Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials (February to October 1692) comprise the largest witch-hunt in North American history. A keynote of the Salem Witch Trials and the history of their interpretation is conspiracy: secret plots, involving members of groups perceived to be conspiring with the devil, and acting covertly to carry out harmful ends requiring intricate cover-ups.


Of the 150 individuals imprisoned (from 24 towns and villages), 44 individuals confessed, 20 individuals were executed (19 accused witches hanged; one man pressed to death), and 4 individuals died in prison.

The events leading up to the trials center on a small group of girls from Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts) who met in the home of Rev. Samuel Parris for stories and fortune-telling with Tituba, the minister’s Caribbean slave. By January 1692 the minister’s daughter and niece (followed by the rest of the group) displayed symptoms of demonic possession.

Pressured to name their tormentors, the girls accused Tituba and two others (Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne). When Tituba confessed to witchcraft, accused Good and Osborne, and claimed the existence of other witches, panic engulfed the Puritan community.

Conspiracy Theories

From the start, the Salem Witch Trials have been seen through the lens of conspiracy theory. Seven-teenth-century witnesses interpreted the events as part of a satanic world takeover. Reflecting this mindset is Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), one of the first histories of the trials.

Salem villagers perceived witches, not as isolated practitioners of the “craft,” but instead as a network of individuals with links to the upper class and the colonial center at Boston. Reflecting in part Puritan millenarian traditions, Salem villagers militarized their concepts of witch covens.

Witches were said to meet secretly to plot the overthrow of the country and to set up a new, diabolical form of government. While this satanic conspiracy theory of Salem was discredited before the close of the seventeenth century, modern research has uncovered evidence for the presence of practicing witches in Salem.

A second conspiracy theory of the Salem Witch Trials centers on the belief that the young girl accusers were deliberately lying, their motives being power, attention, even entertainment. In the nineteenth century, this conspiracy theory became the standard interpretation.

Bridget Bishop Hanged at Salem

Ranging in ages from nine to twenty, the group of accusers included Elizabeth Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren, Sarah Churchill, Susannah Sheldon, and Elizabeth Hubbard. While the girls were swept along by events they may not have preconceived, once begun, they were committed to continuing and to naming fresh victims to prolong the delusion.

While their first accusations targeted social outcasts, the girls soon began accusing people from higher stations; according to one rumor, the girls were about to accuse the wife of Governor Williams Phips, who abruptly dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer on 29 October 1692.

A third influential conspiracy theory involving the Salem Witch Trials proposes a power acting behind the accusing girls. Proponents of this theory argue that the girls were guided by a small group of adults seeking revenge and political gain. The clearest indicator of adult intervention is the unprecedented support authorities lent the girls.

Ministers and magistrates kept the girls in public view, accepted their word, and—most importantly—allowed spectral evidence (evidence based on the actions of specters of both the living and the dead seen only by the accusing girls).

The belief in a conspiracy of adults guiding the accusing girls relies on competing factions characterizing seventeenth-century Salem, which was divided geographically and politically into Salem Town (the seaport) and Salem Village (a small farming community).

In Salem Village two factions struggled for supremacy, one led by the Porter family advocating close ties with the town, and another group led by the Putnam family fighting for independence. Rev. Parris was aligned with the Putnams, in part because the church at Salem Village symbolized autonomy from Salem Town.

A sinister pattern begins to emerge, with many of the accusers belonging to the Putnam faction, and many of the accused belonging to the Porter faction. In the households of Thomas Putnam and Samuel Parris resided five of the nine accusing girls.

A total of eight members of the Putnam clan helped sentence nearly fifty accused witches. All of the accusing girls had direct links to the household of Rev. Parris, who testified against ten accused witches, and who beat his slave Tituba to confess to witchcraft, a confession instigating a large-scale witchhunt.

While the desire to crush opposition is the motive in this conspiracy theory, personal interests also seem to have played a role, such as the desire for land on the part of Thomas Putnam, and the desire to salvage an unsuccessful ministry on the part of Parris.

Another theory containing conspiratorial elements centers on the inherent misogyny of the trials and their links to the interests of an emerging medical profession. Witch-hunts were part of a larger system of patriarchal control, and the women first accused in Salem were those (like Bridget Bishop, a contentious businesswoman married three times) who deviated from Puritan standards of womanhood.

