Finding Conspiracy Blogs… and The Truth

Filed as Features, Guides on November 23, 2007 11:22 am

Snopes and Urban Legends are specialists who debunk the urban legends, myths, and conspiracies that plague us worldwide. I highly recommend anyone with email or a blog check the facts before forwarding or blogging.

Snopes offers a constantly updated Hottest 25 Legends (with a feed) page, which currently features the most popular myths, urban legends, and conspiracy theories like Barack Obama and the National Anthem, The Golden Compass (anti-religon), ‘Life Is Beautiful’ Virus, Strawberry Quick (drug-filled candy), and Vicks VapoRub on children’s feet stops coughs.

On Urban Legends, the Internet/Web Hoaxes category includes articles on How to Spot an Email Hoax and Varieties of Netlore: Urban Legends, stories that were false when they traveled by word-of-mouth, and still false as they now travel via email and blogs. They also offer Newly Updated Internet hoaxes, email rumors, urban legends and their Top 25 Hoaxes List, which includes Hercules, World’s Biggest Dog (Photo), Jenkem – Drug Warning, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Causes Chemical Burn, ‘Do Not Call’ List for Cell Phones, Bill Gates Is Giving Away His Fortune, and ‘Eye of God’ in Outer Space (Photo).

When Conspiracies and Hoaxes Hurt Blogs

A hoax is not a conspiracy, but it can become one. A conspiracy is often a hoax, but it can also be the truth. There have been a few occasions when a conspiracy was proven to be true, and conspiracy theorists often point to these as examples, further clouding reason when no evidence exists.

These myths and urban legends are serious. I recently got three emails and saw numerous blog posts about the new Dollar Coin and ‘In God We Trust’ being omitted. This has been going around since 2004. The saying is now on the side of the coin, not the face. Without researching the facts, bloggers and emailers perpetuate the myth and conspiracy that the US government might actually follow through on the founders’ commitment to separate church and state.

It must be true, I read it on a blog - blog conspiracy theories, graphic copyright Lorelle VanFossenWhile trying to help, many bloggers are actually encouraging a conspiracy or hoax to perpetuate. While there are legitimate missing children reports, Megan’s Law and other laws and efforts to help law enforcement track down missing children has also created a fascination that leads to hoaxes. Often with the best of intentions, bloggers jump in to spread the “news” in an effort to help without checking to see if the report is valid. By the time someone tells them it’s a hoax, the damage has been done, both to the blogger’s reputation, and blogging industry in general.

There are thousands of hoaxes and conspiracy theories spread by email and published offering news, tips, advice, and warnings which bloggers report on every day without checking and verifying these first. Bloggers fuel the fire instead of putting it out.

Hurricane Katrina brought of a lot conspiracy theories and hoaxes into play, including a huge one which played into the New Orleans Astrodome myth in the wake of the disaster. Since it was easy to believe that people will descend into violence and “ugly” at the drop of a social hat, and that the government is useless in such situations, many believed what was reported as an “eye-witness account” instead of looking at all the information before judging. Supposedly eye witness accounts reported on horrors that were later found to be untrue, and there is a lot of confusion over who actually wrote this and whether or not they were even there. Yet, many bloggers continue to point to these as proof of whatever theory they support on what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the dikes breaking.

Kaycee Nichols was a 19 year old dying of cancer whose blog attracted tons of attention and sympathy as readers tuned in for her reports as the disease progressed and the treatments failed. Her mother wrote an accompanying blog, sharing details of her daughter’s progress. After two years, Kaycee died. Sympathy cards, email, and money poured in from around the world. Then it was revealed to be a hoax. It turned out that the “mother”, Debbie Swenson, made the whole thing up. According to the Snopes report, no one could believe someone had the capacity to keep up such a ruse for so long. They wanted to believe that Kaycee was a person, a friend. They felt for her, cried and laughed with her and her mother, and felt their pain. A lot of shock and embarrassment was felt around the world as fans realized they had been tricked.

In the hoax called That Girl Emily, a female blogger shared her day-to-day life with readers, then everything twisted and got more exciting when she discovered her husband was unfaithful. The blog gained in popularity when a billboard was posted accusing the husband of his infidelity. As the popularity grew, including requests for television interviews, it was uncovered that the blog was a “stealth promotion”, a viral marketing campaign for Court TV’s reality show, Parco P.I., a discovery which again exposed another blogger “faking it”.

Such “tricks” do much to harm the reputation of blogs and bloggers. The publicity around this and similar events spoil the integrity many work so hard to earn on their blogs, making this a form of conspiracy against blogs.

Blogs offer a platform for “freedom of speech” reaching audiences worldwide in ways never before considered throughout history. With that freedom comes the right to say whatever you want on any subject, including pushing conspiracy stories and “alternative news”, offering editorial commentary on all types of theories, proven or not.

However, not all blogs which create or deal in conspiracies give bloggers a bad name. Some blogs start with a conspiracy theory and then evolve with the theory and the fame. Screw Loose Change started out to “dispel the lies, distortions, and myths in the movie, Loose Change,” a conspiracy movie about 9/11. In the past five years, it has grown into an expert blog, cited by many news articles and reports, as a source for debunking the movie and 9/11 conspiracy theories that keep developing.

Other blogs cover what is known as “alternative news”, bringing readers the “real news” and “news behind the news”. They cover everything from current events to medical “news”. While many of these are conjecture and assumptions, trying to find connects for conspiracies where none may exist, they are big business for those who are predisposed to distrust governments and world leaders.

