The Internet is a wonderful place. I can renew my library books, order a pizza, watch cat videos, and learn that the Earth is hollow, and we are living inside of it. Wait, what? Am I being serious? Yes and no. I am not telling you that the Earth is hollow, but that some people on the Internet say it is. Welcome to the world of conspiracy theories!
For those who don’t know, a conspiracy theory is the idea that some group of people (often the government) is hiding or concealing information for some nefarious purpose. For instance, did you know that the county used to store ghosts under the library? When the containment grid started to fail in 2005 the library was moved to a new building, and the ghosts are now stored in an undisclosed location. Full disclosure: none of that is true. I made it up on the spot as an example.
Now while those two CTs are kind of silly, many are not. And even ones that seem incredibly farfetched can have fervent believers. With that in mind, here is something you should know about us library people: we don’t care what you believe in. At least not in a professional sense. While I am at the reference desk I try not to have any politics, any religion, or any general opinions of any kind. If you want me to help you find information about the Battle of Stalingrad or about how the government dumped poison plastic snow on Atlanta, I will help you find info on both of those topics equally.
Moving on. I find conspiracy theories to be pretty interesting, even ones I do not think have merit. They are fun to read about. Did you know that no conspiracy theory has ever turned out to be true? Well, that does depend on how exactly you define what a conspiracy theory is. Actual conspiracies do happen, with Watergate as a good example. The key thing here is that the “theory” has to be out there before the “conspiracy” comes to light.
Another illustrative example is UFOs. They do exist in the literal sense, as in “unidentified flying object”. The question is are any of those UFOs actually alien space craft? The conspiracy theory part would then be the idea that they are spaceships, and that the government knows about them and is covering up their existence.
Some CTs have been around for some time, such as the moon landing being faked. (A little joke for you: Stanley Kubrick admitted to doing this, but he was such a committed filmmaker that he insisted that it be shot on location.)
Some are quite new, like the Jade Helm 15 exercise being a cover for a plot involving everything from FEMA to Navy SEALs to Walmart to a Chinese invasion.
Some are pretty straight forward, such as the Kennedy assassination being a CIA plot, while others are very complex and/or have many versions. This is particularly true for 9/11 conspiracy theories, which range from the idea that it was a government operation using controlled demolition all the way to there having been nuclear bombs placed under the towers when they where built, or death rays from satellites being the cause of destruction.
Whatever your interest in conspiracy theories might be, my advice is to do your research. Read books from both sides, and you can probably find some good debates online. A few years ago I had just read up on the claims about the moon landing, and one night at dinner my 15 year old, having watched a TV show about it, started asking questions. I was very glad that I had real answers at hand, like if Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, who took the picture?
So, here is a list of some library books that talk about the conspiracies and the events that created them. Now it may seem that these books seem to be more anti than pro conspiracy, but that is because many theories live more online than they do in books. Either way, you can start your way to enlightenment, or down the rabbit hole, here.
The United States of paranoia : a conspiracy theory by Jesse Walker
Debunking 9/11 myths : why conspiracy theories can’t stand up to the facts : includes new findings on World Trade Center Building 7 edited by David Dunbar & Brad Reagan ; an in-depth investigation by Popular mechanics
The second plane : September 11 : terror and boredom essays by Martin Amis
Secret societies– and how they affect our lives today by Sylvia Browne
The Commission : the uncensored history of the 9/11 investigation by Philip Shenon
The Kennedy detail : JFK’s secret service agents break their silence by Gerald Blaine, with Lisa McCubbin
They killed our president : 63 reasons to believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate JFK by Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell and David Wayne
Inside job : unmasking the 9/11 conspiracies by Jim Marrs
Conspiracy Theory DVD directed by Richard Donner [You need a break after all these big old books]
The cell : inside the 9/11 plot and why the CIA and FBI failed to stop it by John Miller and Michael Stone, with Chris Mitchell
The 9/11 report : the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States Thomas H. Kean, Chair, and Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chair with reporting and analysis by The New York Times
The terror dream : fear and fantasy in post-9/11 America by Susan Faludi
How to fake a moon landing : exposing the myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham [Graphic novel]
Direct from the Moon DVD directors/writers, Tomoyuki Katsumata, Yuichi Kunihara [Footage from recent lunar probes]
Voices from the moon : Apollo astronauts describe their lunar experiences by Andrew Chaikin with Victoria Kohl
Room 237 DVD director, Rodney Ascher [This documentary shows several theories about hidden meanings in the movie The Shining, including one that says Kubrick left clues that he faked the moon landing in the film. Whether you find these theories credible or not they are certainly entertaining.]
A field guide to the atmosphere by Vincent J. Schaefer and John A. Day [Chemtrails are an interesting theory in that we can see them with our own eyes every day. This book will tell you how contrails are formed.]
Well, that should be enough for now. Let me leave you with two more things. First, if you are going to read or talk about conspiracy theories on the Internet then you should think about brushing up on your fallacies. That way you can recognize ones people use and be prepared when they accuse you of using them.
Second, here is a link to a piece talking about conspiracy theorists, and why people believe the things they do. It comes from a “none of this is true” viewpoint, but is still interesting for people who have differing viewpoints.
As always I appreciate your comments and feedback, and here is a list of all these titles in our library catalog: