tv Lectures in History Conspiracy Culture in American History CSPAN October 12, 2021 5:53pm-7:18pm EDT
create new, cultural practices. >> watch the full tour online at c-span.org/history. did you know that all of c-span's american history programs are available to watch online? go to c-span.org/history and type in your topic of interest in the search box. thousands of programs looking at the people that shaped our nation. all available online at c-span.org/history. next on american history tv it's time for lectures in history. this week, indiana university bloomington professor stephen andrews teaches a class on conspiracy culture in american history. >> thank you guys so much. i have been -- this is my second year and i'd like to thank everyone at the 9/11 museum. they are fantastic, as you all know, so easy to work with and gilda is fantastic and the entire staff is wonderful.
it hit me last year and i thought this year would be different that i had already experienced the 9/11 museum and now it would become old hat being in this space and it has not and this space as you know during the last five days is hallowed ground and a hard place to do something as mundane as give a lecture, so i'm going do my best to do that because some of the things we'll talk about are weird. some of them are funny. some of them are scary. some of them are gross, and i don't want any of that to seem disrespectful to the space that we're in. nothing we can do as lincoln said, can unhallow this ground that is hal load, but i do want you to know that i'm cognizant of the space that we're in, but still have to do the task we have before us. my name is steve andrews and i had a great pleasure of working with ed and continue to work
with him, i'm from a small southern town in florida, brandon, outside of tampa. i was raised as a fundamentalist, evangelical southern baptist and i say that because we will talk at some points conspiracy, culture and interaction with american religion and we have to talk about that, and when we do, and whether i do i don't want to seem yolking, and they're personally and professionally as a historian, i want to lay that out that i'm not coming from within it so the criticisms i'm making is from a person who is part of a culture that you're also critiquing. when i was in graduate school i was working on spiritualism. i'm not sure how familiar you are with spiritualism and it was the popular belief in the 1850s that it was popular to talk to the spirits of the dead and it
becomes a cultural phenomenon of people having seances and it goes through the 1860s of talking to the dead and the fox sisters in 1848 and the thing that fascinated me was -- i was well familiar with the academic work on religion and folk belief, things like keith thomas' religion and the decline of magic which is as you become more moderate, which is in monsters and faurys and yet in the 1850s at a time of steamships and the telegram, when we're laying trans atlantic telegraph cables that link new york and london and people in america and other parts of europe and particularly in america are being fascinated in deeply resistant in talking to spirits. how do you have both things and how do you move toward modernity and establishment and the erie canal and the steamship any at the same time this culture is also looking back to a belief that would not be out of place
in salem in the 1690s. so keep that in the back of your head. when i say conspiracy theorist, when we talk about american conspiracies, what are some of the kind of conspiracies that we're talking about? what are conspiracies that you know of in the united states? >> yes, ma'am? >> we did not land on the moon. >> we did not land on the moon. the moon hoax. >> i had a student say the las vegas shooting was a ploy by the government to take away americans' guns. >> second amendment. new world order stuff. handy hook didn't happen. [ inaudible ] >> jfk assassination. >> holocaust didn't happen. >> parkland shooting is set up. kids, crisis actors and we can go on and on and on, right? here's the short list. kennedy assassination. birthers, obama wasn't born in the united states, 9/11 was an inside job. the ufos that the united states
government is hiding information about aliens and ufos, right? >> fema, new world order and martial law, this is the, we're going to put people in fema camps and the atf will take our guns and this is crisis actors around every shooting, right? nafta and the amero, and nafta is the north american free trade agreement and there was an argument in the 1990s that nafta was leading into what was going to be a triunion of mexico and canada that would use a new dollar bill called the amero. there were reports coming out about redmony and so when we've redesigned our currency, you have recognized, we recognized our currency, when people saw stacks of those it was going to be the amero and this would be our new dollar. mercury, autism. weather modifications, kim trail, the fed, and the moon
landing was a hoax. u.n. conspiracies. agenda 21, agenda 21 was signed in rio de janeiro and it is the u.n. agenda for sustainable growth, environmental protection and other things. supposedly in the eyes of many conspiracy theorists, this is the plan of radical population reduction to get the population of the world down to 300 million using kim trails, and these are often tied together, right? >> build a bird conference is a conference of world economic and political leaders. that is closed to the public and roth child, widespread population reduction. yes? >> sorry. would you be able to share the slide with us? >> yes. so many. so i think there are -- and as we talked about it, if you wanted to, we could have gone on for another 20 minutes coming up with deeper and deeper conspiracies, right? or different versions of the same ones. so a wide range and some are
spectacularly and truly weird, david ike is a british broadcaster, sports broadcaster who became convinced that the royal family and other world leaders are all actually shape-shifting aliens who are lizards and that the royal families of europe that are all tied by blood, right? world war i, all of the combatants in europe are all kin. they're all cousins and they're all family in a sense that they are all shape-shifting lizards and there are some that believe in the kennedy assassination. there are kennedy assassination conspiracy believers of all stripes from all different places and we'll talk about that a little bit. others are widespread and keyed into the birther controversy and it was big news in the late 20 teens and will probably not be huge news.
