A conspiracy theory attributes the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social or historical events), or the concealment of such causes from public knowledge, to a secret and often deceptive plot by a group of powerful or influential people or organizations. Many conspiracy theories state that major events in history have been dominated by conspirators who manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes.
The term "conspiracy theory" may be a neutral descriptor for any conspiracy
claim. To conspire
means "to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end. However, conspiracy theory
is also used to indicate a narrative genre
that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies, any of which might have far-reaching social and political implications if true.
The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates to the year 1909. Originally it was a neutral term but during the political upheaval of the 1960s it acquired its current derogatory sense. It entered the supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary as late as 1997.
In an early essay by Daniel Pipes "adapted from a study prepared for the CIA", Pipes attempts to pin down what beliefs distinguish 'the conspiracy mentality' from 'more conventional patterns of thought': appearances deceive; conspiracies drive history; nothing is haphazard; the enemy always gains; power, fame, money, and sex account for all .
The term "conspiracy theory" is frequently used by mainstream scholars and in popular culture to identify a type of folklore similar to an urban legend, especially an explanatory narrative which is constructed with particular methodological flaws. The term is also used pejoratively to dismiss claims that are alleged by critics to be misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish, irrational, or otherwise unworthy of serious consideration.
The term also draws on the popular, but mistaken, interpretation of the scientific term "theory" as "an unproven hypothesis". So, an essential element of a "conspiracy theory" in its normal usage is that the conspiracy should not be generally recognised. In relation to the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup, for example, numerous participants were convicted of conspiracy charges. But the term "Watergate conspiracy theory" does not normally refer to the generally accepted theory advanced by the prosecution in those cases, but to alternative theories positing, for example, that the "Deep Throat" source was a fabrication
A world view that centrally places conspiracy theories in the unfolding of history is sometimes termed "conspiracism". The historian Richard Hofstadter
addressed the role of paranoia
and conspiracism throughout American history
in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics
, published in 1964. Bernard Bailyn's
classic The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
(1967) notes that a similar phenomenon could be found in America during the time preceding the American Revolution
. The term conspiracism
was popularized by academic Frank P. Mintz
in the 1980s. Academic work in conspiracy theories and conspiracism presents a range of hypotheses as a basis of studying the genre. Among the leading scholars of conspiracism are: Hofstadter, Karl Popper
, Michael Barkun
, Robert Alan Goldberg
, Daniel Pipes
, Mark Fenster
, Mintz, Carl Sagan
, George Johnson
, and Gerald Posner
According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes: "belief in the primacy of conspiracies in the unfolding of history":
"Conspiracism serves the needs of diverse political and social groups in America and elsewhere. It identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, and assumes that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power. As such, conspiracy theories do not typify a particular epoch or ideology".
Throughout human history, political and economic leaders genuinely have been the cause of enormous amounts of death and misery, and they sometimes have engaged in conspiracies while at the same time promoting conspiracy theories about their targets. Hitler and Stalin would be merely the most prominent examples; there have been numerous others. In some cases there have been claims dismissed as conspiracy theories that later proved to be true. (for examples, see "Conspiracies vs. conspiracy theories") The idea that history itself is controlled by large long-standing conspiracies is rejected by historian Bruce Cumings:
"But if conspiracies exist, they rarely move history; they make a difference at the margins from time to time, but with the unforeseen consequences of a logic outside the control of their authors: and this is what is wrong with 'conspiracy theory.' History is moved by the broad forces and large structures of human collectivities.
The term conspiracism is used in the work of Michael Kelly, Chip Berlet, and Matthew N. Lyons.
According to Berlet and Lyons, "Conspiracism is a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm".
Conspiracy theories are the subject of broad critique by academics
, and the media
Perhaps the most contentious aspect of a conspiracy theory is the problem of settling a particular theory's truth to the satisfaction of both its proponents and its opponents. Particular accusations of conspiracy vary widely in their plausibility, but some common standards for assessing their likely truth value may be applied in each case :
- Occam's razor - does the alternative story explain more of the evidence than the mainstream story, or is it just a more complicated and therefore less useful explanation of the same evidence?
- Logic - Do the proofs offered follow the rules of logic, or do they employ Fallacies of logic?