One problem with this theory concerns the extent to which patriarchy, as a pervasive social system, relies on the intentional collusion of individuals. More in keeping with a traditional conspiracy theory is the thesis that the Salem Witch Trials, like other witch-hunts, were used by a male medical profession to eliminate competition from midwives.

Although it is impossible to provide precise numbers of mid- wives in Salem, in most households women were responsible for healing, and thus competed with the relatively small number of male practitioners.

Sarah Osborne, Ann Pudeator, and Elizabeth Proctor were all accused of witchcraft in relation to midwife practices, and one of the accusing girls (Elizabeth Hubbard) was a niece of Dr. William Griggs, who incidentally made the first diagnosis of witchcraft in Salem, claiming the girls were “under an evil hand.”

The trials have bequeathed to the U.S. lexicon—and the vocabulary of conspiracy theory—a key term, “witch-hunt,” meaning any attempt to expose subversive activity, but which is really an attempt to crush political opposition.

Yalta Conference

Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference

On 4–11 February 1945, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin convened secretly at the Black Sea resort of Yalta in what proved to be the last meeting of the “Big Three” of World War II.

With Nazi Germany collapsing, the Yalta conference focused upon postwar reconstruction plans for Europe, the formation of a new international organization, and the military defeat of Japan. Shrouded in military secrecy and driven by the imperative of getting the Soviet Union to enter the war against Japan, the Yalta agreements generated only mild controversy in 1945.

However, as the cold war intensified and the Truman administration embraced the policy of containment, conservative critics in the Republican Party began to brand Yalta as the appeasement of communism, suggesting that Roosevelt, under the influence of advisers such as Alger Hiss who were positively disposed toward communism and the Soviet Union, had conceded too much to Stalin.

The 1952 Republican platform called for the repudiation of “all commitments contained in secret understandings such as those of Yalta which aid Communist enslavements.” Rather than a diplomatic agreement, Yalta was in the eyes of anticommunists such as Senator Joseph McCarthy evidence of the Communist conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government.

The Yalta accords called for the Soviet Union to attack Japan within three months after the defeat of Germany. Stalin also agreed to self-determination for the areas of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, which the Soviet army had already “liberated.”

Chiang Kaishek was recognized as the leader of China in the struggle against Japan, but the Soviet Union was granted joint control of China’s Manchurian railroads, providing the Soviets a voice in the postwar governance of Korea and Manchuria.

In exchange for Stalin’s pledge to enter the war against Japan, the Soviets were promised the southern half of Sakhalin Island, lost in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and Japan’s Kurile Islands. The “Big Three” also committed their nations to the formation of the United Nations, reserving veto powers for themselves as permanent members of the Security Council.

An ailing and tired Roosevelt returned to the United States and remained seated while addressing Congress, arguing that the agreements made with the Soviets deserved the support of the nation.

Initially, Yalta appeared to enjoy bipartisan support, and influential publications such as Time announced that no U.S. citizen could claim that his nation’s interests had been “sold down the river.”

Perhaps the adroit Roosevelt might have maintained the initial enthusiasm, but, following his death from a stroke on 12 April 1945, international relations between the United States and Soviet Union rapidly deteriorated.

Stalin and President Harry Truman clashed at Potsdam in July 1945, while the successful testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico rendered unnecessary any Soviet participation in an invasion of Japan.

As the cold war intensified in the late 1940s, critics of the Yalta conference conveniently forgot military estimates of heavy casualties that would result from an invasion of the Japanese home islands. Republicans, seeking to attract votes from those of Eastern European ancestry, seized upon Yalta as a betrayal of Poland by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

The emergence of China as a Communist state in 1949 led to assertions that Yalta had betrayed Chinese democracy. Yalta critics also concentrated upon the conviction of Alger Hiss for perjury following the 1948 appearance by Whittaker Chambers before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Chambers accused Hiss, who had been an adviser to Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr., at Yalta, of engaging in espionage for the Soviet Union. Alleging treason, Senator McCarthy and his supporters focused upon how Hiss influenced a “physically tired and mentally sick Roosevelt.”

Allegations of Democratic “softness” on communism played a role in the election of a Republican Congress and president in 1952. Once in power, the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower embraced containment rather than the “rollback” of communism.

The more extreme voices of Republican dissent were marginalized in March 1955 with publication of the Yalta papers, demonstrating that no new secret agreements existed and documenting that Hiss played only a minor role at the Crimean conference.

