Why Obama took out Bin Laden to get at The Donald. . . (and other conspiracy theories)
From 9/11 to KFC, it seems there's a crank story to explain any oddity. Ed Power looks at the best of them
Osama bin Laden is sunning himself on a beach somewhere. Barack Obama was born in a Kenya goat-shack and -- oh the horror! -- raised Muslim.
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami were triggered by a secret weather machine, punishment for Tokyo's refusal to kowtow to the cabal running the global economy.
Spend just a few minutes on the internet and it becomes obvious we live in the golden age of conspiracy theories. From climate change (concocted by Al Gore and grant-hungry scientists) to September 11 (a CIA plot to stir up resentment against the Arab world) there is, it seems, a crank hypothesis for everything.
"Conspiracy theories are filling in the vacuum left by religion, and offer people a way to reduce an increasingly complex world to a simple narrative," says Jamie Stanton of Skeptic Ireland, a group dedicated to debunking outlandish claims.
"People no longer trust the official narrative, and these offer a seemingly robust alternative. If you look at conspiracy literature, they use phrases like 'woken up' to describe their conversion to the conspiratorial world-view."
Read on for the definitive guide to modern conspiracy theories.
Strangest conspiracy theories
Obama took out bin Laden -- to get at Trump!
Barack Obama's shock press conference announcing the death of America's most wanted was aired on US television at the same time as Donald Trump's TV show The Apprentice.
A few weeks later, Trump, who had been loudly questioning whether Obama really was born in the US, dropped out of the Presidential race. Coincidence? Right-wing pundits in America aren't so sure.
The Royal Family Are from Outer space
Christine Fitzgerald, a confidante of the late Princess of Wales, has stated that, shortly before her death, Diana told her the Royals were all shape-shifting reptiles from another planet. It does explain that footage of the Queen catching a fly with her tongue last week...
Microsoft and new york Jews
'Wingdings' is a computer font that converts letters into visual symbols. Days after the release of Windows 3.1 in 1991, it was discovered that 'NYC' in Wingdings is rendered as a skull-and-crossbones symbol, a Star of David and a thumbs-up gesture. Microsoft insisted the arrangements of the symbols was entirely random.
Stephen King Shot John Lennon
The world thinks Mark Chapman was the murderer. But Steve Lightfoot believes horror writer King did it. With a little help from Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (who didn't like his lefty beatnik politics). The evidence is all there, says Lightfoot, in King's novels.
Scariest conspiracy theories
Plane Vapour Trails Contain Biological Weapons
This theory holds that contrails, the condensed trails of ice and water created by jet engines, result from biological agents sprayed at high altitude by a shadowy secret government called the New World Order.
And by the time we find out why, it will probably be too late.
AIDS is a man-made disease.
For the past 20 years rumours have circulated that AIDS was created in a secret lab as a bioweapon, possibly to wipe out the gay community. .
Israeli Chewing Gum is Making Palestinians More Promiscuous
Quite why Israel should wish to ratchet up the libidos of Palestinians is unclear. But this theory holds that this special gum was shipped by the tonne into Palestine.
Though some of the supposedly 'tainted' gum was found to be perfectly normal in lab tests, according to the Washington Post one in 10 Palestinians nonetheless believes the conspiracy.
Conspiracy theories that sounded true
Shakespeare Didn't Write His Own Plays
Few historical figures are as mired in murk as William Shakespeare. With little of substance known about the playwright, it has been claimed that many of 'his' plays were written by the likes of Christopher Marlowe and William Stanley, Earl of Derby. But while scholars have toiled at length to establish the truth, it has yet to be shown that any of these other writers actually had a hand in his work.
JFK Was Killed by the CIA/Mob/KGB
More than half of Americans believe JFK was killed in an elaborate conspiracy involving a hodgepodge of secretive cabals. That's despite the theory being disproved by the Warren Commission, which confirmed Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.
The problem is that the Commission's report runs to several hundred pages -- and who has the patience for that when watching Oliver Stone's highly improbable JFK is so much easier?
Big Business Had Marijuana Outlawed
Marijuana is made from the hemp plant, which has a multitude of other uses, such as making rope, fabrics and even paper.
Easily grown and highly profitable for farmers, this posed a threat for tycoons looking to make their fortune from rubber, plastics and other raw materials.
So, in the 1920s and 1930s, powerful business interests lobbied the world's governments to have hemp declared illegal -- not because of its narcotic properties, but because of the threat to their profits.
Churchill Allowed Coventry To Be Bombed
In 1940, a 10-hour German raid reduced much of the British midlands city of Coventry to rubble. Whisperings soon began to the effect that stolen Nazi codes had alerted Churchill to the plans but that he had decided against evacuating the city as this would tip Berlin off that Britain was eavesdropping on its secret communiqués.
However, eyewitness accounts indicate that Churchill had believed London, not Coventry, was to be targeted on that day and had advised friends to seek out the nearest bomb shelter forthwith -- something he was unlikely to do had he known the Luftwaffe was bound for Coventry.
Conspiracy theories that turned out to be true
The American government conducted medical experiments on poor black men
In the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study the American health service monitored the effects of untreated syphilis on poor African Americans between 1932 and 1972.
As part of the experiment, they were given false treatments, whilst medical care that would have helped them was intentionally withheld.
The CIA Paid Journalists to Write Propaganda
At the height of the Cold War, prominent journalists were bankrolled by the CIA to publish pro-Washington propaganda. The agency was also involved in funding an animated version of Orwell's Animal Farm, a thinly veiled attack on Stalinism.
The Mob Bought Baseball's World Series
In what would eventually become known as the Black Sox Scandal, eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.
The players were never prosecuted as throwing a game was not a crime at that time but the scandal went down in history.
The Irish Economy Was Destroyed by a Cabal of Bungling Bankers, Incompetent Politicians and Sycophantic Regulators
It sounds ridiculous that a small group of people whose golf handicaps were higher than their IQs could undo one of the great economic success stories of the past 20 years. Take a look outside your window, though -- and you'll see that it's all too true.