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What's Behind Internet Conspiracy Empires?

Dec. 12, 2008—

A man standing on a street corner with a sign reading "the lizard people rule you all," or, "my neighbors are spying on me for the government" isn't likely to get many supporters.

But give that man a Web site template, or let him produce some slick videos on YouTube and, lo and behold, he may have thousands of people across the world supporting him.

Such is the story of several extraordinarily popular conspiracy theorists and theories online today.

Take the victims of gang stalking -- a subculture of people who think their friends and neighbors are all secret government spies ready to turn them over to the authorities. The movement has recently spawned gang stalking support groups, forums and advice Web sites.

Or take the former journalist and BBC sports announcer, David Icke, for example.

Icke was laughed out of the public eye in the early '90s when he started wearing only turquoise and explaining that voices had sent him on an important mission to save the earth.

Decades later, Icke has written books, has fans in 47 countries and can gather a crowd of 2,500 people in a city simply by posting a date for a lecture on his Web site.

The cornerstone of Icke's theories is that a malicious race of lizard people -- the "shadowy elite" -- rules the world and all its political leaders primarily by controlling the media and orchestrating fear-mongering catastrophes, such as Sept. 11. Icke said he already has speeches lined up for 2009 in Los Angeles, Mexico, Croatia, New Zealand and Australia.

"I knew about the mainstream media, and that the mainstream media has a stunning level of myopia so that only that which is in the mainstream will be presented," said Icke. "What the Internet has done [is that it] has allowed information to flow outside of the myopia. ... The Internet has been absolutely essential."

The Internet has always been a forum for fringe ideas, but success like Icke's, and subcultures built on paranoid theories like gang stalkers, points to an understudied corner in psychiatry: Who are the people who believe such theories in the quiet of their homes, and what does such behavior mean for a person teetering on the edge of mental illness?

"It's not an area that has been studied very well," said Angus MacDonald, a spokesperson for the mental health charity NARSAD, and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Does Conspiracy Always Equal Delusion?

MacDonald cautioned that not everyone who believes in a conspiracy plot is mentally ill. They just may be suggestible or just suspicious of authority.

For the healthy in mind, MacDonald said, "it's a wild card about whether this is going to improve people's state or not. It may turn out that the value of the community is greater than the destructive nature of the narratives that are spun out of them.

"But on the same point, this is a domain that didn't need more wild cards," he added.

Whether or not conspiracy theories harm people who are susceptible to mental illness is a matter of debate among psychiatrists.

"Most people with major mental illness don't believe in conspiracy theories," said Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Duckworth likes to imagine a Venn diagram with one circle representing people with paranoid psychosis and another circle representing people who believe conspiracy theories.

"They do overlap, but I can't tell you how big the overlap is," he said. "And, lizard people? Many people who are hearing voices would think that's crazy."

Duckworth argued that most mentally ill people create conspiracy theories that are self-centric, such as, "the mailman is after me," not inclusive such as, "the postal workers are all out to get us by 2015."

But others who treat schizophrenics and people with paranoia think there is a risk in circulating online conspiracies.

"Paranoid is wide category -- it's another way of being separate with reality -- but in our culture, we've made it synonymous with persecutory delusions," said MacDonald.

The Making of a Conspiracy: Delusion or Not?

According to MacDonald, most delusions begin with general, unexplained feelings of discontent that are caused by a problem with the brain. It's only when someone tries to search for an explanation for their feelings that a delusion forms.

"Then over time, the delusions become crystallized -- meaning they take on particular narratives, story lines and people's motives begin to be fleshed out," said MacDonald. "When one thing isn't explained, it's never abandoned. The plot just thickens ... and you credit your persecutor with a tremendous amount of power."

MacDonald said it can make it difficult to do talk therapy when delusional people feed their story from outside sources or find evidence with other conspiracy plots.

"You're sitting across from your therapist and they say, 'Well why would they do all of this?' And you've got the answers because you've studied online," he said.

Icke said that sort of danger is not his responsibility.

"You can't stop information because it might be misused by people," he said.

"What people think of my information is none of my business; it's their business," he added. "I'm not saying, 'This is how it is, you must believe it.' I'm saying, 'This is another way to look at the world. What do you think?'"

Icke said he has run into psychiatrists analyzing why people believe his theories in television interviews.

To them, Icke says, "Check it out. Check it out. Then [decide]: Do the facts stand up? Don't go into this psychological babble after you first dismiss the information by reflex action."

Icke believes his popularity on the Internet is a testament to the validity of his ideas, and that people feel that his predictions have come to pass.

"What you do as you continue to research and you continue to travel is you hone it down," he said. "I've never come across anything that questioned the themes of what I'm talking about. ... With every day that passes, you just get more information."

"If the information over a period of time does not stand up to scrutiny and fact checking, it doesn't matter how far it will circulate, it's going to be dropped," he said.

