Thinking Through Big Government Conspiracy Theories

By Kenneth R. Samples

You’ve heard of these conspiracies. You know, the ones involving clandestine plots of the United States government. It appears that a lot of Americans believe high-level members of the government have been involved in assassinations, cover-ups, secret societies, etc. What are some of the major conspiracy theories and what are we to make of them?

Here are four that have gained popular acceptance among many Americans over the last half-century.

1. JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theory: Considered the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories, a Gallup poll taken in 2001 reported that 81 percent of Americans now believe there was a conspiracy behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Some of the most common speculative scenarios postulate that top officials of the U.S. government were engaged in a coup d’état to murder President Kennedy (see, for example, Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK).

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2. UFO Conspiracy Theory: Internet sources disclose that 48 percent of American citizens now believe that literal metallic spacecrafts visit Earth from distant places in the universe. Additionally, 71 percent believe that the U.S. government hasn’t revealed all it knows about the strange UFO phenomenon.

3. 9/11 Conspiracy Theory: A recent report reveals that more than a third of Americans believe the U.S. government was involved in the events of 9/11. Conspiracy theorists claim that high-level members of the Bush administration either participated in or did nothing to stop the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Thus this scenario postulates that 9/11 was an inside job.

4. Secret Society Conspiracy Theory: Many people in the U.S. think a select group of people who are part of clandestine societies rule the world. Allegedly these shadowy people, who are rich and well-connected politically, belong to fraternal organizations that control events around the world for their own benefit. In the 1930s, the Nazis spread the conspiracy theory that the Jews were the puppet masters behind communism and had manipulated the money markets of Europe to cause societal unrest. Popular author Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, weaves a story about a secret fraternal organization in early America and how its rituals and symbols have influenced history.


Reasons To Believe : Thinking Through Big Government Conspiracy Theories