it will not be the kennedy assassination. there was an argument that obama san tablged the water horizon in the gulf of mexico for -- to have new policies against oil use and to push solar power, but this one came up and was sampled and it happens in this life cycle of conspiracy theories, so the reality and one of the things we have to think about and the second part is what we do with our students about how we talk to our students about conspiracies. one of the things we have to acknowledge as part of this conversation is that conspiracies exist. >> if you say they're often working together to advance an agenda beneficial to them, then conspiracies are literally everywhere. every corporation that is coming out with a new rollout of the bacon double cheeseburger with rio sauce, the 11 herbs and
spices of kfc and the secret formula of coke and people meet with their own interest and right now, maybe less now than in the cold war, there are people in high-rise office buildings thinking of how to protect you know the cia, the fbi and the justice department, there were also certainly when i was a child in the 1980s living outside of macdill air force base that it was someone probable not much older than me, somewhere in russia, there are secret groups working against you and protecting you. we live in a web of secrecy. not all of it is a conspiracy, but we have to recognize that conspiracies do exist. i think that when we talk about conspiracy culture it seems that we're talking about things that are weird and strange and outside of the mainstream, outside of the way that most of us, that's because we all generally think of us as a
group, right? educated educators who teach people we are not part of this group, that group is out there and this is a fringe, strange part of american culture. i disagree. i think that conspiracies is how americans do politics. it is often the first move, when i heard yesterday, maybe you did, too, that stormy daniels got arrested i had conversations with no less than five people about it yesterday who are all of differing educational levels from high school to post-graduate medical school who all said they set her up. who they is and why they set her up, but the first thought is they set her up. right? right. there is a growing sense of the united states and i'll trace some of these from the founding to the present day of about this is a way that americans do politics, think politically and it is also part of our, and maybe other countries, too and i
don't know if it's unique to america and it is a powerful force here. the way we think about politics. whether it is bernie was roped out of by a conspiracy of the clintons or trump saying this is a conspiracy to get me unelected or all of these simple things probably down to every local school board of a conspiracy to do one thing or other and change the hours of the bus stop skwed you will. so in my own classes i talk about the occult, right? on one level the occult, and wear wolves, demons, monster, magic. that is part of the occult. the salem witch trials and scary supernatural beliefs come up, but i think there is a big part of the occult and the latin sense of a cultus of a hidden american fascination with hidden
knowledge that shows up in our popular culture that shows up in our advertisements and that shows up on tv shows. this idea that americans are haunted by, that the world is not what we see and the real things that happen and really affect us, the important things are the things that are happening hidden undergrowth fund. hidden underground both metaphorically and normally. that they, them are making the decisions and they, them are somewhere hidden underground and we have to find a way to discover what reality and what reality actually looks like, right? so occult thinking conspiratorially is how americans react to the world and how they interact with the world and it is part of our popular culture and you can also look like, for example, if you look at just advertisements and here are ten ancient diet secrets that they don't want you to know. if you watch certainly, i watched a lot of -- because i
didn't have a lot better things to do and i watched a lot of oprah daytime television during the '80s and '90s. here are beauty secrets and things your cardiologist doesn't want you to know, if you eat this way you'll magically lose weight and your cardiologist doesn't know this so that you have to stay fat and have to come and get a heart transplant or whatever, but the idea that there is a secret knowledge of a way to do things and some powerful force has a way to do it and that's in popular culture. i looked through the tv listings and it is hard to fight a night in tv, and i would argue that you might not be able to, to find a night in popular culture where one of the major shows on networks is not about exactly this, right? is not about secret groups of agents stopping underground groups. 24, agents of shield, right? angels and demons and x-files comes back and it was massive in
the '90s. all of these things, buffy. i was joking that i was watching downton abby with my wife and i realized four episodes in that something was missing and i turned to her and said where are the vampires? how is it that we're going to go four episodes of a show and no one has super powers? mcarthur is not a werewolf? americans are prepared to think that there is an occult underground world, and hidden, that's away from us that some other people control and i showed it and i was trying to find things that are more popular and the list was so good i could not use it. it was on twitter and 10-year-olds named the baseball team and sometimes they crush it and the kid has the baseball team and the little league team
is the illuminati with the baseball back of the jersey is with the all-seeing illuminati eye. when i was at ken's barbershop which was my literal team when i was 10 we would have never come up with illuminati. what does it mean to have kids name themselves after, as we'll talk about a 1707s enlightenment underground movement in bohemia and to have trust no one as the tag line and this is not serious or is it, right? what does this say about our culture? >> joseph studies conspiracy theories and did a stud per his book, and they're controlled by small groups of people working in secret against the rest of us and we'll talk about more of
this in the next hour. only 30% disagree. >> diry irving believes the earth is flat and they lied to us. >> i don't want to necessarily make fun of diry irving and this is from the sporting news not known as necessarily being deep into conspiracy theories, but this is the idea that the earth is truly flat and this is being hidden. okay? irving joins rapper bob as a denier of the sphere-shaped planning. is the earth flat or is the earth round, i think you need to do research on it, irving responded because it is right in front of our faces they lied to us. irving also acknowledged that he has been taught his entire life that the planet is round and thinks logically it just doesn't make sense and now the words of diry irving, if you think about it from the landscape and the way we travel and the way we move, can you really think about
us rotating along the sun and rotating in specific dates and being per bendic lar of what's on with the planets and irving explained using the air quotes when serving the word planets and maybe they need neil degrass tyson. ha, ha, ha. i am here to make fun of kyrie irving which literally states newton's theory of planetary motion as a scam, but this quote, because it is right in front of our faces, they lied to us. trust no one. okay? so stefan diggs, wide receiver of the vikings, how mad would you be if i said you agree with dire, i don't care. >> someone responded, do you think the earth is flat and prove that it's not right now besides showing me a picture that you got somewhere and i'll be a believer. >> now, one, this is we want to
not say that here we're talking with a wide receiver of minnesota vikings about whether or not the earth is flat, but look at the evidentiary argumentative move which is i don't believe it. they lied to us, show me a picture, but not one you got from somewhere because underneath that is the sense they lied to us. the evidence itself by whether we argue whether this is true or not, it is not accessible and that a circular argument that the evidence you want to introduce will be immediately discounted because the source you'll produce it from are the only people who can take pictures from space. who are them? we're in a box, an intellectual box. okay? richard wrote in 1964 and it's very accessible and easy to read about the paranoid style and i want to read a bit. american politics has aufrp been
an arena for angry minds and behind this, there is a style of mind that is not necessarily new or right wing. i call it the paranoid style simply because no other word evokes the sense of heated exaggeration and conspiratorial fantasy that i have in mind. in this essay from 1964 in the wake of barry goldwater and the idea of the john burke society, he's writing about this and he's going back in history and conspiracy in the 1850s and this is from a texas newspaper in the 1950s, it is a notorious fact that the monarchs of europe and the pope of rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil and religious institutions. we have the best reason for finding its way into the executive chamber and they're painted with the infectious venom of catholicism. in the 1850s there is a worldwide conspiracy against the united states and it is from the pope and it's already affected
the presidency. there are things you can say about franklin pierce, but i don't think he was a pawn of the pope, right? also, this was joe mccarthy speaking in the 1950s. how can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are delivering us from disaster. this might be a product as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. the biggest in the history of man and that this is eisenhower who won world war ii is a secret pawn of the communists and someone high in the white house and the truman administration. he sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms and whole political orders and whole systems of human values and he's always manning the barricades of civilization and constantly lives in a turning point.
