Inspired by this Cracked.com list of real conspiracies, Jonathan Elinof of the website New World Order Report posted a list of 33 “conspiracy theories” that turned out to be true. Then a commenter at the Above Top Secret forums posted a shorter list of real-life conspiracy theories. The problem is, all of the things listed either never happened, or were never conspiracy theories:
1. Operation Northwoods. This was not a conspiracy theory. It was a conspiracy plot dreamed up during the JFK administration, then scrapped.
2. The Church Committee uncovered evidence that the CIA engineered highly sophisticated assassinations in numerous countries, including the assassination of Mohammed Mossedeq in Iran. The CIA basically instigated, then supported, the 1953 coup that ousted Mossedeq, but he died of natural causes in 1967. While the author thinks CIA assassinations are still not common knowledge, I disagree. Not only do I suspect that most Americans know the CIA assassinates foreign leaders and foments uprisings in other countries, I suspect many Americans think that’s all the CIA does.
3. CIA Drug Smuggling/The “Boys on the Tracks”. Barry Seal and the two Arkansas teenagers who may have been killed after witnessing a drug drop or deal have been woven into a dizzying array of conspiracy theories since they became widely known. Prior to that time, no one had a clue.
4. Report From Iron Mountain. A satirical piece of fiction sponsored by the novelist E.L. Doctorow and written by Leonard Lewin. Dolts like Leonard Horowitz refuse to believe it’s not genuine, though all the principals involved in its production have admitted to this.
The same can be said of most of Elinof’s 33 examples, including:
3. MK-ULTRA. Though mind control stories involving the U.S. government are hella popular today, they weren’t at all common in the ’50s, when the MK-ULTRA experiments began. Back then, paranoia was firmly focused on Soviet/Communist mind control.
5. The Manhattan Project. First of all, there weren’t any conspiracy theories about this. Secondly, conspiracy theorists who like to point out the U.S. atomic bomb program as a classic example of how a massive enterprise can be hidden from the public for a considerable length of time don’t stop to consider that the project locations were isolated and its members working under high-security conditions. Third, even that didn’t stop people like David Greenglass from sneaking classified info out of Los Alamos.
8. The Tuskegee Syphillis Study. No one was suspicious about this, because no one knew about it. There were never any conspiracy theories to the effect that doctors were depriving black people of life-saving medical treatments while pretending to treat them. In the HBO film Miss Evers‘ Boys, one of the test subjects catches on to what’s happening and opts out of the program. This didn’t happen in reality. The experiment was a conspiracy, but it wasn’t a conspiracy theory.
9. Operation Northwoods
10. The Iraqi slaughter of incubator babies. This was definitely not a conspiracy theory. The hoax was uncovered not through connect-the-dots speculation, but through plain ol‘-fashioned research. Human rights advocates investigating the story learned that the 15-year-old “eyewitness” was really a Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter, rather than a nurse. She had been coached to tell a bogus tale of Iraqi soldiers throwing premature Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators and leaving them to die.
16. The “Business Plot” of 1933. Frankly, I don’t think this happened at all. The only sources of information about it were the rather eccentric right-wing general (ret.) Smedley Butler, Republical rear admiral (ret.) James Van Zandt, and a newspaper reporter. Their stories of a Fascist takeover plot were never corroborated.
17. The plot to kill Hitler. Again, that wasn’t a conspiracy theory at all. It was just a conspiracy.
18. Operation Ajax (the CIA-sponsored overthrow of Mossedeq). Conspiracy, not theory.
19. Operation Snow White (Scientology’s infiltration of government agencies and theft of files). Members were convicted of their involvement after a brief investigation. This was never a conspiracy theory, only a conspiracy.
20. Gladio. Not a conspiracy theory before it was uncovered, but conspiracy theorists sure do love it. It allows them to blame pretty much anything that has ever happened in Italy on NATO. For instance, former LaRouchite and professional paranoid Webster Tarpley blames NATO (and P2, and members of the Italian government) for the assassination of Aldo Moro.
21. The Church Committee.
22. The New World Order. WTF? You can’t chalk this up as a real conspiracy just because a handful of politicians and pundits like to throw around the term “new world order”. In the non-conspiracy world, it’s pretty apparent that there are numerous “new world orders” duking it out for supremacy at any given time.
23. The JFK Assassination, solved. Elinof thinks the House Select Committee on Assassinations sewed up the whole thing, though it didn’t identify any perps besides Oswald and could only offer a vague speculation about organized crime involvement.
