In their 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories the political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent conducted an extensive study on conspiracy theories and found that “Conspiracy theorists are often caricatured as a small demographic composed primarily of middle-aged white male internet enthusiasts who live in their mother’s basements.”
Polls however reveal that “conspiracy theories permeate all parts of American society and cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.” There is no type of person that believes in conspiracy theories. What follows is a list of the more prominent conspiracy theorists.
Alex Jones is the most widely known conspiracy theorist in the United States that isn’t president. He is a Sandy Hook “truther” who claimed that the shooting was staged, with paid actors pretending to be grieving parents. He ignorantly claims that none of the children were really killed or ever existed at all. For those that don’t remember, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut is where in 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 6-7 year olds and 6 adults.
Jones recently made headlines when the specifics of his custody case became public. His lawyer made the argument in his defense that Jones was really a performance artist. His wife used clips from his own show that showed him using pictures of Hillary Clinton to teach his son target practice. This is where he should have been exposed as the fraud he is but we know there are no depths to which people will sink to defend their trashy icons. Jones being right or wrong is irrelevant. He gives voice to millions of under-educated goofs and that is all he needs. He makes untold sums selling herbal supplements to the aforementioned dupes.
Jones pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, arguably the dumbest conspiracy theory since Jade Helm 15. Alex Jones was also sued by Chobani the yogurt company for saying they support “migrant rapists.” Alex Jones is one of the millions of white Americans that cannot stand to see people of color doing well. In one of his lowest moments (of which there are many) he said he wanted Jennifer Lopez to get gang raped in Somalia.
David Icke is the current king of conspiracy theories. Almost every supposed conspiracy fits into his meta-conspiracy. He claims that in the 90’s he received a telepathic message from God telling him to reveal the truth to the world…and wear teal colored jumpsuits. He’s been all over the world, sold countless books and he’s got an astonishing web presence. He has fortunately ditched the jumpsuits.
Have you heard of the supposed Reptilian conspiracy, the one where a race of super intelligent reptile people secretly control the world? That’s Icke. He believes that the Matrix is real and we are all in it. He believes in mind control and that the major politicians and businessmen of the world are members of satanic cults.
Tila Tequila was a star on Myspace about 11 years ago. She’s spiraled like many faded stars. She’s become a flat earther and now spends time associating with the Alt-Right.
B.O.B is a rapper. He is also a flat earther. I don’t know anything else about B.O.B. I just felt this piece wouldn’t be complete without mentioning him. He adds an extra layer of credibility to the discussion. He turns this into a think piece.
Uscinski and Parent note that in laboratory experiments “researchers have found that inducing anxiety or loss of control triggers respondents to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations” and that in the real world “there is evidence that disasters (e.g., earthquakes) and other high-stress situations (e.g., job uncertainty) prompt people to concoct, embrace, and repeat conspiracy theories.”
With the stress of modern times it’s easy for a variety of people to fall victim to conspiratorial thinking. Jobs with no future, lack of healthcare, underfunded schools, indifferent politicians, all of these contribute to alienation and discontent. Conspiracy theories justify what some see as wrong with society by scapegoating others. This has the joint benefits of absolving people from blame and uniting a group against a common foe. This is how fascism rose in Europe. This is how the far right today is attracting followers.
In highlighting conspiracist allegation as a form of scapegoating, the site politicalresearch.org tells us it is important to remember the following:
- All conspiracy theories start with a grain of truth. Hyperbole and pre-existing myths and prejudices are then sprinkled in.
- People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, which has consequences in the real world. Beliefs Matter! (Pizzagate, Rhino Horns, 57% increase in attacks against Muslims in 2016, the satanic panic, the Red Scare)
- Conspiracist thinking and scapegoating are symptoms, not causes, of underlying societal frictions, and as such are perilous to ignore. (Blaming marginalized communities i.e. Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community for societal ills is a bigger problem than the supposed conspiracies).
- Scapegoating and conspiracist allegations are tools that can be used by cynical leaders to mobilize a mass following. Authoritarians typically use conspiracy theories. It is a tool of the modern Republican Party.
- Supremacist and fascist organizers use conspiracy theories as a relatively less-threatening entry point in making contact with potential recruits. This is something the mainstream media doesn’t understand. Every time they give one of these goons a platform they win more converts. This was recently highlighted in Buzzfeed.
- Even when conspiracy theories do not center on Jews, people of color, or other scapegoated groups, they create an environment where racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice and oppression can flourish.
This is in part how fascism came to power. It’s perverse leaders and supporters offered simple solutions to complex social issues, an enemy to blame, and a supposed ideal to follow. Marginalized groups are often the targets of suspicion. Demagogues can then seize on those suspicions for personal gain. When Donald Trump claimed “thousands and thousands of (Muslim) people were cheering” during 9/11 he made this claim with zero evidence to back it up. It was just red meat for his supporters. He had no problem lying about what he saw in order to bind his followers closer to him.
Group identity is also a huge factor that helps to determine which conspiracy theories one believes. African Americans are more likely to believe that the CIA planted crack cocaine in inner-city Black neighborhoods and that Ronald Reagan created AIDS to kill black people. White Americans are more likely to believe that the government is conspiring to tax the rich in order to support welfare queens, (often portrayed as Black) to take away our guns and abolish the Second Amendment, and even that President Obama was/is setting up concentration camps for Americans who resist his “socialist” agenda. ( Author’s note: anyone calling Obama a socialist is a buffoon. Just get up and walk away).
By contrast, This figure from American Conspiracy Theories shows how this political dimension interacts with the propensity of people to believe (or not believe) conspiracy theories in general.