66

Related: Why does it seem like US conspiracy theorists are overwhelmingly Republican-oriented?

The question above explores potential reasons why belief in conspiracy theories is more common among the US right wing than the left wing.

Several right wing conspiracy theories have become household names - QAnon is apparently still a thing and Obama-Birtherism is still not that far behind in the rear-view mirror.

Are there any notable conspiracy theories in the USA that are, or until recently have been, supported predominantly by left-wing voters or politicians? By left-wing, I am especially referring to the mainstream US Democratic Party but other left-wingers or far-left politicians such as Communists may also be included.

For example, if there is a left-wing conspiracy theory that says that Mitt Romney is actually an Egyptian sleeper agent hired by Scottish-Rite Freemasons to privatize Medicare and get laws passed requiring all public school teachers to be card-carrying members of the KKK, that would count.

2
  • 1
    If a conspiracy theory is not partisan in nature, but is primarily believed by members of a left-wing demographic, would you consider it to be a "left-wing conspiracy theory"? For example, if it was revealed that the majority of people who believe the government is hiding evidence of UFOs are women and minorities, would that then be considered a left-wing conspiracy theory? I think it's important to be clear about this so that we're not comparing apples to oranges. All of the right-wing conspiracy theories that I'm aware of would be clearly right-wing even if I had no idea who believed them. Aug 11 at 2:44
  • By "conspiracy theory", do you mean "Theory that is poorly, or not at all, supported by the evidence"? Things that are technically conspiracies, and primarily supported by the Left: the CIA conspired with drug smugglers, Trump supporters conspired to storm the Capitol, the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran to fund the contras, etc. Aug 11 at 21:51
114

Yes, there are plenty of conspiracy theories that are primarily supported by left-wing voters and politicians. Here are a few examples (not meant to be an exhaustive list):

  • Conspiracy theories about HIV/AIDS are popular in many left-leaning demographics in the US, especially black and Hispanic Americans. According to one survey, "approximately 55% of Latinos and 50% of African Americans reported believing that the government secretly had an HIV vaccine." Furthermore, as of 2006, around a fifth of white Americans and over a quarter of African-Americans believed that "AIDS is an agent of genocide created by the US government to kill off minority populations."

    There are legitimate reasons that many black people distrust the US medical establishment, but this still counts as a conspiracy theory.

  • As of 2007, about 35% of Democrats reported believing that George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance.

  • Conspiracy theories about election fraud are widespread among members of both major US political parties. A 2018 poll found that as many as 66% of Democrats believed that "Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected president." Likewise, in 2013, about 37% of surveyed Democrats said they believed that "President Bush's supporters committed significant voter fraud in order to win Ohio in 2004."

  • Conspiracy theories about GMO's (genetically modified organisms) began as mostly a left-wing phenomenon. However, the gap has narrowed over the years. For example, US Democrats and Republicans are now almost equally likely to believe that GM foods are unsafe.

  • For many years, a reasonably popular left-wing conspiracy theory claimed that the US and its allies were spying on ordinary citizens' private communications on an unimaginable, global scale. Not all conspiracy theories turn out to be false.

20
  • 12
    Epstein being murdered (not dying by suicide as is the official explanation) is now very bipartisan: (3/4 down the page) businessinsider.com/jeffrey-epstein-kill-himself-poll-2019-11
    – Tim
    Aug 9 at 19:23
  • 3
    Sorry not clear - it was a suggested addition
    – Tim
    Aug 9 at 21:43
  • 2
    @Tim I see, thanks for the clarification. According to the article you linked, 56% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats believe that Epstein was murdered. Since the question asked for conspiracy theories that are "supported predominantly by left-wing voters or politicians," I don't think this theory meets the criteria.
    – Thorondor
    Aug 9 at 21:50
  • 3
    @Zaz Fair question. I don't have stats on ECHELON specifically, but in general, until the Obama administration, Democrats were consistently more concerned about surveillance than Republicans. For example, a 2006 poll found that 37% of Democrats said surveillance was an "extremely important" issue, vs. only 22% of Republicans. You can see the same pattern in quotes from politicians at the time, such as these articles.
    – Thorondor
    Aug 10 at 3:30
  • 3
    This is not a theory, it's a fact that the president was warned: "Bin Laden determined to attack in US." It's likely the people who say Bush "knew" about the attacks are referencing the prior intelligence briefings, not that Bush was somehow involved in planning 9/11. This is an example of how simple wording ("knew") can be interpreted multiple ways; there needs to be much more explanation in the question for the survey to be valid on a question like this.
    – user8356
    Aug 10 at 14:17
38

If you consider environmentalism and green politics left wing (and generally most people consider even the less radical politics solidly left wing), then you can find plenty of conspiracies around chemophobia, radiophobia and similar "unnatural" human activities that corporations and/or the government are hiding the true and catastrophic effects of. Nuclear power, food additives, biocides and so on, and while some conspiracies may have merit, many are either considered baseless or greatly exaggerated. Sure, this does show up on the right from time to time as well, but I'd argue it is still mostly the domain of the green left.

