Who killed JFK? Did a UFO crash at Roswell? Were the moon landings faked? What happened to Shergar and was Elvis or Lord Lucan riding him? A few of the most well known conspiracy theories which have been around for some time but the advent of the internet has provided a platform for anyone with such a theory, no matter how outlandish, to see it spread far and wide. A quick trawl through cyberspace turns up no shortage of material. Apparently the world is run by shape-shifting lizards, at least according to one-time Green Party spokesman and sports reporter David Icke. President Obama was not born in the US and therefore is ineligible to be President. The destruction of the World Trade Center was an insurance scam. The moon is a hologram and the Large Hadron Collider is a time travel portal. The list is endless.
The margin between fact and fiction has long been blurred. Take the Second World War as an example. We will all have seen numerous documentaries as well as many films, some of which are based on fact and others with varying degrees of dramatic licence, so how much of what we believe is fact or embellishment? I remember an old friend of my father who liked to recount his wartime experiences – he had been at Dieppe, St. Nazaire and Narvik as well as with Monty in the desert. One particular story bore a striking similarity to the plot of an old film called Five Graves to Cairo! I do not recall him ever claiming to have helped John Mills drive an ambulance to Alex but I expect he spent much of his time in the bar drinking ice cold beer.
Conspiracy theories in general have one major flaw. The more elaborate ones would all require large numbers of people to maintain a fiction for decades. Those involving governments would also need politicians with different ideologies to set aside their beliefs and conspire with their opponents without ever exposing the hoax for electoral advantage. They would do this even when facing electoral defeat? Really? Then there is the question of competence. Given that governments in general frequently prove fallible, is it realistic to believe that they would suddenly become infallible when maintaining a conspiracy lasting for generations? Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969, long before anyone had heard of today’s leaders. President Obama was eight and attending Santo Fransiskus Asisi school in Jakarta, a sixteen year old Tony Blair was still at Fettes College and Mr. Cameron was only three.
So maybe the one conspiracy we should all embrace is scepticism. Now, time to give Shergar his oats while Lucan helps himself to a large single malt!
First published in the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living July 2016