Conspiracy Chart

One can quibble about the placement of some of the items, but it's a sound taxonomy.


"Conspiracy theories are everywhere and people don't understand how harmful they are. I made the original Conspiracy Chart over a year ago. An update was long overdue. This is the 2021 version."

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25 Responses:

  1. Krisjohn says:

    But Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer.

    • Erin M says:

      I'm curious if there were any strange unsolved murders in Cancun back in February... Think about it, sheeple!


  2. M says:

    Hmm, I wonder what marginalized groups flat earthers are promoting violence towards...

    • Michael V. says:

      Seems like there's some crossover with the antisemitic Rothschilds conspiracy...

    • phuzz says:

      Yep, in my experience, flat-earthers tend more towards the 'harmless crank' end of the scale. They're all into their crystal healing and homeopathy (neither of which I see on the diagram).
      'Hollow Earth' types though, they do tend to also follow the more racist theories.

      • jwz says:

        Most of the conspiracy theories that require a vast international organization hiding the truth from "normal" people are just a coat of paint away from "it's the jews".

      • Adam says:

        'Essential Oils cure all illnesses' is on the second tier and perhaps that could be made a little more generic to include homeopathy, crystals and other forms of woo. However, I think the conspiratorial belief is that big pharma is suppressing these miracle cures, rather than simply that they work.

        I've talked to people who believe that homeopathy or essential oils work in some limited way but who nevertheless also believe that mainstream medicine works and believe, at most, that alternative medicines are used less because they have a smaller marketing budget behind them. I'm not defending that as a belief; it has obvious problems with coherence and evidence. However, that sort of lightweight pro-woo position doesn't strike me as a conspiracy theory; the conspiracy theory involves the deaths of Jeff Bradstreet and Brandy Vaughan.

        In fact, I think you could probably make up a fairly fleshed-out version of this chart just on big-pharma-related beliefs. Failure to publish unfavourable trial results etc. fits nicely into the lowest tier with the suppression of independent medical research one tier above. (It happens, but not in the blanket way the kooks say it does.) Claims of regulatory capture are tricky to categorise, it definitely happens but again it's not as complete as the 'cancer is already cured' crowd will claim.

        One problem with this chart is that it omits a lot of conspiracy theories which are more popular in left/liberal circles. The pee tape, Russia is running the GOP, GMOs, everything is fine with the Uyghurs, Bohemian Grove, deliberate flooding of black areas in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, opposition to water fluoridation, the CIA created crack cocaine and vote rigging at the 2016 Democratic primary.

        Yes, I know there's kernels of truth in some of those, just as it's true that George Soros has tried to influence politics around the world (but he's not a puppet master) and it's true that China has covered up a lot around the origins of Covid (but it isn't a bioweapon). The point is that there are clearly conspiratorial versions of these beliefs that are omitted. And yes, I've probably listed at least one item as missing that's actually on the chart because the mix of quirky typefaces makes it really hard to quickly scan read.

        And then (OK, I need to get a blog) I wonder if freebritney is really a conspiracy theory when the only significant difference I can see between it and any other conservatorship abuse case is the amount of interest the public took in it.

        I also wonder what separates the 'Trans Agenda' from any other disagreement over the motivation and goals of a social or political movement. Are gun rights about protecting oneself from a future tyrannical state or the kyriarchy maintaining white supremacy? I personally think strict gun control is sensible and trans rights are human rights. But this chart is not about moral and political positions, it's about widespread, untrue factual beliefs about sinister groups secretly controlling aspects of the world. I agree that the belief that the 'Trans Agenda' is really about damaging social fabric or abusing children is terribly damaging to trans people, I just don't see why it's any more conspiratorial than that the 'liberal agenda' is to surrender to China or destroy the traditional family.

        Finally, I'm not sure why the fake moon landing is labelled as 'dangerous to yourself and others' while the sovereign citizen belief that the US is a corporation is labelled as 'mostly harmless'.

        • Alex says:

          Is there really a conspiracy theory about things being fine with the Uighurs? I thought the only ones claiming anything like that were in the Chinese Communist Party.

          Admittedly, being both lefty and old, I generally assume that any reports I read about genocides of marginalized people are true (I was going to say _all_, but then remembered about the White Replacement/Genocide bullshit). Sadly, up till now, I haven't been wrong with that rule of thumb.

          • Adam says:

            Yeah, there are sadly plenty of tankies claiming it's all CIA disinformation to smear the good name of the glorious left-wing success story that is China.

