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Conspiracy theories



"Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government."

Jeremy Bentham, jurist, philosopher, legal and social reformer.

Well it looks like we all made it through the end of the world... again. It is easy to laugh off these ideas as crazy conspiracy theories but many thousands of people take them seriously, quit their jobs, sell everything they have waiting for "rapture." When it doesn't come, some take their own lives, so despondent are they over what they see as a broken promise of a better life.

The darker side of this, of course, is that others prey on these people and there is a loss of the basic notion some have that what they are hearing from people they trust is truth.

This small fact underlies all conspiracy theories to some degree.

National Public Radio interviewed 27-year-old New Yorker Adrienne Martinez, who gave up her plans to go to medical school after learning about the coming rapture.

Instead, she and her husband moved to Orlando, where they spent their "last" days giving out literature about the end of the world. Eight months pregnant, she has a two-year-old daughter as well. She told the radio host that they had no use for money either: "...why are we going to work for more money? ... We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won't have anything left," she said.

I wonder what they are living on now?

It seems hard to turn around these days without coming across conspiracy theories, from big ones - Osama bin Laden still lives - to the niggling ones many entertain as they think about politics and the business of life.

Even here in Whistler, conspiracy theories are whispered quietly, whether it be about the ongoing saga of the asphalt plant, pay parking, bed units, the "handbook" or any number of issues. It's about who knew what when.

Readers of Pique are given many of the facts of these stories, as many as reporters can report responsibly. But sometimes people believe the facts just don't entirely add up to the reality of the situation.

Other times it appears as if the protagonists in the story are speaking or representing conflicting parties, making it difficult for people to ascertain what the facts of the issue might be.

What is it about conspiracy theories of any description that make them appealing?

Managing Editor of the National Post and author Jonathan Kay - Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground - spent three years researching and interviewing conspiracy theorists, studying the motives and belief systems of various branches, from Moon landing deniers through the JFK assassination, to 9/11, to the death of Princess Di to Truthers - people who believe the U.S. carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.