Conspiracy theories have been with us for thousands of years. And these premises continue to flourish as people latch on to new ones and they thrive over the internet. One of the latest comes to us courtesy of a young woman on TikTok with the handle @momillenial_, who claims in a series of videos that the Roman Empire never existed but was created by "the Spanish Inquisition.”
She does not believe that Romans created the Roman alphabet. Never mind the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the aqueducts. Academics have taken her to task saying that there is plenty of evidence that the Roman Empire stood from 27 B.C. to 476 A.D.
This does not surprise Joseph Uscinski, professor of political science at the University of Miami and well-known expert on conspiracy theories.
"There are a lot of conspiracy theories like this one even though it seems strange,” said Uscinski. "There is a conspiracy theory saying that there were no Dark Ages, and there is another one that says we evolved from mermaids.”
Many conspiracy theories question human history and special political events, he noted. The internet and social media also has allowed conspiracy theories to reach large audiences and become the fodder of worldwide conversations.
In his research, Uscinski polled 2,000 people nationwide in 2021 and came up with the most believed conspiracy theories. They are explained in the following list.
About 55 percent of those surveyed believe that the killing of former President John F. Kennedy was not carried out by one person.
Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, during a campaign visit. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and charged with the killing. Two days after Oswald’s arrest, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby on live television.
Many believe that the death was part of a government conspiracy to do away with the popular president.
Approximately 50 percent of the people polled believe that the government is keeping information from the public that prove that Unidentified Flying Objects are aliens, and that these aliens have visited the earth.
In the past few years, alien conspiracy theories have received a lot of mainstream news coverage in the United States-adding fuel to the theory, Uscinski said.
Genetically modified food
Forty percent of those canvassed think that the dangers of genetically modified food are hidden from the public. This theory says the government (or someone else) is altering the food for some ulterior motive, perhaps to sell unsafe food or to purposely poison people.
Roughly 35 percent of the those polled believe that the Food and Drug Administration is deliberately preventing the use of natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressures from big drug companies.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy
Forty three percent of those surveyed think that senator and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was killed as part of a large government conspiracy. And 33 percent of them believe that the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was also an act of complicity.
Kennedy was killed on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California, during an event celebrating his victory after primary elections. He was seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. president.
King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel. A 40-year-old escaped fugitive, James Earl Ray, confessed to the killing and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Followers of conspiracy theories come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ethnicities, explained Uscinski. "They tend to make less money and be less educated,” he said. "But that does not mean that highly educated people and those with money do not believe in them.”