15
  • 18
    There are shades of gray between conspiracy theories and anti-science/bad-science. To believe that 5G harms the human body, you have to disregard the science, but you also have to believe that there is a conspiracy, or else 5G wouldn't be getting built. On the other hand, I don't think most people who are afraid of eating GMO food believe that there's a conspiracy to hide its harms from us, they just have vague fears that it could be harmful. Anti-science attitudes in the US used to be more characteristic of the left, but now their center of mass is more on the right.
    – user5526
    Aug 8 at 13:42
  • 21
    @Ben there are no harms from GMO food. Thinking that there are but that science is hiding them or not smart enough to find them is classic conspiracy theory. Aug 8 at 14:47
  • 17
    @JonathanReez: there are no harms from GMO food. There is almost certainly no harm from eating it. There are certain forms of economic exploitation associated with the agricultural practices associated with it in some cases. Thinking that there are but that science is hiding them or not smart enough to find them is classic conspiracy theory. This is a statement of the form, "Thinking that X and Y are both true implies Y." Certainly Y implies Y. (If you believe in a conspiracy theory, then you believe in a conspiracy theory.) That tells us nothing about X.
    – user5526
    Aug 9 at 0:05
  • 12
    We have genetically modifying organism for thousands of years, when people took a Dorset sheep and crossed it with a Persian sheep the result was a genetically modified sheep called a Dorper. Dog breeding is the practice of genetically modifying dogs. Every new cultivar of every plant ever was genetically modified from some other plant
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 at 7:28
  • 13
    It seems entirely reasonable to believe that direct manipulation of DNA could go wrong and produce disastrous effects that are unlikely to arise from traditional breeding practices. That's not a conspiracy theory, or even anti-science; it's just (perhaps overly) cautious. It only starts to become a conspiracy theory if you believe that people are actually doing it, and concealing the fact, with the intent to cause dire effects. Aug 9 at 10:31
25

Reaching back a few years, around the start of the Second Iraq War it was a commonplace on the left that the war was about obtaining oil, rather than the stated purposes of fighting terrorism or securing weapons of mass destruction. In retrospect, obtaining oil was either not a war aim, or was at least not carried out in the end.

9
  • 1
    Yes, I see how that sentence was ambiguous. I've edited it to make it clearer.
    – adam.baker
    Aug 9 at 16:00
  • 14
    which weapons of mass destruction, again?
    – njzk2
    Aug 9 at 21:00
  • 4
    @njk2 This is, perhaps, an example of how not all conspiracy theories are wrong.
    – divibisan
    Aug 10 at 1:30
  • Also, renaming the operation from "Operation Iraqi Liberation" to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was kind of a stupid move. Aug 10 at 9:26
  • 5
    @JonathanReez, WMD would only be a conspiracy if the government clearly knew that there were no WMD yet conspired to mislead the public to gain support. This doesn't seem to be true, at least not entirely: they wanted to believe in it themselves and just grapsed at any shaky evidence. In addition, "if not WMD, then surely oil" is a false dilema.
    – Zeus
    Aug 11 at 0:49
16

Although you asked about the USA specifically, there is often two-way political traffic between USA and the UK, so the example of antisemitism in the UK Labour Party might be relevant:

Antisemitism in the UK Labour Party

You can find several articles linking these views to the US left wing too:

The rise of antisemitism on the Left and in America - opinion

While antisemitic views exist across the political spectrum, some of the actual conspiracy theories (as opposed to plain hate) have chains of thought linking back to left-wing topics.

Pro-Palestine => Israel does fascist things to Palestine => Israel is run by Jews => Jews are fascists

Anti-capitalist => Bankers secretly run the world => Financiers are Jewish => Jews are responsible for capitalism

I must stress that many on the right also arrive at the “Jews are bad” conclusion, but through different conspiracy theories (given that the right is predominantly pro-Israel and pro-capitalist).

