5 Conspiracy Theories That Are Shockingly Easy to Debunk
Just about every major event in history has a conspiracy theory attached to it, whether you've heard of it or not. It's just that most of them remain known only to the hardcore "we'll believe anything" true believers, where others, like the ones below, pick up real traction.
But even among theories like these (which count their believers in the millions), you find that the whole thing is usually based on some embarrassingly simple misunderstanding. For example ...
The JFK Assassination Is Explained by How the Targets Were Sitting
If you've seen Oliver Stone's JFK, then you'll remember the climactic scene in which Kevin Costner "proves" that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy by demonstrating the impossible path of Oswald's shot, which he sarcastically dubs "the magic bullet."
"I suspect warlocks are somehow involved."
The problem, according to those who believe in the conspiracy theory, is that Kennedy and Governor John Connally (who was seated in front of him) both suffered a constellation of wounds on their bodies from what the official investigation claims was a single bullet fired by Oswald. For this to be possible, the bullet would have had to curve around in midair several times, in multiple directions.
Since this openly defies the laws of physics, there must have been another shooter on the grassy knoll, or maybe the limo driver did it, or perhaps it was space lasers from a Nazi base on the moon. In Stone's film and elsewhere, you see it accompanied by a diagram like this:
Our guess? Connally had one of those shoulder magnets that were all the rage back then.
The Simple Misunderstanding:
JFK and Connally weren't sitting like that.
The people who draw up these diagrams invariably put Connally at an equal height to and seated directly in front of Kennedy. That's where they'd be sitting if they were two ordinary dudes riding in an ordinary sedan, but the problem is that this sedan happened to be carrying one ordinary dude and the president of the United States.
The people who are paid to arrange this kind of thing knew who the people in the crowd were really there to see, and it wasn't Governor Connally. So to prevent Connally from blocking the view of the president, he was put in a little jump seat, which was both set off from and lower than Kennedy's position. So they were actually sitting like this:
If only JFK had called shotgun.
If you think that's a convenient story trumpeted out to explain away the mysterious curving bullet, don't just take our word for it. That diagram was drawn from a photograph taken from behind Kennedy (the photographer was "Betzner") in which you can clearly see that Connally is either a hunchbacked dwarf or in a very strange sitting position:
Or else you can just look at a photograph of the inside of the car:
It's like someone put a booster seat on the floor or something.
You'll also notice that Kennedy and Connally weren't sitting rigid and facing forward like robots, as the conspiracy theorists suggest, but were twisted in their seats and waving at the audience as though, like, they were at a parade of some kind. Rearrange their bodies that way, and the path of the bullet -- Oswald's bullet -- goes straight through them. Just like it should.
The Pearl Harbor Conspiracy Relies on a Terrible Understanding of Politics
Conspiracy theories didn't begin with Kennedy. Look back through history and you'll find that any time some disgruntled foreign agent ever committed an atrocity on American soil, there were people screaming "false flag!" -- meaning the government intentionally staged the attack to drum up support for some kind of evil foreign policy, or, at the very least, intentionally let it happen for the same reason.
All of those red coats are really George Washington.
Take Pearl Harbor. After the Japanese air force launched a surprise attack on the American fleet in 1941, it became a widespread belief among conspiracy authors that President Roosevelt knew the attack was going to take place, but allowed it to go ahead. Why? Quite simply, he had a hard-on for war with Germany, but didn't have the public support for it. Since Hitler had signed a pact with Japan, war with either of them meant war with both, and allowing everyone at Pearl Harbor to be murdered would give FDR all the public support he needed to enter the war. He could spank Hitler's ass while still looking like the victim.
The Simple Misunderstanding:
The Tripartite Pact, the pact between Japan, Germany, and Italy, was a defensive alliance only. That means Hitler was under no obligation to attack the United States just because his idiot friends did.
"C'mon, guys, seriously?"
