Non-crazy conspiracy theories

Public Policy Polling classes “Bush intentionally misled on WMD” with “The moon landing was faked.” WTF?

What item does not belong on this list? What were the folks at Public Policy Polling thinking when they included it?

*Global warming is a hoax.
*Osama bin Laden is still alive.
*A UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up.
*A secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order.
*Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
*There is a link between childhood vaccines and autism.
*The moon landing was faked.
*Barack Obama is the anti-Christ.
*Bush intentionally misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
*The CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s.
*The government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health)
*Shape-shifting “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power.
*A larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination.
*Bigfoot exists.
*The government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals.
*Exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons.

I’ve left out some borderline items from the survey, including “The medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry ‘invent’ new diseases to make money.” (At one level, that’s obviously true about pharmaceutical companies; the question is whether the new diagnostic entities correspond to genuine deficits.) And of course the “lizard people” question depends on what phylum you think Dick Cheney belongs to. But the outlier in the above sample lies so far out that I’m frankly puzzled. Not every statement about organized wrongdoing is a “conspiracy theory” in the pejorative sense of that term.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

70 thoughts on “Non-crazy conspiracy theories”

  1. Not sure WMD question is the only outlier (“A larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination.”).

    “The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.”

    Or maybe the poll is making a distinction between a small conspiracy and a “larger conspiracy”.

    1. As a matter of fact I looked into this just a couple of weeks ago. I set my mind at ease in less than half an hour. The two pieces of evidence that I keep hearing are that the shot was impossibly hard, and that JFK’s head moved in the wrong direction from the bullet.

      Both of these are obviously wrong. Here’s the view from the book repository. I’m an untrained shooter but I’ve hit a bottle at that distance with iron sites. I would take 5-1 odds that I could hit a melon at that distance in five tries. Oswald doubtless shot hundreds upon hundreds of practice rounds in the Marines.

      Second, look again at the film. I don’t know how the ‘second shooter’ meme took off. The bullet clearly, clearly, came from behind Kennedy, not the knoll. His head snaps forwards first, then recoils left and back. Blood sprays in exactly the direction you’d expect for a shot from behind.

      I am mystified.

  2. Depending on the meaning of the term “instrumental”, the one about crack is arguably true.

    1. And can one not say that the similar claim, CIA involvement in the heroin epidemic, is also true. Air America and all that…

      There’s enough smoke here that to argue that some technical details of the specific claim (it wasn’t crack, it wasn’t in the inner cities only, blah blah) would seem to miss the point.
      Perhaps this was not done with the EXPRESS PURPOSE of destroying the American underclass; but it all does seem to have been done with very little concern for what would happen to said underclass.

    2. Nope. Yes, Ollie North’s buddies were bringing in cocaine, and he knew about it. Yes, some of that cocaine was made into crack. But no, there wasn’t anything special about that cocaine, and the emergence of crack was due to the price drop. The history of crack would have been just the same if we’d never backed the Contras.

      1. Wait, what’s the argument here? I’m normally with you, but I don’t get this.

        That crack was economically viable to market means that we don’t care that government actors financed a war by selling it? If that is the argument (and I can’t think that it is, but also can’t parse what you wrote any other way), then it means that much more peaceful pot dealing, say, in Northern California or parts of Kentucky (or elsewhere) are just fine and dandy. At least, people making a living producing products that people want seems more productive that torture, murder and political upheaval, even if the former isn’t sanctioned by law.

        Am I missing something?

        1. The argument, as I understand it, is that the conspiracy-theory claim (“The CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s“) is completely inaccurate, that had the CIA (or covert government forces more broadly, like Ollie North) not been involved in cocaine trafficking the effect on the cocaine and crack markets would have been insignificant – that the crack cocaine epidemic was in no way dependent on them, and they were not instrumental in it. I think it’s a pretty fair argument, one one that doesn’t dissolve anyone who did so from their guilt in partaking of that bloody trade.

  3. I vote for bush intentionally misleading about Iraq WMD– it’s demonstrably true, at least as far as I know.

    1. I agree about the Bush entry but for a more subtle reason. For a reality based person all the others are considered false while reserving just a tinsy possibility of them being true. They have been always considered false EXCEPT by their vociferous and small number believers.

      The one about Bush is the opposite. It is true with little chance, given the actual evidence, of being false. (I suspect Bush thought it was true based on the selective information he was given. He was misled into misleading us.) Also, in contrast, it was once thought true by a large minority. In other words, the ratio of the believers and non-believers are significantly different between Bush and the others. It has also changed over the last decade while the others have remained consistent.

