Often, even the least credible conspiracy theories prove to be the most durable, the most impervious to inconvenient facts. And, last week, a major domino in a new conspiracy theory – a new ‘big lie’ – appeared to fall, when Wikileaks reproduced emails from a shadowy security firm questioning whether Osama bin Laden’s body was actually buried at sea. According to Fred Burton, the vice president of intelligence service Strafor, whose emails were obtained by Anonymous, Bin Laden’s body was taken back to the US and cremated.
Even if this new account is completely untrue, the back-catalogue of conspiracy theories reveals that, among the tin-foil hat brigade, a little bit of evidence – or even none at all – goes a long way.
Dead presidents for a dead president
In November 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The Warren Commission, set up to investigate Kennedy’s shooting, concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and Jack Ruby in turn acted alone when he assassinated Oswald. Nearly 50 years on, though, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe there was a cover-up.
What the believers say: The CIA joined forces with the military industrial complex to get rid of Kennedy because
of his willingness to negotiate with the Soviet Union and his plans to restructure the nation’s intelligence services.
The Truthers begin their catcall
While the wreckage of the Twin Towers was still smouldering, the first alternative theories about the attack were being seeded. Not dissuaded by the fact al-Qaeda has repeatedly claimed responsibility, the 9/11 Truth movement sprung up online, incubating the idea that elements within the US government either knew in advance about the attack or orchestrated it to justify subsequent wars in the Middle East.
What the believers say: It was an inside job, maybe involving Mossad, as no Jews were killed. The Pentagon was hit by
a missile instead of a plane and the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled, pre-planned demolition.
‘She’s not having a kid to that … that Islamic!’
In 1999, Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, died after a high-speed crash in Paris. Some suspect rogue elements within MI6, who felt Diana’s relationship with Dodi, an Egyptian Muslim, was a threat to the British state. At an inquest in 2007, a letter by Diana to her butler was presented, claiming “my husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, (involving) brake failure and serious head injury”.
What the believers say: Dodi’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed – Fulham FC‘s owner – last year bankrolled the film Unlawful Killing, which claims Prince Philip orchestrated the deaths.
Nothing to see here
During the Second World War, the US navy was trying to use Einstein’s Unified Field Theory to bend light around battleships, effectively making them invisible. Conspiracy theorists believe that during the experiment, a destroyer called the Eldridge, through some kind of complication with cosmic forces – it’s not entirely clear – was sent hurtling through space and time, reappearing in the middle of the ocean, with several sailors bonded into its superstructure.
What the believers say: The Philadelphia Experiment might have backfired but it was merely the first step in a series of covert operations which, by the 1970s, had opened a whole Pandora’s box of experiments in interdimensional ‘shifting’.
If you believe they put a man on the moon …
Two years after the Apollo manned lunar missions of the Sixties were completed, the first hoax theories surfaced, featuring the spectacular claim that Nasa had faked the whole thing to shore up funding and avoid losing the space race with the Soviets. Some suspect the film of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon was fact in fact sponsored by Disney and produced by Stanley Kubrick, following a script written by sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke.
What the believers say: Photographs from the lunar surface show camera crosshairs partially behind rocks, a flag planted by Buzz Aldrin moves in a strange way, there are no stars visible and the shadows fall in different directions.
ET arrives early
It’s true that something crashed at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, but although the US military maintains it was
a weather balloon, it has become an article of faith for UFO anoraks that an alien craft was recovered. After conducting thousands of interviews and accessing classified documents through Freedom of Information, researchers Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt published two books, which remain influential, insisting alien crafts crashed at Roswell.
What the believers say: Walter Haut, the military public affairs officer who drafted the initial press release in 1947, claimed in a 2002 affidavit that he saw alien corpses and a craft and that he had been involved in a cover-up.
The lizard people bide their time
The Illuminati was founded in the 18th century as a secret society of thinkers and many believe they have survived, intervening in the Battle of Waterloo, the French revolution and JFK’s assassination. Their current objective, apparently, is a vast conspiracy, planned for generations, to establish a New World Order – a one-world government with one unit of money, comprising a handful of inter-related global elites.
What the believers say: British writer David Icke is one of foremost experts on this superconspiracy, taking it one step further, claiming those behind the New World order are in fact shape-shifting reptiles who live in subterranean tunnels.