What is a conspiracy?

This article is part of Conspiracy theories

Every conspiracy theory starts with a conspiracy: a supposed secret plan that the majority of society doesn’t know about. When do we speak of a conspiracy, and what does one entail exactly?

A secret plan

Conspiracies are typically shrouded in mystery. They centre on a secret plan that only very few know the ins and outs of. The plan is supposedly well thought out by a small but powerful group of people.

The goal of a conspiracy is to serve specific purposes: for example those of a small group of people, of a social class, an ideology or conviction. In the eyes of conspiracy theorists, conspiracy theories are always detrimental to the well-being, health, freedom or safety of the ‘common man’.

From conspiracy to conspiracy theory

A conspiracy theory is a theory that claims that certain events in the world are caused by a conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists posit the conspiracy as The Truth and genuinely believe that they have seen the light. Contrary to what many people assume, conspiracy theorists are not by definition crazy or paranoid. They are simply looking for answers, and they find them in the supposed conspiracy.

3 famous conspiracy theories 

The Illuminati

The Illuminati are followers of a secret society founded in 1776. The Illuminati believed that the common people were ignorant and strived for a New World Order that would see a small elite come to power. The society was soon disbanded officially, but until today, many people believe that celebrities like Beyoncé and Rihanna are still secretly Illuminati.

Paul is dead

There is a persistent rumour that claims that Paul McCartney died in an accident in 1966. Ever since, he has supposedly been replaced by a doppelganger in order to continue the success of The Beatles. You’ll find all sorts of arguments to support this theory on the internet, including the fact that The Beatles stopped performing live in 1966.


There are many theories to be found about the terrorist attacks on the WTC towers in 2001. Some believe that the American government knew that the attacks would take place and chose not to act. Others even deny that it was a terrorist attack and believe instead that there’s a conspiracy behind it involving the government and the CIA.

How to recognise a conspiracy theory

There are several signs that you can recognise a conspiracy theory by. We’ve made a handy list for you.

Want to learn more?

Published on 18 October 2023