Hoax Museum Blog: Conspiracy Theories

Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014.   Comments (4)

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Posted: Wed May 23, 2012.   Comments (8)

Beyonce Baby Bump Controversy — Singer Beyonce Knowles announced she was pregnant in August. But video of a recent interview with her on an Australian TV show has led to rumors that she's faking her pregnancy, because as she walked out and sat down for the interview her stomach appeared to bend and fold in a weird way.

beyonce

The theory is that she's wearing a prosthetic baby bump, while a surrogate mother carries the actual child. This way, Beyonce will avoid the stretch marks and discomfort of pregnancy — and she'll look fit and toned immediately after "giving birth".

I think the conspiracy theorists are reaching a bit here. And Beyonce, of course, has denied the rumor.

But one question the controversy raises is why do people like to come up with these conspiracy theories about their favorite celebrities? It recalls the Paul Is Dead debate, though the Beyonce theories are nowhere near as elaborate as the Dead Paul theories. At least, not yet. Maybe fans will start finding fake baby clues in Beyonce's albums.

One reason for the theories is that they have some entertainment value. They provide fans with something to discuss about the celebrity. Also, psychologists argue that those who tell such rumors gain status by appearing to be privy to special information. And perhaps, in Beyonce's case, some of her fans don't want her to be pregnant. They prefer the image of her as a youthful "single lady", so they're fantasizing away her pregnancy as a hoax.

Links: tmz.com, US Magazine.
Posted: Wed Oct 12, 2011.   Comments (3)

Belief in the moon landing: An experiment — A science teacher posting on the Bad Astronomy forum describes an experiment in which he polled his students to find out how many of them believed humans had walked on the surface of the moon -- before and after watching the Fox TV documentary "Did We Land on the Moon?"

I began by asking my students (9-12th graders taking earth/space honors) the simple question, "Do you believe that humans have walked on the surface of the Moon?". Initial results were 81.0% "Yes", 7.6% "No" and 11.4% "Not sure" (sample size 105 students).
Then I showed them a DVD I have made of the infamous FOX show (thanks to Jim Oberg who helped me land a copy of the video tape when my own was "mysteriously" partially taped over). I converted to DVD so I could knock out the 18 minutes (!) of advertisements and break the segments up into easily accessible chapters. I showed the video completely through without comment and asked the same question. This year, the "after video" results were 50.8% "Yes", 21.3% "No" and 27.9% "Not sure" (sample size 122 students).

So belief in the moon landing dropped by 30% after watching the Fox documentary. Thankfully, he didn't leave his students in a state of disbelief. The next day he showed them a powerpoint presentation rebutting every point made in the show:

I made sure to cover every single topic and then I asked the question a final time. The final results this year were 92.9% "Yes", 2.0% "No" and 5.1% "Not sure" (sample size 99).

It's no wonder so many people believe in bizarre conspiracy theories and the paranormal. They watch all these shows on TV and never hear a reasoned rebuttal from someone who knows what they're talking about.
Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008.   Comments (11)

Best of the Forum - 24th August 07 — Due to personal circumstances, this week's Best of the Forum post is brought to you by guest writer and board moderator Madmouse.

Unauthorised Reincarnation Banned in Tibet (MadCarlotta)
China has banned Buddhists from reincarnating without permission, in an apparent attempt to have the next Dalai Lama chosen by the Chinese government.
From the news article:
"According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

This could lead to a situation where there are two Dalai Lamas, one recognised by millions of Buddhists around the world, and one by the Chinese government.
I don’t know how much of an effect this would have, but it would be a situation best avoided, if possible.

Skype Outage Caused By U.S. Government Spy Plan? (LaMa)
There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum about this conspiracy theory.
www.skype-news.com says:
“Skype says the problem was triggered by a Microsoft patch, delivered by Windows Update, which caused an automatic reboot of many PCs. "The high number of restarts affected Skype's network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction," says Skype's Villu Arak. According to Arak, the system would normally have recovered quickly, but on this occasion "a previously unseen bug" caused the network to fail.”
However, this news item suggests that the outage was in fact caused by the introduction of eavesdropping technology, made permissible by a newly-introduced law.

Online Game Used As Epidemic Scenario (Hulitoons)
Scientists have been studying players’ reactions to a disease in online game ‘World of Warcraft’. The researchers say that the information gathered about people’s varying reactions to a crisis like this could prove useful in the event of a genuine epidemic.
From the BBC article:
Researcher Professor Nina Fefferman, from Tufts University School of Medicine, said: “Human behaviour has a big impact on disease spread. And virtual worlds offer an excellent platform for studying human behaviour.The players seemed to really feel they were at risk and took the threat of infection seriously, even though it was only a game.”
Even if people might act somewhat differently in a game, I think that this is a reasonable (and safe) way of gathering data.

