8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History

John killerlane - November 17, 2017

Where there is uncertainty or doubt, secrecy or silence, lays the potential for conspiracy theories to develop and spread which capture the minds of those who question official accounts and explanations given by governments or agencies. While some conspiracy theories are quickly dismissed, others gain traction and resonate with such a considerable number of people that they start to become widely believed. The following is a brief overview of eight of the most widely believed conspiracy theories in U.S. history.

Area 51

Area 51 is the name of a highly-protected United States Air Force facility located in Nevada. It has become a beacon for conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts who believe that the facility holds the remains of aliens and the wreckage of an alien spaceship which crashed in Roswell, New Mexico on June 14, 1947. The owner of the ranch, W.W. “Mac” Brazel and his son reportedly discovered the wreckage before notifying Roswell’s sheriff, George Wilcox who in turn contacted Colonel “Butch” Blanchard, commander of the Roswell Army Airfield’s 509th Composite Group. Blanchard sent an intelligence officer Major Jesse Marcel to accompany Sheriff Wilcox and Brazel to the crash site to recover the wreckage.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
Roswell Daily Record Front Page Story claiming that the RAAF had captured a Flying Saucer. smithsonianmag.com

On July 8th, 1947, The Roswell Daily Record published a story reporting that the RAAF had captured a “Flying Saucer” on Brazel’s ranch. The story made no mention of alien remains or living aliens being recovered at the crash site. The following day the same newspaper published another story clarifying the original story from the previous day’s edition, stating that the RAAF had in fact recovered debris from a crashed weather balloon, which later was revealed to be part of a top-secret operation known as Project Mogul. This clarification led to accusations of a cover-up by conspiracy theorists and the hype surrounding the incident has grown from there.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that the aliens who survived the crash subsequently aided the U.S. Air Force in its development of new advanced aircraft using alien technology at Area 51. The intense security and secrecy surrounding Area 51 coupled with numerous reported sightings of UFO’s in the area convinced them that the government had something to hide.
However, following a Freedom of Information request in 2005 by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, the United States government released documents which revealed that Area 51 was used as a testing site for its U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programmes.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
9/11 attack on Twin Towers in New York. yournewswire.com


There are a considerable number of people in the United States and around the world who question the official U.S. government account of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. 9/11 “Truthers” believe that a deeper conspiracy lies behind the attacks, that the government may have had prior knowledge of the attacks or even more sinisterly, was somehow involved in them. Some 9/11 conspiracy theorists would go as far as to suggest that government allowed the attacks to happen to justify the “War on Terror” and the subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some “Truthers” have likened the way that the towers fell to resembling a controlled demolition. They cite eye-witnesses who reported hearing explosions and seeing debris flying out from the lower levels of the towers prior to their collapse. They question how the fires which followed the planes impacting the towers could have caused such structural damage as to cause the buildings to fall the way they did. They highlight the relatively short duration of the fires – the fire in World Trade Center 1 burned for 102 minutes, while the fire in World Trade Center 2 lasted for 56 minutes before the building collapsed.
However, a thorough inquiry by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded that the planes “severed and damaged support columns and dislodged fire proofing.” Approximately 10,000 gallons of jet fuel exploded upon impact reaching temperatures of up to 1000°C which caused the perimeter columns to bend and the floors to collapse creating “a dynamic load far in excess of what the columns were designed for.” The debris eye-witnesses reported seeing flying out the windows of the lower floors resulted from the collapse of the floors above them. Some also question the collapse of Building 7 on the same day. However, The NIST concluded that Tower 7 collapsed due to uncontrolled fires caused by the collapse of the nearby North Tower which burned for seven hours.
Further arguments against a controlled demolition include the fact that the collapse of the towers began from the top down, rather than from the bottom up which would be the case in a controlled demolition. The subsequent examination of the debris at Ground Zero found no evidence supporting a controlled explosion. Despite thorough hand searches, no explosive charges were ever recovered nor was there any evidence of any pre-cutting of columns or walls which would be normally carried out prior to a controlled explosion.
Some 9/11 conspiracy theorists dispute that the Pentagon was even hit by an airplane, suggesting that the structural damage to the Pentagon would have been far greater had it been hit by a large commercial airliner and that the debris would have been more evident in the early video footage and photos taken in the immediate aftermath. They argue instead that they believe the Pentagon was hit by a missile or an unmanned drone. However, airplane wreckage which included the airplanes black boxes were found at the scene and more importantly, the remains of the crew and passengers of the plane were recovered and positively identified by DNA.
Some disbelieve the official version of events surrounding Flight 93. Similar to their argument regarding the Pentagon attack, they argue that the debris at the crash site would have been more extensive had it occurred per the official explanation. They argue that the plane was more likely to have been shot down by the military. However, photographic evidence shows aircraft wreckage at the scene and the conspiracy theory claims that the wreckage was spread over a wider area turned out to be false. The aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder also supports the official version of the passengers clashing onboard with the hijackers, who then deliberately crashed the aircraft.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
Lee Harvey Oswald. irishcentral.com


