A conspiracy is a secret plan to commit an unlawful or harmful act.  By definition, a conspiracy involves more than one person working together.  No such thing as a conspiracy of one.

In the spring of 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Boot.h  Booth was the lone gunman who pulled the trigger of the .44 caliber derringer, firing a round into the back of Lincoln’s head.  But he was the leader of a larger conspiracy.  His main co-conspirators were Lewis Powell, who wounded Secretary of State William Seward; David Herold, who fled with Booth and was captured after a twelve-day manhunt; George Atzerodt, who was supposed to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson but chickened out.  Others on the fringes of the conspiracy were Mary Surratt, who was executed along with Powell, Herod, and Atzerodt; John Surratt, who knew of the plot but was never convicted.

In professional baseball, the owners were involved in two acts of collusion.  Collusion is a form of conspiracy in which parties that are supposed to be competitors, co-operate  with each other for mutual benefit.

Major League Baseball owners colluded in a large way twice.  The first was when they agreed to not hire any Black players back in the late 1800s.  The ban lasted until Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in 1947.  The second took place in the 1980s when the players got the right to become free agents, the right to negotiate with other teams once their contacts were up. The owners wanted to keep control of their players and keep salaries down, so they agreed that none of them would ever make an offer to a free agent.  The players took them to court and won.  Bigotry was the motivation in the first case, greed and power the second.

My point is that real conspiracies happen and they ought to be taken seriously.  The problem is that people with agendas cook up conspiracy theories, and people who share those agendas are willing to believe them and spread them.  Case in point, Barak Obama supposed “birth” conspiracy.  The conspirators accused Obama of a conspiracy of his own.  They said that Obama was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii, making him ineligible for the Presidency.  Obama, they say, conspired to alter his birth place.

For Obama’s birther conspiracy to work, the following people would have to be involved:

  • Obama, and /or his mother would have had to orchestrate the whole thing.
  • The folks at the hospital in Hawaii would have had to alter records to show that Obama was born there.
  • The folks at the government office where the birth certificate was kept
  • The folks at the newspapers who announced the birth.
  • The folks at the libraries where the newspapers are kept on microfiche
  • Any person who might have kept a newspaper printed on the date in which Obama’s birth announcement was made.

So if Barak Obama was born in Kenya and wanted to convince people he was born in Hawaii, he would have had his agents bribe dozens of people to alter the documentation.  That thousands perhaps millions of people believed this was a likely scenario, indicates that critical thinking is lacking as a skill in America.

Back during the AIDS epidemic, many gays and minorities claimed that AIDS was intentionally introduced for the purpose of reducing their populations.  Blacks were well aware of the syphilis experimentation done on Blacks back in the mid-1900s.  One can understand their paranoia, but again, the number of people in government and in the scientific community that would have had to have been in on an AIDS conspiracy would have had to number in the thousands.  Such a thing would not be considered, either ethically or practically.

Conspiracies rely on secrecy.  If you want to keep a conspiracy secret, you can’t have too many people in on it.  Sooner or later, someone will either unintentionally botch things up or develop a conscience and blow things up on purpose, like Branch Rickey did with Jackie Robinson.

Here at A Better Angel, discussing character is usually the order of the day.  What does understanding conspiracy theories have to do with character, you ask.  The ancient Greeks and Romans claimed there were four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, and self-control.  To perpetrate a false conspiracy theory is certainly not fair play, otherwise known as justice.  To fall for a wild conspiracy theory shows a lack of thinking skills, wisdom.