Conspiracy theories have saturated popular culture and become hugely popular in recent years, especially with the rise of the internet, as it allows anyone with a connection to publish their own theory on just about anything. However, conspiracy theories have been around for over 50 years and form what many come to understand as history – rather than just being speculation, they cross a line and become fact in one person’s understanding of events.
The popularity of conspiracies is something that makes sense for many people because of the fact that, regardless of the content and subject of individual theories, they are all simply narratives. Since the early days of our lives we are surrounded by stories – be that those read to us at bedtime or the ones we are fed on TV – that work to entertain. As we grow older, narratives become a way to make sense of the world, especially when explaining certain aspects of life to younger children. By the time we become adults, we can then appreciate the way narratives work to both provide entertainment and as a way of understanding the world.
It is therefore no surprise that people love conspiracy theories, and love to be a part of promoting them as fact or adding to them by offering a new way of thinking. Whilst this can be relatively acceptable for conspiracies surrounding whether or not one celebrity singer has been replaced by a look-alike (Paul McCartney, Avril Lavigne), if Shakespeare really did write his plays, or whether the Illuminati are really controlling many celebrities’ minds, it is important to remember the facts in more devastating and serious events that are shrouded by conspiracies. Events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, celebrity deaths, and horrific murders are among some of the most popular when it comes to the explosion of conspiracies, despite them all involving death and loss, which are the most important factors to not just remember but to respect.
A popular category of conspiracies makes claims that some celebrities were secretly murdered, with their deaths being covered up. Most famously Marilyn Monroe’s, Bruce Lee’s and Jimi Hendrix’s deaths are those that many feel were covered up, with the truth actually being that either government officials, Chinese mafia, or talent managers were behind their early demises. Other popular beliefs that surround allegedly dead celebrities are that they were announced to have died only to lead a quiet life away from the fame, something that many believe is true for Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur, and Steve Jobs, amongst many others.
Marilyn Monroe’s death, despite it happening over 50 years ago, still stirs a response from many fans of her films and career. Many believe that she was murdered on the orders of Robert F. Kennedy as they had an alleged affair that she was taking too seriously, and because with that information she wanted to cause a scandal. Years later, more information was released and people speculated that either the FBI or CIA were behind the young actress’ death. Though the official report states that she died due to an accidental overdose of barbiturates, people are reluctant to accept this as reports from those that first responded to her death said her body looked ‘staged’ and questioned why, if she had overdosed on pills, there not a glass of water nearby.
Tupac’s death at the age of 24 was one that shocked people across America and is still classed a tragedy to this day, but many believe that his death was faked and that he is alive, but living life away from the fame of his rapping career. Although reports state that 14 rounds were shot into the car where Tupac was a passenger, only four hit the rapper and many state this to be one of the reasons that there is more to this story. Multiple photos have surfaced over the past 20 years that depict Tupac allegedly living his life in many areas of the world, including Cuba (2004), Sweden (2014) and New Jersey (2017), with the most recent reports stating that he is hiding out in Somalia with Outlawz rapper, Yaki Kadafi, who died three months after Tupac.
More sinister and devastating conspiracies that are hugely popular are those that surround the events of September 11th and the horrific terrorist attacks that fell upon New York. From questions about why the hijacked aircraft weren’t intercepted by military air forces, to those about the suspect way the buildings collapsed in a way that appeared to resemble a controlled demolition, and even those regarding the materials recovered after the crash and eventual collapse of the towers, there are still questions that are left unanswered and perpetuate the theories that this was an inside job.
Despite the numerous celebrity deaths and major acts of devastation that occur over the years, what is key to remember is the loss that is central to these events. Although conspiracies work as a narrative to help people make sense of things that happen and to allow them to feel satisfied as to why something occurs in the way it does, the loss that families and friends suffer when people die, whether they were celebrities or not, is real and incredibly saddening.
Rather than focus on multiple theories, many would settle with a version of the truth, be that the official report or their own beliefs, because that gives them the reason for such a saddening event and allows for closure. In that sense, those that perpetuate conspiracies need to remember the suffering at their centre and respect that more than the stories. Conspiracy theories will never cease to be part of popular culture, and these days they saturate everything, so the aim isn’t to stop them but just to advocate for respect above anything else. The deaths at the centre of these events aren’t something that can be questioned, for the most part, and remembering that the truth in any conspiracy theory is what matters most and what should be respected above anything else.