"So how can we determine what's real and what's not? We can't. We can just pick and choose what we want to believe and rationalize it as best we can. Reality, after all, is basically a movie projected inside our heads."― Richard Spence (Author)
Most people love a good conspiracy theory. Alien sightings, the Kennedy assassination, the moon landings, etc., have all become an important part of our culture, and are good topics to make small talk about. About 99% of all conspiracy theories are complete nonsense. But what about the other 1%?
The ridicule and stigma faced by conspiracy theorists on a daily basis by news outlets, Internet forums, and other rational thinkers is mostly well-deserved. However, with revelations from credible sources, such as Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, and Chelsea Manning, many instances which were laughed at are now known to be the actual truth. Let us take a look at the top conspiracy theories that were really true, all of which are certifiable with solid evidence.
List of Conspiracy Theories That Actually Turned Out to Be True
The FBI Poisoned Alcohol During Prohibition
Almost everyday, a new conspiracy theorist pops out with a claim that the government is poisoning the general population, mostly without any proof, which is why they are laughed out easily. However, the FBI really did poison liquor stocks during the Prohibition (1920 - 1933), in an effort to discourage people from drinking booze.
At the time, the authorities found enforcing the Prohibition very difficult by normal means. Most people knew that occasional drinking did no harm, and thereby were wholeheartedly against the ban on alcohol. With a thriving black market that was showing no signs of slowing down, the FBI decided that the law is the law, and no one would get away by flouting the rules. In effect, the FBI added rubbing alcohol to drinking alcohol. While rubbing alcohol is very good for treating external wounds, drinking it can fatally harm the liver, intestines, and kidneys. Due to this intentional adulteration, people started dying or falling ill after drinking alcohol, which strengthened the arguments of the supporters of Prohibition. While the intention was to only scare off the drinkers, by the end of the Prohibition in 1933, nearly 10,000 people had died due to this poisoning.
The CIA's Heart Attack Gun
Yup, this is not a piece of sci-fi. The CIA has actually invented a weapon sometime during the 1960s. It was disclosed in an investigation by a committee that was investigating the agency for illegal activities in 1975.
The gun is designed to be absolutely untraceable. It fires tiny bullets made from ice, which are brushed with tiny amounts of a potent shellfish toxin. When fired, the bullet hits the target, exposing him/her to the poison, which creates conditions of a heart attack, regardless of the target's age or health. Although a detailed autopsy of a person will reveal the poison, heart attack victims are rarely autopsied. The entrance wound of the ice bullet is as small as an insect bite, and with the ice melted, there is no proof of the attack.
Although there is no proof, the revelation of the gun has caused a massive outbreak of new conspiracy theories on the deaths of several people who died mysteriously of a heart attack; usually those who had something against the U.S. government. Despite the lack of proof, the very existence of the weapon indicates a high probability of its usage.
The Iran-Contra Affair
Reveals from declassified documents show that, in 1985, senior officials of President Reagan's Administration made arrangements for the sale of weapons to Iran, which was under embargo at the time. These officials then used the profits from this illegal deal to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
After a leak from an Iranian, the deal came to light, after which the Reagan Administration had to go through Congressional hearings, which forced the declassification of several incriminating documents. However, the involvement of the president in the event was unclear. Even the sale of weapons to Iran was not explicitly declared to be illegal, because the government refused to declassify certain documents. Only a few officials faced charges for their actions in supporting the Contras.
Project MKULTRA were a series of experiments performed by the CIA towards the goal of learning mind control. The experiments started in 1953, after rumors floated around that the communists were using mind control on American POWs of the Korean War. Not wanting to be left behind, the CIA too conducted its own program to gain these supernatural abilities.
While it is natural for a government to try to keep ahead of perceived international enemies, the CIA went horribly wrong when they decided to do these experiments on unwitting citizens of the U.S. People who wanted treatments for minor issues such as anxiety and depression were duped into becoming subjects for the program. Experimental drugs, probes, abuse, and torture used in MKULTRA resulted in at least one death, and some people going into comas or losing partial control of their bodies. Even sources in the CIA felt that some of the experiments did not make any scientific sense.
However, when the program came to light due to the Freedom of Information Act, relevant officials faced some very serious charges. As of now, it seems that the agency was unsuccessful in finding mind control methods. Even if they did succeed, it's unlikely that we would know about it.
Operation Snow White
The Church of Scientology has always been ridiculed for their weird beliefs, and respect from the common populace is not very high. So, in the 1970s, the organization felt that they had endured enough, and acted by attempting to destroy all documents that made scientology look bad.