24. The fixing of the 1919 World Series. Not a conspiracy theory. In fact, Cincinatti Reds fans were perfectly happy with the outcome of the game, and White Sox fans just assumed the Sox were sucking like usual. (That’s a joke. It’s okay to joke about this one, because throwing ballgames wasn’t even a criminal offence.)
25. The death of Karen Silkwood. Look, we’re all suspicious, okay? She was a thorn in the side of the nuclear industry, and that’s not the safest thing to be. But when her car went off the road, she was under the influence of a sleep aid that she was using to relax. The only evidence of a hit was a tiny ding on her car.
26. CIA drug smuggling in Arkansas.
27. Bohemian Grove. According to Elinof, there were rumours of this redwood retreat before its existence was confirmed. I’m not so sure about that. The Grove has always been an open secret, from what I understand. Besides, who cares? If bigwigs want to goof off in the woods for a couple of weeks, that’s their business. I sure as hell wouldn’t want them stalking and spying on me during my vacations.
28. Paperclip. It was a nasty conspiracy, but not a conspiracy theory.
30. The Illuminati, AKA the Rothschilds. LOL.
31. The Shadow Government. I think there is a sort of shadow government comprised of statesmen, corporations, etc. – but my definition would differ drastically from Elinof’s. He thinks that continuity of government plans are the “shadow government”, which makes no sense. Continuation of government means continuation of the regular, non-shadow government apparatus.
As evidence of the Shadow Government, Elinof cites Report from Iron Mountain. Sigh.
In short, conspiracy theorists are using well-documented conspiracies to prop up their contention that their own conspiracy theories are probably accurate, without bothering to mention that most or all of these conspiracies were uncovered without the aid of a single conspiracy theorist. In fact, there weren’t any conspiracy theories about those conspiracies, which makes me wonder if even the most dedicated conspiracy theorists are really any good at what they do. And compiling lists of actual conspiracies their brethren failed to spot isn’t a good PR move, in my opinion.
Prior to the Watergate break-in, no one was saying, “I bet the CIA is running a huge, illegal surveillance campaign against Nixon’s enemies” – though it’s interesting to note that after the break-in, the late West Coast conspiracy maven Mae Brussell scooped Woodward and Bernstein by several weeks. I assume she was subscribing to a newsclipping service, and recognized the burglars as participants in the Bay of Pigs. She also paid attention to the Cassandra of Watergate, Barbara Mitchell, when most people still considered her just a hysterical drunk.
I can’t think of any other examples of successful conspiracy theorizing. If one were to compile a list of conspiracy theories that turned out to be false, on the other hand, you could end up with several volumes. Here are a few that I’ve stumbled across in the last few months alone:
– In his well-written but dismally misinformed book Paint It Black (HarperPrism, 1992), Carl Raschke linked the then-unsolved 1989 Florida murders of Sherry Perisho and Lisa Sanders to Satanism and drug trafficking by Satanists.
These two murders are now attributed to Carl “Charlie” Brandt, a man with a long history of violence against women. When he was just 13 years old, Brandt shot both of his parents, killing his pregnant mother. In 2004 Brandt murdered and mutilated his wife’s niece, shot his wife, then hung himself. Evidence at the scene and items found in the Brandt home indicated that Brandt was fixated on sexual violence and female anatomy. There were no indications that he had any involvement in Satanism, the occult, drug use, or drug trafficking.
At the time of the Perisho/Sanders murders, Brandt lived four blocks from where Sherry Perisho’s body was found. The mutilations performed on Lisa Sanders were nearly identical to those performed on Mrs. Brandt’s niece.
– Chicago police engineered and carried out the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to frame Al Capone. Though the murders were informally pinned on Al Capone from the very beginning, there are still those who wonder why the only survivor (who died in hospital) refused to admit he had even been shot. Was it because he recognized one of the police officers in the room as a killer? Why did eyewitnesses see two police officers leading two suspects out of the warehouse seconds after the shots were fired? Why would Capone, one of the nation’s most powerful gangsters, go after a handful of Bugs Moran’s foot soldiers, rather than Moran himself?
Though these questions are still being asked, we know that that the massacre was probably engineered by a group of Capone’s men in retaliation for a murder attempt against Jack McGurn . Most historians believe that Fred Burke and another of Capone’s men dressed up as police officers and pretended to raid the warehouse, where several associates were holding a bogus meeting with Moran’s guys. All of Capone’s men then opened fire.
– Appollo Astronauts never landed on the moon. But NASA later planted lots of space junk to make it look like they did? Whatever.