Upon purchasing Twitter, billionaire Elon Musk famously said that “almost every conspiracy theory that people had about [the social media network] turned out to be true.”
Which proves that no matter how much money you have or how many notable female artists you date, you can still be intrigued by the idea that there are larger powers toiling in the shadows to push secret agendas.
And yes, while there are definitely conspiracy theories that turned out to be true, like the fact that the CIA introduced crack cocaine into lower-income neighborhoods in order to destabilize urban communities, there are others that seem a bit less feasible and open themselves to mockery.
Like the belief that there’s an ancient race of lizard people who live under the Salton Sea who control everything going on in the world.
It’s the latter type of conspiracy theorist that folks love to lampoon, and there’s no shortage of popular memes and meme templates used to ridicule these way-too ardent theorists popping capillaries in their foreheads trying to link the rise of the Ford motor company to folks breaking out in hives after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here are some of the more popular types of conspiracy theory memes you’ll come across in your travels through the internet.
Best conspiracy theory memes
The Ancient Aliens dude
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens fame is probably the first face you think of when it comes to conspiracy theory memes, as his clip on the History Channel has been embedded in meme lore.
The format of his is a simple one: you write about a baffling phenomenon that seems to defy logic and explanation, followed by a simple explanation hovering between his hands: “Aliens.”
However, like any good meme, it didn’t take long for this running gag to transmogrify over time, like this one that shows a Xenomorph explaining a strange phenomenon with a single word: “humans.”
In fact, it’s become such a widely used meme format that Northeastern University even penned an article about it, but swapped out the words “Aliens” with “Boston Fans.”
Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
A lot of times the best memes are also the simplest, and this screenshot of actor Charlie Day’s crazed look as he attempts to explain the wild connections he made to a one Pepe Silvia in a 2008 episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia titled “Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack,” is often the joke itself.
Oftentimes this meme is used for people acknowledging how manic they must look when explaining some of their favorite hobbies, the rules to a particular game that they enjoy, or the nuanced fan theory they heard about The Santa Clause that says both the elves and the Mrs. Clauses in this cinematic universe end up getting turned into food once they’re too old to be of service.
The meme is also used to represent the roundabout, tangential thinking that is often the cornerstone of over-analytical mental wheel-turners doing their best to describe a particular phenomenon, regardless of the subject matter.
You’ll “never forget” this meme
On Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush, while visiting a classroom of students at Emma E. Booker Elementary in Sarasota, Florida was informed that planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City in an unprecedented attack that left the nation horrified, saddened, and on a quest for vengeance in the Middle East.
Years later, it’s become a template for countless memes, this being one of the more popular stills from that video footage of Bush’s school visit.
There’s no shortage of talking points associated with these attacks that are the stuff of conspiracy theory legend. From conveniently placed insurance policies and their subsequent payouts, to the $2.3 trillion purportedly missing from the U.S. government’s coffers the day before the attack that was never addressed again, to conveniently found passports that miraculously survived the crash, to the very nature of how the buildings themselves exploded, there are a number of 9/11 theories that have gone on to become memes themselves, like Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams.
The one that seems to persist, however, is the moment that Bush heard a second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center during his classroom reading session with the good children of Sarasota.
The meme takes the now iconic image, which has become the de-facto photograph that captures the exact moment someone has learned devastating news, and pairs it with more mundane, everyday “bombshells” for a humorous effect: like Bush being informed that Migos might be breaking up, or that his DMs were being leaked and now he’s getting torched in various group chats.
Always has been
Believe it or not, guns can actually work in space, but we don’t think that NASA has allocated any funding for handguns to outfit its astronauts like the one featured in this meme.
“Always Has Been” embodies the type of climactic scene in a film where one of the characters ends up discovering a mind-blowing secret that must be protected at all costs, even if it means the end of their life.
The meme features one astronaut looking at planet Earth, with another astronaut standing behind them, pointing a handgun at their back. The dialogue usually goes something like this:
Unsuspecting Astronaut: “Wait, it’s all Ohio?” (referring to planet Earth being one giant state of Ohio, a horrifying thought.)
Gun Astronaut: “Always has been.”
Of course, like any good meme, this ultra-serious conspiratorial subject matter has been combined with ridiculous references, culminating in a series of righteously funny jokes, like this cake one.
Tinfoil hat man
There are a few characteristics associated with bug-eyed conspiracy theorists, and one of them is that they will cover their heads with tinfoil as a means of creating a Faraday cage of sorts that protects their brains from the intrusive waves broadcast by covert organizations, or extra-terrestrials with nefarious agendas, or 5G internet.
There are a few images used as templates for tinfoil hat-related conspiracy theory memes, but Weird Al Yankovich is extremely popular. According to Know Your Meme, one of the earliest references to tinfoil hats was found in a 1927 short story published by Julian Huxley, The Tissue-Culture King, where they were used to thwart the efforts of those with telepathic abilities.
Now, they’ve become a long-running joke, one that even M. Night Shymalan employed in his 2002 film Signs.
There are tons of screengrabs from various Alex Jones broadcasts, but one of the more widely used meme templates features him exaggeratedly screaming in a fit of rage against the diabolical clandestine undertakings of big [insert evil organization here].
Sure, there are times when the out-of-pocket claims he made about particular events turned out to be not-so-crazy, like the fact that the military possesses “weather” modifying technology.
But he’s most known for the bizarre assertions he’s made, some that have gotten him in serious legal trouble, like when he claimed the parents of children who died in the Sandy Hook Massacre were paid actors.
And everyone loves to clown on his riff that scientists were putting atrazine in water and making “frogs gay.”
Alex Jones is the modern-day poster child for conspiracy theories, and memes containing his likeness are often used to embody extremist lines of thought and tangential thinking, but of a certain Alex Jones vibe: it’s aggressive, opinionated, and guttural. Like this one about being able to take the ducks home from the park, which is information kept from us by social elitists.
Why are conspiracy theories so popular?
Maybe it all boils down to a bit of entertainment that folks use to occupy their time. Or maybe it’s used as a self-victimization tool to justify why one should give up on all the endeavors they want to pursue because there are great evils at play keeping them from getting ahead in life.
Grand political schemes may ultimately end up being true, and yes, there are individuals in power who do very, very bad things by abusing the privileges that they possess, like high-ranking GOP and DNC officials who made out like bandits right before government-mandated social distancing and stay-at-home orders were put into effect in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But some might argue that dedication to particular causes that may be hard to prove is a misplaced source of fervor, especially when there are pressing issues at hand: like the fact that the United States experienced its worst inflation hike in the past 40 years, and that it’s more difficult to own a home today than it was during the Great Depression.
Nevertheless, people want to believe.