It was difficult to charge a Republican administration with a “whitewash” report, and the Senate censure of Senator McCarthy and negotiations between the Soviets and United States further undermined the conspiracy interpretations of the Yalta accords.

While the fervor of Yalta as a partisan issue declined after 1955, allegations of Communist conspiracy, fueled by misconceptions of the Yalta agreement, continued to be a mainstay of U.S. politics into the 1980s.

Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby
On 24 November 1963, at 11:21 A.M., Jack Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, eliminating the need for a trial for John F. Kennedy’s alleged assassin, and thereby entering the annals of conspiracy theory. To many Americans, Ruby’s act seemed instant evidence that Kennedy’s assassination was the work of a conspiracy.

Ruby claimed he shot Oswald in order to prevent Jackie Kennedy from having to participate in a lengthy trial. He also noted his ire at the famous anti-Kennedy ad placed in the Dallas Morning News on the day of the assassination. Ruby feared the ad, signed by right-wing activist Bernard Weissman, would cause the public to blame the assassination on the Jews—to Ruby, Weissman’s name sounded “Jewish.”

Ruby’s activities between the time of the assassination and the Oswald shooting are well documented. Seth Kantor, a former Dallas journalist then working as a White House correspondent, claimed to have seen Ruby at Parkland Hospital shortly after the assassination.

Ruby then closed his nightclub, the Carousel Club, for the weekend, and spent the rest of the day running around the city talking about the assassination. He bought sandwiches for the police, bringing them to radio station KLIF where he learned the police had already eaten.

He visited the police station anyway, talked with Kathy Kay, an employee of his at the Carousel, and stopped by the Dallas Times Herald. At 4:30 A.M on 24 November, he and his roommate, George Senator, took photographs of an “Impeach Earl Warren” billboard near a Dallas freeway.

Later that morning, Ruby drove downtown to the Western Union office and wired $25 to Karen Carlin, another Carousel employee, at 11:17 A.M. Four minutes later, he headed to the nearby Dallas Police station, where Oswald was at that moment being transferred to the Dallas jail. Moving quickly through the crowd, Ruby shot Oswald once in the stomach.

Ruby’s Biography

Ruby was born Jack Rubenstein on 25 March 1911, in Chicago. His family was Orthodox Jewish, and Ruby’s Jewish identity emerged early on, as he participated in breaking up American Nazi Bund marches in Chicago. Dropping out of school after the sixth grade, Ruby spent his youth fighting and hustling on the streets. He was placed in a foster home for eighteen months beginning in 1923. In 1933, he left for California, returning to Chicago in 1937.

Between 1937 and 1943 he was union organizer for Scrap Iron Junk Handler Local 20467 in Chicago; the union’s books were later seized by the state of Illinois because of connections with organized crime (it has often been claimed that Ruby was more widely involved with organized crime in Chicago).

He enlisted in the army air force in 1943, and was discharged in 1946. He moved to Dallas in 1947, to help his sister Eva run a nightclub. That same year, he changed his name to Jack Ruby. Between 1947 and 1963, Ruby ran a string of Dallas nightclubs.

Eva’s Singapore Club became the Silver Spur in 1953, and Ruby invested in the Vegas Club, which he partly owned until his arrest. In 1959, Ruby acquired an interest in the Sovereign Club, on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. When Ruby’s friend Ralph Paul became his partner, they changed the Sovereign’s name and format to a striptease joint called the Carousel Club.

After his arrest for the Oswald killing, Ruby was tried and convicted by Judge Joe B. Brown. San Francisco lawyer Melvin Belli defended him, making the case that Ruby suffered from psychomotor epilepsy, which affected his judgment. After the guilty verdict was returned on 14 March 1964, Ruby’s lawyers began an appeal, which culminated in Brown’s removal from the case.

On 24 June 1966, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Ruby’s death sentence and granted him a change of venue. While this appeal continued, Ruby died of cancer on 3 January 1967, expiring in the same Parkland Hospital where Kennedy was taken.

Though Ruby’s claim that he was injected with cancer is medically impossible, his Parkland doctor asserted that if his cancer had been detected earlier by Dallas jail physician John W. Callahan, it could have been treated, prolonging Ruby’s life.

Ruby and Kennedy Conspiracy Theories

Up until his death, Ruby offered flickering assertions that he was involved in a conspiracy, asserting in a television interview that his entire story had not been told. Ruby figures in every conceivable assassination conspiracy theory.