like millennialists he expresses those who are living through the last days and sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. he is writing against political thinkers and as a religious historian, this language speaks out to me in the language of millennialism and apocalyptic visions and when you hear people talk in american politics, they talk about a war of civilization and everything will be over if you don't have this. a border wall or anything else that will be gone and it will be overwritten that this kind of language that this is the election that if this election doesn't happen, it's all over because of some dark conspiracy. okay? >> the i lum aetna. we go back to our history and the illuminated ones and founded by adam weiss hop as it translates to adam wisehead. he's advanced the gold into the entightenment and the illuminati
is a real thing and it is a real organization set up for enlightenment goals, and carl owe, it is leader made all secret societies illegal. illuminati fled the country and government seized their letter, papers and published them and showing that they were anti-religious and they were opposed to the catholic church and said this is the reason to expose them, but they show up again in the 1709s in america and in an america that is both involved about to be involved in a kwaus i war with france that's between france and england as they are fighting a revolution in england and america is caught in the war. if you know about the election of 1800 from hamilton, et cetera, jefferson was framed as a french revolutionary who would make the streets of america run with blood and adams is a monarchist who would return the united states to england, right? >> and the illuminati was seen as a secret force caution the
french revolution and a small group of people in bavaria are often accused in the 1790s as being the secret force behind the french revolution. okay? free masonry. this is a constant in conspiracy thoory and it was established in the 18th century, and it maintains a connection with the temple of solomon and secrets of initiation. do you recognize the symbol? they made their way on to the american dollar on the jersey of a 10-year-old little league player. many of the symbols. the parquet floor, the all-seeing eye, the apron and this is a part of when you look at the language of symbols of american conspiracy theories these symbols come up again and again and free masons are one of
those group, they are pan-national and pan-cultural secret that have secret rituals and those rituals may be no more complicated than the lion's club in some people's estimation or part of a secret, radical, satanist agenda depending on how you want to turn it and in a sense it's a secret society. we don't know. this is a list of famous masonic leaders. it can go on and on. 27 signers of the constitution. most of the earliest presidents, payne, monroe, garfield, mckinley, roosevelt, johnson, ford, others -- easy to make the argument, if you were willing to connect particular data points that the united states government itself is a masonic plot, right? that the great seal looks like a masonic symbol and that the masons are behind it all. in new york in 1826 a man named
william morgan tried to join the local mason lodge and was turned down saying i'll reveal your secrets and he was arrested. when he was released he never returned home. a body was found in the river in upstate new york and people thought it was morgan and there was a full-fledged masonic panic. that the secret society of the masons was a murderous conspiracy that was attempted to take over the united states, and this was not just a fear that kind of percolated among americans in upstate new york and it became an organizing principal for the political party and the anti-masonic party wins elections in 1832 and 1836. it elects anti-masons to political office and its agenda is against people in american government being parts of secret societies because if you're a part of the secret society you're not doing the people's work and your allegiance is to something else and this was the argument against kennedy in
1960. the argument that kennedy as a catholic would have to follow the rules of the pope rather than be served the american people. in a sense of other people opposed to american catholicism generally that you could not be a catholic and an american president because you either served one master or the other. right? same thing with the anti-masons in the 1830s, but if the modern and i mean, there are other conspiracies and other things that they go through and i'll jump ahead now. because if the way we engage them with our stunds and fellow american citizens and the way we do it now changed. it's not this. remember, most of these so far are external. bankers are influencing us with the outside. maceness on are from outside the government creeping in. now, by the modern or age we're
in now, many times it's the american government itself. so if the modern conspiracy theories have a birthday, it is in 1947, with the national security act of 1947. >> it establishes the national security council, and it establishes the cia and the air force had prior been part of the army and it established the joint chiefs of staff and it creates the cia, as i said. it is charged with other funks and functions and duties with secret operations and covert ops and the budget was going to be a national secret and it would be a black budget because if we let the russians know how much we're paying for things in the security and they'll have an estimate of how much money we're spending and what we might be spending it on, but this is really important because for the first time in american mystery the government is saying we will have a government outside of democratic observation.
it will do secret things and we doll it to protect us, because we have to have secrets to protect themselves and that secret state has evolved and grown and grown and evolved into the patriot act when it moves to a whole other level, but it has a birthday, 1947. now, the idea of a secret part of the government that does covert operations in the post world war ii makes a lot of sense, right? there is a reason to have secrets and a reason to have covert actions so it's not that this is somehow wicked on its face, but in a population that trusted the american government, this will be fbi and if they trusted the government to make the right decisions and they will not abuse it, but having a secret government apparatus isn't a problem, but that is not
the country that we are and it's certainly not the country we are as we move forward, right? this creates a fertile ground for conspiracies and there literally is a box where you can say the federal government did this and we know they have secrets when thai do things. the defense is that humans would never do that against each other and that is not a strong argument given what we know that humans would do. it is a strong argument to say the american government wouldn't do that. so when you get a conspiracy that says the american government did one thing or another and the american government wouldn't do that and a society where people would ve reflect for people that are awakened by this event. kennedy shot -- not to shock you, kennedy was shot in dallas in november 22, 1963, right? after ward, lee harvey oswald is
arrested. the president is murdered in the middle of the cold war and lee harveys on world was arrested and jack ruby jumps out in front of a row of cameras and police officers, a minor league gangster in dallas jumps out and shoots the person who shot the president in front of national tv. in the context of the cold war, in the context of knowing that there is a national security state and in the context of the moving or just about really to be moving cultural anxieties of the 1960s, so what do they do? they put earl warren and it is chief justice of the spark in charge of the war on commission to investigate the kennedy assassination. this is a bid to say you need to trust us because if there's one person you can trust it is the chief justice of the supreme court. the person who in the country is at the top of our judicial branch and heel be in charge of this commission and says he acted alone.