10
  • 22
    Those thought chains seem like a stretch to me. Being critical of Israel's treatment of Palestine doesn't generally imply anti-semitic opinions- it may come from that in some cases, but in my experience, left-wing views on this tend to withhold judgement of the Jewish people as a whole and focus more on the actions of the State of Israel. Similarly, anti-capitalist sentiment among the left mostly stems from perceived growing economic inequalities. I've never seen it blamed on 'Jewish bankers running the world', at least from the left - that sounds more like right-wing 'globalism' conspiracies.
    – Kayndarr
    Aug 8 at 23:56
  • 6
    That banker one stinks of Nazi rhetoric.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 at 7:32
  • 4
    @Kayndarr Corbyn was most definitely systematic anti-semitic, not against Israel, but against Jewish UK citizens living in the UK. The horrible thing is that IMO he didn't even realise what he was doing. He is definitely anti-racist, so if he could see himself and his anti-semitism objectively, he would be absolutely shocked.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 9 at 8:49
  • 3
    @Kayndarr: Of course they’re a stretch. I’m certainly not implying these are valid chains of reasoning. But these shaky radicalisation pathways are exactly how conspiracy theories grow from a reasonable core to an unreasonable conclusion as their adherents “join the dots”.
    – jl6
    Aug 9 at 10:18
  • 3
    The wikipedia page you linked states 'The Home Affairs Select Committee of Parliament held an inquiry into antisemitism in the UK in the same year and found "no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party"'. It was always nonsense spread by a press that's virulently opposed to actual left-wing politics and legitimate criticisms of Israel. Sure there were some examples of it within labour, but not more than you'd find by looking at the tories or anyone else as carefully
    – llama
    Aug 9 at 15:44
11

There are plenty of examples of left-wing conspiracy theories. Two of the most prevalent ones in society today are:

7
  • 21
    That's not what "systemic" means in the context at hand. Individuals don't need to have ill intent to participate in an innately unfair system; individually reasonable actions can lead to unreasonably biased outcomes. Certainly, some folks on the left hold beliefs akin to "all cops are bastards", but even people who don't believe that the majority of police offers are knowingly racist can reasonably believe that the way policing is done (f/e, with respect to resource allocation decisions leading to uneven enforcement) promulgates racial disparities. Aug 9 at 15:22
  • 17
    (One well-documented example is how while drug usage rates are identical across racial lines, enforcement of drug violations is not -- but placing officers where you've had arrests in the past is not an innately unreasonable choice, even though it leads to that effect. This is a systemic effect; it does not need to involve individual officers being racist, but falls out of how the larger system is operated even in the absence of individual malfeasance). Aug 9 at 15:27
  • 11
    There's a difference between a conspiracy theory and being wrong. Just because an idea is incorrect doesn't mean it's a conspiracy theory. A Conspiracy theory, obviously, requires a theory about a conspiracy and an unfalsifiable, self-reinforcing belief system, neither of which applies to these examples
    – divibisan
    Aug 9 at 15:59
  • 4
    @divibisan Systematic(not systemic, as Don pointed out) racism would require the belief that the people creating the policing structure are racist, i.e. a sinister and powerful group. The same idea with corporations, the Illuminati was a popular conspiracy theory for years and it's running down the same vein, shadowy elites throw millions to get their way. Aug 9 at 17:56
  • 7
    @AlanRogers I guess, then, I'd argue that this isn't a particularly common belief. The main arguments about police racism is that it was systematic in the past, a claim with ample evidence since people weren't shy about admitting their racism in the past, and more often systemic today.
    – divibisan
    Aug 9 at 18:18
2

As other answers have noted, yes. However, they manifest in very different ways.

While right-wing conspiracy theories tend to serve a political goal for the right wing (bringing their politicians into office/power), left-wing conspiracy theories are less strategically focused and tend to serve nearly the opposite purpose, delegitimizing associated left-wing groups and issues and creating divisions/strife between groups that believe the conspiracy theories and ones that don't, and ultimately end up benefiting the right wing. Some of them (particularly ones related to alternative health, vaccination, etc.) have even morphed into overtly right-wing phenomena in recent years. To my knowledge (please comment if you know of any) there are no recent examples of left-leaning candidates riding to office on use of conspiracy theories to appeal to their base, but countless examples of right-wing ones doing so.

Some specific examples that divide and weaken left:

  • Globalism (coded anti-Semitism) conspiracy theories.

  • "[Left/anti-authoritarian hero] was wrongly accused of rape/sexual assault/harassment to bring them down" conspiracy theories (Al Franken, Julian Assange, etc.)

  • Biotech & GMO conspiracy theories

3
  • 1
    Obama's re-election would be one example. Nevermind the complete lack of any evidence whatsoever, lots of Democrats believed nonsense about Romney not paying taxes, due in no smaller part to the Democratic Senate party leader claiming as much on the Senate floor.
    – reirab
    Aug 12 at 16:58
  • @reirab: a basic factual falsehood about a candidate is not a "conspiracy theory". Aug 12 at 21:57
  • How does a demagogic lie that's believed by a large group of people because of their biases which would require a conspiracy to be true and implies a criminal cover-up not count as a conspiracy theory? That's practically the definition of a conspiracy theory.
    – reirab
    Aug 13 at 0:33
2

Kayfabe

Numerous pundits and reporters have written articles about "political kayfabe" - the use of artificial conflict (as done in pro wrestling) to drive publicity and enflame the loyalty of the voter base.

