Most people can't resist getting the details on the latest
conspiracy theories, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
At the same time, many people quickly denounce any conspiracy
theory as untrue ... and sometimes as unpatriotic or just
While intelligent cynicism certainly can be healthy, though,
some of the greatest discoveries of all time were initially
received (often with great vitriol) as blasphemous conspiracy
theories -- think of the revelation that the earth was not
the center of the universe, or that the world was not flat
but actually round.
Have you heard? About five decades ago the CIA gave
LSD and other drugs to people, without their consent,
in an attempt to develop a truth serum.
What follows are some of these most shocking modern conspiracy
theories that were apparently right all along.
(Of course, the counter-claims of conspiracy theory regarding
some remain open ... and who knows?)
The Dreyfus Affair: In the late 1800s in France,
Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongfully
convicted of treason based on false government documents,
and sentenced to life in prison. The French government
did attempt to cover this up, but Dreyfus was eventually
pardoned after the affair was made public (an act that
is credited to writer Émile Zola).
The Mafia: This secret crime society was virtually
unknown until the 1960s, when member Joe Valachi first
revealed the society's secrets to law enforcement officials.
MK-ULTRA: In the 1950s to the 1970s, the CIA
ran a mind-control project aimed at finding a "truth
serum" to use on communist spies. Test subjects were
given LSD and other drugs, often without consent, and
some were tortured. At least one man, civilian biochemist
Frank Olson, who was working for the government, died
as a result of the experiments. The project was finally
exposed after investigations by the Rockefeller Commission.
Operation Mockingbird: Also in the 1950s to '70s,
the CIA paid a number of well-known domestic and foreign
journalists (from big-name media outlets like Time, The
Washington Post, The New York Times, CBS and others) to
publish CIA propaganda. The CIA also reportedly funded
at least one movie, the animated "Animal Farm,"
by George Orwell. The Church Committee finally exposed
the activities in 1975.
Watergate: Republican officials spied on the
Democratic National Headquarters from the Watergate Hotel
in 1972. While conspiracy theories suggested underhanded
dealings were taking place, it wasn't until 1974 that
White House tape recordings linked President Nixon to
the break-in and forced him to resign.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: The United States
Public Health Service carried out this clinical study
on 400 poor, African-American men with syphilis from 1932
to 1972. During the study the men were given false and
sometimes dangerous treatments, and adequate treatment
was intentionally withheld so the agency could learn more
about the disease. While the study was initially supposed
to last just six months, it continued for 40 years. Close
to 200 of the men died from syphilis or related complications
by the end of the study.
Operation Northwoods was a well-orchestrated plan by
top U.S. military leaders to create public support for
a war against Cuba -- by carrying out acts of terrorism
on U.S. soil, hijacking planes, sinking Cuban refugee
boats and more.
Operation Northwoods: In the early 1960s, American
military leaders drafted plans to create public support
for a war against Cuba, to oust Fidel Castro from power.
The plans included committing acts of terrorism in U.S.
cities, killing innocent people and U.S. soldiers, blowing
up a U.S. ship, assassinating Cuban émigrés,
sinking boats of Cuban refugees, and hijacking planes.
The plans were all approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
but were reportedly rejected by the civilian leadership,
then kept secret for nearly 40 years.
The Iran-Contra Affair: In 1985 and '86, the
White House authorized government officials to secretly
trade weapons with the Israeli government in exchange
for the release of U.S. hostages in Iran. The plot was
uncovered by Congress in 1987.
1990 Testimony of Nayirah: A 15-year-old girl
named "Nayirah" testified before the U.S. Congress
that she had seen Iraqi soldiers pulling Kuwaiti babies
from incubators, causing them to die. The testimony helped
gain major public support for the 1991 Gulf War, but --
despite protests that the dispute of this story was itself
a conspiracy theory -- it was later discovered that the
testimony was false. It was actually the creation of public
relations firm Hill & Knowlton for the purpose of
promoting the Gulf War.
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