Rampant Rabbit In Stick-Up (Dave and Madmouse)
A man was jailed for five years for a robbery at a bookmakers in which he used the sex toy instead of a gun. The vibrator was hidden in a carrier bag, and seemed realistic enough that the shop staff handed over £600.
I do wonder what on earth made him think of using that rather than, say, a toy gun…
Posted: Fri Aug 24, 2007.   Comments (11)

American troops eat babies? — Among the many difficulties American troops are encountering in Iraq (I won't get all political here by listing them), one is a little bit more bizarre than others. It seems that some Iraqis believe that American soldiers carry poison-tipped bullets and eat babies. Kinda tough to win hearts and minds when you're dealing with people who think you dine on infants, I would imagine. I wondered if this story itself was a hoax until I followed the link I found and saw that it lead to Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. Army. Again, I'm not being political here, I'm just saying that I think Stars and Stripes is a more credible source for something like this than, say, Ananova. Anyway, it's a weird one for sure.

American troops eat babies?
Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2007.   Comments (17)

“New” Pearl Harbor photos a hoax? — I was unaware of this, but apparently a bunch of what appears to be previously-undiscovered photos of the attack at Pearl Harbor has been found. The article I'm linking to here (and the article IT links to) makes the claim that they aren't new at all, but are merely photos that have been around since the time of the attack, some altered to look new.

So, if this is a hoax, what's the point? Why would someone go to this length?

"New" Pearl Harbor photos a hoax?
Posted: Thu Jul 05, 2007.   Comments (6)

Roswell, 60 years and still going strong — Everyone knows the Roswell story, right? People say they saw a flying saucer. The Air Force says it was merely the remnants of a weather balloon. Some claim that the government is covering up the fact that it had the actual corpses of aliens in a hangar.

You may have thought that the whole thing was finally put to rest when the Feds published a very thick report on the Roswell Incident in the 90's (I saw the thing in the Government Book Store near the White House and it was at least as big as a Manhattan Yellow Pages). Ah, but you would be wrong, my friend. As it turns out, the story continues...

It seems the guy who was the P.R. officer at the Roswell base at the time of the alleged "Incident" recently died. After he was gone, it was allegedly discovered that he left some paperwork which alleges that the whole "dead aliens on a slab in the hangar" story was true. Cue the theramin: Oooo-weeee-oooo.

A quick Google search for "Lieutenant Walter Haut," the Roswell P.R. officer, turns up only a sad small handful of sites. That doesn't prove anything about the veracity of his story one way or the other, but I'm surprised that the mainstream press hasn't jumped on this. After all, you should never let something silly like "facts" get in the way of a good story, right?

The REAL Never-ending Story
Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007.   Comments (14)

1979 Pakistan Airlines WTC Ad — image Alex from Colombia sent me this picture. He writes:
This is supposed to be a PAKISTAN AIRLINES ad, posted on the newspaper LE POINT on March 19, 1979. It announced nonstop voyages from Pakistan to New York. I saw it on this page. Interesting coincidence.
This image has been circulating widely around the internet during the past week. For instance, it appeared on Digg four days ago. The question is, is the image really an ad from 1979? Following the link chain back, you soon arrive at 11sep.info, where they have a larger scan (see below) of the entire page of the March 19, 1979 edition of Le Point in which the ad is said to have appeared. The scan looks legitimate, and I see no reason to doubt that it's real. But I also don't think the image is surprising or meaningful in any conspiracy-theory kind of way. Images of the World Trade Center appeared in many ads, and were a common symbol of New York. So it's not surprising that an airline combined an image of them with airplane imagery.
image

Update: The advertisement is definitely real. This has been verified by a reference librarian at UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library (which, apparently, is the only library in America that has back copies of Le Point). The advertisement appeared on p.143 of the March 19, 1979 issue, #339. The ad also ran in other issues, such as April 2, 1979, p.163. (Thanks to J Fontane for tracking down and verifying the authenticity of the ad.)
Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006.   Comments (14)

Operation EMU —
Status: Parody
imageOperationEMU.com offers up "Statements, theories and artifacts related to the alleged 1974 NASA experiment during which an entire Hollywood film crew, contracted by the government, disappeared in a remote section of Nevada." This seems to be the jist of what the site alleges happened: The Hollywood film crew was there to help stage a training exercise for the NASA-led Operation EMU (which stands for Operation Experimental Mitigated Universe). Operation EMU itself was some kind of NASA project to prepare for alien contact. And somehow a group of Meemaw Indians performing a solstice ritual were involved in this.

