Conspiracy theories are, in their noblest form, intended to make us question the credibility of what we hear from the media and read in history books. As we deal with a surging deluge of online information, we are collectively left to sort out how much of it is true. Some of it, no doubt, is false—perhaps even the result of deliberate misdirection.
That said, some conspiracy theories are just plain wrong, while others are downright appalling. Here are a dozen such debunked theories that seem determined to outlast the actual truth:
Sandy Hook never happened
The horrific 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut claimed the lives of 20 young students and 6 adults. The lone shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, committed suicide following the massacre. Shocking claims soon followed, suggesting that the Obama administration faked the mass shooting in an effort to promote a gun-control agenda.
President Obama is not a natural born citizen
The Birthers, a group of fringe conspiracy theorists, created a stir in 2008 when they claimed that Barack Obama was born not in the United States, but in Kenya. President Obama has produced his birth certificate, which shows that he was born in Hawaii, but the Birthers are not convinced. Neither are many supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump: about 61 percent said they believed that the president was not born in the U.S.
9/11 was an inside job
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, killed 2,996 innocent people. But not everyone is convinced that the hijacked planes that caused the destruction was spearheaded by al-Qaeda. One opposing view suggests that the attack was orchestrated by America to secure oil reserves in the Middle East. Another proposes that the owners of the World Trade Center planned the destruction to cash in on $500 million of insurance profits.
Princess Diana’s death was not an accident
Conspiracy theories popped up just hours after the tragic car crash that killed Diana, the beloved Princess of Wales, in 1997. The 36-year-old divorced royal was with boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, and bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, in a Mercedes driven by Henri Paul. Investigators concluded that Paul was drunk and speeding at the time of the accident. A conspiracy theory, however, suggested that Diana was murdered by the British secret service to prevent her from marrying Fayed and bringing a Muslim step-sibling into the royal family.
The CIA destroyed the Jonestown settlement
In 1978, news of the suicide deaths of cult leader Jim Jones and more than 900 of this followers was not juicy enough for some theorists. Rumors immediately circulated that the CIA was behind the massacre of the odd little Jonestown, Guyana settlement, killing its residents to hide covert mind-control experiments. The real story is that the deranged Jones brainwashed his people to drink poison—so the primary dispute is whether this was mass suicide or mass murder.
AIDS was created by the CIA
Conspiracy theorists have insisted that deadly virus known as HIV or AIDS was developed by the CIA to rid the United States of homosexuals and African Americans. One theory suggests that, during 1978 hepatitis-B experiments, the U.S. government intentionally injected gay men with the manufactured virus. And the theory lives on: In 2005, Kanye West suggested that the government infected people of African origin to weaken them.
Elvis Presley faked his own death
Most of the world can accept the fact that the King died of a drug overdose in 1977. But there are some diehard fans who prefer to think that the 42-year-old Elvis went into hiding. Among these theorists are those who believe that the performer died in the 1990s, and others who are still catching regular glimpses of the King.
Man has never set foot on the moon
Skeptics claim that Neil Armstrong’s momentous 1969 walk on the moon was a big fake job by NASA to improve the agency’s image. Despite the availability of substantial evidence to the contrary, conspiracy theorists continue to suggest that moon landings have never happened. What will they say when we walk on Mars?
Lee Harvey Oswald was just a scapegoat
America was devastated by the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Oswald, a former marine with ties to the Soviet Union, is blamed for the crime even though he was shot dead before he could stand trial. No evidence has ever been found to indicate that Oswald was working with others, but that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theorists. They have implicated everyone from the slain president’s widow and the Mafia to Marilyn Monroe and the Soviet KGB.
Jamie Lee Curtis is a hermaphrodite
In 1958, Jamie Lee Curtis was born to Hollywood golden couple Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. A longstanding theory suggests that the actress was born an intersexual—having both boy and girl parts—and her parents chose to raise her as a girl. Theorists flaunt her masculine name, her androgynous look, and the fact that her own children are adopted as proof of their claim.
Aliens studied at Area 51
It was 1947 when an unidentified flying object landed in Roswell, New Mexico. The U.S. military said it was nothing more than a weather balloon, but conspiracy theorists claimed it was an alien spacecraft that was taken into Area 51 (a division of Edwards Air Force Base). The UFO believers theorize that the government has been researching alien life forms and technology ever since, which is why the area is so heavily guarded. More realistic, however, is the notion that top-secret military aircraft were developed and tested there.
The Holocaust is a hoax
Historical facts and horrific photos provide evidence that 6 million Jews were savagely murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Sadly, deniers claim that the “alleged” Holocaust was little more than a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews. These naysayers suggest that the Diary of Anne Frank is a fake, the death figures are exaggerated, and those who perished in concentration camps did so as a result of disease and starvation, not a policy of genocide.
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