- Methodology - are the proofs offered for the argument well constructed, i.e., using sound methodology? Is there any clear standard to determine what evidence would prove or disprove the theory?
- Whistleblowers - how many people — and what kind — have to be loyal conspirators?
- Falsifiability - Is it possible to demonstrate that specific claims of the theory are false, or are they "unfalsifiable"?
The US academic Noam Chomsky contrasts conspiracy theory as more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behaviour of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, e.g. scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.
It is noted that, just as conspiracy theories can be criticised upon the basis that they make rational assumptions about the behaviour of individuals or groups, as in the rationality (assumptions which are borne out in a scientific and rational manner by both everyday experience and history), they could also be appraised upon that basis.
- Occam's razor - The major contradictory nature of Occam's razor which is of importance when analysing a crucial 'centrality' or crux of a certain conformation of events is that, just becasue the scientific method often relies upon the notion that the simplest theories can be used to describe the greatest complexity of phenomena, a notion which is transferred to socio-political occurrences when applying Occam's razor to political events, it does not automatically follow that, within socio-political phenomena situations at least, the simplest theory is necessarily superior to a marginally more complex one. Rather, a more correct way of framing an application of Occam's razor would rely upon a consideration of all economically feasible/'reasonably' feasible events which could have led to a certain outcome (possibly in analogy with, for example, the fact that it is not always possible to specify a chemical reaction mechanism from simplistic reaction kinetics data by considering the simplest possible chemical reaction mechanism - rather, a set of mechanisms would need to be considered).
Aside from controversies
over the merits of particular conspiracy claims (see catalog
below), the general discussion of conspiracy theory is itself
a matter of some public contestation.
The term "conspiracy theory" is considered by different observers to be a neutral description for a conspiracy claim, a pejorative term used to dismiss such a claim without examination, and a term that can be positively embraced by proponents of such a claim. The term may be used by some for arguments they might not wholly believe but consider radical and exciting. The most widely accepted sense of the term is that which popular culture and academic usage share, certainly having negative implications for a narrative's probable truth value.
Given this popular understanding of the term, it can also be used illegitimately and inappropriately, as a means to dismiss what are in fact substantial and well-evidenced accusations. The legitimacy of each such usage will therefore be a matter of some controversy. Michael Parenti, in his 1996 essay which examines the role of progressive media in the use of the term, "The JFK Assassination II: Conspiracy Phobia On The Left", states,
- "It is an either-or world for those on the Left who harbor an aversion for any kind of conspiracy investigation: either you are a structuralist in your approach to politics or a 'conspiracist' who reduces historical developments to the machinations of secret cabals, thereby causing us to lose sight of the larger systemic forces.
Certain proponents of conspiracy claims and their supporters argue that the term is entirely illegitimate, and should be considered just as politically manipulative as the Soviet practice of treating political dissidents as clinically insane.
But critics of this view claim that the argument bears little weight and that the claim itself serves to expose the paranoia common with conspiracy theorists. A similar complication occurs for terms such as UFO, which literally means "unidentified flying object" but connotes alien spacecraft, a concept also associated with some conspiracy theories, and thus possessing a certain social stigma. Michael Parenti gives an example of the use of the term which underscores the conflict in its use. He states,
- "In most of its operations, the CIA is by definition a conspiracy, using covert actions and secret plans, many of which are of the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies? At the same time, the CIA is an institution, a structural part of the national security state. In sum, the agency is an institutionalized conspiracy.
The term "conspiracy theory" is itself the object of a type of conspiracy theory, which argues that those using the term are manipulating their audience to disregard the topic under discussion, either in a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth, or as dupes of more deliberate conspirators.
When conspiracy theories are offered as official claims (e.g. originating from a governmental authority, such as an intelligence agency) they are not usually considered as conspiracy theories. For example, certain activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee may be considered to have been an official attempt to promote a conspiracy theory, yet its claims are seldom referred to as such.
Further difficulties arise from ambiguity regarding the term theory. In popular usage, this term is often used to refer to unfounded or weakly-based speculation, leading to the idea that "It's not a conspiracy theory if it's actually true".