The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 has led to several conspiracy theories regarding who was actually behind his murder. Some refuse to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and propose that a second gunman was located in a grassy knoll on the northwest corner of Dealey Plaza. Evidence put forward for this theory derives from witnesses who claim to have heard shots from the direction of the grassy knoll. Video footage of the assassination also shows JFK’s head jolting forward after being struck by the first bullet before it moves backward as though it had been struck by a bullet from the front.
In 1975, CBS examined the footage of JFK’s assassination. In Frame 312 of the footage, Kennedy’s head appears to jolt forward slightly, before moving backward in Frame 313. However, studies have shown that nerve cells can explode after being struck by a bullet, which could explain why JFK’s head moves backward in Frame 313.
In 1976, a House of Representatives committee examined a radio transmission audiotape from a police officer who escorted the motorcade. The committee reported that four gunshots were fired, one of which came from the grassy knoll. However, an analysis of the tapes by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that some of the sounds, in fact, were not gunshots and some occurred up to a minute after the assassination. Also, the police officer in question was not actually at the location stated in the House report, so even if there were extra gunshots, they were not from the direction of the grassy knoll.
Other JFK conspiracy theorists suggest that the Mafia was behind his murder. Others claim that it was the CIA. Some point an accusatory finger at the man who succeeded him as President, Lyndon B. Johnson, claiming that he had everything to gain from JFK’s death. Others suggest that Oswald carried out the assassination at the behest of the KGB. However, none of these claims are supported by conclusive evidence.
In 1992, The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection which consists of approximately five million pages of record. Also in that year, Congress ordered that all remaining sealed files pertaining to the investigation into Kennedy’s death should be released by the National Archives within 25 years. In 2017 alone, the National Archives has made four public releases of thousands of these documents. The White House has said that the rest of the documents will be released “on a rolling basis, with redactions in only the rarest of circumstances” by April 26, 2018.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
American flag appearing to be blowing in the wind. space.com

Moon Landing

A sizeable percentage of Americans (some polls have suggested as many as 20%) believe that the Apollo moon landings were faked. They suggest that the moon landings were staged in order to save face and make good on President John F. Kennedy’s vow to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Here are some of the main arguments put forward by the doubters, and the counter-arguments to them:

