Are Conspiracy Theories Central to U.S. Political Debate?

Anne Applebaum's piece in Slate argues that we have been blessed in recent history by a political system that has, for the most part, kept them [conspiracy theories] outside the mainstream of American political life. With the possible exception of the anti-masonic movement in the 19th century and some of the madder moments of the …

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Debunking the Lincoln-Kennedy Federal Reserve Meme

There is a meme circulating on Facebook that seems to be based on the conspiracy theory that Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were assassinated by the Rothschilds because they wanted to "end the federal reserve banking system." Let's pick this meme apart to see how historically accurate it is. 1. There was no federal …

The Freemasonic Conspiracy and the U.S. Government Shutdown

During last night's vote to reopen the U.S. government, one of the House of Representatives' stenographers took control of the microphone and began denouncing the U.S. Constitution and its writers because of their Freemasonic ties. No one seems to know her motivation for making the pronouncements at that time, although stress certainly seems a plausible …

Essential Readings on Conspiracy Thinking

I've written previously about the usefulness and necessity of examining conspiracy theories, and I also provided an outline of my conspiracy theories course. Several weeks ago, a student approached me asking for reading suggestions  about conspiracy theories. The request provided a good opportunity to write a blog post that I've wanted to write outlining the essential …

Conspiracy Theories in the Aftermath of Tragedies

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston. As I kept up with the news about the bombings yesterday via Twitter and Facebook, two thoughts came to mind. The first was the unreliability of reports circulating right after a tragedy such as this one. I can't even imagine what the immediate post-9/11 rumor …

Americans’ Belief in Conspiracy Theories

Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University recently demonstrated what my regular readers already know: Americans believe in conspiracy theories. According to their telephone poll of registered voters across the United States, 63% of those polled believed at least one of the following conspiracy theories: Barack Obama is hiding something about his background George W. Bush had …

Mitt Romney and the White Horse Prophecy

Recently, I invited three LDS missionaries to speak to my American Presidency students. Considering the possible "Mormon moment" that might arise from a Romney campaign win, I thought it made sense to hear the church's perspective. The three young men, who took time from their personal day to make the visit, were polite and gracious, …

How Useful Is a Course on Conspiracy Theories?

The conspiracy theories course wrapped up yesterday with a discussion about the differences between actual conspiracies and conspiracy theories and the students' evaluation of the most influential conspiracy theories. We closed out by listening to songs by 2Pac and Green Day that contain conspiratorial allusions and claims. Based on students' reactions and my own observations, …

The Link Between the Mayans, Madonna, and the Anti-Christ

Ever wonder about the connection between the Super Bowl, the Mayan apocalypse, the Nephilim, Madonna, Roman mythology, and Satanism? If you're like me, then you haven't, but someone else has it all figured out. I tried to sketch this conspiracy theory on the board for students in the conspiracy theories class. I ran out of …