In particular, his connections with organized crime have helped produce theories describing collusion between the Mafia and Cuban exiles, the CIA, or right-wing Texas militants. Ruby’s alleged Mafia ties begin with his youth in Chicago, where he supposedly ran errands for Al Capone, and continue through his union organizer work in the same city.

Many of Ruby’s associates in Dallas are also linked to organized crime. For example, Paul Roland Jones, an associate of the Chicago Mafia who offered to bribe the Dallas Police Department, frequented Ruby’s Singapore Club during the late 1940s.

In addition to these links, Ruby’s activity in the months before the assassination also indicates an organized crime connection. For example, according to Bell Telephone records, Ruby’s phone activity increased dramatically during this period, and many of these calls are to figures connected with organized crime.

Ruby explained these calls as resulting from troubles with the American Guild of Variety Artists, the union to which Carousel Club performers belonged. Ruby also made several documented trips to Cuba between 1959 and 1963, supposedly on Mafia gun-running or narcotics errands.

In addition to the Mafia connection, conspiracy researchers point to Ruby’s testimony before the Warren Commission, in which, among other strange notes, he repeatedly asks to be taken to Washington because his life is in danger. Ruby’s involvement in a conspiracy also surfaces elsewhere in the hearings.

In his testimony, Marguerite Oswald’s lawyer Mark Lane infamously claimed that Ruby met with Weissman at the Carousel Club, along with J. D. Tippit, the policeman whom Oswald shot shortly after the assassination. Lane’s reference to Tippit carried weight because of Ruby’s close association with the Dallas Police Department.

For example, he regularly hosted Dallas Police Department members at the Carousel Club, and sent policemen gifts of whiskey at Christmas. With fifty-one policemen guarding Oswald, researchers often assume that Ruby must have had inside help to fire such a close shot.

Rockefeller Family

Rockefeller Family
John D. Rockefeller
Associated with almost every conspiracy theory from the era of the Populists to the modern Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, and the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rockefeller family holds a unique place in U.S. conspiracy history.

Even the powerful banker J. P. Morgan and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie have not been the center of conspiracy theories as have focused on John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil Company, although one conspiracy website refers to Andrew Carnegie—at one time, the richest man in the world—as a “Rockefeller stooge.”

Rockefeller (1839–1937) was born in Richford, New York, and began working as a bookkeeper at age sixteen. Seven years later, he joined entrepreneur Henry Flagler and inventor Samuel Andrews to begin refining crude petroleum.

The three incorporated the firm as Standard Oil Company in 1870, bringing in John’s brother William to join the company. Rockefeller emphasized cost-cutting and demanded that the “common man” have cheap kerosene, employing chemists to develop better methods of refining and to search out new ways to use petroleum by-products.

Although Rockefeller bought out other refiners, creating for Standard Oil a near-monopoly position, consumer prices on kerosene plummeted—and continued to do so until the time of the Standard Oil breakup in 1911.

The claims leveled against John D. Rockefeller and his descendants are so many and diverse as to defy easy categorization. Populist groups tended to ignore Rockefeller personally and attack his connections with the large (in their view, monopolistic) railroads.

The critique of the railroads involved traditional concerns with price-fixing and monopolies, but also contained a criticism of “long-haul/shorthaul” price differentiation, in which large shippers, such as Rockefeller, received rebates not extended to those shipping over shorter distances.

Other reform groups and “muckrakers” such as Ida Tarbell maintained that Rockefeller unduly pushed smaller competitors out of business and used ruthless pricing tactics in an attempt to “corner the market.”

Rockefeller’s new mechanism for controlling multiple companies, called the trust, was viewed as fundamentally undemocratic and, with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, was outlawed. That act, ironically, had the effect of driving companies from the inefficient trust structure into much more efficient vertical combinations, which in turn increased—rather than decreased—their power.

A tither to his church all his life, Rockefeller had a fortune of nearly $1 billion, and gave away charitable contributions totaling $550 million through the Rockefeller Foundation, the General Education Board, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. These philanthropic organizations became the source of yet other conspiracy theories.

The Institute for Medical Research, for example, has been accused of conducting a massive propaganda campaign to eliminate nondrug “holistic” treatments for diseases, in order to increase profits for the “Rockefeller-Farben combine.” In this theory, Rockefeller, through the Institute, hoodwinked the medical profession into adopting drug therapies by shaping the treatment of medical research in the universities.

