This list appeared first in the Daily Dot’s newsletter web_crawlr. Every other week, our reporter Mikael Thalen debunks conspiracy theories swirling online in his “One Dumb Conspiracy” column. If you want to see more content like this before everyone else, sign up for the newsletter here.
10) False flag trains are invading your town
Following the train derailment and chemical disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, this year, conspiracy theorists became obsessed with man-made disasters.
Despite such disasters being a common occurrence, conspiracy theorists were suddenly convinced that trains across the country were being deployed by the government to poison their towns.
One video of a woman standing next to train cars in California was viewed millions of times by those who believed that the event was “unprecedented” and that the locomotive could be a “chemical bomb.”
The Daily Dot reached out to local police and discovered, unsurprisingly, that the train was not as nefarious as those online claimed.
9) Kamala Harris has gills?
Vice President Kamala Harris became the target of conspiracy theorists in February after they came to the conclusion that she was breathing through a pair of gills on her neck… seriously.
The evidence for Harris’ alleged aquatic features came from a video deemed “suspicious” by conspiracy theorists. While many said the woman in the video wasn’t Harris (spoiler alert: it was), some took the bizarre claim one step further.
“Holy fecking jeebuz!” one user on X said. “Either the mask is falling off at the neck or the evil Lizard actually does have gills…”
As should be obvious, Harris does not possess gills. But given that so many conspiracy theorists believe that their political enemies are either clones, lizards, aliens, or demons, gills are pretty tame in the grand scheme of things.
8) Flat Eathers see Hillary Clinton video as proof of theory
In 2008, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in which she discussed the “glass ceiling.”
You likely know what that term refers to: a social barrier often faced by women that impedes them from advancing in their careers.
“It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now,” Clinton said after failing to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nothing suspicious there, right? Well, fast-forward to 2023. Conspiracy theorists stumbled across the speech and became convinced that Clinton was actually referring to an imaginary glass dome that covers the flat earth.
“Hillary made her comment about finally breaking through the glass sealing [sic],” one user said. “There are videos of rockets hitting something that is invisible and continues to spin. Round or flat, these things say something is fishy.”
To be clear, rockets are not running into a mythical glass dome surrounding the earth. And Clinton was definitely referring to women in the workplace, not giving a secret nod and wink to the flat earth crowd. The earth remains round.
7) Pope Francis and the AI Satanic priests
Pope Francis has proven to be a controversial figure for conservative Catholics in light of his sometimes-progressive politics.
But ol’ Francis took things one step too far in April when he decided to meet with a group of Satanic priests, sending many conservatives into an uproar.
The image, which showed Francis shaking the hand of what appears to be a horned ghoul, went especially viral among Spanish speakers.
Yet the image wasn’t real and had been created with artificial intelligence, highlighting how such computer-generated content can be used for spreading disinformation.
As it stands, there’s no evidence that the Pope has met with any demon priests during his time at the Vatican.
6) Is Marjorie Taylor Greene missing toes?
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), often referred to as the QAnon Congresswoman, is no stranger to spreading conspiracy theories.
The problem with high-profile conspiracy theorists, however, is that they ultimately become the subject of conspiracy theories as well.
An image shared to X in February purported to prove that Greene had only three toes on both feet, leading many to liken her to a sloth.
As you may have guessed, Greene isn’t actually missing any toes, as can be seen in numerous other pictures.
5) Bill Gates’ mosquito warfare against a music festival
Billionaire Bill Gates is also no stranger to conspiracy theories. And in July, conspiracy theorists struck again by claiming that the philanthropist had used a helicopter to drop genetically-modified mosquitos onto a music festival in Maryland.
A clip from the festival showed numerous attendees waving hats and other items in an apparent attempt to drive away the mosquitos.
“Video just released ftom [sic] The AFRAM 2023 festival in Maryland saw visitors plagued with ‘deadly mosquitos,’ which were released from a helicopter which hovered overhead, online reports stated,” one user claimed on X.
The month prior, four cases of Malaria had been detected in the U.S., causing many to view the footage with fear.
But once again, the claims were utter nonsense. For starters, numerous reports regarding the festival noted that it was gnats, not mosquitos, that had been pestering attendees. No helicopter was actually spotted at the scene, either. And local health officials confirmed that no insect-borne illnesses were reported following the festival.
4) The cheese is microchipped, but is it tracking you?
You’d think it would be hard to come up with a conspiracy theory involving a topic such as cheese, but the internet always seems to find a way.
In November, a screenshot of an article from a Wall Street Journal article stated that Italian cheese makers were embedding microchips into their product. Which, believe it or not, is actually true.
But why? Conspiracy theorists were quick to claim that the government had found a new way to track them.
Of course, the actual facts of the matter reveal just how ridiculous those assumptions are. In reality, cheese makers were adding microchips the size of a grain of sand to their 90-pound cheese wheels.
The effort was aimed at stopping counterfeiters who had been selling knock off Parmesan. It’s unlikely you or anyone you know is buying 90 pound cheese wheels, meaning that the edible microchip is almost certainly not in your bag of shredded cheese.
3) QAnon goes after Etsy for imaginary human trafficking
You gotta love Etsy, unless you’re a QAnon supporter.
While the majority of us love the e-commerce site’s unique products, conspiracy theorists are convinced that the service is nothing more than a front for human trafficking.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because we saw the same thing with the company Wayfair. Conspiracy theorists seemingly view any items that they deem suspicious or overpriced as proof that the listings are actually for children.
An investigation by Etsy found that spammers were placing overpriced items, such as digital images of pizza, on the website. The posts were removed.
2) Nuclear bombs never existed, according to conspiracy theorists
Interest in nuclear weapons history was at an all-time high this year thanks to the film Oppenheimer, which detailed the life of the man who headed up the secret program to develop the first atomic bomb.
Despite the weapon’s devastating use during WWII, conspiracy theorists became convinced that the nuclear bomb didn’t actually exist.
Their evidence was footage of nuclear weapons tests. How could a camera capture a nuclear explosion without being destroyed? Instead of actually investigating the matter, conspiracy theorists started a campaign to deny the weapon’s existence.
Yet countless documentaries and basic science provide answers to those questions. The cameras were in lead bunkers 5 miles away from the blast zone. And nuclear weapons that are detonated in the air, like those in Japan, do not produce high levels of nuclear fallout like would be seen if the detonation had occurred on the ground.
It’s still important to note that those in the blast zone were bombarded with heavy doses of radiation, which is believed to have caused a massive increase in cases of Leukemia at the time.
1) The vaccine zombie apocalypse that never came
Back in early October, the anti-vaccine crowd made a startling claim: Anyone who received the COVID-19 shot would turn into a zombie on Oct. 4.
The proof for the impending apocalypse came from a purported attorney named Jeffrey Prather who is known for spreading outlandish stories online.
Prather argued that the inoculation had been secretly booby-trapped with the Marburg virus, which causes a severe hemorrhagic fever that kills upwards of 70 percent of those infected.
The conspiracy theorist continued by stating that the virus would be activated by three one-minute long 18 gigahertz pulse waves sent out from, what else, 5G cell towers.
Oh yea, and the shot had some secret Ebola in there too, according to Prather.
Those who didn’t quickly die, Prather said, would have genes in their bodies edited to make them a zombie. As you might have guessed, it is now past Oct. 4 and no mass-deaths or zombies have appeared. It’s almost as if the anti-vaccine crowd isn’t all that reliable.