It has been a prosperous year for those whose heads fit well into tinfoil hats. Yes, the humble conspiracy theory remained alive and well in 2016, as people across the world, dogged by cognitive dissonance, grasped for outlandish explanations — and, well, those stories just sell better.
Conspiracies have filled websites everywhere, propelled by the ever-increasing number of “fake news” sites proffering ridiculous claims as categorical fact.
If we’ve learned anything from watching President-elect Donald Trump’s rise to power this year — besides the fact that the US has literally no short-term memory — it’s that if you tell a lie for long enough, it will eventually become truth.
Of course, not all the most outlandish claims have been geographically isolated to the 2016 US election cycle; Australians have copped a few high-profile tall tales themselves, some local twists on the conspiracy theory genre that brought either hope or headaches — depending on which side of the asylum wall you’re on.
And here now, some of our favourite “eventual truths” from 2016:
Rod Culleton: they’ve hidden the constitution, I swear!
The bewildered Western Australian senator is recovering after a public fallout with colleague Pauline Hanson, who claims he’s “not a team player”, and battling for his seat in the High Court.
Culleton has found that most of his troubles arise as he’s arguing his case against a constitution … he simply can’t find.
“They tell me it has been in a drawer since 1975 … so if you wanted to actually go and find it, it would be near impossible,” he said outside court on Wednesday.
Oh those rascals, hiding core, government-establishing documents in drawers — when will they learn?
Ted Cruz: the Zodiac Killer
The mock conspiracy theory, established by @RedPillAmerica in 2013, rose to prominence when US Senator Ted Cruz ran in this year’s Republican presidential primaries.
The theory alleges that Cruz is actually the unidentified serial killer, notoriously known as the Zodiac Killer, who murdered 37 people during the late 1960s and early 1970s and left puzzling notes.
This evolved into a serious issue for Cruz’s campaign when it was revealed in a Public Policy Polling document that 38% of Florida voters thought it was possible that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer — 10% said he was for sure. Lyndon Johnson himself would have been thrilled when Ted Cruz’s wife publicly denied her husband was the notorious murderer.
Cruz was born one year after the Zodiac’s last confirmed murder. But that’s Canadian cunning for you.
Malcolm Roberts: old man yells at totally non-anthropogenic clouds
In his maiden speech to Parliament, the One Nation Senator wasted no time in dispelling rumours that the world’s impending doom would be a result of climate change.
Roberts claimed there was no link between human energy consumption and climate change, citing that, statistically, temperatures hadn’t warmed since 1995.
Physicist Brian Cox tried in vain to educate Roberts on an episode of Q&A, presenting the senator with graphs illustrating rising CO2 emissions and accompanying rises in sea level. Roberts claimed NASA had manipulated the data. Roberts, unsurprisingly, offered no evidence for his claim.
Andrew Bolt then threw a spanner in Roberts’ climate conspiracy works (shame, he could’ve really used a screwdriver) when he labelled the senator’s 300,000 word essay CSIROh! “utterly stupid”.
What is it they say? You can lead a horse to science, but mate, come on, it’s a horse.
Pizza-gate: the cheese-covered conspiracy that goes all the way to the White House
Fuelled by inflammatory comments on 4chan (enter at your own risk) and a lack of evidence, a North Carolina man waltzed inside a Washington pizzeria firing a rifle into the air, seeking to disband an alleged child sex ring.
Edgar Welch was self-investigating a rumour that Comet Ping Pong pizzeria was a front for a Democratic National Committee-led child sex ring involving gruesome satanic rituals — “pizza” was supposedly used as a code word for paedophilia in a set leaked emails.
The conspiracy has swelled in recent days with the son of Trump’s choice for national security adviser and presidential transition team member, Michael Flynn, tweeting he was unsure the reports were fake. Flynn was soon fired.
Australian basketballer Andrew Bogut also weighed in on the theory, claiming he was unsure as to whether it’s a hoax or not.
It is, Andrew. Please continue bouncing balls.
Trump: the whole election is rigged … oh wait, I won.
Of all the rhetoric Donald Trump spewed out this election, electoral rigging was a topic he consistently rehashed — even after he won (the ego on this guy) …
For months on the campaign trail, the Donald whinged of vote-rigging, electoral fraud, fake voters and people returning to vote “15 times” for Hillary Clinton. It would seem the President-elect returned to this arena so much he started to believe his own rubbish, giving Clinton the moniker “Crooked Hillary”.
After the election was over and Trump took the victory he revisited the issue stating that without electoral rigging, he would have won the popular vote too …
Time to give those Twitter fingers a rest, Donald.