A good conspiracy theory has several key elements. It starts with some important event, usually frightening or tragic. Then, it argues a flimsy but intriguing relationship between the event and logically unrelated phenomena. It then uses this as proof that evildoers, usually crooked politicians, are to blame. In sum, it oversimplifies evidence while playing on fear and misunderstandings, making it seductive to gullible readers.
Without all the sexy evidence, like inadvertent swastikas or designs that kinda sorta look like the twin towers, conspiracy theories implode. But with the evidence, they tell good stories. They keep the reader’s attention and argue with conviction, so that by the end of it even the most educated person is second-guessing himself.
There are certain phenomena that are soaked with conspiracy theories. 9/11, for example. Some people believe that the U.S. government orchestrated the attacks to have an excuse, “The War on Terror”, to go on an oil-extracting mission in the Middle East. Even Hurricane Katrina has been called man-made, people thinking that the city’s rich blew out the dams to flood the poor out of their neighborhoods.
But one thing there have always been conspiracies about is money. The organizations that control, distribute, and create it have so much power that a compellingly argued story about their corruption is irresistible. Take a look at the following 10 examples of monetary conspiracy theories and tell us yourself if you buy them.
10 The government is cheapening gold for profit
A few years ago, the price of gold dropped like a rock in a pond. This was especially alarming to gold collectors because the price had been steadily increasing for more or less a decade. Some people thought this was the machination of the Federal reserve, big banks, and investment banks. These organizations set out to cause “panic selling”, or people desperately trying to get rid of the gold they had mistakenly thought would never lose its value.
This glut obviously drove down the price of the precious metal, reconfirming their hysteria. Conspiracy theorists think the point of this was to establish the dollar as “the only safe place” in terms of wealth, not in precious metals that threaten the exchange rate.
9 The government lies about the economy
One of the major ways of assessing the economy’s vigor is by looking at the unemployment rate. If it’s low, the economy is doing well: people are making money, so they’re spending. Spending creates jobs, which conveniently encourage people to go out and spend. When it’s high, the economy does badly, because no one wants to be the only person on the dancefloor, so to speak.
So the most recent conspiracy theory about the economy is that the Department of Labor has been saying that the unemployment rate is lower than it is, so that people won’t give up hope. They don’t count as “unemployed” anyone who has stopped looking for a job. “Liars!” Conspiracy theorists cry out, as though they’ve discovered some great truth. Thing is: the unemployment rate has never counted people who have given up looking. It’s nothing new, and it’s nothing secret.
8 Obama ruined the economy to get elected
Back in 2008, Rush Limbaugh claimed that democrats ruined the economy so that Obama could get into the White House. The theory says that the democrats, specifically New York senator Chuck Schumer (Amy Schumer’s uncle, by the way) started on a run on IndyMac bank to cause a feeling of panic. Democrats capitalized on the panic by promising reforms that would stop the economy from spiraling. They took the White House and a congressional majority, which they used to nationalize many industries.
It all seems extremely improbable to us, not only because no one would ruin an economy just to implement some policies, but also because many of George Bush’s policies are much more immediately related to the economic downturn.
7 There’s no gold in Fort Knox
In what’s been called “The Biggest Lie in Government History”, some whistleblowers believe that there is no gold in Fort Knox (the most inaccessible place in the world).
To give you an idea of how sturdy the vault is: it’s made of 16,000 cubic feet of granite and 4,200 cubic feet of cement. Its door weighs 22 tons and is 21-inches thick, resisting drills, torches, and even explosives.
Specialists say that it houses 5,000 metric tons of gold, or 3% of all the gold ever purified. But other specialists say that it actually houses zilch: the last time it was audited was in 1953, and even at that no outside experts were allowed in, and only 5% of the gold was tested.
Although some people says that audits are declined because it would cause a crisis of confidence in gold, others think it’s because there is no gold or because a lot of the gold in the vault is merely gold-painted tungsten (aka worthless garbage.)
