BCC: Am I A Secret Sleeper Agent?
Boarder in Stud House and Bede's Correspondents' Club journalist Ashley Anderson recently fell deep into the rabbit hole and became lost in a maze of conspiracies. Is the truth out there?
Last Thursday, after Bede's Correspondents' Club, I was relaxing, playing a video game on my PlayStation.
Suddenly, I received a message through the Playstation Network (an internal messaging system for Sony games players) from a complete stranger.
"Read loads," said the message. "MKUltra is real. Read before the government overrule your mind."
I was, of course, very shocked yet intrigued by this message - not least by the bad grammar. But curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do some research into this bizarre thing I'd never heard of before.
It sounded exciting.
When I started to research MKUltra what I found was rather surprised. Hundreds of YouTube videos, websites and blogs all dedicated to a once-secret government programme. It turns out that the CIA was using chemistry to control minds - so said the websites.
The government could not be trusted, I thought.
Sleeper agents could be anywhere.
I had never seen anything like MKUltra before. I had no idea that such a thing could happen. And around the edges of my research I could see links to websites about 9-11 conspiracies, dubious political 'suicides' and secret government coups.
All of this got me thinking; were there more theories out there that I should know about?
Were there more secret reasons to be afraid?
Besides, how many conspiracy theories could there be?
A lot, it turns out.
We've all heard of the notorious Area 51 or the Illuminati, but after having read a bit about MKUltra I decided to try and work out which factors created a conspiracy theory.
Having reviewed a few factual articles, I couldn't help noticing the numerous amounts of government related conspiracies there were, and this made me think that clearly many people feel that their government is working against them.
Is such a theory really a conspiracy? Do governments sometimes work against the interests of some of their citizens?
Of course they do. It is hard to help everybody all of the time. If there are plans in a government think-tank to raise the tax rate to 60% for the highest earners in society, is that a conspiracy theory?
Probably not - if you aren't a high earner.
More worrying was a seeming trend I found for suggesting that various terrorist attacks are distractions plotted by governments to divert the media and public from other disasters taking place which they were responsible for.
World Trade Center Building 7 collapsed, destroying CIA offices, but the media didn't talk about it. They only spoke about the Twin Towers. Something suspicious had to be happening!
Could such elaborate cover-ups really be possible? Surely governments are there to protect and listen to citizens instead of lying to and misleading them?
After all, if you worked for a government and you knew that something underhanded was going on, would you speak out to try and help your fellow human or stay quiet and remain part of the inner circle of whatever web you were currently within?
Did Building 7 not make the news because it simply caught fire and collapsed, with minor casualties, rather than having two aeroplanes flown into it prompting a tragedy in which thousands died?
Of course, the world is full of mysteries - arguably less so today than it has ever been. But is that good? With the internet, public libraries, social networks and other communication services, it is easier than ever to find information. What is much harder is rooting through that information to find the material which is valuable and based on fact.
The front gates of Area 51.
Related to this idea, one of the many things I identified within the conspiracy theories I looked at was the tendency of conspiracy theorists to connect unrelated issues to suggest a plan. A particular group of people - probably a minority - was working with another group, financed by someone rich, to harm others.
It turned out that Plan A was, in fact, part of Group B's even larger plan, with its own strange specifics. And the government was involved, of course.
There is clearly a danger in approaching anything with a lack of information - or poor information. Likewise, it is easy to connect the dots if you aren't thinking too hard about all the pieces of a conspiracy that don't make any sense.
Perhaps, like the late, great Christopher Hitchens once said, 'conspiracy theories are the exhaust fumes of democracy' - the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people.
Then again, perhaps they are not. Perhaps I am a sleeper agent - or part of a mind control experiment, programmed to write articles questioning conspiracy theories?