Conspiracy Theory: In one of the images taken by the crew of the Apollo mission, the American flag appears to be flapping in the wind. But this couldn’t happen, as there is no air in the moon’s atmosphere.
The explanation: The crew did not want the flag to just hang down, instead they wanted to stretch it out so that it would be fully visible to the camera. This was done by inserting a stiff wire into the fabric and pulling the edges taut. The flutter effect happened as a result of the astronauts adjusting the wire while they were erecting the flag.
Conspiracy theory: The astronauts would have been killed by exposure to lethal levels of radiation after leaving the safety of the Van Allen Radiation Belt.
Explanation: The Van Allen Belt consists of zones of highly charged energetic particles trapped at high altitudes in Earth’s magnetic field, which protect the planet from dangerous solar radiation. However, the astronauts spent less than four hours total passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belt, which was not long enough exposure to cause it to be harmful, let alone fatal.
Conspiracy theory: Multiple-angle shadows suggest that there was another light source apart from the sun, like a large studio light.
Explanation: The astronauts were taking photos while the sun was close to the horizon. The hilly area where the photos were being taken and the contours of the ground resulted in shadows of different lengths.
Conspiracy theory: The moon’s temperature reaches 280 degrees Fahrenheit. The camera’s film would have melted and the astronauts wouldn’t have been able to bear that heat.
Explanation: The Apollo missions landed at either lunar dawn or dusk so the temperatures were much lower. And secondly, all materials were enclosed in protective canisters.
Conspiracy Theory: When the Lunar Excursion Module landed, why wasn’t there a crater left in the dusty surface underneath?
Explanation: While the moon surface may be dusty, the moon is made up of densely-packed rock which easily refutes this particular conspiracy theory.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
U.S. battleship sinking during attack on Pearl Harbor. encyclopediabritannica

Pearl Harbor

Some claim that the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island, Hawaii was allowed to happen in order to justify the United States entry into World War II. American public opinion prior to the attack was strongly against entering the war. The conspiracy theorists assert that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was aware of Japan’s intention to attack but allowed it to occur to shift public opinion in favour of entering the war.
Most historians disagree with the “back-door to war” theory. President Roosevelt’s government in the months leading up to the attack had taken a number of non-military measures against the Japanese. In July 1941, following Japan’s occupation of French Indochina, the government froze Japanese assets in the United States and placed an embargo on petroleum shipments and other vital war materials to Japan. By late 1941 the United States had severed virtually all commercial and financial relations with the Japanese government.
President Roosevelt believed prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, that a war with Japan would hinder American aid to Britain and therefore lengthen its struggle against Germany. At a cabinet meeting on November 7, 1941, Roosevelt said that his administration should “strain every nerve to satisfy and keep on good relations” with the Japanese negotiators. He advised the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, to do everything in his power to not let the negotiations with the Japanese “deteriorate and break-up,” and said, “let us make no move of ill will, let us do nothing that will precipitate a crisis.”
While it is true that President Roosevelt and his advisers did foresee a Japanese attack on December 6-7, 1941, conflicting intelligence about the location of the attack meant that they could not tell with certainty where it would take place. U.S. Military leaders believed that the fleet located in Pearl Harbour would have been more of a deterrent than a target to the Japanese, which is one of the reasons they were caught by surprise by the attack. Similarly, U.S. Military leaders underestimated Japanese air and naval forces, erroneously thinking that the Japanese did not have the capability to mount a successful attack on Pearl Harbour.
Also, most historians doubt that President Roosevelt, himself a former assistant secretary of the Navy, would have jeopardised so much of the U.S. fleet by allowing an attack on Pearl Harbor.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
Barack Obama’s official long-form birth certificate. snopes.com

Barack Obama was born in Kenya

The assertion that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not eligible to be president, led to what became known as the “birther campaign” in the United States. “Birthers” did not believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii which therefore meant that he was not a U.S. citizen. They claimed that he was born in Kenya instead. It became a recurring political issue beginning when Obama was first running for president in 2008. Some Republicans, most notably President Donald Trump have said that Hillary Clinton was the first person behind these accusations and that they began after she had fallen behind Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination.
In a speech in Washington, Hillary Clinton refuted Trump’s allegation, saying that “Mr. Trump had founded his campaign on this ‘outrageous lie’ and that he ‘owed Obama and the American people an apology’.” In a tweet, Hillary Clinton wrote that “Trump has spent five years peddling a racist conspiracy aimed at undermining the first African-American president.”
In April 2011, Trump challenged Obama to show his birth certificate to prove his citizenship. A few weeks later the state of Hawaii released Obama’s official long-form birth certificate. Then a number of weeks later, at the annual White House correspondent’s dinner, Obama used the release of his official birth certificate to poke fun at Trump, who was in the audience during his speech. Obama said that he hoped that the matter could be put to rest and that Trump could “finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?”
However, Trump was not quite finished with the matter. On August 6, 2012, Trump tweeted, “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Later, while running for president, Trump finally conceded that he believed that Obama was born in Hawaii.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
(© Alexander/stock.adobe.com)
Polar Bear and global warming

