By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer
Conspiracy theories are a cornerstone of pop culture, especially with how easy they spread on social media. They don’t always have to be serious or too political to be a fun talking point or a way to playfully float outlandish ideas.
Waco’s history with fringe ideologies — specifically the Branch Davidian cult that brought national news to Waco before “Fixer Upper” put us on the map — leaves Baylor students in a unique position to ponder conspiracies.
The theories I hear most about on campus range from political to relatively harmless. Pick virtually any dead celebrity and there is more than likely a theory that they either faked their death and are truly alive somewhere in South America, or that there was foul play involved with their passing. I hear this most often about the rapper Tupac Shakur, king of pop Michael Jackson and political donor Jeffrey Epstein, who is said to have committed suicide in a maximum security jail cell in August 2019.
“There’s no telling what celebrities will do to keep the mystery alive,” Houston freshman Natalie French said. “Michael Jackson not being dead is like real-life ‘Thriller.’”
However, not everyone buys into celebrity death theories, considering them more of a gag than a legitimate worldview.
“I always thought those theories were a joke,” Abilene freshman Arianna Taylor said. “In my house, we always joked that you could find a celebrity hiding in Brazil.”
Straying from celebrity theories, many people believe certain historical events were staged or faked, or simply did not happen. One of the most famous conspiracy theories of all time fits into this category: the idea that the moon landing in July 1969 was filmed on a set somewhere rather than on the actual moon.
As this theory is more than half a century old, it has somewhat fallen out of fashion. But the spirit lives on in other theories, such as the question of who actually killed president John F. Kennedy, or the idea that aliens were the real builders of the pyramids. I think, of any category of conspiracy, these are the least likely to be taken seriously, but it also brings them among the most inflammatory.
Other theories like the Mandela effect — the idea that time travelers or other supernatural and strange agents act and change things in our time — float around. People say they remember something being spelled a certain way, such as the old TV show “Berenstain Bears,” being originally spelled “Berenstein Bears,” and more.
Regardless of what you choose to believe or not to believe, it’s important to remember that conspiracy theories should all be taken with a very generous grain of salt.