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There's no shortage of conspiracy theories in the world. You can hop on Facebook right now and read about how 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the same shady group that sank the Titanic and gave the Baha Men a Grammy. However, it turns out that many of the bullshit conspiracy theories you've heard of were created by actual conspiracies, like some kind of conspiracy Inception meant to further a specific goal through the spread of misinformation.

That's right: There is often a secret agenda at work ... it's just not the one the conspiracy theory claims. For example ...

The "AIDS Was Created By The US Government" Conspiracy Theory Was KGB Propaganda

Jgaray/Wiki Commons

The Conspiracy Theory:

Ever since the AIDS epidemic began, there have been people who believed that the disease is some kind of biological weapon manufactured by the American government for use against its own people. According to some polls, a large number of people suspect that AIDS is man-made and designed to wipe out certain groups of "undesirables," such as the gay and black communities.

Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
And to weaken the British monarchy.

Of course, any tragic event, from AIDS to 9/11 to a New Kids on the Block reunion, is going to bring out a few nuts who think that the government and/or lizard people are directly responsible. But this particular theory got a little help from Soviet Russia.

The Real Conspiracy:

In 1980, the CIA estimated that the KGB was spending $3 billion every year on the singular goal of fucking with the American people's heads. This included concocting conspiracy theories about the US government and seeding them among the population in an attempt to break the people's trust.

Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images
They failed, and today, the government is trusted by all.

We've already revealed that the KGB helped disseminate the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory long before Oliver Stone. And in 1992, former Russian intelligence chief / Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov admitted that they had also manufactured the idea that AIDS was developed by the US military -- a theory which it seems was too nutty for even Oliver Stone to bother with.

Because they also apparently had a good eye for marketing and the importance of branding, the Soviets dubbed their campaign "Operation INFEKTION." They started by planting suggestions that AIDS outbreaks in various countries were the result of U.S. biological weapons testing in worldwide media that they secretly controlled, such as newspapers, radio broadcasts, and even pornography (evidently to catch that demographic that doesn't read newspapers). Then the Russians published even more articles that referenced the original misinformation to create the illusion that this was all totally well-sourced.

Which would have been so much easier if they had the Internet.

Eventually, East German biophysicist Jakob Segal fell for the hoax, and began publishing his own in-depth articles about how the American government had totally engineered AIDS. Segal claimed that the CIA paid him a visit and threatened him to keep his mouth shut. This seems unlikely, considering how nothing he was writing was true, so either he made the meeting up out of whole cloth or the "CIA agents" were KGB agents in disguise working a kind of reverse psychology. In any case, it worked: Segal's impressive credentials gave the theory the legitimacy it needed, and the conspiracy theory finally blew up.

However, when AIDS inevitably spread to Russia, Soviet scientists were forced to consult with American researchers on how to fight and contain the disease. The whole "AIDS was engineered by America" thing made cooperation a little awkward, so the Russian media took a 180-degree turn on the issue and began loudly discrediting the US-AIDS connection they had spent so much time and energy creating. Unfortunately, like any good rumor, the story was well out of the KGB's hands by this point, and the idea persists to this day. (Note: You cannot kill a good conspiracy theory.)

Hitler Believed In A "Jewish Conspiracy" Partly Because He Fell For A Propaganda Hoax

Heinrich Hoffmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Conspiracy Theory:

Believe it or not, Hitler wasn't the one who came up with the "Jews are trying to take over the world" line. He was taken in himself by a pamphlet called The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, which were supposedly the leaked minutes of a meeting between the secret Jewish puppet masters of world affairs, which presumably took place in a high castle on the Moonraker space station.

Eon Productions
"If you look at it at the correct angle, it turns into the Star of David!"

The pamphlet turned out to be a lazy hoax that was plagiarized entirely from a piece of 19th-century satire. And though it may have been partly responsible for the Holocaust, it was written for a different purpose: easing political dissent in pre-Communist Russia.

The Real Conspiracy:

Pyotr Rachkovsky was the one of the 20th century's most badass spymasters / spin doctors. He was chief of the Foreign Bureau for the Russian Tsar's secret police (the Okhrana), and later head of the entire organization. One of their primary goals was to quash revolutionary groups who threatened the government. Declassified documents from the Okhrana which ended up in the CIA's hands mention Rachkovsky's agents infiltrating revolutionary groups all across Europe and even in the U.S., as well as covertly cutting deals for intricate plots with European governments and the Pope. Behind-the-scenes shenanigans, is what we're saying.

via Wiki Commons
Strange, because he looks so trustworthy.