Conspiracy Blogs and Resources

As you seen through this series, there are a lot of pros and cons to conspiracy theories, and a lot of money to be made. In the next article in this series, I’ll cover tips on writing conspiracy theories and making them work for you and your blog.

In order to learn more about how to write conspiracy theories and to get involved in the conspiracy theory industry, here are some conspiracy-motivated blogs and websites for you to consider.

Remember, just because they report on conspiracies, doesn’t mean they have the facts. If you are interested in writing about conspiracies or starting one on your blog, it helps to study the art of conspiracy writing, in all its forms:

Article Series on Conspiracy Theories and Blogs

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  1. By hts posted on November 23, 2007 at 1:21 pm
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    This “blog-boom” brought with it a lot of cons, besides the obvious pros (publishing power to the masses, etc.) The first con` would be that it is now much harder to select true information from false/hoaxed one. It will soon be like finding the needle in the haystack :)… Lets just hope that we’ll be able to tell what is right from what is wrong. Anyway, good article. Keep it up!

    Reply

  2. Blog zum Thema Verschwörungstheorien (3th)November 23, 2007 at 4:17 pm
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  4. By oscar berven posted on November 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm
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    “Having spent a long time living in the Middle East, I learned a lot about conspiracy theories, and the truths and lies that lie behind their creation. After all, a good conspiracy isn’t worth much unless it has a measure of truth, or at least believable fiction, within the lies and falsehoods.”

    If you indeed have this ability, to discern true from false, you are either an amazingly developed human, the kind that can see right through you, or an entity possibly from another planet/dimension/time, with insights most of your readers don’t have (including me). Or you are “just” another blogger.

    Either way, i’d like to hear about these truths. How you gauge and balance, where you find your sources and why they are more fair-and-balanced-truth-theories as polarity to conspiracy theories!

    For more on my take on global conspiracies, I wrote this reflection (PDF file) that I’d be more than happy to get comments and critique on.
    Oscar Berven

    Reply

  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 26, 2007 at 1:49 am
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    @oscar berven:

    I said I learned a lot, not that I was an expert lie detector. Stop starting conspiracy theories about me. :D

    I’m just like everyone else and love a good conspiracy theory for entertainment.

    Reply

  6. By oscar berven posted on November 26, 2007 at 9:56 am
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    If you do not totally disagree in my assessment (in the pdf) then you should agree that to be able to find truth and to distinguish it from lies/disinfo/false you have to take in Everything! And I mean as much as you possibly have time to, and that this “intake” must come from All possible sources; blogs, Fox news, Bill Moyers, vlogs, science research, animal channel, ESP, friends, art, “fringe” sects and last but not least, yourself and your inner voice.

    So in this way, “everything” IS a conspiracy theory, and frankly, I don’t want to read “What is a conspiracy theory?”, I wanna know yours!

    Oscar Berven

    Reply

  7. Three Steps to Building Your Own Conspiracy Theory : The Blog HeraldNovember 27, 2007 at 1:08 am
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  11. By Nelson Babs posted on February 27, 2008 at 8:06 am
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    As long as humans exist, we will always have conspiracy theories.

    Man thrives in conspiracy. We love cooking up different scenarios and trying to figure out how things turn up.

    Its fun sometimes…but can be really nasty at times.

    Reply

  12. Blog Resources: Researching the Research, Finding the Facts, and Seeking Supporting Evidence « Lorelle on WordPressMarch 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm
  13. By Dave Michaels posted on April 1, 2008 at 5:10 am
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    I just found a blog that would seemingly explain all the conspiracy theories. Has anyone seen this?? It is on the writer’s block under general conversation called “Change the World.”

    Reply

  14. By ellumbra posted on December 22, 2008 at 5:56 pm
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    A very interesting article, one that I find great personal resonance with after my experiences in the blogosphere of the last year – being besieged by Filipino bloggers, of the worst type – pronouncing my story as a hoax (for the sake of protecting a big business interest.)
    Please have a thorough read, explore the counter-material online – let me know what you think.

    Reply

  15. By Evil von Scarry posted on July 19, 2009 at 4:49 am
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    Great article Lorelle.
    Usually as soon as I see a “FWD to everyone you know” the B.S. alarm goes off. I write what may be considered a “conspiracy” blog but don’t buy into the aliens and tinfoil hat stuff, only what I can back up. However “conspiracy” anything has developed the same bad rap as the word “psychic” and due to the same reasons: profiteering, deliberate disinformation, fraudsters and the like.

    Reply

  16. By therealnews posted on June 29, 2010 at 6:05 am
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    This is a great post. I already checked about ten of the links. Great sites. Thanks for putting this list together. I wish I was on it. And you are correct, there is definitely a thin line between making a blog stand-out and look credible, or just plain old look like a joke.

    Reply

  17. By Dr. Lostgrave posted on November 5, 2010 at 11:41 pm
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    Conspiracy theories are the new urban legends, the nu-wave of ghost stories. Some are the stories of people who choose to exaggerate their experiences. For me, conspiracy theories are glimpses into the psyche of the downtrodden, bored, and frustrated lives of people who want a change in their society but don’t know how to achieve it. I’ve written a graphic novel on various conspiratorial topics, they are interesting tid-bits of horror and intrigue. lostgrave.wordpress.com

    Reply

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