Most conspiracy theories tend to be instantly dismissed as false or implausible stories thought up by crackpots. However, as we will see, some theories that were initially ridiculed as nonsense have actually turned out to be true. Here we present you with 10 conspiracy theories that proved to be all too real.
A rumour that Al Qaeda was planning to attack the United States using the deadly bacterium anthrax seemed to have come true in 2001. During a number of weeks following the September 11 attacks, the offices of various media organisations (ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, The New York Post and The National Enquirer) and two Democratic senators (Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy) were targeted in what the FBI named the Amerithrax investigation. Five people died and another 17 were infected after coming into contact with letters contaminated with anthrax spores. Despite initially focusing on Al Qaeda or Iraq as potential suspects behind the attack, the FBI eventually concluded that a US bio-defence researcher, who took his own life in 2008, was behind the attacks.
The troubling idea that governments want to control our minds has long been a popular theme for science fiction writers and conspiracy theorists alike. In 1975, thanks to the work of the Rockefeller Presidential Commission in the United States, it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had actually researched methods of mind control. Project MKUltra, which was conducted by the CIA from 1953 to 1973, aimed to examine methods of influence and mind control. Millions of dollars were poured into the scheme on the orders of former agency director Allen Dulles. Some have argued that the research techniques of Project MKUlltra were actually created by the CIA to divert public attention away from the agency’s real goal of finding new methods of interrogation and torture.
Operation Snow White
Operation Snow White was the code name for a Church of Scientology conspiracy to infiltrate various United States government agencies across the world in the 1970s. Leading church members sought to target the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), the FBI and the CIA in the hope of gaining information useful to the religious organisation. The operation was eventually uncovered by government officials, leading to a number of church members pleading guilty to a string of criminal offences.
Many have often accused Western governments of meddling in the affairs of developing nations in order to protect their own commercial and political interests. Operation Ajax was orchestrated by the United States and Britain in 1953 in order to overthrow the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in a coup. Undercover CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt was responsible for bribing various officials of the Iranian government in order to facilitate action against Mosaddeq, who had planned to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
This clandestine operation was a secret network that operated to counteract communism in Italy during the Cold War. Although the formation of secret paramilitary organisations was one part of this operation, its main function was to promote a “strategy of tension" that was designed to facilitate the victory of a right wing government in the country and thwart the then powerful Italian Communist Party. Similar operations, which were largely funded by the CIA, also took place in other NATO countries.
The Dreyfus Affair
This case, which combined conspiracy, espionage and anti-Semitism, had a divisive effect on French society for 12 years between 1894 and 1906. It began when Alfred Dreyfus, a French army captain from Alsace, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to life on the French penal colony of Devil’s Island. According to the French court, the engineer of Jewish decent had handed over secret documents to the Germans. However, a campaign asserting Dreyfus’ innocence and an alleged anti-Semitic cover up began to grow, culminating in writer Emile Zola’s famous open letter known as "J'Acusse” to a Paris newspaper in 1898. The suspected real culprit Major Ferdinand Esterhazy Walsin was later brought before a military court but was found not guilty of espionage.
The Holocaust is considered as the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind, a lasting symbol of man's inhumanity to man. Indeed, the Nazis’ systematic slaughter of six million Jews and millions of other minorities was dismissed by many as a rumour during the Second World War, such was the inability comprehend the levels of cruelty involved. It was only with the discovery of the death camps at the end of the conflict that the full horror of what the Nazis had called the "final solution” became clear. Among the methods used to carry out their macabre plan were poisonous gas asphyxiation, shooting, hanging, beating, starvation and forced labour.
This Cold War operation was an attempt by the KGB to spread false information that the AIDS virus had been created by the United States government. The Soviet intelligence agency hoped to destabilise America’s relations with its allies by promoting the theory that the virus had been the result of a research project into biological weapons at Fort Detrick in Maryland. It is argued that the KGB also hoped to cover up the Soviet Union’s own attempts to develop biological weapons.
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The Swiss files scandal
This conspiracy highlighted the long held fear that democratic governments actually wish to control us by establishing surveillance societies. In 1989, Switzerland was rocked by the revelation that the country's federal police had been developing an illegal mass surveillance system. A Swiss parliamentary committee discovered that the authority had illegally created more than 900,000 files containing personal information on Swiss citizens. A second commission then found the country’s defence department had also been compiling secret files on citizens and that a secret paramilitary force known as P-26 had also been created.
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The CIA and the coup against Salvador Allende
The United States backed coup against Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist President of Chile, took place against the background of the Cold War. The coup in 1973 paved the way for the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet. American participation has been confirmed by numerous testimonies from former members of the CIA and special clandestine army forces. The United States helped fund and plan operations and military assaults designed to destabilise Allende’s presidency and foster a coup.