But his schemes also included pioneering what spies would later call "active measures" or "perceptions management," which involved cultivating relationships with international journalists (sometimes even bribing them), and having them write fake news stories that fit Russian interests. The Okhrana was probably instrumental in the development of the Protocols document, which was intended to discourage Communist revolutionaries by suggesting that they were being used by the Jews to further their plot of world domination.

After all, no self-respecting revolutionary wants to think that their cause is a mere front for some secret regime. But why Jews? Well, anti-Semitism was already a thing, and the puppeteers had to be somebody. In an alternate reality, the Protocols might have been attributed to a secret cabal of librarians -- the Jews were simply where the dart landed.

XiFotos/iStock/Getty Images
There's no librarian conspiracy. They really are sexy.

Obviously, the Okhrana's plan didn't work. The Russian Revolution went down a few years later, undaunted by the imaginary Jewish conspiracy. But the Protocols document nevertheless wound up getting smuggled across the border to Europe into the hands of dangerous idiots, and the rest is terrible, terrible history.

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Rome's Claims Of A Christian Conspiracy Started Because The Emperor Needed To Pin A Catastrophic Fire On Someone

Hubert Robert

The Conspiracy Theory:

It's well-known that Christians had a hard time in Ancient Rome. Back when theirs was a minority religion, Christians were accused by the Romans of everything from eating babies in rituals (not a joke) to somehow causing natural disasters. As a result, many of them spent their final moments being fed to lions in an arena.

Jean-Leon Gerome
"Hakuna Matata" -- Matthew 6:25-34

The Real Conspiracy:

Remember how we said that you can't kill a conspiracy theory several paragraphs ago? Well, sometimes the only way to fight a conspiracy theory that's about you is to make up your own conspiracy demonizing some other group. In A.D. 64, the Great Fire of Rome ravaged the city, and after the flames were extinguished, the peasants started sharpening their pitchforks and pointing fingers. The popular rumor was that the emperor himself, Nero, had started the fire for shits and giggles, because he was the type of crazy that eats crickets and plays the fiddle while people are burning to death.

Henryk Siemiradzki
It was second-scariest rendition of "Dueling Banjos" ever.

That rumor has survived to modern times, and we've already discussed how it's bullshit (not only had the fiddle not been invented yet, but Nero was probably not even in Rome at the time). But the Romans of the era didn't have access to Google, so once they caught wind of the idea that Nero was responsible, ideas of revolution started to foment among the masses. The only way Nero could effectively counter this rising sentiment was to create a scapegoat, so he cunningly announced that the Christians had started the fire, providing the answer millennia before Billy Joel asked the question.

Shortly after, Roman officials began torturing Christians to solicit confessions out of them, and confessions they got. Because that's the great thing about torture: It's perfect for getting whatever answer you want, regardless of whether or not it's true. Once it was "established" that Christian terrorists were responsible for the Great Fire, it kick-started centuries of persecution that only ended once Constantine decided that Jesus was a pretty swell dude.

Jean-Christophe Benoist
Thanks to all the "Honk if you love Jesus" chariot stickers.

Meanwhile, whichever drunken asshole randomly dropped a candle in AD 64 has escaped the scorn of history.

"The Knights Templar Are A Sinister Illuminati" Story Was Created To Avoid A Debt

JoJan/Wiki Commons

The Conspiracy Theory:

Chances are the only reason you know about the Knights Templar is either that you've played Assassin's Creed or are a fan of Dan Brown's "historically accurate" novels (and by extension, a fan of Tom Hanks' historically accurate hair in the film adaptations). As we've already revealed, the Knights Templar weren't so much badass Crusader knights as they were bankers who protected the assets of pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land.

Alan Ford/Wiki Commons
This is the only case in which "banker" is the less evil option.

So how did the reputation of the Knights Templar evolve into them being some kind of secretive Illuminati who oppose the church and spread heretic ideas like Jesus having kids and whatnot? For that, you can thank the King of France and his giant debt.

The Real Conspiracy:

King Philip IV was once granted refuge by the Templars as he escaped an angry mob. But once inside their castle, he and his entourage proceeded to act like the worst kind of house guests, consuming an enormous amount of wine and food, as well as borrowing a massive sum of money from the wealthy Knights.

via Wiki Commons
"I swear, I'm good for it."
"... Is that a Burger King crown?"