Sound a little bizarre? I think that's the intention. The site was created by B. Brandon Barker to promote his novel, for which he's shopping for a publisher. (The article about him in the Baltimore Sun should definitely help his chances with that.) Barker says that he designed his novel to be a parody of "pretentious sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and the cult of alien-life true believers" (Hey, I like 2001: A Space Odyssey!). The strange thing is that although Barker's plot is pure fiction, some people now believe elements of it to be real. At least, according to the Baltimore Sun:
Some apparently think Operation EMU is for real. "It seems only logical that there are cover ups of major proportions that aren't discovered," forum member Robyn Zimmerman of Michigan writes in response to an e-mail query. Forum member John Nesbit, a 52-year-old crawfish farmer in Martinsville, La., used to be an Air Force mechanic and was stationed at Nellis in the early 1970s. He claims to have first-hand knowledge of Operation EMU. "I get less dubious the older I get," says Nesbit. "I did know about Operation EMU, but it was a NASA training thing. That's what we were told. Only much later did it come out that it was broader than that, that they were training the military to fight aliens. ... The film crew thing, that's documented."
Shades of Alternative Three there. If you create a hoax about a government cover-up, some people will inevitably insist that revealing it as a hoax is part of the cover-up.
Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2006.   Comments (7)

FEMA Plan to Use Pastors as Pacifiers —
Status: Unlikely
An article has begun to circulate around the internet warning of a secret government plan to enlist pastors in an evil plan to create a submissive populace:
A Pastor has come forward to blow the whistle on a nationwide FEMA program which is training Pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to "obey the government" in preparation for a declaration of martial law, property and firearm seizures, and forced relocation. In March of this year the Pastor, who we shall refer to as Pastor Revere, was invited to attend a meeting of his local FEMA chapter which circulated around preparedness for a potential bio-terrorist attack, any natural disaster or a nationally declared emergency. The FEMA directors told the Pastors that attended that it was their job to help implement FEMA and Homeland Security directives in anticipation of any of these eventualities. The first directive was for Pastors to preach to their congregations Romans 13, the often taken out of context bible passage that was used by Hitler to hoodwink Christians into supporting him, in order to teach them to "obey the government" when martial law is declared.
And it goes on and on in this style. The article originally comes from prisonplanet.com, which is a conspiracy-theory site. Tellingly, the article doesn't provide any verifiable source for its claims. The story relies solely upon the word of "Pastor Revere". Of course, as Marx said, religion is the opium of the masses, so such a plan wouldn't be all that farfetched, but it seems a bit unnecessary. After all, isn't pacifying and brainwashing the populace what Fox News is for?
Posted: Tue May 30, 2006.   Comments (24)

Killer Dolphins Set Loose by Katrina —
Status: Highly Doubtful
I've received a lot of emails about a story in The Observer a few days ago alleging that thirty-six dolphins "trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater" and "carrying 'toxic dart' guns" were swept out of their tanks by Hurricane Katrina and are now at large in the Gulf of Mexico. This story is very doubtful for a number of reasons.

First, it seems to be a wild rumor inspired by the true report that eight bottlenose dolphins were washed out of their marina by Katrina, but were later recovered. Second, The Observer's story relies entirely upon one source, a "respected accident investigator" named Leo Sheridan. But as The Register points out, Mr. Sheridan has been the source for many dubious conspiracy-style claims in the past.

In 2003 he told The Guardian that he didn't believe the official explanation that the English aviator Amy Johnson's plane crashed in 1941 because it ran out of fuel. He believed she had been shot down.

In 1998 he told the Observer the cause of death of 22 dolphins found washed up on the shore in southern France was that "'these were dolphins trained by the US navy, and that something went badly wrong... They were disposed of to conceal the existence of the American's military dolphin programme.' According to Mr Sheridan, the United States navy launched a classified programme, the Cetacean Intelligence Mission, in San Diego in 1989 with the approval of President George Bush. The dolphins, fitted with harnesses around their necks and with small electrodes planted under their skin, were taught first to patrol and protect Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea."

And in 1991 The Observer used him as the source for a story about crop circles: "Britain's crop circles are caused by squabbling birds marking out their feeding territory, says environmental investigator Leo Sheridan. 'Each morning birds that feed off the crops, such as starlings and sparrows, squabble over their patch of field,' he says. 'The birds sometimes two or three hundred of them whirl round in circles close to the top of the crops, flattening them with the action of their wings as they fight each other for a patch of field.' Mr Sheridan, who is employed by aviation authorities to investigate atmospheric and environmental influences on air disasters, claims he has witnessed the phenomenon in Devon and Cornwall."

