Conspiracy Theories Kill

Tony Peak
8 min readApr 7, 2021
Photo by little plant on Unsplash

I remember, growing up in the 80s, I’d check out books from my school library about various conspiracies and cryptids: Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, ancient astronauts, ghosts, Atlantis. Some of my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure books featured such things as their main story element. These seemed like fun ‘what if’ scenarios, hinting to my young mind that we hadn’t fully explored our universe; that there were still things out there we didn’t understand. While I agree with that sentiment as an adult, I do so through the lens of science, instead of modern myths and conspiracy theories. Those things used to be fun but silly distractions, the subject of corny, late night documentaries, or sharing shelf space with titles about ESP and crystal magic in the bookstore. Even as a kid I only took these things seriously for a brief time, then life moved on, and such phenomena never appeared with any trace of concrete evidence. They were as much a modern myth as Batman or Nazi bases in Antarctica.

I wonder if those seemingly harmless esoteric subjects were merely the tip of the iceberg, of something truly awful growing beneath the surface of our society. Bigfoot, UFOs, and the Illuminati were gateway drugs into the darker recesses of lies and pseudoscience that have always been there, but have now gained dangerous traction in the 21st century.

Yes, I’m talking about QAnon. Yes, I’m talking about the lies surrounding COVID-19. They have both proven that conspiracy theories can hobble governments, poison societies, harm critical thinking, and ultimately, get people killed.

Conspiracy theories are intellectual poison. Their impossible-to-prove appeal are on par with Biblical prophecy or the predictions of Nostradamus. That’s their staying power: if it can never be solved, it can never be disproven, either, at least in the minds of true believers.

I know this from firsthand experience. Though I never gave any credence to UFOs, cryptids, and everybody’s favorite shadow organization, the Illuminati, I was a JFK Assassination believer. I say ‘believer’ because that’s what it takes. The unerring belief that the truth is still out there, that we are being lied to, and so on. The typical mindset of a conspiracy theorist. I never believed the bulk of JFK Assassination lore, but I was suspicious of Oswald’s…

Tony Peak

Science Fiction & Fantasy author, member of SFWA, HWA, & Planetary Society; represented by Ethan Ellenberg