Some leftists (specifically, to the left of the Democrats) take this view all the way to its conclusion: the entire divide between the Democratic and Republican parties is kayfabe, and both are actually working together on behalf of their billionaire owners. There are no good guys or bad guys in the duopoly, just actors playing "faces" and "heels" who divide the country into opposing camps and pit them against each other.

Some people with other political views have a similar belief (usually omitting the plutocrats behind the throne), but it's more prominent on the left. Gore Vidal said "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat". Both Eugene Debs and Noam Chomsky also said nearly the same.

5
  • 4
    This seems like a bipartisan conspiracy theory. I don't know any related statistics to prove it, but I've personally heard many rightists espouse similar beliefs.
    – Ryan_L
    Aug 10 at 17:11
  • Can you provide some references where this conspiracy is presented? Right now your links point to Google searches but most of the results seem to be about wrestling. Note that different users may see different results based on their location and prior search history. It would be better to point to the results you think are relevant.
    – JJJ
    Aug 10 at 17:11
  • @JJJ links added.
    – Foo Bar
    Aug 10 at 19:42
  • @Ryan_L Some libertarian types have similar views, but they're "up" on their political compass, not right. Nevertheless, I'll take a look at any info you find.
    – Foo Bar
    Aug 10 at 19:55
  • 1
    Thanks for elaborating. About that political science paper, you phrased it to look as though it concludes 'the two parties work together on behalf of their billionaire owners'. I don't see that conclusion in the paper, it merely states that both parties benefit from that type of political marketing. It doesn't claim there's coordination, especially between 'supposed owners'. I think you should clearly separate in your answer what is concluded in the paper and what anonymous people say on Twitter. Conflating the two seems deceptive.
    – JJJ
    Aug 10 at 19:59
-3

I would argue that the left-wing favorite of the day, Critical Race Theory, is a giant conspiracy theory: it claims that an entire race conspired to oppress another race.


Edit: some commenters mentioned that CRT doesn't claim the above and that it's not a conspiracy theory. So let me add some references.

  1. Sometimes the entire white race is assumed to be racist, as in the "be less white" employee training at Coca-Cola. This is not an isolated incident; the notion that all white people are racist, whether consciously or not, is implied in employee training.

  2. From wikipedia: "Law professors Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry argue that critical race theory lacks supporting evidence, relies on an implausible belief that reality is socially constructed, rejects evidence in favor of storytelling..." Aren't relying on storytelling and lacking supporting evidence signs of conspiracy theory?

  3. Numerous CRT claims of "systemic racism" are based on cherry picking disparities of outcome. The stories go more or less like this: "there is a disparity in X (maybe income, maybe education, etc) that favors W over B; we therefore assume that the disparity is due to systemic racism." The contrary evidence is deliberately ignored. The evidence such as success of other races that were also mistreated, disparities that favor B over W in other areas, specific studies that (unintentionally) proved that there are reasons apart from the racism of the past that explain disparities - all that is ignored. Basically the whole CRT starts with conclusion and brings cherry-picked evidence to support it, rather than starting with evidence and arriving to whatever conclusion it may lead to. Isn't such approach a tell-tale of a conspiracy theory?

10
  • 23
    This is a common right-wing talking point, but it's not actually a part of Critical Race Theory. I guess the idea that CRT is actually some sort of anti-White conspiracy could be considered itself a conspiracy theory.
    – divibisan
    Aug 9 at 19:22
  • 2
    @divibisan, thus CRT has begotten two conspiracy theories. :-)
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 21:00
  • 3
    To elaborate more on why this answer fails to satisfy the criteria, Critical Race Theory does not attempt to assign motives to individual groups. While it does imply that some groups benefit from the system, it is not claiming that these groups are perpetuating it knowingly. Even if you have issues with the idea, it is inherently not a conspiracy theory. Aug 11 at 16:52
  • 2
    Aren't you now also cherry picking criticisms of CRT? You say that CRT "claims that an entire race conspired to oppress another race" but then you need to quote those critical of CRT to make your point and even they don't put it that bluntly. Maybe you can cite a CRT study that draws that conclusion? Surely, that wouldn't be hard if it really is one "giant conspiracy" making that claim?
    – JJJ
    Aug 11 at 17:31
  • 2
    @JJJ, does Coca-Cola employee training to "be less white" count?
    – Michael
    Aug 11 at 22:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .