Conspiracy theories have exploded since the invention of QAnon. From the Pizzagate lie to believing in the Lizard People, some of the bizarre conspiracies have a long history, but 2021 also saw some new ideas or a spin on old classics.
Here are the 2021 conspiracy theories that Facebook users eagerly spread that normal people find extremely confusing.
1. JFK Jr. is really alive, will resurface and become Donald Trump's running mate
Conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy have spread for decades, but this year QAnon believers developed the idea that his son, who died in a plane crash, would somehow reappear in Dallas, Texas. He would then join the 2024 ticket with former President Donald Trump. The GOP leader hasn't been asked if he believes in the theory.
The plan involves some confusing numerology and clever calculations and recalculations, but the result was a mass of people singing "We Are the World" in Dealey Plaza at several points through 2021. The next theory was that he would reappear by being the opening act at a Rolling Stones concert. Spoiler alert: JFK Jr. never showed up. A new theory then surfaced that Keith Richards was John F. Kennedy.
Qanon supporter stehen wieder in dallas herum, um auf das erscheinen von jfk jr (in den 90ern verstorben) zu warten. beim letzten mal kam er ja dann doch nicht. sie beten gemeinsam und singen "we are the world":pic.twitter.com/Dh86meOPL4— Ephraim (@Ephraim) 1637035988
2. Everything around the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol
The Republican Party and conservative outlets like Fox, OAN and Newsmax struggled to find someone else to blame for the Jan. 6 crowds attacking police and breaking through the doors of the Capitol building.
The first theory was that the attackers were all Antifa. Laura Ingraham called the insurrectionists "Antifa sympathizers," during her show that evening. "I’d like to know who the agitators were," said Fox host Sean Hannity
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) falsely pronounced a facial recognition company had evidence that "Antifa infiltrators" were behind the attack. He then said, "They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa." Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) also spread the lie.
This has all the hallmarks of Antifa provocation. https://twitter.com/MichaelCoudrey/status/1346908159827390470\u00a0\u2026— Paul Gosar (@Paul Gosar) 1609970690
Newsmax's Greg Kelly told viewers during his prime-time show: "These people don’t look like Trump supporters. Trump supporters don’t do these things."
The problem, of course, is that the attackers were live-streaming their efforts. Some were even angry that Antifa was getting credit for their work.
Another lie came from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and continues to persist throughout the GOP, that the insurrectionists weren't armed. This was echoed by Trump and pro-Trump media sites like Breitbart, The Epoch Times and the Washington Examiner. According to court documents, the law enforcement on the scene confiscated guns including a handgun, rifles and shotguns, ammo, several large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, crossbows, and machetes. Lonnie Coffman of Alabama was found to have Molotov cocktails in his truck parked near the Capitol. Those without traditional weapons used flag poles and hockey sticks.
Finally, the worst conspiracy is that it was a false-flag operation by the FBI. According to Trump's Dec. 22 interview with Candace Owens, the former president said that the reason the person who put pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic Parties hadn't been caught is that he was an FBI agent.
3. Satanic Panic: 2021 edition
Far-right evangelicals used so-called "satanic panic" in the 1980s to attack the movement of women going to work, a New York Times report explained.
"The evidence wasn’t there, but the allegations of satanic ritual abuse never really went away,” the Times quoted former FBI agent Ken Lanning, who worked on hundreds of Satanic abuse cases. "When people get emotionally involved in an issue, common sense and reason go out the window. People believe what they want and need to believe."
The myth returned in 2021 as QAnon continues to perpetuate the idea that high-power people in politics and business are abusing children as part of their Satanic rituals. It began in the Pizzagate conspiracy but returned in an attempt to link newly elected President Joe Biden to the lie.
When a mass of Travis Scott concert-goers in Houston trapped, suffocated and trampled attendees close to the stage, Tiktok fanatics alleged the eight dead were really the result of a Satanic ritual. The stage, they said, was really a portal to Hell. They also say the t-shirt Scott was wearing appeared as though people walked through a door coming out with horns.
Baseless claims indicating the tragedy at Travis Scott's Astroworld festival was in fact a Satanic ritual or sacrifice are rapidly spreading on major social media platforms.pic.twitter.com/blMG9ao1DJ— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan Sardarizadeh) 1636377446
4. The Fox Christmas tree burning was an act of terrorism and 'treeson'
On Dec. 8, 2021, a homeless man with mental health issues, who is known to police, set the Christmas tree outside of the Fox headquarters ablaze. It took mere moments before the network began reporting on the "act of terror," implying that it was politically motivated. They called it a “hate crime” against Christianity and against Fox.
Fox contributor Rev. Jacques DeGraff compared the tree burning to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed 2,403 members of the military and 68 civilians. "The Fox & Friends" hosts called it an attack on American freedom. Tucker Carlson demanded the FBI investigate the attack. In total, The Independent calculated that Fox spent 36 hours covering the burning as part of their annual "War on Christmas." Even Fox's Peter Doocy demanded to know why the president wasn't doing something during a White House press conference.
The manufactured drama was so obvious that Fox was ridiculed on every late-night comedy show, by many pundits and across the internet. "The Daily Show" did a mashup of the Fox personalities describing the Christmas tree burning as something like the 9/11 attacks.
Fox News Thinks Its Christmas Tree Burning Is 9/11 www.youtube.com
5. Fake snow
Another minor conspiracy theory was that fake snow was falling from the sky as part of a government plot against Americans. The internet broke out with people holding lighters to snowballs and gasping as it turned black. Scientists explained that the reason was due to a process called "sublimation," which is when something evaporates so quickly that it leaves the black spot.
I found the videos again because they\u2019re going viral.\n\nHere\u2019s the video of the Houston mom thinking she\u2019s \u201cburning\u201d the supposedly \u201cfake\u201d snow.\n\n(What\u2019s actually happening is the water is evaporating and the lighter fuel is leaving the black stain on the remaining snow.)pic.twitter.com/XgB4AtHjUu— Leah McElrath \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08 (@Leah McElrath \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08) 1613946033
Conspiracies about the COVID vaccine persist as many in the far-right reject the shot with theories like it has a tracking chip in it, the research happened too quickly and more. The impact has been that those who aren't vaccinated are the majority of those in hospitals as the Delta and Omicron variant spread.
One of the major concerns is that hospitals are becoming overwhelmed again. In Kentucky, for example, Bloomberg News explained hospitals in less-vaccinated counties had more COVID patients. Vice News noted that the influx of COVID patients is starting to clog hospitals for those having other medical emergencies.