One common thread that runs through all good conspiracy theories is that the people who believe them think they're being watched. And not just through Enemy of the State surveillance technology, either, but by actual flesh-and-blood government agents, following them down dark alleys.
Yeah, like their little group of protesters and vegans is soooo important that the government is going to pay somebody a full-time salary to do nothing but watch them. Like some kid's hippie college newsletter about how the oil companies own Washington is totally going to warrant the government planting a spook at the local Starbucks to spy on him while he slathers cream cheese on his Hawaiian bagel and bangs away on his laptop.
"YOU'LL NEVER GET MY SECRET NARUTO FAN-FICTION, G-MEN!"
Why It's Not So Crazy
Through a program called COINTELPRO, J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI buds used actual government agents to infiltrate the the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, anti-Vietnam groups, women's rights groups, the National Lawyers Guild and many, many others in an effort to neutralize and/or radicalize them.
Above: An alternate way to make someone radical.
Oh, and any individuals who took a perceived anti-government stance were targeted as well.
For most people, the 1950s brings to mind images of poodle skirts, phone booths stuffed with teenagers and children running willy-nilly with small mammal hides on their heads, but when it comes to privacy, the 50s were a pretty sinister time. Especially if you were, uh, anyone who disagreed with the government in any way at all.
Your ass is grass, Beatnik. Which, incidentally, is what you'll be going to jail for.
COINTELPRO inserted spies into Martin Luther King Jr.'s inner circle to report on all his movements and activities, and it effectively destroyed the Black Panther Party by encouraging armed action against other black nationalist groups, smear campaigns against key members and outright targeted attacks. The result was that the group became splintered and the rest of the country didn't take them seriously as a political force.
Even though COINTELPRO activities were exposed and banned by the '70s, we still see little baby COINTELPRO efforts pop up today, like when the FBI targeted "domestic terrorist organizations" like Greenpeace and PETA along with evil Quakers. Or when one Obama adviser suggested infiltrating conspiracy theory message boards with secret agents who would discredit "false conspiracy theories about the government." Because apparently, people on conspiracy theory message boards would never appreciate the irony.
Queue 4 billion angry comments about the definition of irony.
If you're looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday night, Google the words "fluoride" and "Nazi." What you'll find is that, according to many, many conspiracy theorists, the Third Reich fluoridated the water of concentration campers to keep them docile. What you'll also learn is that a buttload of people think that modern governments are doing the same thing when they put fluoride in tap water. And that's just the tip of the contaminated iceberg; nearly everything from artificial sweeteners (forced on the American people by Donald Rumsfeld!) to vaccines (a government plot to sterilize the populace!) are secret efforts by the government to poison the population in an effort to control us.
Much like the Moon Pie.
Why It's Not So Crazy
OK, all of that stuff is probably bullshit. But during Prohibition, the government wanted a way to discourage people from drinking alcohol beyond the traditional "arrest everyone caught with it" method. So, they did exactly what the conspiracy wackjobs accuse them of today: The government intentionally put poison in it. They apparently thought this would be a deterrent, but they VASTLY underestimated the population's desire to get drunk. By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program had killed at least 10,000 people.
But hey, at least they were sober corpses.
Yes, that happened. And that wasn't the last time Uncle Sam tried his hand at contaminating our favorite intoxicants. In the 1970s, the American government sprayed marijuana fields in Mexico with a toxic chemical called paraquat. Mexican pot growers quickly learned that if they harvested their plants immediately after spraying, the chemical wouldn't kill off their crops. As a result, tons of pesticide-laced pot got mixed in with regular pot, then shipped to the U.S. at a time when doobie toking was the national pastime.
The government brushed off criticism of its paraquat program as it only causes pulmonary fibrosis when taken orally and "throat bleeding" when inhaled. And really, who couldn't use a little throat bleeding now and again?
"No man, that's just how Red Phlegm Kush works its magic."
Experts like Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame have tried to warn the world of the evil government program to spray chemicals on the general population from the skies. Google "chemtrails" and you'll find more than 3 million results of people talking about this conspiracy, with believers claiming that the chemicals are for population control, or weather control, or that the chemicals are causing respiratory illnesses.
"It killed my hair!"
And then we've all heard how AIDS was invented by the CIA to wipe out gays and black people.
Why It's Not So Crazy
Not only has the federal government secretly tested biological warfare on U.S. citizens, they've actually killed someone while doing it. During the Cold War, the U.S. government put serious research into entomological warfare and by "research," we mean they "dumped 300,000 mosquitoes over the state of Georgia to see what would happen." The mosquitoes weren't infected with yellow fever or anything. The just wanted to see if they hypothetically could use yellow fever infected mosquitoes to kill vast swaths of people.
No, Internet, "yellow fever" isn't just the slang term for an Asian fetish.
And that was just the tip of the "secretly testing biological agents on private citizens" iceberg. Military records reveal there were 239 open-air tests of biological agents on the American public, including the 1966 dusting of the New York Subway system with a cousin of anthrax, the release of a cloud of allegedly harmless bacteria over San Francisco Bay in 1950 and the spraying of passengers with a different bacterium at National Airport in Washington, D.C.
After the San Francisco bacteria bomb, 11 people ended up in hospitals with rare urinary tract infections, and one man died. And while the New Yorkers and Washingtonians weren't exposed to bacteria that were debilitating to healthy people, the germs were dangerous to anyone who already had a compromised immune system. And considering that one of the attacks was on random people in an airport, we'll never know who got sick and died because of the tests.
That's right, kids. Everything the crazy people have ever said is now officially true.
But hey, have a nice flight.
For more of Eric Yosomono's writing, visit Gaijinass.
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To read read more theories straight out of a crazy person's journal, check out 5 Insane Pop Culture Conspiracy Theories That Are Actually Pretty Convincing.