6 Crackpot Conspiracy Theories (That Actually Happened)

We really do try very hard here at Cracked to maintain a no-bullshit policy. We're not the goddamned New York Times, but we do try to make sure we don't repeat a claim unless we can link to a smarter group of people who confirm it. We kind of think everyone who touches a keyboard should do that.

But in the course of looking down our noses at the nutjobs who spread urban legends and conspiracy theories, we have to sometimes stop and point out that there are downright terrifying historical precedents for even their craziest of claims.

#6. The Government Is Transmitting Thoughts Into Our Brains!

This is the stereotypical "tin foil hat" conspiracy theory that the government has the ability to beam thoughts into or out of your skull using its Illuminati mind-ray technology. This is a favorite of crazy people because, well, they're crazy, and hearing strange voices in your head is as common a symptom of craziness as you'll find. Assassins Mark Chapman and Sirhan Sirhan both claimed to hear voices in their heads telling them to murder their targets.

You can use the same excuse to get away with stealing lunches from your co-workers.

But they're not the only ones who have ever claimed to hear voices broadcast directly into their heads. All over the country, people who aren't murdering beloved public figures have also asserted that the United States government is trying to control their minds by transmitting thoughts directly into their brains. Which is why some of them elect to don the aforementioned tinfoil headgear -- to keep the voices out. This is why the tinfoil hat has become the emblem of all things conspiracy-related, mocked in movies and elsewhere.

ProTip: Make sure you remove the leftovers from the tin foil before putting it on your head.

Why It's Not So Crazy

They can totally beam voices into your head.

In 2006, a guy whom multiple counselors labeled as a "paranoid schizophrenic" filed a Freedom of Information Act petition requesting all declassified government documents pertaining to covert attempts at microwave auditory effect, telepathy and hypnosis. While no one was surprised that a guy who once complained that the backs of his shoes were vaporized by an electromagnetic weapon would go through the effort of filing the request, a lot of people shit a brick when they saw the papers that came back.

Page after page of verified government documents confirmed that taxpayer dollars had funded research on everything from a telepathic ray gun to fever lasers that made victims disoriented and less aggressive. And, yes, one of the released tests even broadcast a person's voice telepathically by "using close-range microwaves ... to project the spoken numbers 1 to 10 across a lab to volunteers."

Inside their heads.

If you think that's fucked up, just imagine the shit they shredded.

So, not only is this technology possible, the government has toyed with using it. And considering the United States government's track record with mind control, well ...

#5. The Census Is a Tool for Government Oppression!

Most of us didn't give a second thought to filling out our census forms last year. But among the loonier elements of American society, speculation abounded about what exactly the government was going to do with all that data it collected, other than, you know, allocate congressional seats. One conservative website speculated that GPS coordinates of households collected by census workers would possibly prepare UN soldiers for a U.S. invasion. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann even stated that she and her family would refuse to answer any census questions beyond how many people were in her household, because "the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

Look for our new sister site, "Stupid Shit Michele Bachmann Says", to launch in February. We won't even need to hire writers.

Thanks to the fact that, yes it does, Bachmann took a lot of heat for her paranoid rhetoric. Especially when the actual results of the census led to speculation that her own state might lose a congressional district.

So, we could all sit back and laugh at the paranoid types who thought the government was going to use the census to round us up and put us into camps.

Why It's Not So Crazy

The U.S. government totally once used census data to round people up and put them in camps.

Looking pretty good compared to Hitler: not a high bar, but it's one we can reach.

After years of hearing nothing but denial, in 2007 the world found out that the U.S. Census Bureau actually did assist the Secret Service in rounding up Japanese-Americans for internment. And it was given the authority to do so by an executive emergency law enacted by then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Prior to the Second War Powers Act of 1942, information collected by census takers was confidential and protected. But once Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. got its frenetic anti-Asian ball rolling, all bets were off for any American whose eyes weren't shaped "white." So when the Secret Service came knocking on the Census Bureau's door for the names and addresses of Japanese-Americans, even the ones who were citizens, the data collectors were willing to oblige. The law that gave the government that authority wasn't repealed until after the war ended.

Tags are way less awful than tattoos!

And that wasn't the last time racial data were handed over in a politically charged atmosphere. In 2004, the Census Bureau took a beating for giving the Department of Homeland Security information about Arab Americans, including ZIP codes with dense Arab populations. Some speculated that the data even led to the deportation of people who wouldn't have otherwise been targeted.

So, yeah, they'd never use that information against you. As long as you're white.

Three cheers for the genetic lottery!

#4. The Government Controls the Media!

The logic behind this gem goes a little something like this:

The mainstream media never report on government conspiracies.
Therefore ...
The mainstream media are in on government conspiracies. ERGO
The government controls the media.

The believers of this idea don't just take for granted the so-called liberal bias demonstrated by media outlets across the board. What these guys allege is much more sinister: that the federal government is in charge of media outlets across the board. Not just moderating or regulating, but controlling what we see, hear and read. One conspiracy site speculates that the government exercises its control not just through content but through the information released through government spokesmen, through subsidies, press passes and embedded reporters in wartime. In other words, everything that government officials touch with regards to the media is just another way for them to control it.

The plot of the Robert DeNiro movie Wag the Dog involved a president actually fabricating an entire war, with the news media obediently publishing story after story at the government's behest. Ridiculous, right?

Between the poster, the title and Dustin Hoffman, we were 90% sure this film was about masturbation.

Why It's Not So Crazy

Beginning in 1948, a man named Frank Wisner ran a branch of the CIA called the Office of Policy Coordination and was given all sorts of secret authority to pretty much do any awful thing he felt like if it advanced his version of American ideology. Under that sleazy umbrella, Wisner began Operation Mockingbird, which was his effort to infiltrate every major media outlet with journalists and editors who were in his pocket.

By the mid-50s, the CIA had over 400 journalists working with them across the country. And these guys weren't just cub reporters, either. They included top level employees from all three major networks as well as The New York Times, Time Inc. and Associated Press, all not only capable of planting pro-government stories in their respective media but also able to suppress anything that wasn't government-friendly. And the whole shebang was so easy to accomplish because, as one operative noted, "You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month."

Journalists give better head, too.

The good news is that Operation Mockingbird was exposed and disbanded by the mid-70s. The bad news is that even in the past decade, the government has had its sticky fingers all over wartime reporting and is still using psychological warfare to get the entire world on our side. It's working like a dream, guys!

We're sure that means something else in Pakistanianese.

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