June 28, 2009 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Is there a resource for finding information about topics popular with conspiracy theorists without catching crazy?

I was thinking the other day how I'm quite interested in the freemasons, but there doesn't appear to be any non-tinfoil hat stuff on the subject (or if there is I cannot tell the difference).

There are many topics like this (US government hiding trillions in income/assets, ANYTHING odd about 9/11, US Department of the Treasury, Scientology, ect.) that I find fascinating but any attempt to learn about these always ends up having me "google Ron Paul".

posted by lattiboy to Education (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Crazy no pedantic yes
posted by hortense at 10:50 PM on June 28, 2009 isn't bad. is a non-crazy resource on the Scientologists, Moonies and other crazy subjects.
posted by johngoren at 10:55 PM on June 28, 2009

You might find something of interest on this list. It includes books such as The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans by Margaret Jacob, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun, and Millennial Seduction: A Skeptic Confronts Apocalyptic Culture by Lee Quinby.
posted by skenfrith at 11:07 PM on June 28, 2009

There are quite a few books on Freemasons that are pretty sober. Have a look at Amazon and look at some of the reviews. There is even a freemasons for dummies book.

There are some biographies of L Ron Hubbard that are interesting. I've read Bare Faced Messiah or one of the others. It was illuminating and amusing. The Sea-org and what not shows you just what people will do.

There must be some reasonable books about Jonestown as well. The doco Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple is well worth a look.

Reading some of these books is pretty good innoculation against going crazy about them.
posted by sien at 11:27 PM on June 28, 2009

I find fascinating but any attempt to learn about these always ends up having me "google Ron Paul".

Google? You realize that's a CIA-run corporation, right? Why do you think they keep trying to get you to keep all your private information there for free? Why do you think it's called G-Mail? Google is The Man, man.

Seriously, seconding Disinfo. You can't take anything at single-source value, but that's a decent start, and unlike so much out there it provides citations and references, which is great. Personally, the best practice you can have is to always check underlying points independently as you read about them. Otherwise you end up with very "logical" conclusions based on false assumptions.

(I've done quite a bit of work that used conspiracy theories from the Illuminati to Monsanto as grist for (fictional, ahem) creative works, and not coincidentally I have the world's strangest personal library of Weird Books, so I know how is easy to let the sexy-sounding unifying theories take over your brain for short periods of time. I find it great fun, actually, in a 'thinking experiment' way*... but I can't imagine what it's like if you can't get back to reality afterward. Scary.)

*And I don't mean MKUltra!
posted by rokusan at 1:35 AM on June 29, 2009

It's not exactly an encyclopedic resource, but I'd have a look at Them, by Jon Ronson. Synopsis: self-deprecating British journalist tries to get to the bottom of a number of popular conspiracy theories. Hilarity ensues.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:35 AM on June 29, 2009

Subscribe to The Skeptic. Michael Shermer is probably the best guy who tackles and dispels all the conspiracies. He also has a few books which might be up your alley.
posted by JJ86 at 5:40 AM on June 29, 2009

The No Agenda podcast always has some good conspiracy theories: the Air France plane crash was part of an ongoing war between Airbus and Boeing, Michael Jackson was killed by the CIA to prevent him from using his London concert to tell the world that Swine Flu is caused by french fries...
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:15 AM on June 29, 2009

Thanks guys, I'll check on the sites mentioned. If anybody can give individual titles on the subject I mentioned that'd be terrific. I'm especially interested in the Masons and the Treasury.

PS I've read Them, but I would actually recommend The Men Who Stare At Goats. It's a ridiculously interesting book about how crazy some psy ops folks became after Vietnam and a far too jokey (IMO) examination of psychological torture at Gitmo.
posted by lattiboy at 9:19 AM on June 29, 2009

if you are interested in the masons, read The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall. He's the man on that subject. or get the reprint of Proofs of a Conspiracy by John Robison. Written in 1798 and still a good read. even before tinfoil hats!
posted by Redhush at 4:54 PM on June 29, 2009

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