I immersed myself in conspiracy theories for a week because maybe they’re onto something with this lizard thing
When you open your mind to the unique kind of infiltration a conspiracy theory presents, even the most rational, politically aware, and educated individual can fall down the rabbit hole
I have never paid much mind to conspiracy theories in the past. Of course I’ve heard them, mostly from old classmates on my Facebook timeline who seemed to be so normal in high school, but I never went out of my way to research and investigate them.
That was until the “Avril Lavigne is dead” theory became practically inescapable. It showed up on every social media platform I had, it was discussed on the podcast I listen to on my way to class, and it got its mentions amongst my friends.
Finally, with a tall glass of wine and a little hesitation, I decided to do a slight browse, a skim if you will, of the Avril Lavigne situation. Three hours later and I was way too deep into celebrity conspiracy theories, and also out of wine.
While suspect, the theories weren’t completely unfounded. In fact, I started to make sense of these theories, give them merit, and believe them the closer I looked. When you open your mind to the unique kind of infiltration a conspiracy theory presents, even the most rational, politically aware, and educated individual can fall down the rabbit hole.
For one Monday through Friday work week, I decided to test out life as a conspiracy theorist to see just how much they would influence my everyday life.
- I would pick three conspiracy theories to focus on, but still frequent the most popular conspiracy theory sites and blogs to get the full effect. Two of the conspiracy theories would be ongoing, and one would be a past event.
- I would spend the same amount of time on those sites as I normally would on Facebook or Instagram.
- In order to really test how these theories can change people’s attitudes, I would not force any behavior changes and instead watch how it naturally influenced me.
The first conspiracy theory I chose to hone in on is that a secret group called the Illuminati controlling the world. This is not the first time I’ve heard of this supposed group, I’ve seen their logo facetiously etched onto the backs of chairs and under desks in classrooms and around my city. I always thought of it as more of a joke, maybe even an expression, “Must have been the Illuminati,” never actually putting any stock into this idea, but through my research it is actually one of the most believed conspiracy theories in the United States.
The Illuminati at least was at one point a secret society that started in 1776 in Europe and wanted to free themselves from the chains of the Church and Government, instead turning to science and philosophy for guidance and rule. It grew to contain thousands of members until there was a ban on secret societies and it supposedly dissipated.
It is now widely believed that the Illuminati never really went away and that the world’s elite are members, conspiring to take over and create a New World Order. The likes of Kanye West, George Bush, Hitler, and Barack Obama have been accused of being part of the Illuminati, and the deaths of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana have been rumored to be their handiwork.
The next on going theory I kept tabs on is that the government is controlling us by adding fluoride to our tap water. The government claims that fluoride is safe and is put into our water to benefit us by reducing cavities. Conspiracy theorists reject these assertions, instead insisting that the fluoride added to our water is meant to shut down a certain part of our brain, the pineal gland, so we are less spiritual, less resistant to government control, and more easily controlled.
The conspiracy theory centers first around financial gain for a company called ALOCA, which had endless amounts of fluoride because of its aluminum production. They are supposedly the first to have proposed adding fluoride to water after conducting an experiment on animals and finding that it reduced cavities.
While some people believe that the government adding fluoride to our water is a plot to control us or diminish our mental capacity, others believe that it’s just an unnecessary chemical being added to our water. There have been dental experts who say that fluoride isn’t the best way to reduce cavities, and its effectiveness has been under fire for a long time.
The last theory is one that anyone who went through a high school history class has heard of, that the JFK assassination was an inside job. Historically there has been an endless supply of paranoia around the Kennedys, and with good reason. Much of this is centered around the death of John F Kennedy, America’s 35th president.
On November 22, 1963, in Dallas, JFK was shot in the head and killed while riding next to Jackie Onassis Kennedy in a convertible. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination, but while being transported to a county jail on November 24, 1963 was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.
Jack Ruby was convicted of murder but had his sentence overturned. However, while waiting for a new trial he was taken to the same hospital JFK and Oswald died in and diagnosed with lung cancer. Shortly after he then died of a blood clot in in his lung on January 3, 1967.