Proven historical conspiracies
Despite the speculative nature of many conspiracy theories,
mainstream world history contains numerous proven conspiracies,
some of which were not the subject of any widespread speculation
until they were exposed. Historical conspiracies include:
Some theorists, like Charles Pigden argue that the reality of such conspiracies should caution against any casual dismissal of conspiracy theory. Pigden, in his article "Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom" argues that not only do conspiracies occur but that any educated member of society will believe in at least one of them; we are all, in fact, Conspiracy Theorists. Authors and publishers, such as Robert Anton Wilson and Disinfo, use proven conspiracies as evidence of what a secret plot can accomplish. In doing so, they demonstrate that the label "conspiracy theory" does not necessarily indicate that a theory is false. Theories cited in making this case include those listed above as well as:
These arguments also suggest that interested readers do their own research to come to their own conclusions.
The argument is often advanced there cannot be a conspiracy without leakers or whistle blowers. Given the success of the British government in getting thousands of people to keep the ULTRA secret -- and thereby ensuring that no reliable history of World War II could be published until the 1970s -- it is apparent that this is not necessarily a reliable indicator.
Study of conspiracism
In 1936 American commentator H. L. Mencken wrote:
- The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy.
Belief in conspiracy theories has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore since at least the 1960s, when the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy eventually provoked an unprecedented public response directed against the official version of the case as expounded in the Report of the Warren Commission.
According to some psychologists
, a person who believes in one conspiracy theory tends to believe in others; a person who does not believe in one conspiracy theory tends not to believe another.
This may be caused by differences in the information upon which parties rely in formulating their conclusions.
Psychologists believe that the search for meaningfulness is common in conspiracism and the development of conspiracy theories, and may be powerful enough alone to lead to the first formulating of the idea. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where a conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part.
Some research carried out at the University of Kent, UK suggests people may be influenced by conspiracy theories without being aware that their attitudes have changed. After reading popular conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, participants in this study correctly estimated how much their peers' attitudes had changed, but significantly underestimated how much their own attitudes had changed to become more in favour of the conspiracy theories. The authors conclude that conspiracy theories may therefore have a 'hidden power' to influence people's beliefs.
Some historians have argued that there is an element of psychological projection
in conspiracism. This projection, according to the argument, is manifested in the form of attribution of undesirable characteristics of the self to the conspirators. Richard Hofstadter
, in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics
, stated that:
...it is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship... the Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.
Hofstadter also noted that "sexual freedom" is a vice frequently attributed to the conspiracist's target group, noting that "very often the fantasies of true believers reveal strong sadomasochistic outlets, vividly expressed, for example, in the delight of anti-Masons with the cruelty of Masonic punishments.
It is possible that certain basic human epistemic
biases are projected onto the material under scrutiny. According to one study humans apply a 'rule of thumb' by which we expect a significant event to have a significant cause. The study offered subjects four versions of events, in which a foreign president was (a) successfully assassinated, (b) wounded but survived, (c) survived with wounds but died of a heart attack at a later date, and (d) was unharmed. Subjects were significantly more likely to suspect conspiracy in the case of the 'major events' — in which the president died — than in the other cases, despite all other evidence available to them being equal.
Another epistemic 'rule of thumb' that can be misapplied to a mystery involving other humans is cui bono? (who stands to gain?). This sensitivity to the hidden motives of other people may be an evolved and universal feature of human consciousness.
For relatively rare individuals, an obsessive compulsion to believe, prove or re-tell a conspiracy theory may indicate one or more of several well-understood psychological conditions, and other hypothetical ones: paranoia
, mean world syndrome
represents conspiracy theories as the 'exhaust fumes of democracy', the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people. Other social commentators and sociologists argue that conspiracy theories are produced according to variables that may change within a democratic (or other type of) society.
Conspiratorial accounts can be emotionally satisfying when they place events in a readily-understandable, moral context. The subscriber to the theory is able to assign moral responsibility for an emotionally troubling event or situation to a clearly-conceived group of individuals. Crucially, that group does not include the believer. The believer may then feel excused of any moral or political responsibility for remedying whatever institutional or societal flaw might be the actual source of the dissonance.
Where responsible behavior is prevented by social conditions, or is simply beyond the ability of an individual, the conspiracy theory facilitates the emotional discharge or closure that such emotional challenges (after Erving Goffman) require. Like moral panics, conspiracy theories thus occur more frequently within communities that are experiencing social isolation or political dis-empowerment.
