Conspiracies are a lot like orgies -- they take careful planning, involve a lot of people putting themselves in compromising positions, and never end up working as well as movies promised they would. And even though we just created an image of a sloppy gang bang in your head, we're not just talking about politics, here -- pop culture is just as full of "secret symbols" and "hidden messages" that make it seem like there's a shadowy genius secretly manipulating the puppet strings from behind a vast curtain.
But there's not. As this Cracked Classic shows, even the most convincing arguments about secret messages turn out to be even dumber than the ending of How I Met Your Mother (and as a side note, we apologize for so thoroughly driving home the point that no one in any position of authority has any idea what they're doing -- we admit that's not, ya know, super comforting).
It's hard enough to make a good movie or TV show, but apparently some of the stuff you watch or listen to also contains secret hidden messages that only close examination will reveal. Or, at least, that's what countless conspiracy theorists around the internet would have us believe.
The strange thing is, sometimes they'll produce a piece of evidence so eerily convincing, it's like they've waved their hands and made your sanity disappear. Here are five of pop culture conspiracy theorist's most convincing nuggets, and a look behind the curtain at how they get you ...
5The Fox Network Predicted the 9/11 Attacks
We have previously mentioned that the Fox X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen had become an obsession with conspiracy theorists ever since 9/11. The reason is the pilot episode--which aired a year before the attacks--featured a plot to hijack a 747 and fly it into the World Trade Center.
We're guessing this screen capture is the most any of you have ever seen of it.
But if you Google "Simpsons predict 9/11" you find that in a 1997 episode of The Simpsons did the same, in a much more obscure yet creepy manner. In the episode, the family goes to New York. And, while it's not that weird that the Twin Towers would be featured in the episode (Homer's car gets stuck there due to parking tickets)...
...this is pretty freaking creepy:
Holy shit! They're totally using the towers to make the "11" in 9/11! That's not Photoshop, either. The clip is all over YouTube, go look.
Why it's Bullshit:
It's fun to imagine that the world's strings are secretly being pulled by an underground group of powerful men, and that Rupert Murdoch, the founder and CEO of the Fox networks' parent corporation, is a member. But the reality has a lot more to do with statistics. It turns out a show that hits on as many real world subjects as The Simpsons will accidentally "predict" a number of events if it's on the air for 20 years, four presidential administrations and approximately 60 million episodes. For instance it "predicted" that the universe would turn out to be doughnut shaped, and that Roy of Siegfried and Roy would be mauled by one of his own tigers.
That tiger's been on the Bilderberg Group's payroll for years.
It's also a matter of statistics if you look at the source. If you let a crazy person rant long enough, they're bound to hit on a strange coincidence that makes you cock your head to the side. In this case, the epicenter of the conspiracy seems to be the remarkably crazy radio talk show host Alex Jones, who's other hobbies include blaming the Jews for, well, everything. Of course, Jones has little to say about the Illuminati anti-Roy, pro-tiger mauling policy.
The fact is, if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of other movies, TV shows and books "foreshadowing" the attacks. Go get your DVD of The Big Lebowski and watch the beginning: The Dude's check is dated September 11th. And, playing on the television while he fills it out, is President Bush, Sr. giving his famous "This will not stand" speech from 1990... a speech about the need to go to war in Iraq. The Coen Brothers were in on it, too!
As for The Lone Gunmen, they came up with the idea of using an airliner as a weapon for the same reason the terrorists did: It just seemed like a good way to carry out a terror attack. Years earlier, it happened in a Tom Clancy novel (1994's Debt of Honor) and a decade before that, in a Stephen King novella (The Running Man--yes, the one that would become a Schwarzenegger movie, they just took out the airliner-into-the-skyscraper climax).
But just for fun, let's say that Rupert Murdoch knew about the attacks ahead of time thanks to his Illuminati connections. Why insert that fact into your freaking prime time TV shows? How would subliminal hints about what's coming be helpful to a plot allegedly intended to shock the public into submission to the New World Order and martial law?
Let's let Alex Jones explain it. Quote:
"They believe because of what they're into, you call it Kabbalah or whatever, it's all the same junk that, you know, these groups are into, it's called lesser magic, they believe if you show what you're going to do before, in a riddle--it's like the legend of the vampire, they've got to trick their way into your house."
Sounds crazy now, right? Well that man's show gets approximately one million listeners each and every day.
4The Wingdings Font is Loaded With Anti-Semetic 9/11 Hidden Messages
Open up Microsoft Word. Or any word processor with Wingdings font. Type "NYC."
This is what you get:
Somewhere right now, Mel Gibson's ears are burning.
The Wingdings controversy experienced a resurgence shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when somebody found out that typing "Q-3-3-N-Y" displayed an image eerily similar to an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center.
Still not convinced something's up? This one actually crossed over into the mainstream media even before 9/11. Back in the 90s somebody noticed the Wingdings thing and The New York Post went nuts with theories that somehow this was a hidden message urging death to the Jews. And if they believe it, well ...
Why it's Bullshit:
... it could very easily be sensational bullshit they made up on a slow news day.
Above: The New York Post.
Appropriately, a magician did a damn fine job of explaining how this particular trick works. As Penn Jillette put it in an essay on the subject:
"To me, [poison] [Star of David] [thumbs up] means 'Jewish people make really good pesticides'" and, "Once you're crazy and know nothing about numbers, the chances of finding something psychotic and hateful in a Scrabble factory explosion are hovering just around 100 percent."
And then he juggled for a while.
As for the coded reference to 9/11, well, remember that to get that, you have to type in Q33NY. How does Q33 link to 9/11? It doesn't. As Microsoft (shouldn't have had to have) noted, Wingdings is just random bullshit. When the letters you're typing to get your "coded message" don't have to correspond to anything coherent, you can make them say any crazy thing you want.
Or you could back up before Microsoft had to update their random jumble of coded images to protect themselves from the crazies. When you type NYC in the new Webdings font, you get this:
Maybe Vista would have worked better if we didn't have to spend so much time reverse engineering an obscure font around your crazy bullshit.