Many people believe that instead of Kennedy having been assassinated by a mentally disturbed ex-Marine, it was done by the CIA. Apparently he was upset with the CIA and they worried they were in danger of being disbanded. Furthermore, the head of the CIA at the time was on the panel which was officially investigating the assassination.
The day started off a bit rocky because finding information on these conspiracy theories was a bit of a challenge. While I did visit The Conspiracy Blog quite frequently, I discovered that finding most of my information and browsing from independent articles and videos online was more effective.
I had to continuously remind myself to go check online and keep up with the experiment, and every time I found a new website, video, or article I was surprised about the energy and the conviction of the theorists. The theory that grabbed me immediately was that JFK was killed by the CIA.
Aside from it being a theory that I was previously familiar with, it also felt like it was the least far-fetched to me. Researching the JFK theory was sort of like my toe dip into the world of conspiracy theories, but when I delved into the other two theories I was not immediately as accepting to their logic.
I woke up wary, after only one day of conspiracy theories my mind was already feeling strained, but of course I continued to research them. While the theory on fluoride and the Illuminati (as well as many of the theories that I stumbled upon) still seemed to be a far reach to me, I began to understand them.
Gaining an understanding of the Illuminati’s history and all of the huge political players that have been linked to it, in life and death, was overwhelming. The theory of the Illuminati began to frighten me the most because while I haven’t bought into it, if it is true then I feel it has the greatest potential to cause harm.
This is also when I came across a theory that the world is secretly being run by reptiles, and some sites have listed it as one of the most believed conspiracy theories in the United States. Part of the experiment was trying to get a wide understanding of the endless amounts of conspiracy theories that circulate on the internet. Reading about reptiles secretly controlling the world was extremely enlightening to just how bizarre some of these theories can be.
At the end of Wednesday I started to see a natural change in behavior. I didn’t make a conscious effort to stop drinking tap water, but I noticed myself gravitating away from it by the afternoon. Before reading up about the possible effects of fluoride I would never use the filter on my refrigerator because the filter was slower than the tap, and I never understood why people were so paranoid about their water. Now without even thinking about it I exclusively drink filtered or bottled water to avoid the chemical, and my house became littered with water bottles in my avoidance of fluoride.
I also noticed myself searching through conspiracy theory material online more often than I expected. Anytime I had a spare moment I was opening Safari to do more research instead of Instagram or Snapchat.
By Thursday social interactions began to get much more stressful. I was delving into every detail of what others were saying, and put way too much stock in nonverbal cues. It wasn’t a fear for my safety, or that my friends were plotting to kill me. Instead it was a social anxiety rooted in what other people thought of me and how I was acting.
The paranoia went beyond what my friends thought of me, or even random people on the street who I couldn’t care less about. I started worrying that I was going to get fired from my job because of incompetence, something that had never worried me before. I stopped seeing people as much and started spending much more time alone and took a hike by myself to try to calm down.
By Thursday I also realized that I was most affected by the JFK theory, because I believed that John F Kennedy was killed by the CIA. I started to bring it up in conversation with family and friends and went so far as to try to convince them to believe in the theory as well.
It wasn’t that I was trying to convince them of the theory because I felt that everyone who didn’t believe was wrong, but instead because I wanted to know if other reasonable, mentally sound people would also come to this conclusion or if I was really starting to change in just those four days. It was a bit unsettling when no one else was agreeing with me, and they believed that I had fallen too far into these theories.
By the time Friday rolled around I was very much ready to be done with this experiment. The life of a conspiracy theorist is more intense than I expected, and it takes a huge toll on your mental health. The anxiety and the paranoia that looking so far into these theories had caused was overwhelming and became very difficult to cope with.
At first I thought that the idea of the Illuminati was nothing but a grade school gag and a symbol. And while I’m not totally sold on the idea that our world is being run by the Illuminati, I also wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being true. I didn’t completely buy into the theory, but by the end of the experiment I became well versed in the history of the Illuminati and understood the reasoning behind it.
Taking on the life of a conspiracy theorist did change my behavior and the way that I see conspiracy theorists. It definitely is a mindset instead of a lifestyle. The changes that I experienced in just one work week were involuntary, and all took root in how I was comprehending my surroundings instead of a forced or thought out shift of behavior.