In 1952, Emanuel Josephson published Rockefeller, “Internationalist”: The Man Who Misrules the World, one of the first book-length conspiracy attacks on the Rockefellers. Josephson claimed that the Rockefeller family sought “to control all necessities from the time they are produced until they are consumed” (Josephson, 20).

The foundations, in Josephson’s view, were only attempts to remain free of taxation, allowing the family to dominate U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Republic Iron and Steel, and dozens of other U.S. companies.

Not only did the family own stock in these companies, but they also, through marriage and appointments, dominated the boards of other important companies. Winthrop Aldrich, chairman of Chase National Bank, was John D. Rockefeller’s brother-in-law through Rockefeller’s marriage to the daughter of Senator Nelson Aldrich—one of the creators of the Federal Reserve System.

According to the theory, Rockefeller, Morgan, Paul Warburg, and other “internationalists” sought to use the Federal Reserve and the newly imposed income tax to control the U.S. economy and to then implement a socialist/Bolshevik agenda.

The classic conspiracy book, None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1971) by Gary Allen and Larry Abraham, place Rockefeller, Warburg, and Morgan, as well as National City president Frank Vanderlip and financiers Bernard Baruch and Jacob Schiff, at the center of a world conspiracy through the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which is directed, in turn, by the Rothschilds.

Through the CFR, the Rockefellers controlled not only Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, Eastman Kodak, Xerox, IBM, and Firestone, but also dominated the media by owning or influencing NBC, CBS, Timemagazine, Life magazine, and all the major newspapers and publishing houses. Like most theories, Allen and Abraham only imply or infer a Rockefeller presence in this and other conspiracy networks.

Not only did the Rockefellers play prominent—some would say “shadow”—roles in business, but they were also active in politics. John, Jr.’s son, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, worked in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, then held a number of appointed positions in the Eisenhower administration or on public commissions.

He ran for the Republican nomination for president three times, and lost, before being named vice-president after Gerald Ford was sworn in to replace President Richard Nixon, who resigned. Winthrop Rockefeller, the youngest of John, Jr.’s sons, was elected governor of Arkansas in 1966.

Through the work of David Rockefeller (b. 1915), the son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the head of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in the 1950s, the family’s internationalist pursuits continued. David Rockefeller set up the Trilateral Commission in 1973 to promote cooperation in international matters.

Through the influence of the CFR and the Trilateral Commission, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Rockefeller influence promoted “multilaterialism” and international lending as a means to destroy national sovereignty and produce a “one world government.”

The fact that David Rockefeller wrote a 1980 Wall Street Journal editorial attacking notions that he was the “mastermind of an international conspiracy” (Gilmour, 1) only served to convince conspiracy theorists even more of his guilt.

Instead, theorists pointed to Rockefeller’s work with President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, on a white paper dealing with international technology issues as clear evidence of his agenda. Thus, to the present, the name “Rockefeller” infuses virtually every major conspiracy theory except those dealing with UFOs and the Kennedy assassination.

Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson
A prominent figure on the religious Right, Pat Robertson, with his brand of conspiracy-infused politics, reached a wide audience in his bid for the presidency in 1988 and with the success of his controversial book The New World Order, which has been accused of antisemitism.

The son of a senator, Robertson purchased a Virginia television station in 1960, marking the beginnings of the Christian Broadcasting Network, one of the most important elements of the burgeoning evangelical media that was to become so important in the latter part of the twentieth century.

When evangelicals also established the Christian Right at the end of the 1970s, Robertson played a relatively minor role, but the subsequent decline of its leading organization, the Moral Majority, and the impending end of the Reagan years brought him to prominence following his decision to pursue the 1988 Republican presidential nomination. While he was unsuccessful, an important effect of his campaign was the creation the following year of the Christian Coalition.

Concentrating much of its energies on opposition to abortion and homosexuality, the Coalition rapidly became a key component of the Republican Party and although it was to decline in the late 1990s (and Robertson to resign from its presidency in 2001), during the early years of the Clinton administration it was a central force in the resurgence of conservatism.

Shortly after the creation of the coalition, Robertson published a book in which he declared that in calling for a “New World Order,” President Bush was unknowingly carrying out the mission of a vast, global satanic conspiracy.