Unfortunately, bankers are bankers no matter what era you live in and whether or not the client is a monarch, so Phillip was horrified when he was finally presented with the bill. But, being King, he reasoned "Why beg for a loan extension when you can simply have the people you borrowed from beaten to death?" So in 1307, that's exactly what he did -- he spread the decree that the Knights Templar were blasphemers and had them arrested en masse, torturing bogus confessions from the captive Templars that they practiced orgies, worshiped idols, and urinated on the cross for the sheer fun of it.

Giovanni Boccaccio
"Such audacity! And such aim!"

Pope Clement V denounced the accusations and formally absolved the Knights of all charges. He sent cardinals to France and England to help plead the Knights' case, but Phillip simply had them arrested as well.

In the end, the Pope, who was himself threatened by the King's wrath, decided to dissolve the Knights Templar for everyone's sake. This was seen as an official admission that the Templars were up to some next-level shadiness, and so their dubious reputation has remained to this day. As if people needed any more reasons to mistrust a group of international bankers.

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"Climate Change Is A Hoax" Was Secretly Created By Think Tanks Funded By The Oil Industry

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Conspiracy Theory:

One of the most enduring arguments against climate change is the idea that a cabal of environmentalists, left-wing politicians, and scientists are making the whole thing up. Paradoxically, the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue only makes the idea seem more legitimate, because what is "consensus" other than "conspiracy" by another name? They both start with "C" and have nearly the same number of letters. Case closed.

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Communist climatologists."

The Real Conspiracy:

However, the notion that climate change is all a big hoax perpetrated by the scientific community was first suggested by think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. "Think tank" is a phrase here meaning "a group of people parroting the opinions of whomever is paying them the most money," and as its name might suggest, the American Enterprise Institute was funded primarily by totally unbiased entities such as ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, who each dumped over $1 million into the project.

Andrew Toth/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"I'd like to buy the world!" -- a Koch

After a thorough amount of "research," the AEI came to the conclusion that climate scientists were collaborating to manufacture fear and didn't even believe in climate change themselves. The claim came after an anonymous hacker "leaked" over 5,000 emails sent between climate scientists in a "scandal" creatively known as "Climategate." The AEI declared: "The e-mails conclusively establish the intellectual dishonesty of the climate scientists at the [Climate Research Institute] and their co-conspirators."

Of course, what they neglected to clarify was that the e-mails did not show any disagreement over whether climate change was real -- the scientists were merely arguing over details in some of their algorithms. This is sort of like discovering a bunch of physicists arguing over equations and using that as evidence that gravity does not exist.

Peter Sherrard/The Image Bank/Getty Images
"If gravity exists, why'd that analogy go over my head? Checkmate, Newton."

Separate investigations by the British Parliament, Penn State, two different panels by the University of East Anglia, the EPA, and the Associated Press all cleared the researchers of any significant wrongdoing or data falsification. Even Senator Jim Inhofe grumpily accepted the findings, despite being a steadfast climate change skeptic himself.

But the AEI isn't the only oil-funded "think" tank to claim that climate scientists are engaged in some Snidely Whiplash plot to fool the populace. The Institute for Energy Research (which, through some strange coincidence, is also funded by Koch and Exxon) says that the sense of urgency about climate change is nothing but the product of researchers looking for funding, liberal politicians rallying support, the sensationalist media, and green companies trying to force their competitors out of the market. In fact, as detailed in a 2013 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the AEI and IER are just two of ten groups that are generously funded by fossil fuel corporations, and which consistently spread disinformation about global warming.

Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images
They started the rumor that polar bears are racist.

After the report came out, Exxon and Koch reduced their visible funding of such groups. It's probably a coincidence that these groups suddenly experienced a sudden corresponding spike in untraceable donations at the same time, channeled through middlemen groups of which Koch Industries is a known supporter, but we don't want those tree-hugging scientists to get away with lying to the public. After all, what would happen to the world if we suddenly made a serious effort to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and reduce the rate at which we belch pollutants into the environment?

No, seriously, what would happen?

Cancel all your plans on Feb. 3, because we're doing another LIVE podcast at the UCB Sunset Theatre at 7:00 p.m. Join Stanley Wong ("The Big Short"), Liana Maeby ("South On Highland"), Jack O'Brien, Dan O'Brien, and Alex Schmidt as they discuss the problems with the Academy Awards and what can be done to make everything right again. Get your tickets here!

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