Of course, Germany did declare war after Pearl Harbor, but it had nothing to do with the idea that Hitler's hand was forced by some deal he had with Japan. Instead, he cited the Lend-Lease Act and American naval activity as his reasons. That's because Roosevelt was already pissing Hitler off by ordering his destroyers to sink German submarines on sight while at the same time escorting boatloads of weapons and supplies to Hitler's enemies.
It's true that Roosevelt was pretty keen to enter the war against Germany ... to the point where he actually didn't want to go to war with Japan because a war in the Pacific would distract him from his German hate-boner.
A boner that usually made him too nervous to stand.
And speaking of "false flag" attacks ...
The World Trade Center Did Not Collapse at "Free-Fall Speed"
Because it occurred in the Internet era, the 9/11 World Trade Center attack is the one historical event that has generated more conspiracy theories than the Kennedy assassination. There are tons of equally crazy variations of the theory, but they all come down to the curious way the towers fell.
"This is clearly a murder/suicide. The South Tower was jealous of the North Tower's hat."
Conspiracy theorists say the buildings fell at "free-fall speed," meaning that they didn't just slowly crumble away or tip over like you might expect, but that the whole damn things just fell down at once, like a house of cards. That, they say, proves that the towers were wired with explosives by the U.S. government. Why else would sturdy skyscrapers just collapse in a puff of smoke like that?
The Simple Misunderstanding:
When somebody tells you that the towers fell at "free-fall speed," they're more or less pulling that out of their ass. Or at least, they're referencing some other conspiracy theorists who pulled it out of their ass. They're not referencing any kind of scientific theory or measurement; they're just timing the fall as they watch YouTube videos and declaring that it looks different from how it plays out in their imagination. In other words, they don't actually know what they mean by "free fall" except that the buildings seem to be falling more quickly than they'd expect from the almost certainly zero controlled demolitions they've seen before.
Structural engineering is probably one of those "gut" things anyway.
Most of the video of the actual collapse is filmed in Cloverfield-style shaky-cam, but if you watch any of the still-camera footage, you can debunk the free-fall claim simply from the fact that there's debris coming off the tower that's falling faster than the tower is. We've known that objects free fall at the same speed ever since Galileo dropped some balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so that more or less puts the kibosh on the whole free-fall business.
Part of the problem is that the Twin Towers were basically big, featureless rectangles that made it look like the whole thing was falling at once. Conspiracy theorists like Rosie O'Donnell like to rattle off statistics like how the towers fell in nine seconds, which just happens to be free-fall speed. But nine seconds is more likely the amount of time that Rosie put into researching the issue, because if she'd actually timed the collapse, she would have found that the towers took about 15 and 22 seconds to collapse, well short of free-fall speed. But then, that's why very few engineering graduates cite Rosie O'Donnell as a source.
She is, however, considered a reputable expert on the Crimean War.
As for why the buildings collapsed at all, that has to do with the way they were designed and their resulting inability to stand up to the horrific fires caused by the crashes. As for why the buildings weren't designed to withstand this kind of attack, it's because the world can only do so much to protect you from unthinkable horrors, and nothing will change that.
Kurt Cobain's Suicide Was Not That Mysterious
Every celebrity who dies before their time winds up with a conspiracy theory surrounding their death, because that's how we avoid having to admit to ourselves that we're mortal and people just die sometimes. The most famous theory, besides the one about how Elvis is alive and well and working at a gas station somewhere, is the theory that Kurt Cobain was actually murdered -- possibly by his wife, Courtney Love.
The famed teetotaller Christian rock star.
Conspiracy theorists argue first of all that Cobain's suicide note looks partially forged -- the bits at the end, where he breaks his rambling diatribe about nothing to actually make clear that this is a suicide note, look like they're in different handwriting:
And then there's the fact that he was high on heroin when he pulled the trigger. Really high -- three times a fatal dose, according to authorities. So they're asking us to believe that Cobain, a man who was already dead three times over, somehow committed suicide and killed himself again? Bullshit -- she murdered him and put the gun in his hands.
With Kurt out of the way, Courtney stood to inherit a sweater collection worth dozens of dollars.
