It’s getting harder to separate truth from fiction in the age of fake news. But conspiracy theories and propaganda are as old as society itself. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the growing wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that we’re influenced even by news we know to be fake.
How many disproven JFK assassination theories are floating around in your brain thanks to Oliver Stone? Do you sometimes wonder if anyone has ever really landed on the Moon? And do you think just maybe it’s possible that Adolf Hitler actually survived World War II and lived out his days in Brazil? If so, you’re not alone.
And that’s to say nothing of more modern conspiracy theories driven by social media, making unfounded claims about everything from diets to money to the state of reality itself.
But sometimes the wildest conspiracies are true. Like these six seemingly insane conspiracy theories that are quite real:
Who doesn’t love Canada? Well, 1960’s Canada wasn’t quite the squishy utopia it seems to be today. The Canadian government hired Carleton University professor Frank Robert Wake to create something it maliciously called the “fruit machine,” which they believed could detect and identify gay men. It wasn’t part of some benign effort to understand human sexuality. It was part of a sick bit of McCarthyism with the stated goal of getting all gay men out of the country’s government. More than 400 people lost their jobs, and 9,000 more were kept on a file of “suspects.” The device claimed to work by measuring how much a subject’s pupils dilated after being forced to look at same-sex erotic imagery.
Back in the 1950s the CIA secretly dosed individuals with LSD in order to test the potential effects of mind control. Although the practice reportedly continued for two decades, it was launched before the drug movement of the 1960s made LSD into a popular counterculture symbol. And while being given some free acid might sound like a great time to some, or at least the plot to a bad hipster action movie, dozens of people were reportedly left with permanent disabilities after secretly being subjected to massive amounts of LSD and electroshock therapy after seeking treatment for “minor psychiatric complaints.”