To Believe, or Not to Believe: Conspiracy Theories

Join Michael Laurence, author of The Extinction Agenda, for a discussion on conspiracy theories and see if you can determine which notorious theories from history proved to be true and which ones were debunked. Bonus: Read through and comment on the post below for a chance to win a copy of The Extinction Agenda, available now!

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical image of a conspiracy theorist as a nutjob living in his mother’s basement, posting his rambling missives online under a pseudonym and making hats out of tin foil so the government can’t read his thoughts. We roll our eyes at the idea of raiding Area 51 to free the aliens trapped inside and laugh at the notion of the moon landing being filmed on a soundstage, and yet there are people who genuinely believe in little green men and the great space hoax. How can they possibly cling to such counterintuitive beliefs in this day and age when a simple Google search returns thousands of results to the contrary? The truth is there are simply too many questions for which the official answer doesn’t suffice, questions like: If the government has nothing to hide, then why not let people inside the installation to see for themselves? or With all of our technological advances, why hasn’t the U.S.—or any other country, for that matter—gone to the moon in nearly fifty years?

The key to unlocking the riddle lies in the very definition of a conspiracy theory, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as a “belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event.” Belief is the kissing cousin of faith, a deeply personal conviction to which even the most rational among us has been known to cling, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In that way, a conspiracy theory resembles a religious doctrine, which, as a form of free speech, is protected under the First Amendment, so why would the FBI release an intelligence bulletin describing “conspiracy theory-driven extremists” as a growing domestic terrorist threat? When did we as a society start fearing words, especially those universally regarded as untrue? The answer, according to that same bulletin, is because so many “real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures” have been uncovered.

In other words, the powers that be aren’t big fans of conspiracy theorists because sometimes they get it right.

So let’s play a game, shall we? I’ll list some classic conspiracy theories, and you tell me if the theorists were crazy or correct.


The US government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition.

Correct. Following the prohibition of alcohol in 1920, bootleggers stole the kind of industrial alcohol used in fuels, solvents, and medical supplies and redistilled it for personal consumption. Frustrated that so many citizens had figured out a way to beat the system, the government ordered manufacturers to add chemicals like methyl alcohol, kerosene, gasoline, chloroform, and formaldehyde to their industrial alcohol formulas. The intention was to scare people sober, but more than 10,000 people ultimately died in what Charles Norris, chief medical examiner of New York at the time, called “our national experiment in extermination.”


The global elites want to cull the human population.

Crazy. While the existence of secretive organizations like the Good Club, a collection of billionaires committed to saving the world from itself; the Skull and Bones Society, a Yale fraternity of sorts responsible for spawning some of the most powerful men in America; and the Bilderberg Group, an exclusive assembly of the most influential people on the planet who meet with the intention of dictating global policy, might make one wonder if his best interests are truly being represented behind closed doors, it’s hard to imagine any means of population reduction on a global scale that doesn’t threaten us all equally, regardless of the size of our checking accounts.


The CIA spied on and controlled the media.

Correct. Operation Mockingbird was a CIA operation that spied on members of the Washington press corps in 1963, 1972, and 1973. While some journalists were paid to disseminate agency propaganda, the more reputable among them had their phone lines tapped and became the subjects of covert surveillance, setting the precedent for the mass monitoring of American citizens by the NSA. John F. Kennedy secretly recorded conversation related to Operation Mockingbird in the Oval Office; they’re now a part of The Presidential Recordings.


The government pardoned high-ranking Nazi scientists and brought them to America.

Correct. With the defeat of the Third Reich imminent and the red tide of Communism rising over Eastern Europe, the United States found itself in a race against time, one that culminated in the Cold War. When it came to scientists of every specialty, from advanced weaponry to aerospace technology, the Germans were so far ahead of the competition that it would take years for either budding superpower to catch up. The quickest way to do so was by recruiting the scientists themselves, men like Wernher Von Braun and Arthur L. Rudolph, who designed Hitler’s V-2 rocket, which could have written a dramatically different end of the war, and expanded upon the very same research to help found NASA and take us to the moon.

Is it any wonder why conspiracy theories have become increasingly prevalent with each passing year, or why the government is threatened by them?

These aren’t random examples. Taken together, they form the foundation of my debut novel, The Extinction Agenda (St. Martin’s Press, September 2019), the first in a series of conspiracy thrillers featuring FBI Special Agent James Mason and his quest to bring down a nefarious entity known as The Thirteen, a syndicate that it has infiltrated every aspect of the government. An untouchable cabal so thoroughly ingrained in society that to the world at large, it exists only in conspiracy theories.

*Author photo by Bryan Grant.

About The Extinction Agenda by Michael Laurence:

An FBI agent fights to stop a conspiracy to unleash a deadly virus on the world in this propulsive, exhilarating new thriller.

The discovery of a deadly virus being smuggled across the border pits FBI Special Agent James Mason and his strike force against an unknown adversary hell-bent on humanity’s destruction. In a desperate effort to contain the pathogen, they launch a predawn raid, only to find that their enemy knows they’re coming…and it’s not about to be taken alive. An explosion rips through the building, killing the majority of Mason’s team, including his partner and mentor.