The Simple Misunderstanding:
First of all, despite the "three times the lethal amount" number that gets thrown around, judging how much heroin somebody pumped into himself at the time of death isn't an exact science. Interpreting that data requires experts to correct for the user's addiction history, because heroin addicts build tolerance fast. And regular users retain some drug byproducts in their system, so the test might also be picking up some of last night's binge as well. So was Cobain using often enough to skew the results? Actually, Cobain's tolerance to the drug was so insanely high that the amount he had in his system was probably a pretty standard nightcap for him. Kurt Cobain was really, really good at heroin, is what we're saying.
As for the note, forensic experts looked at that already because they're kind of paid to make sure murders don't get written off as fake suicides, and what they found was, well ... Kurt wrote it.
It's true that the last part of the note looks like it was written by a 5-year-old, and Courtney Love does sort of fit that description. But then, it would also make sense if it had been written by Cobain as he was deteriorating from, for example, some kind of substance he was putting into his body. We'll let you figure out what that might have been.
The Moon Landing "Hoax" Is Just a Series of Misunderstood Photos
Few conspiracy theories have gotten as much attention (and as many television specials) as the moon landing hoax theory. It asserts that the American government, terrified of being perceived as failures and having the Russians show them up during the height of the Cold War, faked the moon landing by filming it in a studio on Earth.
Amid the dozens of supposed smoking guns in the photos of the event, you have the fact that the American flag that the Apollo astronauts planted seems to be blowing in the wind ... and there's no air on the moon! The Illuminati sure goofed on that one! Look at the fabric rippling in the breeze:
C'mon, Illuminated Seers of Bavaria. Details matter. I think we're all a little ashamed of you right now.
Then there's the fact that none of the photographs taken on the "moon" have any stars in them, obviously because those idiots forgot to wire up the fairy lights to the ceiling of the studio. And then there's the puzzle of the so-called C-rock -- one particularly astute observer noticed that one of the rocks from the moon images has the letter "C" printed on it, proving that it was a prop that they forgot to cover up. Man, it's like they hired Ed Wood to put this thing together.
The "C" stands for "Neil Armstrong's Cock." He wrote it on everything.
The Simple Misunderstanding:
Looking past the fact that any moon landing hoaxer worth their salt would probably decorate the set with actual rocks instead of fake ones with random letters scrawled on them, the images of the notorious C-rock are reproductions of the photos they actually took. And, surprise surprise, the original photos don't show the C. That's because it's not in the pictures at all, but, upon close examination, appears to be a piece of hair dropped on the film during retouching (actually it looks like a pubic hair -- the fact that the photo editor rubbed his balls on it is the real conspiracy).
He was just imitating what Buzz Aldrin did to every moon rock.
But what about those missing stars? They're supposed to be in space! That's basically nothing but stars. Well, it's hard to tell, but the photographs from the moon landing were taken during the daytime. The moon daytime. The moon may not have a big, pretty blue sky to indicate day, but the shining power of that big orb in the sky has the same effect on the stars.
Finally, there's that damning image of the flag, all waving and shit like it doesn't even care that there's no wind on the moon. It seems like the hoaxers of the moon landing were so distracted by their desire to make the most patriotic image ever that they just blew a gale into the studio, stopping just short of releasing a bald eagle to fly across the scene.
"Can we get a bust of John Wayne in there? Maybe a handgun, too."
But the truth is that the rippled flag is totally stationary. NASA designed the flagpole to extend outward so that the flag could hang straight out, precisely because there's no wind on the moon and they didn't want it to turn into a shapeless wad in zero gravity. Unfortunately, the extending part got stuck and the flag got wrinkled during the trip up there. It just so happened that it looked super cool, so the astronauts said fuck it, and subsequent trips to the moon had their flags designed that way on purpose. Or else it was just to mess with people.
Douglas A. McDonnell wants to dedicate this to the loving memory of his mother. I love you mom.
For more actual conspiracies that'll make you soil yourself, check out 7 Insane Conspiracies (That Actually Happened) and 6 Insane Conspiracy Theories (That Actually Happened).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Reasons the 'Diet Soda vs. Meth' Dental Study is B.S..
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