In arguing this, Robinson claimed that a conspiratorial elite could be traced back to the eighteenth century, when a secret society, the Illuminati, had plotted the French Revolution.

In the nineteenth century Illuminism had mutated into Marxism, while in the twentieth century the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia had been secretly funded by European financiers. In later years, he argued, much of the work of the conspiracy was carried out by such organizations as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.

Initially little noticed outside the evangelical milieu, The New World Order began to attract attention following a front-page attack in a 1994 issue of the prestigious New York Review of Books. Authored by Michael Lind, a former conservative, it argued that Robertson’s work was not the usual brand of evangelical Protestant theology but originated instead in “the underground literature of far-right populism.”

He was supported by another former conservative, Jacob Heilbrunn, who convincingly demonstrated that Robertson had relied on material by the early-twentieth-century antisemitic conspiracist, Nesta Webster.

The New York Review’s attack drew angry replies from Robertson and other conservatives. Subsequently, Robertson blamed a research assistant for introducing Webster’s material into his work and he continued to deny any suggestion that he held antisemitic views.

A closer examination of both Robertson’s book and the writings of his critics shines a critical light on both sides of the argument. Robertson, while rightly pointing out his long record of support for Israel, had nonetheless produced a book that linked the Illuminati to the Rothschild family.

Conversely, Lind, who had suggested Robertson’s writings were “far more bizarre and sinister” than the conspiracist writings of the John Birch Society, missed both the Society’s praise for Robertson’s book and the strong links between what Robertson argued and what the Society had long believed.

Having itself drawn on Webster’s work, the Society had also been accused of antisemitism, and while both have denounced claims that conspiratorial forces are Jewish in origin, it is understandable that critics should take them to be antisemitic.

The situation is, however, more complicated, because conspiratorial claims that the hidden rulers of history are bankers, or Masons, or extraterrestrials might often be motivated by a racist view, but is not always necessarily so.

If Robertson has had the misfortune to have his conspiracy theory attacked more for what it did not say than what it did, he has also been accused of being a secret adherent of the New World Order, rather than an opponent.

In the 1980s, one conspiracy text with a considerable impact upon evangelicals was Constance Cumbey’s The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, which, like Robertson’s later volume, saw the New Age movement as part of Satan’s attack on Christianity.

In a later book, A Planned Deception, Cumbey suggested that Robertson’s announcement that he intended to provide live coverage of the Second Coming fitted well with a supposed New Age plan to launch a false Christ figure upon the world.


The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute (18 U.S.C. Sections 161–168), part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, was designed to create an expansive legal definition of criminal conspiracy that would aid the authorities in their fight against organized crime.

Usually referred to as RICO, this statute has become the most powerful tool federal law enforcement has ever had in its fight against organized crime. The statute includes a vague definition of racketeering that incorporates a list of crimes traditionally excluded from federal jurisdiction.

The list includes such crimes as murder, gambling, arson, robbery, and extortion. With this new tool and expanded federal jurisdiction, federal law enforcement and prosecutors have used RICO to convict and incarcerate more than a thousand organized crime figures by the end of the 1990s.

Traditionally, law enforcement tried to use the standard conspiracy laws and statutes to convict organized crime members. Thus, prosecutors had to prove an agreement within the group (two or more) and one overt act regarding a specific crime.

Because of the often varied and isolated criminal activities of an organized crime group, this was difficult. Under RICO, instead of focusing on specific crimes and the related conspiracy, law enforcement can focus on patterns of racketeering by an organized crime group.

That is, with RICO it is now illegal to belong to a group or “enterprise” that displays a pattern of racketeering even if another member of the enterprise is committing the illegal activities. To meet the “pattern of racketeering” requirements under RICO, only two crimes within a ten-year period need to be committed, with at least one of the crimes since 1970.

RICO includes both a criminal and a civil penalty. The maximum criminal penalty includes a $25,000 fine and imprisonment for twenty years, with all properties and interest related to the racketeering violation forfeited to the government. Civil penalties include treble damages and the attorney’s fee awarded to the successful plaintiff.

In an expansion of RICO, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that there did not have to be an economic motive for the illegal activities to fall under RICO. Using the civil section of RICO in 1998, two abortion clinics sued and received treble damages from antiabortion leaders.

This noneconomic expansion of RICO was also the basis for the April 2001 U.S. district judge’s decision allowing the Los Angeles Police Department to be sued as a racketeering enterprise.