            For background, an article from Diplomat magazine and another from Coda story, both reasonably respectable and non-axe-grindy publications whether or not you align with them politically.

    • Dave says:

      FE seems like a gateway conspiracy. They say "The elite and schools and scientists are all lying to you!", and if you're dumb enough to believe that shit, "have a seat over here friend, I have something that will return your money a hundred-fold!". Alternatively, they'll start selling you other things the elite and scientists are lying to you about, like how horse paste will defeat Bill Gates' population control mechanism...

      I knew this girl who "studied" to be a nutritionist. One blog she followed got delisted from Google for being a quack, it claims Google is part of a global conspiracy to promote unhealthy foods, she ends up believing any shit that posted on quack Instagram channels: Gates being part of a satanic cult, the furniture store trafficking children, the whole lot. And she thinks she's the one who opened her mind, looked behind the curtain, and gained wisdom...

  3. bones says:

    I like how it looks like an Outside Lands poster. "I'm gonna catch Biden Is A Robot day two, then candyflip for IRAN CONTRA into Area 51 at the Leaving Reality stage"

  4. Karellen says:

    I feel like it's missing a bunch from the "things that actually happened", like the Perdue Pharma Oxycontin epidemic, Telco broadband monopolies (agreeing not to compete with each other in various regions, and working alongside government to block independent muni broadband), and shit like Redlining which was literally the US federal government conspiring to deliberately disadvantage a particular group of citizens.

    • Jeff Allen says:

      Not to mention "tax law", "the two party system", and "recyclable plastic".

      Conspiracies are real. But the problem is, they are just so stupid and banal that they make people go look for the more interesting ones.

      • Karellen says:

        Your "recyclable plastic" made me think of the "personal carbon footprint" scam intended to draw attention away from the concentrated companies that are responsible for creating the problem, and towards the diversified consumers who don't have many choices for avoiding it. But then I thought maybe both of those fall under "Big Oil pushed climate disinfo" because plastics are also oil-based products.

        Also, there's evidence to suggest that the two-party system is a side-effect of FPTP voting rather than something that's been deliberately instituted by anyone. But then FPTP voting benefits those in power and there's a fair amount of resistance to changing that despite plenty of voter support for other voting methods in many jurisdictions, so even then you could definitely call the two-party system the product of a political conspiracy.

        But, yeah, good examples, and excellent point about the banality of real conspiracies.


        The image has "Epstein didn't kill himself" and "Pizzagate", but is entirely missing the "Epstein paedophile island coverup" that has been the subject of actual lawsuits. Where the author might put it on the grounded/detached from reality line might be up for debate, but it's definitely a somewhat plausible non-banal genuine conspiracy theory that's floating around out there.

        • jboy says:

          I agree with you that the indomitable two-party system probably occurred as a side-effect of FPTP (as the natural energy-minimisation state for FPTP), and is reinforced at every FPTP election.

          But as you also observe, when will Pelosi, McCarthy, or any of their political donors endorse (or even allow) a switch to a ranked-choice voting method? They would lose seats in Congress, and power as gatekeepers.

          Instant-Runoff Voting in single-member districts would be better. Single Transferable Vote in larger 3- or 4-member districts would be better again (and would also make gerrymandering that much harder).

          And IRV for the President, rather than the current worst-possible implementation of FPTP with primaries (see my reply to Jeff Allen) + the Electoral College. Or even better, a two-round election for President, like France.

          I think a sub-conspiracy of the two-party system conspiracy is "ranked voting is too confusing". I see that cited frequently as the reason that U.S. states won't / wouldn't consider a switch from FPTP, despite ranked voting working just fine in most other countries in the world.

          • jwq says:

            New Zealand rejected STV as an alternative to FPP, choosing MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) instead. Experience has shown MMP fulfilled its objectives: MMP at 25: How politicians let voters destroy their way of life in three short years (Stuff).

            Can you guess what it was that stoked the resolve of the people to change from FPP and the two-party "dictatorship until the next election" system?

            It was the opposition to MMP and the strong support for the status quo voiced by the politicians. In many different respects, the referendum was the people saying "sod you" to the politicians. I voted for MMP in the referendum and MMP gave us Jacinda as PM.

            It's not perfect here, and I have my grumbles, but as spring gives way to summer it's readily apparent to me that we don't know how lucky we are

            • jboy says:

              Thanks for that article. Interesting history! It sounds like the people of New Zealand really lucked out in 1993.