      Global warming comes close to being similar to Bush except for the non-believers thinking it was a hoax. The majority of non-believers simply thought it was wrong. Only recently has a rabid political class attempted to make it into a conspiracy.

      1. “They have been always considered false EXCEPT by their vociferous and small number believers.”
        Again, the real outlier here is the JFK assassination. Its the only statement on that list which a majority of Americans polled consistently believe (51% to 25% in this one). Of course it was a conspiracy, unless you want to argue that one person impersonated Oswald and shot Kennedy all by himself.

        “We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy, using Oswald’s name. The picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance.”
        — FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, informing President Johnson of an Oswald impersonation [in a phone call the morning after the assassination]

    2. On the basis of my experience in the intelligence community (20 years, last 12 at DOE Intelligence) I am personally convinced that Bush did not intentionally mislead the public about Iraq WMDs. Bush himself was surrounded by neocons drinking their own kool-aid, & from what we know about the man he was hardly likely to have opinions of his own on complex topics. Also, even within the IC there were a lot of analysts who had little grasp of the complexity of both nuclear and biological weapons programs, and managed to convince themselves of the worst. (E.g., CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet.)

      1. I find this quite incredulous:

        “Also, even within the IC there were a lot of analysts who had little grasp of the complexity of both nuclear and biological weapons programs………”

        Are “intelligence analysts” jobs awarded as crony, political patronage plums? Do the ads say, Wanted: Intelligence Analyst…..No education/experience needed?

        I can understand, “CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet” sucking up to the Boss

        But, “Intelligence Analysts?”

        1. Not as incredulous as it sounds. Most intelligence analysts are driven by the nature of the business to be “a mile wide & an inch deep.” Also, it matters where you sit. E.g., the lead CIA analyst on the Iraq WMD NIE drafting team who transformed those aluminum tubes into (mythical) centrifuge components had worked at a DOE national laboratory and knew a little bit about enrichment, but vastly deeper knowledge resided in my own organization, DOE Intelligence, which had people “sitting at the table” but were unable to sway the drafting team and the National Intelligence Officer who was in charge of the NIE. (Sadly, our management didn’t want to “rock the boat” by taking a footnote.) Re. biological weapons, I believed then & still believe that it’s largely a realm of speculation, & that usable weaponization is very, very hard, even for a technologically-advanced nation. As the world knows, the CIA was taken in by a single, unreliable source (“Curveball”) and there wasn’t enough time nor the collection and analytical resources to look deeper into that topic. It made it into the NIE because nobody wants to dismiss a threat out of hand, even if it’s something that’s not well-understood.

          Bottom line is that Langley has the upper hand on nearly all NIEs, and doesn’t easily surrender that prerogative. So there were plenty of people elsewhere in the IC who were better-informed on many WMD technical details than the NIO or the CIA drafters, but with 14 agencies involved and a tight timeline it was just too hard to make their voices heard.

          1. First, I hope my (faux) incredulity was received in the spirit with which it was sent. (I never know) So, with that…..I spent most of my working years in the corporate world occupying, some might consider, somewhat lofty perches at a DOW 30 Company. Therefore, what would be truly incredulous, would be to not notice how a group of otherwise normal, intelligent professionals exhibit a rather unique morphing technique, better known as “the chameleon effect,” whereby the tools of their trade are not their PhD’s from MIT, but rather, their extended, moistened index finger.

            And, with that thought, as I send my regards, and respect, out to you, and the good folks in the “intelligence community” I’m fully aware that you’re invisible ghosts when you’re right, and brightly colored piñatas when you’re (thankfully, rarely) wrong.

      2. I remember thinking, at the time, that George Tenet was ultra-cynically saying that a WMD story would be a slam dunk way to gin up war; not that the actual existence of WMD in Iraq was a slam dunk.

        1. If only we saw the same level of outrage over that pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that Clinton destroyed for no good reason. (And, no, it wasn’t an “asprin factory”.)

  4. There is definitely a link between childhood vaccines and autism: the link is the number of frightened people who claim that those vaccines cause childhood autism. There is no evidence of that, but Rummy’s law and all that definitely keeps the link alive for far too many people.

    1. Maybe off-topic, but there’s no such thing as “childhood” autism; it is a lifelong way of being. Some people with autism find ways to pass as neurotypical but they are still autistic.