Mark Fenster argues that "just because overarching conspiracy theories are wrong does not mean they are not on to something. Specifically, they ideologically address real structural inequities, and constitute a response to a withering civil society and the concentration of the ownership of the means of production, which together leave the political subject without the ability to be recognized or to signify in the public realm" (1999: 67).
Sociological historian Holger Herwig found in studying German explanations for the origins of World War I:
- Those events that are most important are hardest to understand, because they attract the greatest attention from myth makers and charlatans.
This normal process could be diverted by a number of influences. At the level of the individual, pressing psychological needs may influence the process, and certain of our universal mental tools may impose epistemic 'blind spots'. At the group or sociological level, historic factors may make the process of assigning satisfactory meanings more or less problematic.
Alternatively, conspiracy theories may arise when evidence available in the public record does not correspond with the common or official version of events. In this regard, conspiracy theories may sometimes serve to highlight 'blind spots' in the common or official interpretations of events (Fenster, 1999).
Media commentators regularly note a tendency in news media and wider culture to understand events through the prism of individual agents, as opposed to more complex structural or institutional accounts. If this is a true observation, it may be expected that the audience which both demands and consumes this emphasis itself is more receptive to personalized, dramatic
accounts of social phenomena.
A second, perhaps related, media trope is the effort to allocate individual responsibility for negative events. The media have a tendency to start to seek culprits if an event occurs that is of such significance that it does not drop off the news agenda within a few days. Of this trend, it has been said that the concept of a pure accident is no longer permitted in a news item. Again, if this is a true observation, it may reflect a real change in how the media consumer perceives negative events.
In his two volume work The Open Society And Its Enemies, 1938–1943
, Popper used the term "conspiracy theory" to criticize the ideologies driving fascism
. Popper argued that totalitarianism was founded on "conspiracy theories" which drew on imaginary plots driven by paranoid scenarios predicated on tribalism, racism or classism. Popper did not argue against the existence of everyday conspiracies (as incorrectly suggested in much of the later literature). Popper even uses the term "conspiracy" to describe ordinary political activity in the classical Athens
(who was the principal target of his attack in The Open Society & Its Enemies
In his critique of Marx and the twentieth century totalitarians, Popper wrote, "I do not wish to imply that conspiracies never happen. On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena."
He reiterated his point, "Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted. But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproved the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy."
Popper proposed the term "the conspiracy theory of society" to criticize the methodology of Marx, Hitler and others whom he deemed to be deluded by "historicism" - the reduction of history to an overt and naive distortion via a crude formulaic analysis usually predicated on an agenda replete with unsound presuppositions.
The contemporary form of anti-Semitism
is identified in Britannica 1911 as a conspiracy theory serving the self-understanding of the European aristocracy
, whose social power waned with the rise of bourgeois
Antisemitic conspiracy theories have been conceived throughout history. According to Kenneth S. Stern,
"Historically, Jews have not fared well around conspiracy theories. Such ideas fuel anti-Semitism. The myths that Jews killed Christ, or poisoned wells, or killed Christian children to bake matzo, or made up the Holocaust, or plot to control the world, do not succeed each other; rather, the list of anti-Semitic canards gets longer. The militia movement today believes in the conspiracy theory of the Protocols, even if some call it something else and never mention Jews. From the perspective of history, we know that this is the type of climate in which anti-Semitism can grow.
- Extraterrestrials are being hidden by governments either to preserve public order or as part of a deal between aliens and a secret government. The Robertson Panel guidelines are cited AS govt. policy placed to ridicule people who have seen a flying saucer, aliens, or both. The "Secret Government" conspiracy is a major theme of the popular The X-Files TV show.
- 9/11 conspiracy theories, theories which attempt to explain what happened with the September 11, 2001 attacks, such as elements within the intelligence community committing a psychological warfare operation or to allow the US to attack Iraq in 'retaliation'.
- In kind, theories which attempt to explain a connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11, 2001 attacks, as a result of having had "President Bush and members of his administration suggested a link between the two in the months before the war in Iraq." Saddam, 9-11
- The John F. Kennedy assassination was an operation carried out by government officials and not Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. Oliver Stone's film JFK is based on this premise.
