The truth is out there... And sometimes it's more boring than conspiracy theories made us believe.
The world is a strange place. That’s why the famous saying, “reality is stranger than fiction” is often an accurate description of many bizarre situations that have happened throughout history. But to willingly immerse yourself in strange cases that have been debunked time and time again is just a way to make life more surreal or creepy than it already is. And on top of that, finding connections where there are none is just another way of misunderstanding real events and avoiding a critical response to actual issues that affect society. Conspiracy theories are the best example of that. Although many of them have been proved wrong over and over again, their defenders will keep saying those facts are wrong and “prove” their theories with pseudo-evidence. Their favorite tools are photographs, because an image says more than a thousand words, right?
Here are some of the most famous conspiracy theories being fed and “proven” by photography.
The Moon landing never happened
Let’s begin with one of the most famous conspiracy theories ever. Long story short, this theory claims that the 1969 moon landing never happened, and that it was all a hoax staged by the NASA to make the Soviet Union believe the US had won the Space Race of the Cold War. Just like other conspiracy theories, this one doesn’t sound that far-fetched at first. History is full of lies and deceit, so why not make the rest of the world believe a lie when that would be, in fact, a good move in a technological and ideological war between two nations? As an evidence of this lie, believers of this theory recur to the photos taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they landed on the moon.
One of the most famous photographs shows Neil Armstrong reflected on Aldrin’s helmet. Those who defend the moon landing hoax theory ask how could this picture have been taken if the reflection doesn't show Armstrong holding a camera. Well, the answer is simple: both astronauts had cameras on their suits. As for the picture that allegedly shows lights from a studio, the reflections are actually lens flares. So, as fishy as these photos might look, in the end the NASA, astronomers, astronauts, and all those people who work directly with this type of material have the last word. And they’ve proven many times that those photos weren’t taken at a studio.
Avril Lavigne is dead and was replaced by a clone
Like a twisted version of The Parent Trap, this theory claims that Avril Lavigne had a doppelgänger named Melissa Vandella that she hired as a body double to fool the paparazzi. As the theory goes, in 2003, Avril’s grandfather died, and she got so depressed she committed suicide, so Melissa took her place. Now, when you compare photos of Avril before and after 2003, the changes she’s gone through are indeed creepy. Even I was kind of freaked out when the rebellious “Sk8er Boi” singer became “kawaii” and went from wearing pants on the red carpet to wearing elegant dresses. But Avril Lavigne is a human being: isn’t she allowed to make some changes to her look? Many of us have gone through radical changes at some point in our lives. Besides, Avril grew up, so it’s logical to find slight physical changes on her face.
Now, let’s assume she did die in 2003. Why the hell would the company bother to hire someone else and make her pretend she’s the artist? I mean, so many musicians and artists die every year, and they’re not replaced by identical clones. It’s simply illogical. However, I'm pretty sure this theory we’ll keep resurfacing every once in a while as long as Avril Lavigne keeps making music... Or until she actually dies.
Roswell UFO incident
This theory has been debunked over and over again since it first emerged in 1947. Allegedly, a strange “flying saucer” crashed at a ranch in New Mexico. The issue that started the theory was the fact that the government’s official version of the story was proven to be false... No, I’m sorry to tell you they didn’t find aliens. The government said the UFO was a weather balloon, but it was actually a device for nuclear test monitoring (because of the Cold War). At the moment it wasn’t a big deal, but it became a big deal in the 70s, when people started becoming more interested in conspiracy theories and government cover-ups.
The real photos of the incident are mixed with fake ones in order to feed the alien theories of the Roswell incident. Nonetheless, one of the photos that many believed were solid proof of alien life were the ones that show an alien autopsy that was said to take place after the incident. Now, this is the best example of photos taken out of context. As you might have guessed, the alien was fake, and the footage belonged to a 1995 British film made by Ray Santilli. However, Santilli claims that it's not a fake video but actually a “restoration” of an actual alien autopsy he watched in 1992. I guess we’ll never know what happened, but the truth is out there.
There’s life on Mars
This theory is supported by half-truths. There probably was life in Mars because NASA has found water in the planet. Perhaps, there might even be microscopic living creatures, but not slender, big-eyed aliens plotting to conquer us. However, some of those who believe this last scenario have used as proof many photos of the planet that show faces or pyramids.
However, the truth is, sadly, really boring. Most of the photos are Photoshop masterpieces. And in case you’ve seen the famous picture of the face captured in Mars’ surface by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, recently, a 3D image of the area was taken revealing that this face was actually a mesa. Yeah, I don't think any of us is going to meet ET on Mars anytime soon.
The Illuminati are everywhere
I’ve heard so many different versions of this theory that it’s impossible to follow just one of them. But to sum it up, it says an underground cult known as the Illuminati are behind the greatest powers in the world, the economic system of every country, and even in other spheres that are apparently separate from power and politics, like pop music and art. According to this theory, many pop musicians and icons are actually Illuminati minions that are brainwashing us to surrender ourselves to the powers of the New World Order that will control Earth in the future. This was a super summarized version of the many theories out there, but one point in common most of them have is the use of photographs as a means to identify alleged Illuminati followers and leaders.
Beyoncé, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Katy Perry, among many other artists, are said to be used by the Illuminati to brainwash society. The evidence of that: their poses. Some of the most common poses are the triangle made with the hand, used to identify other fellow Illuminati, or covering the eye, which alludes to the All-Seeing Eye of this cult. Yeah, during their concerts the audience might act a bit crazy, even like a brainwashed mass, but that’s because we’re allowed to have fun at a concert, aren't we?
Conspiracy theories will stay around as long as there are thousands of photographs being used as proof. And indeed, they can say a lot, especially if you take them out of context and add a fantastical scenario to “prove” we’re either trapped in the Matrix, the government is run by aliens, an important public figure is the Antichrist, or we’re being brainwashed à la MK Ultra with pop songs, so we won’t rebel against the New World Order.
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Cover image by Robin Loznak