      Most of the big national autism organizations focus only on children so it’s easy to see why people might think of autism as a childhood condition.

    2. I have a friend whose child is autistic and I loathe arguing this point with him. This one is so difficult among the others because it is such a real tragedy in so many families.

  5. In comparison to all the demonstrably false statements, proven by objective fact, I assume Mark refers to the obviously true statement that Bush intentionally misled about WMDs. But as Greg above notes, the CIA was indeed involved with cocaine smugglers, and the agency turning a blind eye to the smuggling was certainly contributory to the increased volume of cocaine available in the nation. Semantic distinctions in the phrasing of the question may serve to blur the technical line of absolute total factual truth, but the basic premise of the statement is for all intents and purposes quite legit. The CIA inspector general reported that there was no purposeful conspiracy to smuggle drugs with which the agency was involved, but did admit that the agency actively supported the Contra program, and thereby provided de facto cover to drug traffickers.

    Kerry Committee report

    CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US

      1. Mark:

        I don’t actually dispute what you wrote to Greg, but in the context of the items on the PPP list, that item still doesn’t belong.

        There is no credible rational foundation to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, that there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, that the moon landing was faked, that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, that the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons or that Bigfoot exists. The alleged “magic bullet” theory of the Kennedy assassination has been fully and plausibly explained, so there really is no intellectually credible reason to believe in any greater conspiracy in that case either. These are all complete demonstrable falsehoods, with no basis whatsoever to support their contention.

        Alternatively Bush obviously did lie about Iraq WMDs; that fact has been totally confirmed. And there is indeed more than an element of truth in the statement about the CIA and cocaine. The point, it seems to me, is not that the agency’s activities were “instrumental” in creating the cocaine epidemic, but that there is a rational basis to believe the agency contributed to it because the agency did in fact look the other way from the agency’s drug smuggling associates, at the time that the epidemic was developing. The degree of agency culpability may well be limited, but there is no dispute that the agency was involved. That’s indisputably true.

        “The earth is flat” could go on that list. “Mitt Romney lost because of his 47% remark” would not.

        You suggest only one item is inconsistent with the rest, I still maintain there are two.

        1. In fact, there is considerable evidence that vaccination is not linked to autism. The proponents of the theory have constantly moved the goalposts when their proposed mechanisms are shown to be wrong. For example, there was a theory that the risk factor was thimerosol (a mercury-containing adjuvant and preservative used in some vaccines) in the vaccine.

          The Danes put the lie to that: their public health records noted not only the facts of vaccination, but the lot number of the vaccine. The children could be classified as having received thimerosol or not. The difference in autism rates was not statistically significant: in fact, it was in the wrong direction. The thimerosol group had lower autism rates.

          Then it was multivalent vaccines, particularly the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). The Japanese stopped giving the MMR, going to separate vaccines for each disease. The autism diagnosis rate in Japan continues to increase.

          Now it is vaccination schedules: we have higher autism rates because we bombard infants’ immune systems with antigens. I’m not sure how that will be shown to be nonsense, but I’m confident it will be shown to be nonsense.

  6. Very unfair to the peanut gallery that you didn’t poke at Brett with a straight-up Birfer conspiracy theory.

    1. But my only “birther” conspiracy is that Obama deliberately kept the controversy going to keep his foes concentrated investigating something he knew wouldn’t go anywhere. And that’s only speculation on my part, I don’t actually invest any confidence in it.

      I suppose the outlier is that one of the conspiracy theories is a liberal one, and what the hell are they doing admitting even tacitly that liberals have their conspiracy theories, too?

      1. But my only “birther” conspiracy is that Obama deliberately kept the controversy going to keep his foes concentrated investigating something he knew wouldn’t go anywhere.

        Amazing how you can criticize Obama for that, rather than the birther nutcases. If I start claiming you’re not really an engineer, but a grade school dropout, and you choose to ignore me, are you doing something wrong?

        If Obama was doing that, I’d say it was a clever rope-a-dope strategy. And lots of dopes fell for it.

        1. If I try to get a job that formally requires that I be an engineer, and you start claiming I’m not, and I mount a legal fight to prevent you from seeing the evidence I am, yeah, I’m doing something wrong, even if you’re nuts to think I’m not an engineer.

          Maybe not something illegal, but still wrong.

          1. What if you’ve proved to the satisfaction of your prospective employer that you are an engineer, and I start meddling and demanding ever more documentation, and make silly statements about how I wasn’t actually physically present in your classes, so I can never be sure?