In other words, Leo Sheridan is The Observer's resident crackpot-on-call. They must phone him up whenever they want to add a bit of drama or weirdness to their stories.

Further discrediting the story is the US Navy's insistence that it has never trained dolphins for attack missions. The dolphins are only trained to locate suspicious objects. Not to destroy them.

Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005.   Comments (15)

Yakuza Caused Katrina — Weatherman Scott Stevens claims that "Japanese gangsters known as the Yakuza caused Hurricane Katrina." Here are more details (thanks to John for sending me the link):

Scott Stevens says after looking at NASA satellite photos of the hurricane, he is convinced it was caused by electromagnetic generators from ground-based microwave transmitters. The generators emit a soundwave between three and 30 megahertz and Stevens claims the Russians invented the storm-creating technology back in 1976 and sold it to others in the late 1980s. Stevens says the clouds formed by the generators are different than normal clouds and are able to appear out of nowhere and says Katrina had many rotation points that are unusual for hurricanes. At least ten nations and organizations possess the technology but Stevens suspects the Japanese Yakuza created Katrina in order to make a fortune in the futures market and to get even with the U.S. for the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

Also check out Scott Stevens's website, Weather Wars, where he elaborates on his theory of scalar weather (as he calls it) and provides a lot of hurricane imagery to make his case. Stevens really seems to believe his theory, so I would classify it as a conspiracy theory rather than a hoax.

Update: Here's a page with more pictures of supposedly artificially created scalar weather phenomena.
image
Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2005.   Comments (37)

Government Records Your Phone Calls — Has the government been monitoring and recording your telephone conversations? A government contractor was able to copy 1 terabyte worth of phone calls recorded by the government. Enter your phone number to find out if they've been spying on you!
Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005.   Comments (19)

Moon Base Clavius — Moon Base Clavius is "an organization of amateurs and professionals devoted to the Apollo program and its manned exploration of the moon. Our special mission is to debunk the so-called conspiracy theories that state such a landing may never have occurred." Their site is "named after the Clavius Moon Base in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and visualized by Stanley Kubrick in the film of the same name." I've only just begun browsing around their site, but already it looks like it has a lot of good info on it.
Posted: Wed Mar 09, 2005.   Comments (26)

CIA Muezzin School — The Guardian reports that a story has been spreading around Islamic websites about a CIA muezzin school in which the CIA trains agents to pose as muezzins (the men who call Muslims to prayer five days a week times a day from the minaret towers of mosques). Supposedly the CIA feels that muezzins are in a uniquely advantageous position to view everything that's going on in Muslim communities. But in reality, this is another of those satire-mistaken-as-news stories. The story of the CIA Muezzin school originated on the satire-laced website of the The Rockall Times (Rockall is a tiny uninhabited island in the middle of the Atlantic). So this will join the growing list of spoofs taken seriously by Muslim news sources, a list that already includes the Giant Skeleton Unearthed in Saudi Arabia, and the Secret History of the Flying Carpet.
Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2005.   Comments (9)

Abstract Expressionism as CIA Plot — I realize some people feel that Abstract Expressionism needs some kind of an excuse for its existence, but the following purported connection between Abstract Expressionism and the CIA seems just bizarre. It comes from a review of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders

One of the most important and fascinating discussions in Saunders' book is about the fact that CIA and its allies in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) poured vast sums of money into promoting Abstract Expressionist (AE) painting and painters as an antidote to art with a social content. In promoting AE, the CIA fought off the right-wing in Congress. What the CIA saw in AE was an "anti-Communist ideology, the ideology of freedom, of free enterprise. Non-figurative and politically silent it was the very antithesis of socialist realism" (254). They viewed AE as the true expression of the national will. To bypass right-wing criticism, the CIA turned to the private sector (namely MOMA and its co-founder, Nelson Rockefeller, who referred to AE as "free enterprise painting.") Many directors at MOMA had longstanding links to the CIA and were more than willing to lend a hand in promoting AE as a weapon in the cultural Cold War. Heavily funded exhibits of AE were organized all over Europe; art critics were mobilized, and art magazines churned out articles full of lavish praise. The combined economic resources of MOMA and the CIA-run Fairfield Foundation ensured the collaboration of Europe's most prestigious galleries which, in turn, were able to influence aesthetics across Europe.

Art museum directors on the front lines of the Cold War? That sounds like the plot of a Thomas Pynchon novel to me. It also sounds just crazy enough to be true. (via Early Days of a Better Nation)
Posted: Mon Jan 10, 2005.   Comments (15)

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