In his new book Conspiracy History – A History of the World for Conspiracy Theorists, Andrew May shows how conspiracy theories have been used to explain important political events long before the JFK assassination, going back as far as the time of Ancient Egypt.
ROOM 101: In the first chapter you start by defining the term conspiracy theory; why do you think so many people associate the term with the paranormal when conspiracies have been a regular occurrence throughout history?

ANDREW MAY: That’s a good question! I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I guess part of the answer is there’s a big overlap in the readership of the two subjects. People who are interested in conspiracies are also often interested in the paranormal. They’re people who don’t automatically believe what they’re told – people who are always questioning authority. The media slaps the “crackpot” label on both interests, but there’s an important difference. Paranormal phenomena, whether or not they’re real, have the big problem that they conflict with well-established laws of physics. But conspiracies are completely consistent with the laws of human nature. That’s why the same types of conspiracy recur over and over again throughout history.ROOM 101: It is often said that the JFK assassination was the event which gave birth to the widespread belief in conspiracy theories in the United States, however, it could be argued there is a conspiracy theory in the US constitution. The Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to “keep and bear arms” as a safeguard against the government turning tyrannical. Any thoughts on this?

ANDREW MAY: I’m not sure I would put it quite like that. When the Second Amendment was formulated, the idea of democracy was very new, and people must have seen it as very fragile. Most of the world at that time was controlled by a small number of powerful monarchies and empires. There must have been a real fear that the US could revert to that situation. But your question reminds me of something I was just reading about – Gödel’s Loophole. Kurt Gödel was a 20th century mathematician, who was famous as a logical thinker – some people say he was the greatest logician in history. At one point he claimed to have discovered a logical flaw in the Constitution which would allow the US to become a tyrannical dictatorship. But no-one knows what his argument was – he never wrote it down!

ROOM 101: Why do you think in recent years with films like V For Vendetta the image of Guy Fawkes has become a symbol for many people who believe in conspiracy theories?

ANDREW MAY: I think it largely came about as an accident, although it’s a very neat one. I’m a big fan of Guy Fawkes – the real historical character – so I love the way he’s now seen as a hero instead of a villain. As I say in the book, he may have been the victim of a government conspiracy himself. People think of him as an anarchist, because he tried to blow up Parliament. “The last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions” – I think that’s a great phrase. But really Fawkes wasn’t an anarchist at all – he just wanted a better deal for Catholics at a time of extreme religious intolerance.

ROOM 101: In chapter two you write about false flag operations like “Operation Northwoods” the Pentagon’s insane plan to create a pretext for war with Castro by staging attacks on the United States and blaming Cuba. Is it too much of a leap of faith from this to questioning the official history of the events surrounding the JFK assassination or 9/11 as many conspiracy writers do?

ANDREW MAY: The answer to this one is a definite “yes and no”! Yes, the Operation Northwoods document proves the US is prepared to mount a false flag operation in order to achieve its objectives. But I’m doubtful whether they’re competent enough to pull off a really large-scale operation successfully. As you say, Operation Northwoods itself was a pretty crazy idea. An earlier operation against Cuba, the Bay of Pigs invasion – which was effectively a false flag operation in its own right – was a complete disaster. A double disaster, in fact – the invasion failed, and the world knew right away that the US was behind it. So I’m skeptical that they could have pulled off 9/11 all by themselves. On the other hand, I’m sure the Bush administration turned a blind eye to warnings of a big attack, because they thought they could use it as an excuse to invade Iraq.

ROOM 101: Do you see any parallels between the Lincoln assassination and the JFK assassination a century later?

ANDREW MAY: Well, there are a lot of parallels between the two assassinations, but I’ll focus on aspects that are of particular interest in the context of conspiracy theories. To start with, both assassinations happened in the wake of massive crises – the Civil War in the case of Lincoln, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in Kennedy’s case. Predictably, the official view places the blame on the obvious “enemy” of the day. We’re told that a small group of disenfranchised southern rebels was responsible for the plot against Lincoln, while a pro-Cuban communist sympathizer acted alone against Kennedy. But when you look at the evidence more closely, it makes more sense for the brains behind both attacks to be people who were supposedly on the same side as the victims. They had far more to gain from an assassination than the “enemy” did.

ROOM 101: What do you think of the widespread belief within conspiracy research circles that the Illuminati pre-dates 1776 and continues to exist today? Is it a simple way to explain a complex and rapidly changing world, or is there an element of truth to the idea of a secret group steering, if not controlling exactly, world events behind the political and financial scenes?

ANDREW MAY: The book discusses over 70 historical conspiracies, spread over a period of thousands of years, but they all have one important thing in common. The people behind the conspiracy wanted to see results right away, in their own lifetime. That’s even true of the Bavarian Illuminati, who may have been behind the French Revolution. I find it difficult to believe in long-term conspiracies that require many generations before they come to fruition – that’s simply not the way human nature works. On the other hand history has a way of repeating itself, so Illuminati-like groups do crop up again and again. Some of them may even adopt the name Illuminati, but I don’t believe they’re doggedly following the same agenda century after century.

ROOM 101: Are there any controversial conspiracy theories that you think could be true?

ANDREW MAY: In a way, the very essence of a good conspiracy theory is that it “could be true” – that’s why they have such appeal. Conspiracy theories usually fit all the known facts just as well as the conventional narrative does. The key question is whether the conspiracy theory is MORE LIKELY than the conventional view. The most obvious case where this is true is the JFK assassination. The idea that it was simply the work of a lone gunman – an attack out of the blue, which took the authorities completely by surprise – is almost impossible to believe. There are at least a dozen conspiracy theories that are more likely than that!

ROOM 101: Thanks for doing the interview. Where can readers buy Conspiracy History and your other books?

ANDREW MAY: The book is published in Britain by Bretwalda Books. The paperback should be available from all good booksellers in the UK, and through online retailers such as Amazon in other countries. There’s also a Kindle version, which may be easier for people outside the UK to get hold of.



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