- The New World Order theories claiming a powerful and secretive group plans to institute a one-world government.
- World domination by Jews, one of the oldest extant conspiracy theories (often incorporating various existing or historical secret societies and most major conspiracy theories)
- The Apollo Moon-Landing Hoax Theory suggests that some or all elements of the Apollo missions were faked by NASA.
- The theory of Satanic ritual abuse, a widespread belief that a conspiracy of child molesters and Satanists are engaging in child sexual abuse.
- The Paul is Dead theory, stating that Paul McCartney of The Beatles died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike while clues were hidden in songs and album cover art.
- The Death of Marilyn Monroe who died in 1962. There are rumours that Marilyn was actually murdered by the government to keep her from telling the world information she learned while having an apparent affair with U.S. President John F. Kennedy or that she was murdered by the mob to settle a score with the Kennedys.
- The supposed death of US rapper Tupac Shakur is surrounded by many conspiracy theories that he is actually still alive and healthy. The most popular is The Seven Day Theory.
Because of their dramatic potential, conspiracies are a popular theme in thrillers and science fiction. Complex history is recast as a morality play in which bad people cause bad events, and good people identify and defeat them. Fictional conspiracy theories offer neat, intuitive narratives, in which the conspirators' plot fits closely the dramatic needs of the story's plot. As mentioned above, the cui bono? aspect of conspiracy theories resembles one element of mystery stories: the search for a possibly hidden motive.
Dr. Strangelove was a 1964 comedy about modern nuclear warfare. The end of the world is precipitated by the delusions of General Jack D. Ripper who happens to be in control of a SAC nuclear air wing. General Ripper believes there is a Communist conspiracy which threatens to "sap and impurify" the "precious bodily fluids" of the American people with fluoridated water.
Conspiracy Theory is a 1997 thriller about a taxi driver (played by Mel Gibson) who publishes a newsletter in which he discusses what he suspects are government conspiracies, and it turns out that one or more of them are true.
The X-Files was a popular television show during the 1990s and early 2000s, which followed the investigations of two intrepid FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who were sometimes helped by a group of conspiracy theorists known as The Lone Gunmen. Many of the episodes dealt with a plot for alien invasion overseen by elements of the U.S. government, led by an individual known only as the Cigarette Smoking Man and an even more mysterious international "Syndicate". The famous tag line of the series, "The Truth Is Out There", can be interpreted as reference to the meaning-seeking nature of the genre discussed above.
Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum is a broad satire on conspiracism in which the characters attempt to construct an all-embracing conspiracy theory starting with the Templars and including the Bavarian Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, hollow Earth enthusiasts, the Cathars, and even the Jesuits.
The following people are known to have proposed conspiracy theories:
- Art Bell (born 1945) - American founder and longtime host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM.
- Jeff Rense - mainly UFO and 9-11 conspiracy theories
- Peter Beter (1921 - 1987) - American lawyer and author who claimed that world events were being controlled by three factions, the Rockefeller family, the "Bolshevik-Zionist axis," and the Kremlin.
- Mae Brussell (1922 - 1988) - American conspiracy theorist and radio personality, focusing on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
- William Guy Carr (1895 - 1959) - Canadian naval officer and author responsible for creating the American Illuminati demonology.
- Jack T. Chick (born 1924) - American publisher of comic book-style tracts, known as Chick Tracts, often depicting conspiracy theories featuring Satan, the Catholic Church, Communists, Muslims, rock musicians, scientists, and politicians, as well as other groups and subjects behind popular entertainment, role-playing games, and other perceived ills of modern culture.
- Alex Collier - Former IRS auditor claiming to be in contact with aliens from Andromeda. His works incorporate everything from 9-11, New World Order, greys, reptelians, mood bases and life on mars.
- James Shelby Downard (1913 - 1998) - American author who perceived occult symbolism, twilight language and synchronicity behind historical events in the 20th century.
- David Emory - American talk radio host who asserts that an obscure, sinister, organization called the "Underground Reich" maintains the interests of the German industry, banking and finance, which survived World War II as a major part of the global capital elite.
- Myron C. Fagan (1887 - 1972) - American writer, producer and director for film and theatre, who wrote and produced plays and pamphlets claiming the United Nations was a Communist front for one world government.
