Although conspiracy theories can pop up anywhere in the world, they’ve become an integral part of American culture and history. Even the founding of the country was steeped in conspiracy theory, specifically that King George III planned to deprive the colonies of their rights. There’s nothing more American than not trusting your government, especially considering the number of conspiracy theories that turn out to be true.
10 • The US Government Turned Its Citizens Into Collateral
According to this conspiracy theory pushed by members of the so-called “redemption movement,” the US government turned its own citizens into collateral in 1933 when it stopped using the gold standard so it could keep borrowing money. Supposedly, this made all American citizens unwitting slaves of international Jewish bankers.
As movement leader Roger Elvick explained, every time a new citizen is born, the government awards his “straw man,” or twin, with a secret bank account worth $630,000. He also claims that citizens have the right to access their twins’ bank accounts, which can be done by performing certain legal maneuvers.
Of course, members who attempted to access their secret bank accounts often found themselves in trouble with the law. Elvick himself did prison time during most of the 1990s for issuing more than $1 million in bad checks and filing falsified IRS forms. He found himself in trouble again in 2005 when he was charged with forgery and extortion.
9 • The North American Union
In another nutty conspiracy theory involving the New World Order, there are those who believe that insidious forces are working behind the scenes to turn the US, Canada, and Mexico into one superstate called the North American Union (NAU). The system will be modeled after the European Union and eventually lead to a one-world government.
Adherents believe that this conspiracy includes building a superhighway that would stretch from Yukon to the Yucatan, the promotion of a consolidated currency called the “amero,” and the installation of Spanish as the primary language. They also claim that the existence of legitimate groups like the North American Free Trade Agreement and Council on Foreign Relations is proof that the creation of the NAU is already in full swing. As to who the culprits could be, it is said that industrialists are behind this scheme, since they stand to benefit the most from a free market.
8 • Black Genocide
Given the oppression and discrimination that the black population of the US has faced for hundreds of years, it was not hard to see this coming. This conspiracy theory refers to an alleged institutionalized policy by the US government to decrease or wipe out the African-American population using a variety of medical and other methods. Aside from implementing harsh socioeconomic conditions, this also includes promoting birth control, performing abortions and sterilizations, and abetting lynchings and murders against the black community.
The term first came into existence in the 1950s, when the Civil Rights Congress presented its petition to the United Nations for relief from what it called the government-sponsored genocide of black people. It later entered the popular lexicon after the introduction of the birth control pill and subsequent legalization of abortion. It has since become a favorite rallying cry for activists and conspiracy theorists alike any time widespread persecution of the black community is perceived.
7 • The US Government Is Operating On Maritime/Military Law
Proponents of this theory, including the notoriously litigious “sovereign citizens movement,” contend that a massive conspiracy changed the original government, which operated on common and constitutional law, into one that observes maritime/military law. Unlike the first government, which allowed its citizens complete freedom, the second stripped them of all rights and only conferred upon them privileges designed to make them dependent on the government.
They also believe that the judicial system has been fully aware of the insidious changes all this time but prefer to keep silent to continue enslaving the people. The proof of its complicity is supposedly validated by the presence of gold-fringed US flags that fly over courthouses and other federal buildings. According to theorists, this is a military flag, an assertion that the Flag Research Center has refuted. This outlandish belief has led to numerous run-ins with the law for believers, with occasionally deadly results.
6 • The Constitution Has Been Suspended Since 1933
According to prominent patriot movement member Eugene Schroder in his book The Constitution: Fact or Fiction, President Franklin Roosevelt allegedly suspended the Constitution when he signed the Emergency Banking Relief Act in 1933, which amended the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. This supposedly allowed him considerable power to oversee trading and the flow of gold even when the country was not at war.
Schroder contends that Roosevelt, who later outlawed gold-hoarding, essentially declared war against his own people and used the new law to benefit a secret cabal inside the White House. His successors went on to discreetly increase the executive powers of the federal government even more, using World War II and the Cold War as excuses. As a result, the government apparently now has unlimited control over the economy. Schroder also claims that since Roosevelt supposedly never relinquished his powers, the people have been unwittingly living under martial law for decades.
We like to categorize and apply labels. This can be helpful in wrapping your mind around complex reality, as long as you avoid the pitfall of allowing labels to become mental straitjackets.
I often discuss various categories of people who are failing, in one or more important ways, to apply critical thinking. These categories are not meant to be dismissive, but rather to help understand various styles of thinking that lead people astray. For example there are deniers, true-believers, ideologues, and cranks.
Perhaps the most interesting category is the conspiracy theorist. I also find them to be the most consistent in their style of reasoning and argument. I do wonder, however, how much of this consistency is due to and underlying reasoning style and how much is culture. When I get the same fallacious argument over and over again, is that because they are all reading the same source material?
I recently came across a conspiracy website offering advice on how to answer “anti-conspiracy theorists” (their word for skeptics). Anyone who has had a conversation with a conspiracy theorist will recognize the style and tone, and now here it is codified in a primer for budding conspiracy theorists.
The article, however, also reveals the logical errors that underlie the conspiracy belief system. Let’s go through each point.
“You sound like a conspiracy theorist.”RESPONSE: “Conspiracy Theorist? Now tell me the truth, where did you hear that term…on TV? (Laugh.) …So let me get this straight. Are you saying that men in high positions of power are not capable of criminal activity and telling lies to the general public? Are you really that naive?” (Laugh as you say this.)
As you can see this is a literal script. Right up front we see what I have found to be the typical attitude of the conspiracy theorists – anyone who does not buy their fantastical theories is “naive,” – said with dismissive laughter. This response is also a straw man.
Of course people in power are capable of lying and criminal activity. There are even genuine conspiracies. The recent lane-closing scandal in New Jersey was a conspiracy of at least several civil servants who lied and conspired to abuse their power to punish their political enemies (heedless of collateral damage).
When we talk about conspiracy theorists we are talking about grand conspiracies. These are conspiracies that involved large numbers of people, a vast expanse of power and control, unbelievable secrecy, and often sustained for years or decades. Of course there is no sharp demarcation between a small and plausible conspiracy and a grand conspiracy, but the larger the conspiracy would need to be, the more implausible it becomes. The largest grand conspiracies simply collapse under their own weight.
Ah, but the author has heard this response before and has an answer:
“You’re absolutely right. I agree with you 100%. It is impossible to totally cover up a conspiracy so massive. That’s why I know about it! What you must understand is that they don’t have to cover it up totally. Even a bucket that has a few leaks can still do the job of carrying water from here to there! They only need to fool 80% of the public, which isn’t hard to do when you control the major networks and newspapers.”
Of course the conspiracy theorists have to have learned about the conspiracy, but this entirely misses the point. Conspiracy theorists don’t have actual evidence. They don’t have leaked information, documents, photographs, or any hard or direct evidence of their specific conspiracy theory. As you will see from later responses – they simply believe they have perceived a pattern in events.
This cuts to the heart of the logical fallacies at the core of conspiracy thinking. The conspirators in grand conspiracies have as much power, control, and reach as they need to pull off the conspiracy. Any missing evidence was covered up by the conspiracy. Any evidence against the conspiracy or for a more prosaic explanation was planted. Any events that would seem to undermine the conspiracy theory were clearly false flag operations.
Conspiracy theories are therefore immune to evidence. They are closed, self-contained belief systems that resist their own critical analysis. That is why they are a mental trap.
Often conspiracy theorists are generally smart people (even if they lack certain critical thinking skills). Smart people, however, are good at . . .