After studying conspiracy theorists, Michael Barkun, professor of political science at Syracuse University and author of the book, "Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America," said he thought image and packaging is actually key to attracting followers.

"Even someone whose ideas are deviant can produce a Web site that looks sleek and professional," said Barkun. "Those who have conspiracy theories to peddle can do it very easily. And if they're reasonably sophisticated, [they] can do it in a way that gives those ideas the appearance of validity."

Whether those who make conspiracy theories for the masses are themselves mentally ill, Barkun said it depends on the conspiracy theorist.

"I don't think you can generalize," he said. "Certainly, in terms of conspiracy theorists, they're all quite different."

As for Icke, he has long heard people accusing him of being a mentally-disturbed conspiracy theorist.

"I went out on a limb," he said. "What's happened within a period of 20 years is that the world has come to me. ... As people have seen it coming to pass, the laughter has stopped.

"I take a different view," he added, "and if that's at odds with mainstream society to the point of being crazy, then I'm fine with that."


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Added: Dec-12-2008 Occurred On: Dec-12-2008
By: DedHajiGoodHaji
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Tags: Liveleakers, UFO, Alex Jones, Limbaugh, Conservatism.
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  • A pretty good description of some of these conspiracy nuts on LiveLeak.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • Mental Illness is much more prevalent than most people think.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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    • that still wouldn't explain how most americans fell for the "9/11" and "Iraq" connection despite there being none

      or the "Iraq is going to use WMDs on us" without needing verifiable proof

      weird, huh?

      Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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    • that still wouldn't explain how most americans fell for the reptilian-humanoid deception.

      Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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    • lol, you're right that a lot of americans are being influenced by the Illuminati/reptilian/NWO theory

      we're supposed to die, or something dramatic will happen, in 2012

      Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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    • Or your blood for oil and Neo-Con conspiracies, or that the 9/11 attacks were a US or Israel job, and on and on, and on. The majority of Americans and the World believe that crap also.

      I think most people are inclined to believe in some ridiculous or even plausible conspiracies because it gives them an excuse not to take responsibilities for their lives, kind like religion. It is after all, better the blame 'others' for your problems, and say you are just a puppet in someone else's game.

      Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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    • The only people I hear talking about reptilians are people slagging off "troofers" & I frequent a lot of these types of sites.

      I have seen some early David Icke stuff that alludes to reptilians but most people don't take that stuff too seriously. It's only had legs because people use it to denounce people who question the establishment.

      Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • Here we go, audio spotlight. This is not what targets are complaining about exactly, but this is the idea. This is a commercial version of this type of technology.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veDk2Vd-9oQ

    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2002/02/50483

    http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shadowlands/6583/project217.html

    Oh and that little quote that you mentioned earlier, still can't point to where on my website that is can you?

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • insanity ozing through the ethernet cables

    Posted Dec-14-2008 By 

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  • Excellent post!!

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • It would have been appropriate to link the source:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/story?id=6443988&page=1

    Good article.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • Even those that are thought to be crazy speak some truth.

    "We have to stop being divided by what we don't agree on, and start being united by what we do agree on."

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • Interesting post, thanks.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • i am the illuminati. give me a dollar. and my friend the lizard guy wants one too.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • Their ASll over this site. LMFAO at the Elvis crowd.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • People that make fun of this guy, haven't looked at the evidence he has presented. Maybe they don't have fast computers or to lazy to spend time looking at the evidence. The official story doesn't fit what is seen, so something is wrong with the explanation. Look at the evidence for yourself. If you haven't looked at all the evidence, don't judge someone that has.

    Posted Dec-12-2008 By 

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  • I don't want to be offensive, but since my website was metioned in the article, I am going to very politely suggest that part of the problem is with the general population reading these stories, not taking the time to go to the websites themselves and find out what they are saying and why. If you read the comments you have some drastically different opinions on this subject, and the only difference I can see is that the some have taken the time to go and find out what is being said.

    Eg. This More..

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • I went to the website "gangstalkingworld.com" and, I'm not a psychiatrist, but all I see is delusion and severe paranoia. People who believe they're "victims" of anonymous and subtle harassment in all aspects of their life need to seek professional help.

      Oh noes! I'm part of the conspiracy, imparting my negative energy onto your psyche.

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Great you went to the website. What pages did you access? YOu also did not answer my question. Are there are or are there not, people who are being followed around and placed under surveillance this way? Based on what you read on the site?

      Also based on what you just said, if we put this into a workplace mobbing context, this is no different. I am guessing 10 to 15 years ago, when targets of workplace mobbing we being dignosed as paranoid, and being told they needed professional help and plac More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • The website says things like, "the voices in your head may not be real, they may be beamed in by the government".

      Those are the words of a delusional person. Just like the above article states, the internet gives such people the information to flesh-out their paranoid delusions.

      I'm saying this with sincerity, if you believe such things, please, speak with a mental health professional.