one man. the warren commission was not believed when it was issued in november 1963, 29% believed that one man did it. 52% thought others involved and some had no opinion. as we move into the 1960s and '70s, as the lack of faith in the united states government increases adds that the government does bad things goes up and as the fear of the united states government increases, that number goes up and up and up. in march 2001 it's 81%. did not believe. so what they are saying is we had an investigation, the government investigated and the chief justice of the supreme court came out and said this is what happened and at some point in 2001, more than three-quarters of the american people go, you're lying. trust no one, they lied us to, right? and then there are it is revelations of government conspiracies that start in the
1970s and the pentagon papers, and vietnam, watergate in 1972 that the president himself is about to be indicted for breaking into the offices of the dnc at the watergate hotel. operation mongoose. there are investigations the church committee and the committee on assassinations and what they've come out with are these things that the united states government was doing. operation mongoose and we'll talk about it a bit was to harass castro. working with cast ross like samg. and qana inserting government agents into leftist organizations like snick or the, you know, the sds. there were times and jokes that at a time there would be some civil rights or leftist meetings in which half the group was informing on the other half because half of them were working for the nypd and the other half were working for the
fbi. following and taking pictures of king and the house select committee on a sass nations came out in 1976 and raises doubts itself about the warren commission. we found out that the cia helped and aided the overthrow of iks iran and guatemala in which african-american men in alabama go to a clinic for their syphilis and are not treated so that government doctors can monitor how syphilis progresses through the lifetime because penicillin has been curing syphilis too early without telling them or their partners. right? iran-contra in the 1980s that they're moving guns to nicaragua, to right-wing groups in nicaragua and stargate in 1995. this was the revelation that through the 1970s and 1980s out of maryland, the dia and cia is operating a program to train psychic spies to spy and use their powers against russia.
john writes about this, right? project paper clip, clinton releasees it in 1998 and some of the documents and this is bringing nazi scientists into the united states and we fought against the nazis and this is not a revelation as early as 1947 and 1946 we knew some of this. the people who designed the v-2 that hit london working on the apollo program. right? this is project paper clip we released all of the -- not just the things about the kind of big-figures that everyone knew about, but all of the rest of the nazi and many of them parts of the nazi party who had snuck out and into the united states. right? so that argument of well, the united states government wouldn't do this is beginning to fall apart now, too. so project northwoods was a proposed secret planned signed by the joint chiefs and canceled by kennedy to be blamed on cuba
and justified military action and it's made public in 1997. so in 1997 when kennedy comes in the joint chiefs say we want to invade cuba and we need to have a false flag operation so the conspiracy theorists who were talking about this are not inventing it out of whole cloth and it's not like they come up with an idea that no one has ever thought of in the government, right? >> mongoose was a series of plans to harass cubans and the leader and assassinate fidel castro. operator dirty trick was if john glenn's space capsule blew up they were going to blame it on cuba. many of them shells not used, but someone is drafting them. rockefeller committee first reveals that the cia was working on mind control attempting to use lsd to influence people to be able to question them and to make them more compliant or to turn them into double agents and they can use them on russians. and they hand over in 1978 and
randomly drug civilians and there was an operation called midnight climax in which prostitutes and the johns coming to visit prostitutes in california and new york would be given lsd and then monitored without their knowledge to see what would happen to them so you could lie, fire test lsd on subjects to see whether this was the kind of chemical that would be used to give, for example, a spy in moldova and see what would happen. can we modern it and weaponize it, right? all of this is coming out in the '70s and the '80s and it all seemed so bizarre and sci-fi that it would undercut something we would desperately love to be able to say we wouldn't do that. but it gets harder to say that, particularly to minority communities when they come up, when people in minority communities have a theory or an argument and we'll talk about some of them to say we wouldn't do that. that's not something that the united states government would do, right?
so throughout this period of revelation one of the things that's so frustrating is that the people involved are not punished and cia agents that dose people with lsd, none of them go to jail and people in iran-contra are found guilty and oftentimes find their way back to the united states government, right? there's revelation without repercussions and there's a sense that some people are above the law that yes, the government allowed the small fish to take the fall and some were never revealed and in that dark area of we know there are secrets and we know that bad things are done allows people to come up with conspiracies that expound them to new levels with complication and horror, right? >> so skull and bones. this was established in 1832, in yale university. it meets in a windowless room on yale university campus called the tomb. it picks people who were going to be successful about 15 men
and now women every year. have you guys heard about the skull and bones? >> okay. so there are -- this is again, there are societies with secrets, but are there secret societies and how do they tie into the other things we talked about? this is the skull and bones class of 1947 and this was yale, a great nursery of spooks. one of the things you might not know about yale is it was directly connected into the cia. many of the great leaders of the cia and many of the people that you know, number of people who are assumed to be the three tramps on the grassy knoll were yalees, right? court meyer and james engleton and nick george bundy and all yalees and some of them were skull and bones who later went into the oss and then the cia. the cia in 1943 42 members of that class go on into the oss. there is a statue in front of cia headquarters who was nathan
hale. he was the first spy killed by the british in the american revolution, and what might i give for my country? that staff you in front of cia headquarters is a model of another statute on yale university campus because nathan hail is university class of 1973 and 1773, right? again, you move forward and say when we get to 2004. you have two bonesmen. one, george w. bush whose father was a bonesman. whose father was also the head of the cia and also the head of a major oil company whose father's father, prescott bush was also a bonesman, running againlet another bonesman in 2004 and now the arguments are there is a secret society of yale plugged into the american intelligence agency. the guys sitting and writing northwoods, maybe not, but the sense is they all just came from yale and played squash together
and then said why don't we have a false flag operation? i don't know that that's true, but you see the pieces are there. a secret society of wealthy individuals planning this. and when they were asked about it in the 2004 election both of them refused to comment. george bush saying something to the effect that it was the secret society, and i don't talk about secret societies. so it's a society we secrets, but is it a secret society, right? >> another one is the bohemian grove. has anyone heard of the bohemian grove. the large collection of trees in northern california, redwood forest and it is the site of a gathering every year of political, cultural, scientific leaders who come to the forest, close to the press and live in the trees for two weeks. now this is -- can anyone identify anyone here in this