6 Obama deliberately took down republican businesses
Back in 2009 when Obama signed a bailout to the auto industry, some people believe that he favored left-leaning companies while leaving right-wing companies out to die. Hams did some digging and noticed that the Obama administration had targeted Chrysler dealers that had donated to the republican campaign. This gathered steam when evidence emerged that a GOP congressman’s dealership had been shut down and the competition of a dealership partly owned by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff’s had been foreclosed.
However, superstar statistician Nate Silver says that car dealerships go 88% to republican candidates. In his opinion, this wasn’t a case of conspiracy, it was just a case of bad math.
5 The $100 bill predicts acts of terrorism
Apparently, the government advertises acts of terrorism on its money. One man on YouTube claims that the $100 bill forewarns of a nuclear strike that will hit New York City and cause a devastating tidal wave. In order to make the apocalyptic images appear, you must first fold the bill into intricate origami, then you must squint until the pattern that you’ve essentially designed looks a little bit like the event you claim will occur.
The man alleges that, using his fold-and-squint technique, he has predicted the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. If that is the truth, the real question is why he didn’t try to stop them, allowing them to happen even though he had incontestable prior knowledge.
4 The government is plotting a continental union
In 2007, the hottest political issue was the creation of the “North American Union”. The NAU was a supranational union, modeled off the European Union, that would join Canada, the United States, and Mexico in a single economic and political unit. Within it, goods, currency, and people would flow past severely restricted barriers. The discrete currency of each country, the Canadian dollar, the U.S. dollar, and the peso, would be replaced by a global currency called “the Amero.”
If this sounds unfamiliar to you, it’s because there were never any plans to implement it. The closest the government ever came was when Bush and Paul Martin in 2005 created the Security and Prosperity Partnership for greater continental cooperation on security and trade. This got massively blown out of proportion, leading to hysterical fears of a NAU that would pillage the American middle class.
3 The 1% rigged the economy
According to Bernie Sanders, the economy is “rigged” by “the billionaire class”. According to the democratic hopeful, “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.” He thinks that the 1% has built an entire, profit-making economy on the hard work of the 99%.
Although this is great rhetoric to get elected, it isn’t true. Canada and the United Kingdom have had similar patterns of development as the United States, with the same trend in gains for the top 1% over the past fifty years. Plus, over the past thirty years, there has been a 30% increase in first-generation business in the Forbes 400 list (which is like roll call of the 1%). If Sanders’ claims were true, the list would never fluctuate.
2 A man was silenced for knowing too much
David Bird of The Wall Street Journal disappeared in 2014. Why would anyone want to kidnap a lowly journalist? Well, this one wasn’t so lowly. What he lacked in bombastic writing talent, he made up for in prescience. He made a connection between quantitative easing and the crash in the price of oil. He also wrote extensively about OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which he seemed to know a lot about. He confidently wrote in one article: “Circumstances could test the limits of OPEC's ability to hold prices steady over the next 1,000 days.”
He seemed to know as much about oil and economic conditions as government officials. D.C. bureaucrats couldn't have him blowing their cover, so, allegedly, they sent to have him kidnapped and killed. What’s even more suspicious is that someone used his credit card days later in Mexico.
1 Obama ruined his own industry
Some specialists believe that Obama teamed up with the Saudis to create a fossil-fuel glut, driving down gas prices and ruining the burgeoning shale oil industry.
Why would he ever do that? Because shale-oil development is terrible for the environment. It retards the development of renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which Obama needs to accomplish to remain popular.
Furthermore, the democrats had just narrowly defeated the Keystone XL pipeline bill. But even if they hadn’t, Obama was going to veto it (has the rumor). But would he want to do that if oil were over $100 a barrel? Probably not. Again, that would harm his popularity as a leader.
In order to accomplish those two feats, Obama engineered a rapid decline in oil prices (allegedly.)