      And to answer your question, no. I do not believe that individuals are being targeted by b More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Can you point that exact part out where my website says that, just for reference sake? Thanks.

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • Though I admit, "gang stalking" is a genius way to shirk responsibility for anything bad that happens in your life. "Unseen forces are targeting me!"

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Right so it's just some made up plot to not take ownership for one's life. I guess you would have sprouted this stuff back when groups like the panthers were being harassed by the state. When Martin Luther King Jr was being targeted in every aspect of his life. I also guess you would have told John Lennon the same thing as he complained about being followed around, monitored and stalked?

      Well there you have it, all these targets of Cointelpro and the state were just making things up.

      The More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Pray tell, who are "they", what all have "they" done to you, and what is it that would make you a target of such a conspiracy?

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • I am more than happy to answer the they question, but you do realise that you have evaded my questions. So how about you answer some of my questions, and I will answer yours, ofcourse since you were on the website and you read it so dilegently, you should have the answer to this question, but you don't.

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Read again, I aswered your question. I don't believe anyone is after you.

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • "Symptoms
    Early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia %u2014 such as social withdrawal, unusual behaviors, anxiety and decline in daily functional abilities %u2014 may begin gradually before the primary symptoms of schizophrenia, known collectively as psychosis, are manifested. But disease onset may also be acute with the sudden appearance of psychosis.

    Delusions and auditory hallucinations are the prominent psychotic symptoms in people with paranoid schizophrenia.

    Delusions
    When peop More..

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Great thank you for the reference to scizophrenia, and if we were discussing this subject, then I would actually find the link useful and relavant. The subject was government covert actions.

      Here is a link to Cointelpro and some of the dirty tricks that get played on people.

      http://gangstalkingworld.com/Forum/YaBB.pl?num=1174035711

      The second article is about some of the current surveillance that is ongoing in some countries against average people.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • Now tell me that the above symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia do not describe to a tee the thoughts and experiences that you term as "gang stalking".

    These experiences may be very real to you, but I urge once again: please, seek out a mental health professional and talk with them about your belief that "they" are out to get you. I'm not saying this to be mean, I seriously believe that you need help.

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • "The website says things like, "the voices in your head may not be real, they may be beamed in by the government"."

    Can you direct me to the page on my website where you found this. I don't believe you answered that question.

    I also asked you if people were being followed around, and placed under the types of surveillance that I have described on the website. I don't think you answered that question.

    I asked you a couple of others as well, but how about we start wi More..

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • "Read again, I aswered your question. I don't believe anyone is after you."

    Great and you are entitled to your beliefs, but what do you know about my personal circumstances to make this assessment?

    Do you know enought about govenment surveillance of average citizens? Do you know enough about how programs such as Cointelpro worked, functioned and opperated?

    Again everyone is entitled to their opinions. You claim that you went to my websites and then proceeded to quote somethin More..

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • So you were lying when you said you'd answer my questions. I am just interested in your personal story of "gang stalking".

      "What has been reported by targets is technology that can bypass the ears and send sound signals directly to the brain. "

      I've answered your questions, now are you going to tap-dance around mine some more or are you going to provide us with some evidence that "they" are stalking you?

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Since we have been at this awhile let me recap. You asked who are they? I said that if you had been on the website, and actully read the material you would know. So I did answer your question. To be more specific the site reference targets of surveillance by government, usuing similar tactics as we saw in Cointelpro.

      What have I done to be a target of such a conspiracy? Well if you had read the website, you would see that average people are getting monitored and tracked this way, many people More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • Know what? Forget it, you're nuts man. I don't need the stress of arguing with a delusional person. If you don't look at those symptoms of paranoid schitzophrenia and see yourself, I don't what can be done for you.

    Once again, I think experiences and preceptions that may seem very real to you are the product of mental illness. If you won't tell me, you should at least talk to a professional about these experiences and feelings that people are out to get you.

    Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • You are not going to win the argument so you are going to leave it with a personal attack of you are just crazy and then off you go? I can't stop you from doing so, but I just wanted to clearify that I can back up that people are being placed under surviellance in a similar manner. Average citizens who have no idea why.

      Also again that quote you mentioned, I don't believe it came from my website.

      Lastly thank you for taking the time to make a remote assessment of mental illness, when you More..

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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    • Correct. You cannot win an argument with a delusional person.

      Posted Dec-13-2008 By 

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  • you know as schizo as you say they are they are much more comprehensive than you.

    This a insult post (it almost insulted my time by reading something redundant and lazy).

    Go listen to Alex Jones, go listen to David Icke, strip them of their schizoid stories, but at least hear the way the order their information...you have a lot to learn my friend...

    Mad or not, they are shure geniuses in their work and you do not even come close to their articulating skills.

    Go throw shit somewhere else.

    Y More..

    Posted Jan-31-2009 By 

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