picture? >> this is 1967 in the bohemian grove. nixon on one side, reagan on the other and the guy in the middle is harvey hancock. he was the campaign manager for eisenhower and the executive at panam. >> this guy to the left of nixon is glen sayborg has 11, discovered 11 elements and was a professor at cal berkeley and was in the manhattan project at uc and was the co-winner in 1951 and later on, moving for peace to arms control, et cetera and these are the kinds of people who were there. >> now, is it a problem in america that people have a secret society in yale that -- and with yale's connection with the intelligence community, is it that they gather in places that are secret, the bohemian grove? is it a problem that they're there without press meeting and
chatting? maybe. maybe not. is it a problem that they put on robes on one of the first days and have a ceremony in front of a giants statue of an owl in which they burn a human effigy in a ceremony called the cremation of care. so it's weirder, right? when someone who is inclined to conspiracy theories sees what the american government has actually done and sees the connection that they can drawn and then sees that -- but wait, they're all wearing robes in front of a giant owl burning a human effigy, it gets harder and harder and it gets to be that stuff which is at what points is a secret -- a society we secrets, a secret society. at what point should it reach a point that you should care or attempting to put something in a place where it isn't. >> john ronson wrote that the experiences that he and alex jones snuck inside and got this
footage. is this a beg deal at all? because this is the raw material of conspiracies and this is the kind of stuff and the raw material for each conspiracy will be different and the pieces that they will mix and match to try to make it conspiracy. but we have to recognize that the raw materials out there to people make conspiracies and it doesn't make it real and it does work. this is where people are drawing from and all of this stuff that when they want to make these kinds of things and this is the right materials and if we're going to talk about this with our students and fellow americans, we need to know some of this history to recognize what is inbounds and what's not, right? elements of a good conspiracy group and a state within a state helps and this is the masons and the catholic church and the international banks and the -- maybe even some of the organizations and it stretches beyond natural boards and if
there is a secret society in which the highest ranking member is a barber from muncey, i don't think anyone cares, right? if you have reagan and nixon in a picture now suddenly you have my attention and political and cultural influence, no power and no influence and it has limited effects. money, secret rituals and often sexual abuse. this is a somewhat disturbing part of a lot of these is that you take people with robes in front of the cremation of care ceremony and you add eyes wide shut and you begin to create something that evolves itself to have private ping-pong in d.c. in 2016, right? occult knowledge of connections and some kind of goal. if the goal of a secret societiy is to get together and have a party, no one much cares, right? so a little bit about ufos and i'm going to -- and i know this
is a place that conspiracies don't simply involve politics. they aren't simply about political power or connections made at yale or the international espionage, those kinds of thing, right? or oil or just money or just those kinds of things and there is a can valesque period in which when you trace many of these conspiracies they will move to the fantastic and the unreal, seemingly, the unbelievable, the religious and the miraculous, right? so ufos have been with us a long time. this is the book of ezekiel. this is ezekiel seeing wheels within wheels and chapter 1 that we've been visited for a long time. you can go and read it, and it is, if you read it in a particular jaundiced eye or unjaundiced eye it sounds like a rocket and there are flames and spinning wheels and it hovers and it roars. so modern american u if, o
culture comes from kenneth arnold and the civilian pilot who claimed to see objects moving over mt. rannier in 1447 1847 they were never saucer shaped, they were crescent shaped and notice we will talk about how part of conspiracy thinking is there are no coincidences. this is 1947. is that a connection? i don't think so, but in the eyes of a conspiracy theorist i can tell you that dates and times will be very important and they'll, co. in 1947 a public information officer named walter hot, recovered pieces of a flying disk near rosswell, new mexico. >> rosswell has moved -- rosswell is an almost unknown air base that no one had heard of prior to this event and now it is possibly due mainly to the x-files and other things and it is part of our popular culture,
right? they issued a report that they recovered a flying disk and then that it was a weather balloon. it was off and running. the air force investigates ufos from 1952 and 1970 in project blue book for those of you of my generation who watched the leonard nemoy show and there were a none of shows investigating project blue book and this was a hot thing in the 1970s, the air force investigated 12,817 cases anda i 5.6% remain unexplained. so what this reads in the minds of conspiracy theorists is one, ufos are real enough that uniformed officers of the air force are going place to place investigating them and two, they're issuing a report in which they're finding some unexplained and it is not much of a step to say this is all a front for clearly men in black
going from place to place and covering up ufos, right? so the next step of alien contact is abductions. betty and barney hill is one of the classic abduction stories and part of the popular culture and taken and there are all kinds of ufo shows that will involve these kinds of things. betty and barney hill saw ufo in 1961 in new hampshire. they see a craft in figures and they realize their drive home normally four hours took more than seven and this is the missing time that is a part of ufo culture and after this encounter, betty has nightmares and physical symptoms. after working with a psychologist, a psychiatrist, betty and barney claim they know exactly what happened and a ship landed. they were taken onboard and they had and if i asked you all to write down on a sheet of paper the types of medical exams that were done, everyone knows now, right? so we can say they were probed here and there. this is what it looked like. we've seen it in popular culture that this event in the 1960s has
become literally all of us can have a conversation of what a ufo abduction feels like and sounds like and we've seen representations of it. the grays become this popular figure, right? and they published a best-selling book in 1966 called the interrupted journey. so why are we talking about ufos? because ufos come back into conspiracy theories about the government in very interesting ways from all kinds of groups. right? you know, by the '70s people are talking about roswell as the smoking gun and the ufo movement and proof the air force is covering up alien contact. there are release documents from a group called majestic 12 that is alleging there was an agreement at pick your air force base, paterson, andrews in which there were alliances formed between the ufos and the united
states government, right? bill cooper is a writer who is a really leading conspiracy voice who is now dead, but he was a leading voice about this deep con pir see in the government, but there is a conspiracy that the government had made a deal in the agreement with aliens, in exchange for technology to allow aliens to kidnap and torture american people and that the abduction movement, and the ufos and the cia, all of this is a cover-up of a giant ufo arrangement. right? so it combines the illuminati and the builder bergers and the new world order into a super conspiracy and this is not unusual and underneath a lot of the conspiracies that you will discuss in class are bigger conspiracies that the students are not going discuss because they're arguing about the evidence of one a little bit and it's important to recognize that
these things can grow and spawn and they involve this carnivalesque stuff, right? in 1990 the air force said we'll release the documents about this and it's project mogul and it was a high altitude weather balloon to discover whether moscow was doing nuclear tests and it crashed, but do you think this helped? right? the issuing of more things was taken in the ufo community as look how close they're getting and they're now trying to re-cover the cover-up because we're about to uncover it and we're about to blow this thing wide open and here are more documents and these documents are so fake, and i can't believe these guys are so scared and we have them on the run. so the effort to engage with the conspiracy at this point only leads to making the conspiracy stronger as a sense of well, we're totally justified, right? so there are other arguments, right? there are other arguments that the ufo conspiracy is a conspiracy of the air force.
