The CIA has been the subject of innumerable speculated conspiracies since its founding in 1947.
Some, such as covert shenanigans in Iran, Guatemala, Syria, Indonesia, and Cuba; are absolutely real. Others, such as their purported involvement in assassinating President Kennedy, or shooting a missile at Air Force One from a stolen submarine in Puget Sound; are not.
But did you know that the very term “conspiracy theory” was invented by the CIA, in the late 1960’s.
On April 9th, 1988, a lieutenant in the US Navy was off his naval base for furlough, stopped at the Lil’ Pengiun sandwich shop and ordered a turkey sub with cole slaw and Russian dressing. He finished it quickly, and returned to base.
Exactly 30 years later, a photograph uploaded to image board 4chan showed what many internet researchers believe was a US Navy sub that had run aground on the Sandwich Islands. That sub was speculated to be carrying Nazi gold to a secret base in Antarctica – where the government was preparing to ride out supposed nuclear strike from Russia.
The captain of the submarine? S. Cole.
And the young lieutenant who ordered that sub sandwich? Nathan Gold.
N. Gold = Nazi gold. Submarine. Sandwich. Cole. Russia. Antarctica = penguins.
Obviously, I made that up, and no such person or submarine or sandwich exists.
But it’s a decent example of one of the logical fallacies that powers the conspiracy theory movement in general, and QAnon in particular – the mistaken belief that nothing happens by coincidence or accident, that everything is planned, everything is connected, everything has meaning, and being able to game out what the connections mean is the difference between those who are awake and those who are asleep.
When I blogged for Skeptoid, I would often find a piece of conspiracy theory or psuedoscience and refute it point by point. One of my favorites was this piece from October 2013, where I tackled a 29-point listicle alleging that the west coast was being “fried” by radiation from the Fukushima meltdown.
It was and is not, and I was able to refute each of the bad faith claims made by the original piece. It’s exhausting to do, but useful in that it meets head on a favorite tactic of conspiracy theorists: the Gish Gallop. This is throwing out half-baked claim after half-baked claim in an endless succession and counting on the skeptic to eventually get tired of debunking them all and quit.
I don’t write much of these anymore, but wanted to come back to the format to answer a piece challenging the validity of anyone who thinks online conspiracy avatar QAnon is fake.
The subject of whether conspiracy theory avatar QAnon is actually a Trump administration insider, a naughty prankster, or something else has consumed the right wing infotainment sphere.
While liberals debate whether or not QAnon should be given oxygen (and I think we need to, if nothing else, to debunk it), conservative personalities are doing their best to simultaneously inflame and shoot down the whole thing.
MAGA-world is in a civil war over QAnon. The teams are:
Anti-Q: Jack Posobiec Scott Adams (The Dilbert Guy) Kurt Schlichter Sean Spicer Alex Jones / Jerome Corsi Assorted Pizzagaters and Youtube conspiracy theorists
On one side, you’ve got prominent conservative personalities who are absolutely sure Q is a live action roleplaying game that’s snared a massive amount of suckers. On the other side, you’ve got Q devotes who are utterly convinced that Q is real, and that the others are delusional.
They’re arguing a lot on Twitter and reddit, but it’s likely that where a conservative media personality falls regarding Q rests entirely on the makeup of their audience – more mainstream infotainters will be skeptical, while those on the fringes will shift their allegiance depending on what their followers want.