Conspiracy Theory

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I suspect for many of us the first time we became aware of the phrase ďconspiracy theoryĒ it was around the death of American president John F Kennedy. If youíre a bit younger, your first exposure was with the death of Elvis Presley. The theory that Elvis hadnít infact died. It inspired numerous sightings and a hit song for Kirsty McCaul.
          Conspiracy theories have abounded around the death of the famous, JFK, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and more recently, princess Diana. The earliest recorded such theory, concerns the Roman Emperor, Nero, who took his own life in 68 AD. It is here that you can see that these theories replicate themselves over and over again. Many in Rome believed that Nero had faked his own death, was lying low and would return to rule once more. Echoes of Elvis!
          A conspiracy theory is defined as a ď belief that some covert but influential organisation is responsible for an unexplained eventĒ and one of the most bizarre concerning a person, was that which still persists around Paul McCartney. According to the theory, he was killed in a car crash in 1966. He was replaced by a look-a-like, an orphan from Scotland called William Campbell. Whatís more the Beatles were all a part of it and left numerous clues in their songs and on their album covers.
          Theories have also abounded around space; the 1969 Moon landing was staged at a secret location in California and around extra- terrestrial life and the existence of aliens. Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico perhaps the best known. The blockbuster Hollywood movie, ď Men in BlackĒ which starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was actually based on a conspiracy theory that believes the ď Men in BlackĒ do actually exist. And then there are the theories that aliens are here and have taken on human form. It is a theory pushed by former BBC presenter, David Ike, who has claimed that the entire Bush family, Margaret Thatcher , the British Royal family and rather bizarrely, the comedian, Bob Hope were all aliens who took on human form.
          And then there is a theory that has great traction at the moment, the New World Order. It believes that a group of international elites control the worlds governments, industry and media. Whatís more their Head Quarters is a secret city built under Denver International airport. I must confess, I have often wondered do the New World Order know their secret location isnít a secret anymore and has anybody else noticed the building work at Cork Airport? You havenít, I prove my point!
          My own personal favourite in terms of relatively harmless conspiracy theories are the estimated 130 million people, who despite some pretty damming and conclusive evidence believe the Earth is flat. Iím assuming that an around the world cruise wouldnít be their choice of holiday!
          In recent times these theories have come more and more into the mainstream, thanks to the widespread availability of the internet and social media. It is easy to laugh off many conspiracy theories, it is easy to be mildly amused by others. Many though are dangerous with dark and sinister motives.
          A theory that begun hundreds of years ago concerning the Jewish race and banking was responsible for the rise of Hitler and the Naziís with the most horrific consequences the world has witnessed. In recent years, there has been a dark and sinister element at play in America and it has been at the forefront of the Trump presidency. The events on Capitol Hill last Wednesday night (6th January 2021), were not spur of the moment, it was the drip feeding of conspiracy theories across social media for the past four years.
          Here in Ireland, we have seen the rise of conspiracy theories around COVID-19 and this has led to reckless and irresponsible behaviour. Thankfully, it is a small minority whose voice is being heard less and less. They are now reduced to trolling news stories on Facebook and Twitter. I think as a result of this pandemic, we have all become adept at our use of social media, we have learnt that the internet can be a dark place, full of dangerous and malicious information.
          Comments I have heard aimed at and about the Chief Medical Officer Tony Hoolihan are disgraceful, designed only to undermine, disrupt and sow the seeds of division. Thatís what conspiracy theorists do. To them the world is a place that is dangerous, people cannot be trusted, people in authority are the enemy. They hide behind valued and cherished freedoms such as the right to protest and the right to free speech. They seek these values for themselves using them to subvert the democratic will, to sow hatred and division.
          But letís end on a serious note! Remember I told you that Paul McCartney had been killed in 1966, well thatís old news. Among popular conspiracy theories gaining traction today are that the Beatles didnít actually exist. The rap star, Jay Z is a time travelling vampire. That Barrack Obama controlled the weather to deflect attention from his policies. The dinosaurs built the pyramids and my own favourite from David Ike, the moon doesnít actually exist, itís a hologram placed in the sky by persons unknown.
          And of course, thereís a guy who works down at the chip shop who swears heís Elvis.


Rev.Mike OíSullivan
Unitarian Church, Cork                                    10th January 2021


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