so the air force is putting out stories about ufos so that when people see test aircraft in the air they don't say oh, that's the f-37 stealth fighter. they say it's a ufo and so this is a cover-up to get people to believe in ufos to get people to believe in areas of 51. it is an area on the government map that no one knew prior to conspiracy theories and that is groom lake where they're testing the ufos that they got from the aliens by allowing them to abduct people and take their bodily organs. have you guys heard of area 51? >> so there is a place that you know about on a government map known as area 51 because the name is top secret because we take large parts of the united states territory and say this is area 51. we can't tell you what we're
doing here. we can't tell you what we're spending here and it's to keep you safe. trust us. >> as it plays into that conspiracy theory it is the wrong stoufr go on, and the ufos are a cover-up because what they're really doing is they are taking people and probing them and torturing them and doing medical experiments on them or their cattle. cattle mutilation is coming in now and the cover-up is rather than being black helicopters of the united states government kidnapping people, drugging them and torturing them to do medical experiments on them, instead it is ufos. so whoever is out at the cattle ranch gets mad at ufos and not at the united states government. upon so yes, it's a conspiracy, but it's a conspiracy of a conspiracy hiding a bigger conspiracy. these are the mazes. these are the mazes we go down,
right? again, these might seem silly and they show how conspiracy theories expand and darken as they move forward, right? from a government covering up technology or covering up something they've seen in the sky to the wholesale torture of americans, right? oftentimes these things will move in a religious way, that this plot of the ufos that the ufos are not aliens from andromeda, but they are in fact, luciferian beings that they'll become involved and it will be very common depending on which conspiracies we're looking at, right? so journalist michael kelly argued in 1995 for what he called fusion paranoia. it was a union of the radical left and right which is seen as very distinct groups and the union of them and the fair share of one thing above all is the boundless evil of the government and its allies that as you go to
the left and the right you find that the villains become the same and it's quite often the u.s. government so that what we think of there have been leftist movements like the weather men. there were leftist movements of the red army faction and they're right-wing movements and the militias and the order and arian nations and posse cometatus. both of these groups can get together and agree on none of the outcomes they want and the target that they've chosen is the united states government that as they're pressing both the rights of african-americans whether you want to look at philadelphia and the battle in downtown philadelphia or you want to look at right-wing movements in idaho they're all identifying the exact same enemy and that is the national security state and all of the con spir cease of the federal government. right? >> in 1991 george h.w. bush,
bonesman, yalesman, former head of the cia comes forward and gives a speech about the new world order. many who heard that says, well that makes sense the soviet union has just fallen. we've had a 50-plus year cold war in which we split the world between communist and capitalist. now one of those is gone and it is time to remake the world and the new world order seems utterly unremarkable. i can guarantee you that with other people listening to different ears that bonesman h.w. bush, former director of the cia is with the alumni in the secret brotherhood, right? for these people, ruby ridge which was randy weaver in idaho getting delivered a warrant, the fbi and other agencies were attempting to use him as a witness or as a source against
the aryan nations. he didn't want to and it turned into an armed standoff in which his wife and other members of the family were killed and waco in 1993 and the standoff in waco, texas with the branch davidian compound, again, combining the federal government religious believers and the branch davidians who have an end of the world message about the coming apocalypse like many american religions including the one i was brought up and southern baptist had this belief and act the role of the government that they would see them play into the book of revelation and into the standoff and ends in mass death and an invasion -- an incursion between the fbi and atf, this has turned into a fireball thaends up killing massive people. all of these things in the koven text of the national security state and of the ufos and both
left and right and seeing the government as the fault and the problem and now the declaration of a new world order and that standoff in ruby ridge. are they coming for our guns? a standoff against religious people with the branch davidians that are a compound again that you have accusations of sex and religious radicalism and ends in a fireball. the sense that this is a natural first step to suppress and exterm nate the american people and there might be a lot of different versions of exactly what the conspiracy are, which of this malaverage of lego pieces that i've laid out for you, how are they putting them together and they've all come to similar conclusions of the fault of the united states government. trust no one. they lie to us. and it ends in oklahoma city. it doesn't end. it's a mid -- timothy mcveigh is
at waco. there's footage of him selling stickers, anti-governmental stickers on the back of his car watching waco, and when he blows this up and ed knows this as well as anybody he makes the statement that he is at war and that the united states has declared war in ruby ridge and this is the next act and he sees this as pushing back against a federal government that is out of control that is a part of a long, detailed and often times antisemitic about what has happened to the united states government and pick your pieces from the lego box of masons, jewish bankers and put them together and this event is coming out of that conspiracy theer, right? and coming out of the action of the united states government that have allowed these conspiracy theorys in many ways and not to fault them. maintaining a secret state and
the national security state and intelligence organizations is allowing these claims to be made and also the actions of the things that were done in m.k. ultra and northwoods and other things that are coming out makes it harder and harder to make the case we'd love to make which is we would never do that, right? so this is gore vidal and he is on the left. he is a longtime cleric of the american empires, he said and he wrote about the shredding of the bill of rights. he declared vicky and sam weaver as victims of cold-blooded federal murder and the fbi slaughter of the innocents. he wrote that most of today's actual terrorists can be found withour own governments, federal, state and municipal. i don't know if he would say that post-9/11. it seems like a strange thing to say and gore vidal is as far
away as timothy mcveigh would be and they become pen pals when timothy mcveigh is in prison and in their letters they correspond on how much they have in common and their beliefs, right? and this is tying into 9/11 being an inside job, right? this is unsurprising given what i have laid out and all of the pieces that are there for my students where they go searching on you tube or they watch a show or hear a talk. these are the things they're putting together and they've come to the conclusion that this is an inside job and this is four years after the revolution that they discussed a false flag operation in northwoods that they never did, but they claim that bush knew, echoes claims that fdr was behind the pearl harbor attack and that he so wanted to get involved in war in europe that he either allowed pearl harbor to have or took a strong hand in an even harder to
prove conspiracy, right? so many of these claims about 9/11 and noah will get into them in more detail that there was no plane that hit the pentagon leading to level of luciferianism that these were missiles and not planes with holographic planes around them depending how far you want to stretch the reality and the bounds of reality that they're going to use, but these are important issues and part of a debate, right? the debate about 9/11 and no one can talk about it, part of it is evidence and depending on who you're talking to they might be having an evidential debate. there are some people for that debate of the evidentiary basis of 9/11 or any one of these is a cover for a deeper anxiety. the anxiety of they lie to us. trust no one. and that the conversation about 9/11 is only the tip of an
iceberg of all of this other stuff that's behind it of how we think about democracy and how we think about how the american government works and our relationship to it. this is also the first part and we can move on to the second part after the break, but we can have questions if you like. do you want to do -- i think they need you to have a mike. oh. don't panic. >> okay. so -- this is weird. do you see a difference between the conspiracy theories seem to be very much like white men distrusting other white men and the well-founded distrust that many communities of color have consistently oppressed and killed them over and over again? >> i think you're absolutely right and i would advise you to stay tuned for the next hour.