To do this, the church organized the most massive infiltration of the United States government in history. They wiretapped and burgled over a hundred government agencies, including the DEA, U.S. Coast Guard, American Medical Association, etc., and stole hundreds of documents, most from the IRS. When they were found out, they denied everything. However, attacking the U.S. government like this triggered a massive response, with raids conducted on several scientology-related places. The trial was a long one, but by the end, many high-ranking members were indicted and then found guilty on several charges. Most faced imprisonment and large fines.
Manufacturers Claimed That Asbestos Was Completely Safe
Asbestos is a silicate mineral which has been commonly used for soundproofing, fire-retardation, and many other projects for several hundreds of years. In the 20th century, due to the advances in science, doctors, insurance companies, and health organizations found out about the adverse effects of asbestos, especially in causing fatal lung diseases. However, before the findings could be revealed to the public, the asbestos manufacturing companies used their power and money to cover up the truth about various health ailments related to asbestos.
The companies made sure that anyone who tried to disclose the facts would have their reputation ruined, thereby removing any credibility to their claims. Finally, in the 1990s, lawsuits which were started in the 1920s took fruit, and took a heavy toll on these companies, with many filing for bankruptcy. Today, the U.S. still allows the manufacture of asbestos, albeit with high amounts of safety restrictions. Europe has banned the material completely.
During the 1940s, the Cold War was just warming up. To get a quick upper hand on their communist rivals, the CIA started a top secret program called Operation Mockingbird. The aim of this program was to gain control in major media outlets of the country by recruiting reporters and journalists directly onto the agency's payroll. This would change neutral news organizations and journalists into creating government propaganda, and even acting as spies on enemy land.
Some of the news organizations involved were ABC, NBC, Time, CBS, Newsweek, United Press International, Associated Press, and many more, thereby having thousands of such operatives who were giving the public manipulated information, and as such creating hatred and fear towards the Soviet Communists. This operation affects international politics to this day. In addition, this practice is believed to run even today, which is not really far-fetched when you think about it.
While the Watergate scandal is now an accepted part of America's history, there was a time when the thought that Republican party officials would spy on the headquarters of the Democrats was considered to be laughable. However, this is exactly what happened in 1972, when the Republicans spied on the National Democrat Headquarters from the nearby Watergate hotel, in an effort to get Richard Nixon reelected for the president's office. To gain information about Democrat party workings, the headquarters was broken into many times, and phones were wiretapped, amongst other eavesdropping methods.
Although conspiracy theories about such political corruption were floating around, they were not taken seriously. Only in 1974, two years after Nixon was elected back to being president, did tape recordings from the White House leak out connecting him to the break-in at the Democratic Headquarters. The expose forced Nixon to resign, being the first American president to do so. Nowadays, the term Watergate is used to describe all kinds of political scandals, mainly those which involve abuse of power.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
In 1932, the government planned to monitor the effects of syphilis, and perform experiments on those who had contracted the disease. The problem was that, the experiments were conducted on poor, black, illiterate men, without their permission. Contrary to popular conspiracy theories, the government did not give the men syphilis, but they examined people who already had the disease. However, they completely denied the ailing men the penicillin treatment available at the time.
For the next 40 years, black men ailing from the disease were continually subjected to various experiments, and were given placebos to fool them into thinking that they were being treated, only for the situation to get so bad, that many of them died. Finally, in 1972, a whistle blower by the name of Peter Buxtun alerted the Center for Disease Control about this barbaric experiment. When even they refused to do anything about it, he went to the New York Times. As a result of the media backlash, the experiment was stopped, and laws were passed to prevent such incidences from happening again.
In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of the United States and other members of the Kennedy Administration made a plan to instigate a war against communist Cuba and Fidel Castro. The plan was named Operation Northwoods, and it involved bombings, shootings, and hijackings, all in high pedestrian areas of major American cities and in military bases. These attacks would then be blamed on Cuba, thereby drumming up support for the war against the communist nation
The plan then went past the then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and finally to Kennedy. However, when the president received the request for the approval of the plan, he called for a immediate meeting with the Joint Chiefs, and gave them a severe upbraiding. However, no action was taken against the Chiefs due to fear of irreparably damaging the reputation of the U.S. military in the eyes of the world. The classified documents regarding the operation were made public in November 1997.
The FBI designed Counter Intelligence Programs named COINTELPRO between 1956 and 1971, which targeted activists from various organizations who were deemed to go against the views of the government. The programs worked to subvert people in organizations such as the American Indian Movement, Congress for Racial Equality, and others who were working for civil rights, as they were deemed to be threats to national security. The programs were even used to instigate hate groups, such as the KKK.
