The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service hosts Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at noon to discuss a current political topic. Leavitt Center student employees research the topic and moderate the conversation. These discussions expose students to a variety of important issues and encourages them to share their own perspectives while learning all sides of an issue. Free pizza is provided for all who attend.
The Leavitt Center continued the annual tradition of discussing conspiracy theories at Pizza & Politics. Students had a civil, entertaining discussion about a few different conspiracies. A lighter, less political topic allowed for new people to participate in the conversation.
The moderators for the discussion were Morgan Barney and Victoria Stephens. Morgan is a senior from Hatch, Utah, majoring in Spanish with minors in Legal Studies and Creative Writing. Victoria is a sophomore from Ogden, Utah, majoring in Political Science with a minor in History.
The discussion started by looking into why people believe conspiracy theories. Psychology researchers found that reasons for believing in conspiracy theories can be grouped into three categories:
The first is the desire for understanding and certainty. Uncertainty is an unpleasant state, and conspiracy theories provide a sense of understanding and certainty that is comforting.
The second is the desire for control and security. This is especially true when the alternative account feels threatening.
The third is the desire to maintain a positive self-image. Theories can provide community for outcasts and make people feel as though they are the holder of privileged knowledge.
With these in mind, the conversation jumped into the first conspiracy about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is what is known: Dr. King was shot and killed on a balcony in Tennessee on April 4, 1968. The FBI traced the shot to a house across the street where witnesses found binoculars, a newspaper with a story about Dr. King, and a .30-06 Remington Gamemaster that fired one shot. All three items had the fingerprints of escaped convict James Earl Ray who was caught in June in London with fake Canadian passports. He confessed to killing Dr. King, but then said he was set up by a man named Raoul.
The conspiracy is that the government was behind the killing of Dr. King. His widow, Coretta Scott King, blames the FBI who had been tracking Dr. King in the 50’s and 60’s. The FBI wiretapped his phone and monitored his movements, taking advantage of times when he seemed particularly upset or depressed. In one instance, the FBI sent him a tape that allegedly contained audio of him having an affair. With it came a note threatening Dr. King with public exposure if he didn’t kill himself, claiming the sender had evidence of other affairs.
Most students believe there is a conspiracy behind Dr. King’s death. However, the government theory was not widely accepted. If the death was to be investigated more, it would be by the government, which is the exact group being targeted. A lot of people did believe that Dr. King was killed because of how influential and powerful he was.
Faking the Moon Landing
The next conspiracy discussed was the faking of the moon landing. During the Cold War, the United States was in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Whoever reached the moon first would prove they could launch missiles from space; meaning a missile could hit in an hour instead of 15+ if traveling around the world. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the U.S. would land on the moon by the end of the decade.
Once the U.S. supposedly reached the moon, evidence came back that was troubling for some. Shadows in photos appeared to have two different light sources. There were no stars in the pictures and the Van Allen belts (radioactive rays around the Earth) would have been impossible to pass in a spacecraft.
The discussion began with most people assuming the government faked the moon landing. The U.S. has not been back to the moon since 1972 and no other country has been at all. Tensions with the Soviet Union were high, the U.S. needed to prove its dominance, and the moon was the target everyone was watching.
A few people in the audience felt the government could not fake the moon landing because other countries would call them on their bluff. If the U.S. faked it, the Soviet Union or China would expose the lie. That being said, if they never get to the moon, how will they ever know?
Britney Spears: A Secret Bush Administration Cover Agent?
The final conspiracy discussed was one many people did now know about. It sounds crazy, but here are the facts. In 2002, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake ended their relationship. That same year, Britney was caught canoodling with Karl Rove, a senior Bush administrator.
Two years later, the Bush administration blew the cover of CIA agent Valeria Plame. The blown cover led to the indictment of Scooter Libby, a top-tier Bush official. A week before the hearing, Britney married her childhood friend Jason; but 55 hours later, the marriage was annulled.
The moment the conspiracy really made sense was in February of 2007. President Bush announced the Reformation of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. That same night, Britney had her infamous meltdown where she snuck out of rehab, shaved her head, and attacked a paparazzi van with an umbrella.
The first question posed to the audience asked if the aforementioned events were coincidental or if there is a more sinister connection. Most of the audience said the events were funny but were not related. However, some students related the connection between Britney and President Bush to Kanye and President Trump. The news is constantly covering fast, entertaining stories. If a celebrity does something “crazy”, the media will follow it; especially compared to a “boring” political story.
Assuming the Britney conspiracy is real, what were her motives and was her behavior voluntary? Some suggested she could be working under the Illuminati. Others said the Bush Administration was paying her under the table. Students did agree that someone or something pressured Britney and that she would not work for the government on her own free will.
The audience concluded the discussion by saying they did not want answers from the government. The conspiracy theories are fun because the answers will never be confirmed. If the government released information, the world would panic and chaos would ensue.