          2. The people asking to see the birth certificate WERE Obama’s prospective employer.

          3. It was impossible for the people demanding the “real” birth certificate to ever be satisfied.

          4. I’d also point out that if an applicant provided the same level of evidence for their qualifications as every other applicant, but for some reason got singled out and asked for more (and more, and more) evidence, the applicant would not be the one in the wrong if they refused.

          5. here’s the long and short of brett bellmore dealing with arguments–

            regarding an argument about possible obama actions dealing with the debt ceiling–

            “I’m not pretending it doesn’t exist. There are “arguments”, if you want to flatter them with that name, for anything under the Sun. There are arguments that the 16th amendment wasn’t really ratified. There are arguments that court rulings aren’t valid if there’s a gold fringe on the flag in the court room. There are all sorts of asinine arguments.

            The existence of an ‘argument’ doesn’t obligate you to take it seriously.” 12/7/12

            regarding a dismissal of his argument regarding his birther leanings–

            “See, that’s the kind of ‘reasoning’ that leads to conspiracy theories: Obama could have simply said, “State of Hawaii, there’s the controversy here, and in a way it IS my fault, after all, (I could have corrected that biography!) could you publicly display my birth certificate? Pretty please?” at which point the onus is on the state of Hawaii, it’s off his plate.

            But instead he indulged himself in a long, expensive legal fight, (At other people’s expense, naturally!) to avoid the release of a document that it wasn’t entirely unreasonable for people to want to see, and which could do him no damage. Why?

            The Birthers made the mistake of assuming Obama was a perfectly reasonable guy, and that, since there wasn’t any reason to fight the release of his birth certificate unless it showed something fishy, jumped to the conclusion he was hiding something. When the obvious explanation was in front of them all the while:

            ‘Cause he’s an a**hole, that’s why.” 11/15/12

            thin-skinned and argumentative is a bad combination of personality traits to carry through life. at times i almost pity him.

          6. Brett,

            No, the people who wanted to see more were not his prospective employers, because they were opposed to hiring him regardless.

            Besides they saw sufficient documentation for anyone other than right-wing lunatic conspiracy-mongers and others who couldn’t abide the thought of a black guy with a funny name being President.

            Also, those whose job it was to verify eligibility, presumably various state officials, seemed to be satisfied.

            Also, what TooManyJens said.

          7. Perhaps President Obama let the birther “controversy” simmer for years because he understood the benefit to him of the perception that his critics are batshit crazy.

            After all, President Clinton survived impeachment in part because his most strident detractors, such as Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Kenneth Starr, came to be perceived as particularly odious.

          8. “After all, President Clinton survived impeachment in part because his most strident detractors, such as Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Kenneth Starr, came to be perceived as particularly odious.”

            If only by Democrats. No, he survived impeachment because the House leadership were sufficiently dirty themselves to be vulnerable to blackmail by the President, resulting in an abbreviated investigation and most of the charges being dropped. And because the Senators were so full of themselves that they weren’t willing to permit any trial to actually take place, as it would have been beneath them to actually sit and listen to House members presenting the case. So they dismissed the House prosecutors, and proceeded to an acquittal vote without ever hearing any evidence.

            And mainly because everyone knew that the Senate Democrats would vote to acquit a Democratic President even if he murdered somebody on live TV, so the whole trial was a farce to begin with.

          9. “No, he survived impeachment because the House leadership were sufficiently dirty themselves to be vulnerable to blackmail by the President, resulting in an abbreviated investigation and most of the charges being dropped.”

            Speaking of conspiracy theories…

          10. Granted, the problem with identifying successful blackmail is that neither party involved has any interest in letting somebody else know it happened. In that respect blackmail is very much like a victimless crime, and indeed the fact that it can be legal if you omit the request for payment makes blackmail one of those weird crimes where the illegality stems from asking to be compensated for something you can legally do for free.

            But, objective evidence:

            1. Dirt WAS released on one House leader. Also documented violations of privacy law in the case of people the administration didn’t like.
            2. FBI file scandal, which was followed by hiring a PI to collect similar data when it was revealed.
            3. Climatic vote to hold a wide ranging and comprehensive investigation, followed almost immediately by decision to instead throw out most of the charges, and proceed directly to trial. Which trial never actually happened due to Senate arrogance, but the House leaders’ reaction to that was remarkably muted.

            So we have a pattern of prior behavior, means, and a sudden favorable change in the behavior of some of the Presidents’ worst enemies.

