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Fake News & Bad Info: Media Literacy Resources

Learn how language can be used to in a way that it affects the way people perceive reality. Unlike real news, whose purpose is to simply inform, the main purpose of fake news is to confuse and manipulate people.

Conspiracy Theories

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.Conspiracy theories are usually conceived as explanations for events that provoke widespread social anxiety and uncertainty, conditions under which people are eager for explanations. The message goes something like this  -- this "Group" is up to something nefarious and are trying to conceal their activities from you, but you are too smart for that and can see through the "stories" they are telling you. The discovery of a conspiracy can be exciting  in spite of the lack of corroborating evidence. Conspiracies survive in the public consciousness aided by psychological biases and distrust of official sources.

 

Common Types of Conspiracy Theories

Death Conspiracy Theories

Questions the official cause of death and offers alternative theories.

  • Roman Emperor Nero: committed suicide in 68 AD, but some claimed he faked his death and was in hiding secretly plotting to regain power. Others held that he had died but would return from the dead to become emperor again.
  • Assassinations are a popular theme of conspiracy theories and involve leaders such as  Abraham LincolnJohn F. Kennedy and his son, JFK Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Celebrity Deaths conspiracies surround the deaths of famous people such as Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, Kurt Cobain, and John Lennon
  • Some conspiracy theories hold that people who are still alive have actually died and were replaced with look-alikes:
    • Paul McCartney died in 1968 in a car accident and was replaced by a Scottish orphan named Billy Shears
    • Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a woman named Melissa Vandella

Anti-Semitism

Conspiracy theories about Jews spread by individuals and groups since at least the Middle Ages, often for religious reasons. Christians discriminated and even persecuted Jews as outliers. Some thought Jews poisoned people's wells. Examples of anti-semitic conspiracy theories:

  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party did not see Jews as full-fledged Germans
  • Doctors' Plot in Russia (950-1953) proclaimed that Jewish doctors were plotting to assassinate Russian leaders. Doctors, both Jews and non-Jews, were fired from their jobs, arrested, and tortured
  • Holocaust denial - the Holocaust was a hoax perpetrated by the Jews as an excuse to create the state of Israel
  • George Soros - born to a non-observant Jewish family
    • American billionaire businessman and philanthropist whose support for progressive causes has fueled endless conspiracies theories ranging from being a Nazi (he was 15 years old when WW II ended) to a global puppet-master intent on world domination.

Economic and Societal Conspiracy Theories

These conspiracy theories arise as explanations for events perceived by conspiracists as based on secret arrangements made by people and groups in power. 

  • Freemasons
    • Conspiracy theories about this fraternal organization whose origin can be traced back to a stonecutters guild in the 13th century, refer to political (world dominion) and religious (Satanic or anti-Christian practices) motivations.
    • Freemasons don't talk about their meetings with non-members which further fuels conspiracy theories
  • New World Order and the Denver Airport
    • One of many various iterations of claims that there's a secret global government whose headquarters can be accessed via a tunnel beneath the Denver Airport
  • QAnon
    • Originated in 2017 in the United States as both a political conspiracy theory and political movement but has since spread world-wide
    • Allegedly led by someone known as "Q," supposedly a high-level government employee with a Q (top secret) Security Clearance with access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents 
    • Core beliefs:
      • cabal of Satanic cannibalistic sexual abusers of children who operate a global child sex trafficking ring and conspire against Donald Trump 
        • the cabal is made up of Democratic politicians (e.g. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton), business tycoons (e.g. George Soros, Bill Gates), Hollywood celebrities (e.g. Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga) and medical experts (e.g. Dr. Anthony Fauci)
      • Trump secretly fought the cabal of pedophiles, and would conduct mass arrests and executions of thousands of cabal members on a day known as "the Storm" or "the Event"
      • Trump provoked the conspiracy of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring
  • The Deep State
    • A clandestine network of financiers and industrialist working with the federal government in a secret allegiance to exercise power alongside or within the elected United States government.
    • Variations of the Deep State conspiracy theory have existed in the United States since the 1950s.

Other Common Conspiracy Theories

  • The earth is flat
  • Moon landings were faked and what was shown on TV was actually a Hollywood studio
  • Climate change is a hoax
  • Mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other school shootings are hoaxes staged with crisis actors and designed to take away people's guns
  • Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the US and thus was an illegitimate president and Michelle Obama is transgender whose real name is Michael
  • Covid-19 
    • a hoax
    • created by the Chinese as a bioweapon
    • vaccine contained microchips to track people
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine causes autism

Learn about Conspiracy Theories in Western Library Databases

 

social. media company icons  How Social Media Amplifies the Spread of Conspiracies

Modern conspiracy theories  are propagated almost entirely on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Parler, Gab, and other platforms are free and fast, and allow for the instantaneous creation of communities that rally around unproven assertions or accusations. In fact, “Social media is the ideal carrier of conspiracism,” says Nancy L. Rosenblum, professor of ethics in politics and government at Harvard University. "Here’s why. It doesn't require evidence." 

Read a short article about conspiracy theories from Credo Reference (below):

Conspiracy Theories

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Search for articles about "conspiracy theories" in the following databases: 


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