>> no. we'll talk about it. the claim -- that we'll talk about how conspiracies break down racially and absolutely, given the long history of what american governments and american power and white society. slavery. >> the white american male phenomenon. >> i think that's a great question. >> what i would like to say is i would like to address that question in the next hour. >> okay. >> but let me say that had i not thought of that question, it would be a truly devastating great question. yes. yes? [ inaudible question ] >> to what extent is this an american phenomenon. can you speak to if this exists internationally at all? >> i can try to. i don't think it is an american phenomenon. i think if you look at other government, particularly the soviet union and communists were rife with conspiracies.
any place you have a government that is not responsive or secret parts of the government in which the how the -- function of political governments and political economy isn't clear, i think you have conspiracies. i think even in a little league and a fantasy football league you have conspiracies where someone is, like, i can't believe they'll switch to ppr and i think it's partially naturally in us and i also think that one of the things that make it, and again, i'm talking without evidence and i've recognized that all of this can be revised by a better scholarship. one of the things that makes us particularly rife post-1947 is the massive power of the united states. we talked to the great conspiracy and important people and a lot of money. america has a lot of money and huge power and the ability to power project in ways that if you were, say, in sweden,
lithuania or belize, if belize has a lot of horrible ideas i'm not sure that they're having a whole lot of effect, but america has a worldwide empire and i'm not about to call it an empire, but we are in, what? 100 countries? we have military bases around the world. we have unlimited capital and economic system flows right through the city of new york and we have the most powerful, biggest, most expensive city in the world and we went to the moon, if we went to the country with the possible exception of the soviet union that has the power to do bad things if it is inclined to do bad things is the united states. so the fact that it has the means and opportunity, right? if belize says we have a plot for worldwide domination, i'm not sure where that goes other than, wow. some of these are really messed up, but if belize had a worldwide power projection
possibility then those conspiracies can get a lot more. i mean, there are -- at weather mountain or the greenbriar and cheyenne, and there are giant underground complexes that are dug and that are bomb proof. we have an entire infrastructure that was designed to accept the fact that we were probably going to be in a nuclear war. we have laws drawn up that allow certain parts of the government to be completely non-democratic which in the eyes of some people are, like, see, we have the plan. all we have to do is announce a national emergency and we can dissolve this or do this and do that. power and its extent and its reach that those conspiracies can be truly scary in a way that other places might not be. but i do think, i think truly scary in ways other countries cannot be. but i think, having been a teenager, anytime you get three people together, to are plotting against the other one.
that might not be fair. [laughs] >> in recent years, it seems there's been more of a conversation about news that only supports what their mindset is. i'm not a believer in conspiracy theories at all, but literally, i'm like, sure, they are trying to prove there is a conspiracy theory, and they will find that one part. this detail. and a lot of people will be like, yes, that's nothing. so there's a lot of people looking for that. is that part of it? but also what is it, like, for example people looking for other examples? and people alike, is this really happening? and it could be a conspiracy, because that's easier? instead of thinking that that might be a problem and addressing it? >> i think that's exactly right. we will talk about this in the second half, which is, what is the attractive part of conspiracy theory? i mean, a conspiracy theory
isn't simply just -- it's seldom the best answer for the given evidence, right? there are other things going on. what is emotionally attractive about conspiracies? what is politically attractive? you are right. part of it is, the world is super complicated and we want to have answers for it. and there are times in which, because of that complex nature, conspiracy theory seem easier and more attractive because they explain more things. but we will talk more about that. but i do also think that the invention of news, in which you consume only that news that seems to agree with what you believe, leads to a lack of contrary opinions and examples. yeah. i think that's absolutely true. >> you've been talking about conspiracy theories that people have about government. and in this administration it's like, they're the ones promoting some conspiracy
theories. >> yes. >> like the birther movement. trump also mentioned ted cruz, his dad being -- >> oh yeah -- [inaudible] >> yeah. the nation. michael flynn -- >> [inaudible] >> that is extremely scary that some of the followers, because trump has a lot of supporters, may actually believe those conspiracy theories. because they are coming from him. >> that's right. the guy that comet ping-pong, actually showed up with a rifle. so you can talk about the imagery and the way the symbolism is used. so there is no way around this -- i mean, one of the things that you can choose, as a political take off for donald trump, was his opposition for obama and his pushing of birtherism. i don't think it's the only reason he won but it is a
reason. i would actually say that -- i think that many times, we talk about conspiracies, we see conspiracies as we are, separate, and apart from the way people think about stuff. and i think trump, to his credit, said, there are a lot of people who think like me. there are a lot of people who think like this. and i can motivate them and mobilize them to become active political participants in a way that other politicians will think, well, i will never talk about that. because, oh, it's untrue, or people will think i'm not. and trump didn't have that. >> i have a>> i have a very quik question. quick one, building off of rick 's question, are you going to talk about the role of women in conspiracy movements? >> a little bit. surprisingly, if you look at most of the scholarship of it,
women -- there are some scholarship on conspiracy belief among women. but less on conspiracy perpetuation and women. perhaps, not surprisingly, it's a very masculinist and in fact it cannot be feminist. in fact, depending on which conspiracy you are looking at, things like the feminist movement of the 1960s, it seen as one of the things that they are acting against. particularly in a lot of these right-wing movements, they are very much about traditional female values. so there isn't really space for them to be the kind of engineers. there's not a lot of work -- there's a lot of work on women in radical movements. or women and extreme movements. but less on women as leaders of those movements. >> but why? why do you think they are not -- i agree. i don't often think of women, but rather the importance of
man being like, oh, this is all a conspiracy! >> i will say that that's not entirely true. because depending on what community you are looking at, to the degree that religion is an important factor, for example, randy weaver's wife had visions of an apocalypse. had visions of going to a mountain and that she was really the -- she was someone is the leader of the family all the way around. and they thought the apocalypse was coming. so where religion comes into this, very often it is a powerful women's figure on that. so there's also very much a masculine assist -- depending on which group we are talking about. there can be a masculinist warrior culture. in the background. >> [inaudible] >> there certainly is. -- he's probably a conspiracy theorist. but we may not think of her like that. and so they may be pushing these things.
