Conspiracy Theory: What they’re not telling you


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How did conspiracy theory grow from a fringe belief to a quasi-religious movement capable of toppling democracies? Ian and Dorian chart the rise of the tinfoil mindset in a wild historical ride that takes in the Illuminati, 9/11, Karl Popper, Watergate, Hitler, QAnon, Oliver Stone’s JFK, and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’s secret society.

And chillingly, they explain why the tinfoil fringe isn’t just on the fringe any more.

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Conspiracy Theory: A Reading List

From Dorian:

Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch. Sharp and readable overview of the history and psychology of conspiracy theories.

The United States of Paranoia by Jesse Walker. A provocative history which argues that paranoia permeates mainstream American politics, not just the fringes.

Among the Truthers by Jonathan Kay. A reporter’s journey through contemporary conspiracy theories.

The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter. This brilliant diagnosis of the conspiracist mentality still holds up.

The Hitler Conspiracies by Richard J Evans. Evans uses case studies including the Reichstag fire and the stab-in-the-back myth to illustrate the importance of conspiracy theories to the Nazi era. Very good on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the difference between event theories and systemic theories.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. The classic novel of American paranoia and the only Pynchon novel you can read in less than a week.

The Coming Storm. Superbly reported BBC podcast series, presented by Gabriel Gatehouse, explores the 90s roots of QAnon.

On JFK the movie:

JFK: The Book of the Film by Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar. The heavily annotated screenplay plus reams of press coverage of Stone’s movie, much of it hostile.

Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. Elephantine takedown of every single JFK conspiracy theory. There are no survivors.

Christopher Hitchens on JFK and conspiracy theories in general.

And from Ian:

Conspiracy Theories by Quassim Cassam. The case for a political analysis. Worthwhile, but flawed.

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories by Jan-Willem van Prooijen. Decent little overview of the psychological work into the area. Also worthwhile, also flawed.


  • “The very fact that it’s not proper scholarship makes conspiracy theory so much more exciting to read — and satisfying to write.” – Dorian
  • JFK is the most powerful argument I’ve seen yet that you should be able to sue for libel after you’re dead.” – Ian
  • “According to Hitler, the fact that the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion had been called fake proved they were true…” – Dorian
  • “Certain people believe that the CIA invented conspiracy theory in order to discredit people who criticised the Warren Commission. So that means that conspiracy theory is a conspiracy theory…” – Dorian


Written and presented by Dorian Lynskey and Ian Dunt. Audio production by Jade Bailey and Alex Rees. Music by Jade Bailey. Logo art by Mischa Welsh. . Group Editor: Andrew Harrison. Origin Story is a Podmasters production

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