Tormented by guilt, Mason returns to his home division, but he can’t seem to let go of the tragedy. He remembers seeing something inside the building before it went up in flames, something that convinces him that not only is the virus still out there, it’s merely the first stage of an even more nefarious plan. Obsessed with unraveling the plot, he launches his own investigation and uncovers a shadow organization on the brink of enacting its genocidal agenda, one carried out by a sinister mass murderer who’s been photographed at the epicenter of seemingly every historical pandemic…without appearing to age. An evil man who attempts to derail Mason’s investigation by murdering his wife.

With the help of his longtime friends―Gunnar Backstrom, a corporate espionage gun-for-hire, and Ramses Donovan, a sin merchant of questionable morality―Mason’s hunt for his wife’s killer leads him from a dark union at the dawn of the twentieth century to a network of Nazi collaborators and a conspiracy against mankind more than a hundred years in the making. Fueled by anger and driven by the promise of vengeance, he must overcome a monster preparing to unleash his virulent wrath upon an unsuspecting world if he’s to have any hope of exposing a deep-state entity that’s rooted in every facet of our society, an entity known only as…The Thirteen.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Extinction Agenda by Michael Laurence!

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  1. paul klumbach

    So,there is a time traveling mass murderer on a mission to destroy the world as we know it? Sounds like it’s happening now. Going to be a great read.

  2. Noreen Brown

    I have watched numerous TV shows and movies that covered prohibition and never once heard about the poisoning…very interesting. What else don’t I know?

  3. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  4. downeaster

    Will the government allow me to read this book?

    • Lois A Becker

      Love that response

  5. kris

    This sounds like a really interesting read!

  6. carloshmarlo

    Sounds terrific. Thanks for the insights into some actual conspiracies.

  7. Melissa Conrad

    I would love to read this book! And, thanks for a very interesting article.

  8. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  9. Janice Milliken

    So the crazies are not so crazy after all, perhaps just more enlightened!

  10. DJ Gordon

    Except for the population culling (seriously???), I thought the veracity of the other theories was well known and established,.,,,

  11. susan beamon

    I love a good conspiracy theory, but it has to be coherent. It can’t be a just because so-and-so is evil. The book sounds very interesting, even if I don’t care for time travel.

  12. Laurie Sandretto

    Thank you for the article.

  13. lasvegasnv

    interesting blurb

  14. Edward Shaw

    Just as I suspected

  15. Ronald Roseborough

    Sounds as good as any other conspiracy theory. Count me in.

  16. Jean Boe

    This book sounds like a great read! Many of the ‘conspiracies’ listed have had TV shows questioning the same thing. Most are too far-fetched for me; but, others tend to make one think….’maybe??’

  17. Rebecca Cochran

    Sounds like something I should read! I tend to dismiss any conspiracy theory but poisoning of alcohol by Gov was new to me!

  18. jane

    sounds interesting

  19. Darren Perdue

    I fully intend to read and review this book.

  20. Diana Hardt

    It sounds like a very interesting book.

  21. Shirley Bayers
  22. Shirley Bayers

    I want to read it. I like the premise of the book!

  23. Rebecca Joy Mensinga

    Time travel and a crazy man count me in!

  24. Janet Gould

    Depopulation is talked about quite often.

  25. martin bodnar

    thanks for the chance to win….

  26. Michael Carter

    Sounds great!
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  27. Shirley Evans

    Wow, this book sounds like a truly great read. Thanks for the chance!

  28. Andrew Beck

    Thanks for this opportunity. It is always great to learn about new series and for the chance to be in at the beginning. Looking forward for a chance to read this novel novel.

  29. Lois A Becker

    Unleashing a virus is just another way to control the population as keeping cures of cancer from the population doesn’t seem to be working, among other diseases. Sounds like a great read. Can’t wait to win my copy. Thanks much.

  30. Susan Morris

    Just “WOW”! I can hardly wait to read this book. It sounds exciting and diabolical I’ll certainly be donning my tin foil hat and rooting for Mason to end “The Thirteen”.

  31. Roxana Garcia

    Sounds like an interesting read!

  32. Tiffany

    Sounds great

  33. John Davis

    It will doubtless be one of your future themes to explore how Soviet disinformation spread conspiracy theories! Good you are writing!

  34. John Q. Wilson

    Wow?, A new series about an FBI agent investigating conspiracy theories, what’s not to like & look forward to? Count me in!

  35. John Q. Wilson

    Wow! A new series about an FBI agent investigating conspiracy theories. What’s not to like? Count me in!

  36. Michelle Willms

    I’ve found I’m becoming more and more a believer in conspiracy theories. I wasn’t familiar with the alcohol poisoning – and am appalled (but not surprised). Your book sounds exciting.

  37. Peter W.

    I believe! Yes!

  38. Barbara Fish

    I would love to win this book!

  39. Christal M

    Looks like a great read!

  40. Barbara Eveland

    I will definitely be reading this one! Unless of course the people that are watching me don’t think I should.

  41. Karen Terry

    Looks like an interesting read

  42. John Davis

    I’ve read much about conspiracy theorists, and this plot is most intriguing. I like the paradox set by Mr. Laurence that the government won’t be open about conspiracies because…they might be behind one! Bravo, you have my interest!

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