            I’ll grant you that it’s not proven, but it remains my working hypothesis for why things happened that way.

          11. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was a hack, partisan hit job, and the Senate wisely voted against removing him from office.

            That’s the main of the story, no matter what paranoid delusions some folks hold.

  7. And of course the “lizard people” question depends on what phylum you think Dick Cheney belongs to.

    Humans and lizards both belong to the phylum Chordata. The question is, what class you think Cheney belongs to; and the answer is Ruling Class.

    1. Cheney is the ne plus ultra examplar of declasse, which is to say he is a no class member.

    2. Lampreys are also in Phylum Chordata, and they get my vote for Cheney’s lineage.

  8. Obviously, it’s the fourth one from the top, but they are not really very secretive about it. /snark

  9. This: The CIA working with the UN dropped the Trade Towers to take away our guns and big gulps.

  10. It is always amusing when the elite try to tell us about the falsehood and irrationality of conspiracies. There is first a fundamental misunderstanding of the word “conspiracy”. The word merely means, under the law, two or more people engaged or planning to engage in an illegal act. That’s it. Conspiracies happen every day. Conspiracies do not have to be “secret” in the sense that “nobody” knows about them. In the political realm, one may also conspire in ways that are not actually illegal, but we use the word to merely describe something we don’t like. Example: The NRA is conspiring to defeat gun control legislation. That is hyperbole, that is politically partisan language, but it really means, they are lobbying, working the halls of Congress and planning how to defeat legislation it does not like.

    Second, the list does contain things that are certainly not true, but with each one, we have to do the hard work of analyzing information, which is what the elite reporters and editors rarely do. They just “know” things. And that’s that.

    This why the authors of the article and the study don’t know about the compelling evidence that the Mob killed JFK. See, for example, David Kaiser’s “The Road to Dallas,” which Harvard U Press bravely published a few years ago. There is also some sleight of hand in this list and the article in using the word “instrumental” to qualify the statement that relates to the manner in which the CIA intentionally undermined important federal, state and local prosecution of up and coming drug lords in the 1980s in various American cities, which did contribute to the rise of crack availability in those cities during that time. Some editor knew there was a good deal of truth to Gary Webb’s stories from the San Jose Mercury later in that decade, but the disinformation campaign against Webb was pretty effective at the time. John Kerry’s committee’s investigation proved Webb was well onto something, but it was ridiculed by the elite foreign policy establishment which was strongly disseminated through newspapers and other corporate media.

    Mark, of course, is correct about the line about Bush not “intentionally” misleading about WMDs being another sleight of hand. There is at least a recklessness on Bush’s part, as well as a desire on his part to only know what he wanted to know which included a willful ignoring of evidence to the contrary. There is also evidence that shows an occasional awareness on the part of Bush that, as Paul Wolfowitz said, the argument about WMDs was at best weak, and more likely a propagandistic hoax.

    My favorite “conspiracy”, however, is one of the first listed: *A secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order.*

    If one takes out the word “secretive,” what does one make of the NAFTA, the Trans Pacific Treaty, the World Trade Organization, and the way in which the bankers operate and influence governments with policies under the current term “austerity” that go against the vast majority of citizens in nations around the world? Is that really the same as the insane belief that the moon landing was staged? Isn’t it actually quite reasonable to believe there is power elite with a globalist agenda that again is conspiring in that political hyperbolic sense to rule the world through an authoritarian world government? Isn’t this why our corporate and foreign policy elite look longingly at the China model of corporate based capitalism without that pesky need for open government? Isn’t that why WTO proceedings, for example, are closed to the public, and rule on important trade (including financial) issues outside the direct control of public legislatures?

    This one “conspiracy” is what the elite wants us to convince us is not only false, but crazy. It is why I find this sort of article to be itself an example of power elite propaganda.

    1. Well, I’m certainly not an elite and I’ll say they’re false and irrational. I was just thinking this over recently, and you seem to do this too easily in your post: the error is in the conflation of the category of conspiracy; there are conspiracies and there are conspiracies. Real conspiracies involve a few core individuals, maybe five or ten, and within one very specific organization. But “conspiracy theories” involve tens, hundreds or thousands of people and multiple organizations working in tandem. This is why they can so easily be waved away – the extraordinaryness of the claim has become so grand that it becomes a fishing expedition for the implausible.

