The wildest thing about conspiracy theories is that people actually believe them. Lots of people, it turns out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a field day for conspiracies. It has given rise to some new ones and new life to old ones.
Popular Mechanics has a list of classics that refuse to go away. They’ve also got some recent arrivals for those who think believing something makes it true.
1) Neil Armstrong landing on the moon was a fake
This one’s here for the long haul. It’s been around since the 1960s. According to some people, NASA faked it in a studio. Stanley Kubrick, the guy who made 2001: A Space Odyssey? They say he was the director.
2) The American government killed JFK
This one has also been around since the 1960s. Lee Harvey Oswald might have been on that grassy knoll, but some believe he didn’t act alone. They say the CIA was involved in killing him.
In a new twist, some extreme Trump loyalists believe he will come back from the dead to be Trump’s running mate in 2024.
3) COVID-19 was engineered by the media
Back to the present day–Yes, the media has power.
We’re not just saying that because we’re the media. But we can say with complete honesty that COVID-19 is actually a real and deadly virus. We would never make this up. Why would we make up something that sucks this hard?
4) Earth has been sucked into a black hole
Folks who believe this one claim the earth ended in 2012, but we haven’t realized it yet.
The last 10 years have been a bit of a blur, though…
5) Disney created the movie Frozen as a distraction
Disney bigwigs wanted to distract people from conspiracies that Walt Disney had himself frozen when he died. Thru believers say scientists will thaw him out when they find a cure for the lung cancer that he died from.
6) Denver International Airport is the Ilumminati’s HQ
Okay, so the Illuminati is a conspiracy so wild it would take 27 articles to explain it. But for this particular part of the conspiracy, we only have one question:
If the Illuminati is so powerful, then why in the everlasting hell would they put their home base in the Denver f*!#ing airport?
7) 5G causes cancer—and COVID
This one has gone absolutely nuts in the past two years. And it came with a healthy dose of anti-Asian racism. People who believed this are so scared they set fire to cell phone towers. Even cell phone towers that had no 5G transmission.
8) The world is flat
The Greeks figured out the world was round more than 2,500 years ago. But still today, the Flat Earth Society continues to grow around—or rather across—the world.
9) Prince Charles is a vampire.
Believers say he’s related to Vlad the Impaler. They say folks in his bloodline have porphyria, an illness that causes people to be sensitive to sunlight.
If this is true, does that explain why Queen Elizabeth is still alive?
10) Bigfoot, Sasquatch, yeti, etc. is real and chilling in the forest
Many believers have blurry black and white photos to prove it. There’s even a Netflix documentary about people who say they’ve seen the wild man.
Conspiracy theories can sound pretty funny to folks who don’t believe them. But for the believers, they’re deadly serious.
Studies show folks who tend to believe in conspiracies are generally more anxious. They feel a great need to have control over their environment. The world can feel confusing for them, and they have trouble trusting people. They also have a high need to feel special or part of an exclusive “in-group.”
For the past few years, everything has been so stressful that it has been easier for folks to slip into conspiracy thinking.
This might sound bonkers, but conspiracies offer people comfort. They’re an easy answer in a complex world.
It can be scary to hear a friend or family member suddenly talk about their pet conspiracy. For example, Cousin Johnny suddenly starts telling you how the earth is flat
Researchers say there’s no silver bullet for bringing them back. But it’s important to keep up the relationship (if it’s safe for you). Be patient, listen, and don’t judge them too hard.
Basically, you want to offer them a safe place to land when they want to let go of the conspiracy. Even if that takes a really long time.