conspiracy Theories
    1. Links
    2. QAnon
    3. Plandemic
    4. Trump’s Conspiracy Theories
  6. Evaluating Conspiracy Theories
  7. Why People Believe
  8. Addenda
    1. Readings and Links on Conspiracy Theories in American Politics
    2. Definitions of Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theories

A conspiracy theory explains events by invoking a secret plot by a group of conspirators

Conspiracy Theories vs Straightforward Explanations

  • A conspiracy theory explains the evidence as resulting from a secret plot by a powerful group of conspirators.
  • But there’s always a simpler, straightforward explanation of the evidence.

For Example

Unsupported Non-conspiracy Theories

  • Not all unsupported theories postulate a conspiracy.
    • Vaccines cause autism
    • Astrology
    • Scientific Creationism

FBI Intelligence Bulletin, May 30, 2019

Anti-government, Identity Based, And Fringe Political Conspiracy Theories Likely Motivate Some Domestic Terrorists To Commit Criminal, Sometimes Violent, Activity

Wikipedia List of Conspiracy Theories

The Atlantic: Shadowland

  • FBI Intelligence Bulletin, May 30, 2019
    • The FBI assesses in some cases anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories very likely encourage the targeting of specific people, places, and organizations, thereby increasing the risk of extremist violence against such targets.
    • Fringe Political:
      • QAnon: An anonymous government official known as “Q” posts classified information online to reveal a covert effort, led by President Trump, to dismantle a conspiracy involving “deep state” actors and global elites allegedly engaged in an international child sex trafficking ring.’
  • The Prophecies of QAtlantic
    • On October 28, 2017, the anonymous user now widely referred to as “Q” appeared for the first time on 4chan, a so-called image board known for its grotesque memes, sickening photographs, and brutal teardown culture. Q predicted the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton and a violent uprising nationwide, posting this:
      • “HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @ 12:01am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur. US M’s will conduct the operation while NG activated. Proof check: Locate a NG member and ask if activated for duty 10/30 across most major cities.”
  • Facebook imposes major new restrictions on QAnon, stepping up enforcement against the conspiracy theory WaPo
  • House votes to condemn baseless QAnon conspiracy theory WaPo
  • Facebook and Twitter said they would crack down on QAnon, but the delusion seems unstoppable Vox
  • What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory? NYT
  • QAnon: What is it and where did it come from? BBC
  • QAnon Followers Are Hijacking the #SaveTheChildren Movement NYT
  • How the Trump campaign came to court QAnon, the online conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a violent threat WaPo
  • QAnon Wiki
Trump’s Conspiracy Theories
  • Trump’s Long History With Conspiracy Theories,
    • “Here, we summarize some of the conspiracy theories that Trump has either explicitly pushed or subtly elevated both before and during his time in the White House — many of which we’ve covered at length before.”
      • False Birther Conspiracy
      • ISIS and Obama
      • Ted Cruz’s Father and JFK’s Assassination
      • Questioning Cruz’s Eligibility
      • Celebration in New Jersey on 9/11
      • Scarborough Smear
      • Misrepresenting COVID-19 Deaths
      • Biden and SEAL Team 6
      • The ‘ANTIFA provocateur’
      • Biden and ‘the Dark Shadows’
      • Scalia’s Death
      • Vince Foster
      • Epstein and the Clintons
      • DNC Server
      • Hydroxychloroquine

Evaluating Conspiracy Theories

Why People Believe

    • Surveys by Uscinski and Parent show that believers in conspiracies “cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.”  
    • According to the political scientist Michael Barkun, conspiracy theories rely on the view that the universe is governed by design, and embody three principles:
      • nothing happens by accident
      • nothing is as it seems
      • everything is connected.
    • Another common feature is that conspiracy theories evolve to incorporate whatever evidence exists against them, so that they become, as Barkun writes, a closed system that is unfalsifiable, and therefore “a matter of faith rather than proof” 
  • Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories, New York Times Magazine, Maggie Koerth-Baker
    • “The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories,” says Viren Swami, a psychology professor who studies conspiracy belief at the University of Westminster in England. Psychologists say that’s because a conspiracy theory isn’t so much a response to a single event as it is an expression of an overarching worldview.
    • “If you know the truth and others don’t, that’s one way you can reassert feelings of having agency,” Swami says. It can be comforting to do your own research even if that research is flawed. It feels good to be the wise old goat in a flock of sheep. 


Readings and Links on Conspiracy Theories in American Politics
Definitions of Conspiracy Theory