      Sure, it is possible that there are lizard people among us, but that would require so many ridiculously implausible things to have occurred that my time is better spent elsewhere, like say, reading real scholarly work by serious people. Global finance and trade is absolutely corrupt and perpetuates power and privilege – but there’s no conspiracy in that, merely honest assumptions that allow systems to be in place, in the open. Hand waving about secret elites is appealing because it is so much easier than unraveling the complexity of ideology and historical political philosophy that have brought us here. For instance, I’d like to ask the hundreds of thousands of Alex Jones listeners and New World order paranoics whether they support radically progressive taxation and a full scale crack-down on offshore banking – something much more damaging to their supposed elites than anything done behind closed doors. My guess is that much of them are libertarians whose own ideologies are doing more to promote the powerful and wealthy elite than anything else.

      1. Thoughtful analysis and one with which I would generally agree. One significant problem for the “difficulty of conspiracies” counterargument, however, is the example of Vice President Richard Cheney. Mr. Cheney occupied the VP’s office and a substantial portion of the White House for 8 years, hired a staff of 40 of whom we know the names and titles of exactly two (and only because they were deposed and cross-examined in a criminal case), held meetings with large-dollar movers-and-shakers which for the most part we know nothing about (except that one slip about the oil industry meeting), did /something/ during that period, and then 10 weeks before he left office had two semitrailer-sized shredders delivered to his office and home (in full violation of the Executive Records Act) and presumably shredded all the evidence of exactly what he was doing during that time. I suppose you could argue that he really didn’t do anything except satisfy his own desire to play office, but somehow I doubt that. And yet it is very unlikely we’ll ever know what that was.


  11. Americans of all political persuasions obsess about conspiracies. The US is one of the few, if not only, nations where conspiracy itself is illegal, never minds any actual acts against the law.

    I’d suggest more talk about the facts and less worry about the fact that two or more people make a concerted act of some kind. If you have to envelop the facts in conspiracy, as prosecutors often do, it’s a sign that the case is weak and what’s more important is the ability of the state to wave its hands around impressively.

  12. The “lizard people” question was a useful control, as it indicates what % of respondents will say “yes” just for the hell of it.

    1. Laugh if you like, but this was essentially what drove Hitler.
      He was in contact with various bizarre occult groups in Vienna, from about ages 18 to 24; and these groups believed that the earth was populated by various non-human “beings” living in human form. It seems that Hitler connected this idea to his other hobby horse, and concluded that this represented the Jews — non-human beings in human form.

      Nuttiness may seem like harmless fun; but all it takes is the guy in charge to believe the nuttiness…
      And there’s plenty of evidence that the guy in charge is as susceptible to this garbage as anyone else, even in the good old US of A…

      The generic point here, which I’ve argued many times, is that humans are far more willing to warp what they see to a pre-existing theory than to admit that their pre-conceptions are wrong. Our own Matthew Kahn is a perfect example of this, telling us twice a week, in a dozen different forms, how the love of money will save us all; and utterly unwilling to ever admit into his worldview the idea that beyond a certain point more money leads to worse job performance (or other variants on this — eg high stakes teaching) not matter what the empirical evidence.

  13. Mark, I assume you were pointing to ‘Barack is anti-Christ’. One of the UK papers is running an article saying 25% of US people believe that. That’s right in range with a lot of the other beliefs named…

    1. That’s the one I’m going with, but for different reasons. If Obama is, in fact, the Antichrist, it isn’t necessarily a “conspiracy.” The Antichrist, like Lee Harvey Oswald, can act alone. He doesn’t need co-conspirators.Hemay have them, but he may not.

    2. Of course Barack Obama is the Antichrist. If Bill Clinton was the first black President, Barack Obama is the first Jewish President: an Alexander Portnoy without the schmeckl. And we all know that the Antichrist will be a Jew. Jerry Falwell told us so.

  14. Belief in Bigfoot is not a conspiracy theory. It may be wrong, probably is, but one need not assert the existence of a conspiracy to sustain that belief.

      1. There is a conspiracy theory about the government covering up evidence of alien visitations and abductions. But PPP just asked whether people believe that aliens exist. Hell, I believe that aliens exist, insofar as I think it’s highly probable that Earth is not the only life-bearing world in the entire universe.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. “Bigfoot” is a benign folk myth of the same order as the tooth fairy, leprechauns, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

    2. I believe Bigfoot shot JFK and then started the crack trade to cover his very large tracks.

  15. I think that theory #12 is unfair to the lizards, particularly regarding Certain Persons named above (whom I would consider closer to pond scum). Lizards, after all, don’t either kill or dominate purely for pleasure.

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