              I'm also a fan of Mixed-Member Proportional Representation. I tend to prefer Single Transferable Vote (with geographically-larger multi-member local districts) because I think MMP gives too much power to political parties:

              - I'm wary of MMP party-lists, which enable undemocratic back-room party deals to set the order of names on the party-list, which in turn determines which party insiders get to fill seats in Parliament or Congress.

              - Election systems that are explicitly party-based act to impede or even shut out independents. (Goodbye, hypothetical Rep. Bernie Sanders.)

              - Representatives are meant to represent their constituents, but in many democracies, they seem to serve the best interests of their party more than the best interests of their constituents. (For example: Republicans pushing the "stolen election" lie, to empower their party by deceiving their own constituents.)

              - In general, I think the major U.S. parties have way too much power already.

              This is not to say that STV would exclude parties from elections: Parties could still endorse candidates, and there will always be voters who vote for a party rather than for a candidate. I just don't think the major U.S. parties should have as much control over the election process as they currently do.

              To quote from part 1 of your article (you linked to part 2):

              Many had expected the Commission to recommend the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, as this was already in use for some Australian elections, and thus familiar in the Anglo-world. But a trip to Ireland convinced the commission that such a scheme wouldn’t improve much - and didn’t give enough of a role to parties.

              Mulgan says it was the central role that MMP gave parties that attracted him.

              “It was all sort of a game that we were electing individuals. In fact, of course, everybody was being elected according to party identification.

      • jboy says:

        Absolutely, so many of the political problems in the U.S. can be traced directly to the two-party system (and the intentionally-propagated collective delusion that politics must always be Red vs Blue, Us vs Them, no 3rd or 4th choice). Definitely a powerful, but banal, conspiracy.

        In second place in the political column I'd put "the existence of presidential primaries" (in the sense of the major parties choosing and blessing just one presidential candidate each; then all other candidates being effectively shut out of the general election, even if they might have greater overall cross-party popularity). The people may only choose from among the candidates that the major parties have approved!

        I do think the conspiracy of presidential primaries is related to the two-party system conspiracy, but not as an effect. Rather, both conspiracies are instigated by (or for the benefit of) the same group of politicians, party insiders, and political donors. There could be three major parties, and the existence of presidential primaries could still be used to deny the people any meaningful choice.

        (And then in third place in the political column, I'd have another entry for "the presidential primary system", this one relating to the state-by-state ordering of the actual primaries in the primary system!)

        Can you elaborate on what you mean by "tax law"?

  5. k3ninho says:

    We can't tell if "Capitalism as Autocratic Grift" (a consensus reality thing, see Anne Applebaum at The Atlantic / Wayback Archive) is indistinguishable from New World Order.

    If you're into doubting the system, and you think that winning an argument with randos on the internet is a mark of your significance to the system (disclosure: I overestimate the weight of my vote at the ballot box but that vote is still vital), then politicians can't be trusted and conspiracy theories welcome you.


  6. Blissex says:

    So there is a conspiracy against conspiracy theories too :-).

    But in so-called, overrated "reality" there are a lot of conspiracies, as people experienced even just with high school and office politics should know, and as Adam Smith casually described:

    “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public”

    But of course: many cliques/cabals form and become conspiracies because many people want to get an unfair advantage, want some kind of edge or shortcut.

    The saving grace is that since there are so many conspiracies, they tend to work at cross purposes, and many if not most are often poorly organized by not-so-clever conspirators. Same as most businesses...

    Indeed the usual mistake of conspiracy theorists is not thinking that conspiracies exist, because they do, but that there are few and pervasive and that they are diabolically effective.

    So I read with attention many conspiracy theories, because they often manage to find many interesting things, but then exaggerate them with much hand-waving.

    • thielges says:

      The perps of the real, banal, actual conspiracies appreciate the enthusiasm of the tin foil hat crowd because it takes the heat off of their institutionalized grift.

      So while those earnest Citizen Investigators are off chasing chemtrails and finding evidence of child endangerment in DC pizza parlors, the con artists can safely continue to leech off of the public knowing that there story is so boring that it won’t engage any discussion in the pub or on the internet.

  7. Dude says:

    Author of Republican school books:

  8. bq Mackintosh says:

    Late to this game, but hang on — when did Iran/Contra become a thing that supposedly didn't happen?

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