Conspiracy theories are, for a large part, quite enjoyable. Who doesn't like to occasionally ponder what it would be like if birds didn't actually exist, or Australia (particularly if you are an Australian ornithologist)?
Conspiracy theories are mostly what happens when you try and make facts fit a narrative, rather than the other way around. However, just occasionally, conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Over on Twitter, people have been sharing a whole pile of facts recently that sound like they are conspiracy theories. Below are some of our favorites (or the ones that we're most shocked by), and as always we will jump in if anything needs an explanation or thorough fact-check.
Let's start off grim. Yes, ExxonMobil's own researchers knew about climate change and the effects of fossil fuels, way back in the early 1970s. Recent analysis of their private correspondence, public studies, and advertorials from 1977 to 2014 show that they continued to acknowledge climate change in private, while in public (and particularly in adverts) they courted doubt.
As ridiculous as this sounds, it is true, at least if the CIA's own version of events is to be believed.
The CIA is well known for its "out there" schemes (see "Operation Midnight Climax"). They are usually a jarring mix between something you'd find scrawled in the dream diary of a convicted serial killer and an episode of Scooby-Doo, and this one is no exception.
In the 1950s, much of the Philippines where the Huk (aka "the baddies" from the perspective of the CIA) resided was rural, and the rural inhabitants were quite superstitious.
One superstition the CIA felt they could use to their advantage was the Aswang. If you're unfamiliar with the Aswang, that's because they're a shapeshifting demon that can take on any form, from dogs to witches, and beautiful women who happen to be bloodsucking vampires concealing a massive proboscis-like tongue with which to slurp up blood and fetuses.
It was the vampire form of the Aswang myth that the CIA decided to take advantage of. All they needed was a victim, and the ghoul-like willingness to drain them entirely of their blood.
First, they spread a rumor amongst the residents of a town where resident Huks were causing trouble for the CIA, that aswang were roaming in the hills. Then came part two.
"The psywar squad laid an ambush for the rebels along a trail used by them. When a Huk patrol passed, the ambushers silently snatched the last man," William Blum wrote of the CIA activities in the book Killing Hope. They then "punctured his neck vampire-fashion with two holes, held his body by the heels until the blood drained out, and put the corpse back on the trail."
"When the Huks, as superstitious as any other Filipinos, discovered the bloodless comrade, they fled from the region..”
The Huk eventually lost their grip on the area, due to a myriad of factors, but nevertheless, the CIA chalked up their aswang tactic as a success.
They aren't all horrifying conspiracy theories. The one about the kilogram blob is real – although it's made of the element silicon, not the rubbery polymer silicone.
Using a physical object to define the kilogram was stopped in 2019. We now use Planck's constant instead of a hunk of metal, thanks to scientists painstakingly counting the atoms in this sphere.
Again, true. All of the people who worked on the project were sworn to secrecy, and most of them were only told about their own tasks and didn't know about the goals of the project as a whole.
Yes, this one too. It gets even weirder when you investigate the uranium cubes.