- Francis E. Dec (1926 - 1996) - Disbarred American lawyer from Hempstead, New York who is today known for having in the 1970s and 80s mass-mailed various rambling flyers and rants to randomly selected addressees all across the US, in which he purported to warn the public of an omnipotent machine-entity he referred to as the "World-wide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God."
- Des Griffin - American author espousing a right-wing Christian view of global conspiracies and the New World Order.
- Patrick Haseldine (born 1942) - former British diplomat, dismissed in 1989 by the Thatcher government for writing a letter to The Guardian on 7 December 1988. His subsequent conspiracy theory seeking to incriminate apartheid South Africa over the 21 December 1988 Lockerbie bombing alleged that the aircraft was downed in order to assassinate Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia.
- Stanley Hilton - American lawyer who filed a subsequently dismissed $7-billion lawsuit against Bush Administration officials, accusing them of complicity in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
- Richard Hoagland (born 1945) - American pseudoscientist and author whose books claim that advanced civilizations exist or once existed on the Moon and Mars, and NASA and the United States government are conspiring to keep this secret. Latest theories of this nature include the Jovian satellite Europa and what he claims killed the Columbia shuttle astronauts.
- Michael A. Hoffman II (born 1954) - American historian who posits conspiracies about Jewish control of the United States and about the Holocaust.
- Leonard G. Horowitz - American author, former dentist, who claimed in a book, Emerging Viruses, that HIV/AIDS was engineered by the U.S. as a biological warfare agent. Reportedly inspired Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to caution against vaccinating children; mentioned by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in support of Wright's similar claim.
- David Icke (born 1952) - British writer and public speaker who claims that the world is ruled by a secret group called the "Global Elite" or "Illuminati," which he has linked to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
- Alex Jones (radio)
- Timothy F. LaHaye (born 1926) - joint author, with Jerry F. Jenkins, of the Left Behind novels.
- Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. (born 1922) - American activist and self-styled politician whose publications rail against what he calls "Synarchism" and who, in spite of having received a felony conviction for mail fraud, has repeatedly sought election--thus far, without success--to the office of President of the United States.
- G. Edward Griffin
- Rauni-Leena Luukanen-Kilde
- Jim Marrs
- Texe Marrs
- Jordan Maxwell
- Thierry Meyssan
- Gary North
- Roberto Pinotti
- Lew Rockwell
- Christopher W. Ruddy
- Ben Stein (born 1944) - former Nixon speechwriter turned actor/game show host, whose movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" alleges a vast conspiracy among modern scientists to squelch evidence for creationism in order to promote atheism. He has also equated modern science with the eugenics movement and Nazi Germany. Stein has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for trivializing and mis-representing the origins of the Holocaust in order to further his conspiracy theories. Stein has responded to these criticisms by saying, "It's none of their fucking business."
- John A. Stormer
- Webster Tarpley
- Michael Tsarion
- Robert Anton Wilson
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- Icke, David (2004). And the Truth Shall Set You Free: The 21st Century Edition. Bridge of Love. ISBN 0-9538810-5-9.
- Levenda, Peter (2005). Sinister Forces: Trilogy. Trine Day. ISBN 0-9752906-2-2.
- Marrs, Texe (1996). Project L.U.C.I.D.: The Beast 666 Universal Human Control System. Living Truth Publishers. ISBN 1-884302-02-5.
- Tudge, Robin, and James McConnachie (2005). The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-445-2
- Pelley, William Dudley (1950). Star Guests: Design for Mortality. Noblesville, Indiana: Soulcraft Press.
- Robertson, Pat (1992). The New World Order. W Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8499-3394-3.
- Wilson, Robert Anton (2002). TSOG: The Thing That Ate the Constitution, Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications. ISBN 1-56184-169-2
- Yallop, David A. (1984). In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I. New York: Bantam Dell Publishing Group. ISBN 0-553-05073-7
- York, Byron (2005). The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President - and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time. New York: Crown Forum. ISBN 1-4000-8238-2
- Conspiracies, Conspiracy Theories and the Secrets of 9/11, by Mathias Bröckers. Sees conspiracy as a fundamental principle between cooperation and competition. Proposes a new science of "conspirology."