but you are right, i can say that in the literature, they play perhaps a very much undeserved small role, and i think they deserve more attention. you had a question? >> i'm thinking about -- [laughs] when you are talking about how, like, the people, like, the power of the united states, how it engender's conspiracy. i was thinking about north korea and how the entire population is believed brainwashed to believe that they are the most perfect nation. and everyone else is this horrible person, in a screwed up place. but you don't really have conspiracy theory there. because -- >> it's hard to know, right? i think what you have there is a cult of personality. but you also have the idea that kim had 18 holes in one. or he was born during a double eclipse in five rainbows. so that kind of mid building,
that i don't know that i would quite -- i don't know that it is quite a conspiracy. and that happens enclosed communities dominated by cult of personality. >> so brainwashing [inaudible] conspiracy theories? >> yeah. [laughs] did you have a question? >> you said you've been over they've been around forever. but i have wondered, have visited changed since the advent of the internet. and people being able to communicate instantaneously? >> that's an interesting question. that there are the technological profits, who said, once we can all speak together, we will move to this intelligent discourse. and then there is the internet. [laughs] which is not that. i think the internet has been key to this. again, if we looked at, say,
comet ping pong, which started on a reddit board, in november 4th. and november -- in a week it's become tv on fox news, where they are talking about where there is this allegation of a pedophilia ring underneath this pizza place in washington d.c., frequented by powerful politicians. who are democrats. links to john podesta's emails being leaked, in which they talk about pizza. because, my sense is, if you have a bunch of political volunteers, you buy them a lot of pizza. but people on the internet are like, he is saying pizza so much, you know that pizza is code for pedophile like sex with children. so that's what he's talking about. so whether the labs is, one person or group of people having an idea, and it may be a joke -- it maybe just for the.
like they're playing a joke on someone. but it started on the internet, and now everyone has a interest in that, and they can now be part of that community. and it spreads to the point that, again, less than a month later, november 3rd, my guess is, outside of the six block areas outside comet ping pong, no one heard of this place. but it's the idea that all these businesses are link, and it's this pedophilic symbolism, and their children in cages underground, so the second so that elites can have sex with children. and it gets to the guy where, i guarantee you, they never heard of comet ping pong. and what is an ar-15 type rifle, the guy drives to do a self investigation. and drives in and gets
arrested. that's the speed at which something can go from not existing, to popularizing it, and being created on the internet, by people who are -- there is a picture of obama at comet ping pong in which he is -- and maybe he is actually holding a ping-pong paddle. but it's in the north part of the white house. but it says, obama at comet ping pong. i don't know who believes that. it could be someone who does it as a joke, passes it to a friend, and then puts it on a rabbit page and then it's in a new conspiracy theory believe actor in the mind of the body politic. so we will talk about some more. the internet certainly has allowed communities that otherwise communicated much more slowly to communicate much more rapidly and much faster. in a way that is surprising. pend more timeand shocking.
i unfortunately spend more time engaged with people on the internet that i don't want to meet him rely for. but it's shocking how fast these things can metastasize. >> one more question. >> going to what you just said, and also something that struck me, as you were talking about the illuminati, and the breakup of the illuminati. and the evidence of how they gather evidence -- and gravitate toward the argument they want to make. which made me think of the idea of a conspiracy situation, that there is no trusted source. so it's contaminated by people who want you to see what they want you to see. that led me to the modern era, you have your truth, i have my truth and my facts. it made me wonder, if a lot of
this comes down to, just the idea that police don't need proof. because you have what you believe and i have what i believe. >> right. we are in -- imagine if we go back to stephen dick's. a person who had an evidentiary argument about how we compose knowledge. but the idea is that -- go ahead and prove it to me right now. but don't give me a picture from somewhere because they lied to us. we are in an evidentiary space where technology has made it -- the idea that -- nasa is affront to make the fake the moon landing. so it cannot make the evidence because i've already decided that because they are part of the conspiracy theory, now that the evidence can be trusted. i think we are at a point now,
and i'm an english major as well, and we talk about post modernism and moving past truth. the idea that this is going to be really great. because we are overthrowing master narratives of inherent ideas of gender or power or capitalism. and we will be free of these master narratives. and we would be in a place where the powerful wouldn't control the narrative. well, we are here. this is what it looks like. we are in an era where we say, how do we talk about these issues when we won't share a world view of what counts is evidence? and when we are in an area, and again, this is where it moves towards religion. you would never say to someone, and i grew up, and i say, i believe the lower jesus guides my sins. and i would say, give me the evidence. so the evidentiary claims would not have that argument. or maybe we will, but it's
going to be uncomfortable. but that sense of belief has moved in some cases beyond what we would think of traditional religious questions. but i would argue from some of this, many arguments about conspiracies are religious questions. they function like religious questions, not like political questions. that can put us in a gray area as we try to debate them. does that make sense? we will talk about it more. >> thank you. >> thank you.