COINTELPRO targeted anyone who was left-wing, by slandering them in the press, suing them in court for various reasons, threatening them with imprisonment, and illegally wiretapping their phones. Their acts led to several unwarranted acts of force by the police, even leading to injuries and death. The program was only exposed when an FBI field office was burgled, and several dossiers were then distributed amongst news agencies. Although mostly stopped, allegations of such operations continue to crop up even today.
The CIA Sponsored Drug Trafficking
In the 1980s, the CIA facilitated the sale of illegal drugs, such as crack cocaine, to the gangs of Los Angeles, as a part of their fundraising efforts for the Nicaraguan Contra Rebels. When Pulitzer prize winning journalist Gary Webb exposed this drug-running operation along with whistle-blowers from the LAPD and CIA, the news received attention from across the nation. However, in 2004, Webb was found dead in his home. The police ruled his death a suicide. However, their verdict is highly suspect, especially since two bullets were found to have penetrated his head.
The Incident of the Gulf of Tonkin is Not Completely True
In most history books, the incident at the Gulf of Tonkin is believed to have been the major spark which ignited the war between the United States and Vietnam. It is believed that, on the 2nd and 4th of August in 1964, U.S. navy vessels were attacked by the Vietnamese Navy. U.S. ships then retaliated in defense, killing Vietnamese navy men.
When news of the attack reached U.S.A., public support for immediate retaliation grew, and the United States prepared for war. However, the public was not told the whole truth. While the first battle of 2nd August was real, the battle of 4th August was not. In fact, during the second incident, the Vietnamese were only salvaging their vessel, and no shots were fired at all. The false news is believed to have been spread deliberately by the CIA to drum up support for the war against communism.
The Fascist Plot to Overthrow the United States Government
The Fascist Plot to Overthrow the United States Government When Franklin Roosevelt agreed to change the American economy from being dependent on the gold standard to working purely on currency, many businessmen felt that this was a very poor move, considering that currency could devalue, while gold wouldn't.
To stop Roosevelt, it was decided that Gerald Macguire and William Doyle, from the American Legion veteran organization, would approach Major General Smedley Butler to organize a military coup to remove Roosevelt from office. And, a fascist dictatorial government with Butler as the head commander would rule the country. However, instead of going along with the plan, Smedley Butler ratted out on the businessmen, by testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee. While it was believed that such a plan might have been made, nothing had been done about it. So no action was taken.
The CIA Pays People for False Testimonies
The CIA Pays People for False Testimonies In 1990, a woman from Kuwait by the name of Nayirah al-Sabah was brought on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Democratic representative Tom Lantos. There, she testified that she had personally seen Iraqi soldiers who invaded hospitals in Kuwait taking newborn babies from their incubators and throwing them on the floor to freeze to death. Her testimony was a major instigator in the public support for the war against Iraq.
However, two years later, in 1992, a journalist from the New York Times found that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador in the U.S., and that her story was a complete lie. While Iraqi soldiers did invade Kuwait, they did not touch any infants, let alone throw them from incubators. The story revealed that the ruse was created by the CIA to get the control of the U.S. on Iraqi oil. The agency had paid Nayirah to lie, and had even given her acting classes. The doctors who had supposedly seen the event happen with Nayirah fled, and others recanted their statements and confessed.
Operation Paperclip Operation Paperclip was the code name for a top secret government program. The operation worked on the recruitment of scientists from Nazi Germany to work in the United States in 1945 after victory in Europe Day. President Truman had authorized the program on the grounds that, any of the scientists who was an active supporter of the Nazi Regime would not be allowed into the U.S.
Arthur Rudolph, Wernher von Braun, and Hubertus Strughold, were a few of these scientists who were officially recorded as Nazis, and listed as a 'menace to the security of Allied Forces'. However, despite this, military officials completely cleared their records, and allowed them permission to work in the States, after providing them falsified employment histories, to circumvent Truman's orders. Eventually, however, some of these scientists were investigated for their activities, and the truth came out. The scientists were either deported, or stood trial for war crimes.
The U.S. Government Illegally Spies on Its Own Citizens
The U.S. Government Illegally Spies on Its Own Citizens Recently, one of the most famous conspiracy theories to have captured the public's imagination was the government sponsored surveillance of cell phone and Internet data by the NSA. While such theories were ridiculed before, the latest revelations by people such as Edward Snowden have changed views drastically.
Even now, most people think that the measures are necessary sacrifice for security sake. However, the reality is that, most people being monitored by the NSA have absolutely no terrorist links, and that their surveillance is in clear violation of the First and Fourth Amendment in the Constitution, which are associated with privacy and free speech. Which is why, the American Civil Liberties Union is working on a lawsuit against the NSA.
As we all know, all governments are infallible, and we cannot and should not trust everything that we hear. It is up to each person to think rationally and sift through the information to know what the truth is, without agreeing to the masses just because it is convenient.