Common criticisms of the RICO statute include its overreaching scope. Individuals who may be involved in illegal activities, even when it is evident that they are not involved in organized crime, are still being prosecuted under RICO.

Another criticism is that RICO allows an individual’s assets to be frozen before trial, which often forces defendants to plead guilty in an effort to save their business and savings. RICO also brings with it a negative characterization of the defendant as an organized crime figure.

RICO has been and continues to be the most effective legal tool ever brought against organized crime. Through the expanded list of racketeering crimes and the enterprise conspiracy clause, federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are now succeeding where in the past they had failed in both convictions and sentencing of organized crime figures.


Originally known as the National Spotlight, for much of its existence the Spotlight was the most important conspiracist publication in the United States. Established by Willis Carto, whose involvement in the U.S Right goes back to the mid-1950s, the paper was launched in 1975 and appeared for just over a quarter of a century.

Its contents ranged widely but a number of themes were particularly evident. One was an indictment of the banking system, in which the creation of the Federal Reserve immediately before World War I was seen as the work of America’s enemies, while one of its more unusual concerns focused on what might be termed “fringe” or alternative medicine.

A cure for cancer, it declared, had been discovered but this breakthrough was being suppressed by the Rockefeller family. Amidst the different conspiracies that the paper sought to expose, the most important involved the activities of a series of international organizations.

In late 1994, for instance, it published a supplement that suggested the United States was about to be occupied by troops under United Nations control. Other subjects of the paper’s attentions included the activities of the Trilateral Commission and its particular bĂȘte noire, the Bilderberg Group.

None of these concerns was unique to the Spotlight, but by the beginning of the 1980s the paper had achieved a circulation of some 300,000. In the 1990s, however, this had fallen to some 90,000, a decline that was particularly connected with its denunciation of the Reagan government as a tool of the Trilateral Commission. If its base among conservatives was substantially lost during the Reagan years, it found support instead among the Patriot movement, and in the 1990s was a key publicist for the militias.

This did not preclude an involvement in electoral politics, and while during the 1990s it supported the Populist Party (whose 1988 presidential candidate was the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke), it subsequently supported the presidential candidacies, first for the Republican Party, then the Reform Party, of the “America First” conservative, Pat Buchanan.

While conspiracy theory is often seen as inherently antisemitic, Patriots vary greatly as to how they explain the plot against the United States. One of the secrets of the Spotlight’s success was not only the diversity of its conspiratorial interests but also its downplaying of the overt racism of some other farright publications.

But the paper’s claim that Israeli intelligence had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy was only one indication of the underlying basis of its arguments. This was even more evident in Carto’s creation in the late 1970s of the Institute for Historical Review, an organization that rapidly became the central force in Holocaust revisionism. It was singularly appropriate, then, that the paper’s support for Holocaust denial should lead to its demise.

In 1993, disputes over the whereabouts of a bequest led to a breach between Carto and key members of the staff of the Institute for Historical Review, and the ultimate result of the legal actions that followed was the closing down of the Spotlight in the summer of 2001. A successor publication, American Free Press, quickly emerged.

Subliminal Advertising

Subliminal Advertising
Subliminal Advertising

Although there has been no scientific research that has ever proven the effectiveness of any form of subliminal influence on the human mind, subliminal advertising is a conspiracy theory that has entered popular culture as a generally accepted truth.

In the main, this is a result of a general cultural paranoia over the rise of the media industry to a position where it dominates the production of cultural meaning and ideology in society.

The fact that most media forms (television, radio, newspapers, and films) are dominated by large companies or corporations, in addition to their commercial and mass imperatives, creates an anxiety over their apparently systematic control of the beliefs and political opinions available in society.

The fear of subliminal advertising unsurprisingly begins in the 1950s at the inception of the television age, although the first claims about its use actually involve the broadcast of subliminal messages at cinemas.

Vance Packard was the person responsible for bringing subliminal advertising to the public’s attention in his 1957 book, The Hidden Persuaders, when he mentioned experiments undertaken by an advertising executive, James Vicary. Vicary had apparently tested subliminal advertising in cinemas by flashing the messages “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coke” on the screen for a fraction of a second.

