Newsweek reports that conspiracy theories, long the subject of derision, have begun to have a very real impact in America. What was once dismissed as the amusing ravings of the tin-foil-hat crowd has in recent years crossed a threshold, experts say, with delusions, fictions and lunacy now strangling government policies and creating national health risks. In one example, false belief advanced by scientific frauds and celebrities have brought back vaccine-preventable diseases that were once on the brink of extinction.
Experts say the number and significance of conspiracy theories are reaching levels unheard-of in recent times, in part because of the Internet and social media. Said one expert, “We seem to have crossed a threshold.” Many theories center on Agenda 21, a nonbinding statement of intent signed in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and 177 other world leaders. The idea was simple: Under the auspices of the U.N., those countries expressed their interest in managing urban development and land-use policies in ways that minimized the impact on the environment. Today, extremist organizations have latched on to Agenda 21 as an attempt by the U.N. and the “New World Order” to seize private property to advance the causes of communism and to crush dissent.