Global Warming

While the overwhelming majority of scientists across the world not only accept that climate change is happening and that carbon emissions are increasing the rate at which climate change is occurring, an alarming proportion of Americans refuse to believe that global warming is real. Some climate change “deniers” have a vested interest in adopting the beliefs that they do, such as those involved in the carbon-based energy industry, who face incurring costs and increased regulations as a result of climate change.
However, what is more worrying, is the percentage of ordinary American citizens who reject the notion of global warming. One particular poll conducted in the United States in 2013, found that 37% of those polled believed that “climate change was a hoax.” 41% of respondents in another poll stated that it is “definitely or possibly true that global warming is a myth concocted by scientists.” A study conducted in 2013 by Lewandowsky, Gignac et al. found that 20% of respondents believed that climate change is a “hoax perpetrated by corrupt scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate research.”
And it appears that this conspiratorial thinking is not limited to ordinary Americans. On November 6, 2012, Donald Trump tweeted that, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” A few months previously, Mr. Trump tweeted that “In the 1920s people were worried about global cooling – it never happened. Now it’s global warming. Give me a break.”
On June 1, 2017, U.S. president Donald Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. President Trump cited the Paris accord’s “draconian, financial and economic burdens” as reasons for withdrawing from it, and that the agreement was not tough enough on countries like China or India. The United States joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-participants of the Paris accord.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw, “Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
The European Union and China have pledged to continue to adhere to the Paris accord despite the withdrawal of the United States. The United States is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter after China.

8 Of The Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in American History
Boston Herald front-page story announcing Osama bin Laden’s death. cbsnews.com

Osama Bin Laden’s death

There are some who question that Osama bin Laden was even killed at all. This is despite the fact that al-Qaeda has acknowledged his killing by U.S. Navy Seals at an Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, on May 2, 2011. Others claim that bin Laden’s killing was used for political leverage by Barack Obama to secure his re-election as U.S. president for a second term.
One notable individual who disputes the official White House account of bin Laden’s capture and killing is American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh claims that the official version of bin Laden’s death is a “fairy-tale.” He believes that Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, was holding bin Laden prisoner for nearly six years in Abbottabad before handing him over to the United States. He also claims that the Navy Seal raid was staged. Michael Morrell, the former deputy and acting director of the CIA described Hersh’s theory as “rubbish” and that “almost every sentence” of what Hersh wrote about it is “inaccurate.”
The CIA has always maintained that a phone number that they received from Pakistani intelligence, who was unaware of its significance, belonged to a courier who they tracked for eight years and who eventually led them to the Abbottabad compound which housed bin Laden. This account is rejected by Hersh, who instead believes that an unnamed retired Pakistani military intelligence officer walked into the U.S. embassy in Islamabad and told them that the Pakistani government had been hiding bin Laden at Abbottabad in exchange for much of the $25 million reward.
Hersh also believes that senior figures in the Pakistani Army and Intelligence Services were aware bin Laden was in Abbottabad, which the CIA also contests. Carlotta Gall, who reported from Pakistan for the New York Times for over a decade, supports Hersh’s claims regarding senior officials knowing of bin Laden’s whereabouts. A local source allegedly informed her that the ISI had a bin Laden desk and that he was being held in “some sort of protective custody.”
Hersh’s claims are believed to be derived from one particular source, an unnamed retired American senior intelligence officer. Morrell claims that this individual was never at any meetings he attended. Hersh also alleges, following information gleaned from reading the debriefings of the Navy Seals who conducted the operation, that parts of bin Laden’s dismembered remains were thrown from a helicopter.
Michael Scheuer, who headed the special CIA unit hunting for bin Laden believes it was a mistake not to publish images of bin Laden’s body which would have confirmed his death. Scheuer told BBC reporter Jane Corbin, “I don’t know why they didn’t do that but secrecy breeds conspiracy theories.”