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Top 10 Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories

The American radical right has to be considered a strong contender for the title of modern conspiracy champion.

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Hundreds of websites currently peddle chemtrails theories, along with books, DVDs and all manner of survivalist gear. They maintain that toxic clouds in the sky are easily distinguished from normal contrails by their longer duration and expansive dissipation patterns. Most of the spraying is believed to take place at night over the population centers of the NATO countries, especially the United States.

Who, exactly, is responsible for the program? There are conflicting schools of thought here as well. But among Patriot groups it is generally agreed that some alignment of New World Order lords -- sometimes referred to as the Illuminati -- is busy spraying cities and towns with pathogens. In the grimmest of the scenarios, the spraying represents the first of a two-stage depopulation program. Stage one involves spreading pathogens to weaken humanity's collective immune system; once general T-cell weakness is attained, goes the theory, we can expect aerial dispersal of smallpox or anthrax to finish us off.

Fear over chemtrails long ago spread beyond the Patriot fringe. Twenty years ago, the buzz surrounding chemtrails had grown to the extent that the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration felt compelled to issue a joint "Aircraft Contrails Factsheet." The six-page illustrated report patiently explained the science of contrails, such as the role humidity plays in the variance between how long contrails linger and spread, sometimes forming cirrus cloud cover, and pointed out that they have zero impact on human health.

But as these things go, official efforts to confront the conspiracy only fueled its growth. It is today bigger than ever, commanding adherents across the globe.

2. Martial Law

If Patriot groups fear anything more than the water vapor in the sky, it is the imminent imposition of martial law. A longstanding and central plank of the Patriot catechism is the belief that one day -- very soon! -- federal forces, in league with the states, will suspend constitutional government and institute a police state. 

During the first few years after the 9/11 attacks, this fear was also discussed on the left. But what was a temporary concern there has long been an absolute certainty on the far right. Today, hundreds of Patriot groups around the country are actively preparing for the declaration of martial law, some of them by mapping wilderness areas, learning how to set booby traps, studying and practicing guerrilla warfare tactics, and setting up short-wave radio communications systems. The question is not if, but when, the New World Order will come crashing down.

Patriot groups believe the legal groundwork for the inevitable imposition of martial law is being laid in Washington, within the pages of a steady stream of classified National Security documents and directives. At the local level, meanwhile, they suspect town and city governments are also in on the plan, as evidenced by their passing of emergency powers ordinances.

Once the legal mechanisms are in place, all that's needed is a "crisis trigger," for which Patriots are constantly on the lookout. Whether this trigger is real or manufactured matters less than the fact that it will succeed in frightening the population into submission and be used to justify suspension of the Constitution. This crisis trigger could take any form. Common scenarios suggested on Patriot discussion boards include economic collapse, followed by massive social unrest; a global (and likely government-created) pandemic; multiple acts of mega-terrorism (again, featuring government collusion); or possibly a fraudulent presidential election, resulting in rioting in major cities around the country.