As a result of these trials, Vicary claimed an 18 percent increase in sales of Coke and a 58 percent rise for popcorn, which led not only to an acceptance of the reality of the effectiveness of subliminal advertising, but also to fears that the U.S. public was being insidiously brainwashed simply by going to the cinema or watching television. An investigation was launched by the Federal Communications Commission and a ban on the use of subliminal advertising was imposed in some U.S. states as well as in Britain and Australia.

A few years later, Vicary admitted that he had exaggerated the impact of subliminal advertising and, indeed, that there had been no noticeable effect on the tested cinema-goers. However, subliminal advertising had already become accepted as a “fact” (62 percent of Americans currently believe in its existence) and has remained as a pervasive cultural paranoia that has reappeared at various times.

For example, the liberalization of U.S. society as a result of the 1960s counterculture led to fears that media industries were using subliminal messages not to brainwash people into buying certain products, but to corrupt the minds of the public.

In a series of books, published from the 1970s onward, Wilson Bryan Key claimed that both television and print advertising contain subliminal commands that bombard Americans with images of sex, drugs, and death.

According to Key, groups of people he tested felt sexually aroused when shown certain adverts, including one for Gilbey gin in which the word “sex” is apparently embedded in an ice cube. When he was later called to give “expert” testimony at the Judas Priest trial in Reno, Nevada, in 1990, he even went as far as claiming that Ritz crackers had subliminal messages imprinted on them.

In recent years, attention has moved away from advertising to a more pervasive fear of subliminal messages in commercial and cultural products. The Columbine killings led to a fear that contemporary music (notably Marilyn Manson) included messages that were having an effect on the unconscious minds of American youth.

This, however, was a continuation of paranoias that had begun with the trial of the heavy metal band Judas Priest when they were accused of placing subliminal messages in one of the songs from their Stained Class album. These messages had allegedly induced suicidal impulses in two teenage listeners, James Vance and Ray Belknap, who had, as a result, attempted to kill themselves.

Although the band were found not guilty of any wrongdoing (which may be fortunate for Nike, as the phrase at issue was “Do It”), the fact that a trial took place at all demonstrates how far subliminal messages have become accepted as a reality.

The reason for this general belief in subliminal advertising and unconscious commands is primarily a result of fears that media industries have too much power in the creation of American values and have replaced traditional values (such as religion and the family) with a secular and materialist ideology.

The implications of brainwashing that attach to subliminal advertising have also led to a belief that the mass media is in the service of a government propaganda machine or in the hands of a conspiracy group that is attempting to corrupt American minds in order to make its “perverted” values acceptable when it comes to power.

Most frequently this is the New World Order (with its anti-American totalitarian vision), but other groups are also seen to be using the media, such as the Illuminati or Skull and Bones, both of whom wish to impose a satanic or occult religion on America.


 Zionist Occupied Government
Zionist Occupied Government

ZOG, an acronym for Zionist Occupied Government, is a term used by many on the survivalist and racist Right to refer to the United States government or its shadow government, which they believe is secretly controlled by a rich and powerful group of international Jews intent on establishing a one-world government.

The phrase itself derives from The Turner Diaries, a 1978 novel written by William L. Pierce under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The novel tells the story of white Christian patriots who start a guerrilla war against the forces of ZOG after all citizens are stripped of their right to own firearms.

In their war against ZOG, white Americans assassinate government officials, blow up federal buildings, uproot and murder blacks and other minorities, and finally launch a nuclear strike that destroys Israel.

Although for some, ZOG simply refers to a conservative antigovernment attitude and a suspicion of globalism, the term is more often associated with a panoply of extreme right-wing militias like the Montana Freemen, white supremacist groups like the Posse Comitatus, and apocalyptic Christians like Randy Weaver, as a more specific name for what they believe is an international Jewish conspiracy to undermine U.S. sovereignty and true Christianity.

These groups believe that ZOG controls the media, the major international financial institutions, schools, and liberal politicians who promote affirmative-action policies, immigration, multiculturalism, gun control, abortion, and the general erosion of liberty.

Further evidence of a ZOG conspiracy is found in U.S. foreign policy toward Israel, its participation in the United Nations and other international organizations, and the apparent power of labor unions.

Some who promote the ZOG conspiracy believe that UN troops are training and gathering in various locations around the country, preparing to disarm patriotic citizens and impose martial law. The term also often connotes a Christian apocalypticism that links the global Jewish conspiracy to biblical prophecies of the Last Days, when the Antichrist institutes one-world governance just before the final battle of Armageddon.