Hi! Welcome to the introductory post of my new Conspiracies page. Here I will take a look at conspiracies from history and draw conclusions. I am always on the hunt for truth and I believe truth can handle closer scrutiny. That said, there are a lot of instances where conspiracy theories turned out to be true.
Before I really get going though, I need to define some terms.
What is a conspiracy theory? For my purposes, I will lean on the standard definition.
- A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act.
- A hypothesis alleging that the members of a coordinated group are, and/or were, secretly working together to commit illegal or wrongful actions including attempting to hide the existence of the group and its activities. In notable cases the hypothesis contradicts the mainstream explanation for historical or current events.
- Hypothetical speculation that is untrue or outlandish.
Based on these definitions, I will attempt to answer the following questions with my posts:
- Is the “dispute” over the case reasonable?
- If the dispute is reasonable, who are the potential secret plotters perpetuating the conspiracy?
- If the dispute is neither reasonable nor are there any potential plotters, can we determine that the speculation is untrue and outlandish?
For the purposes of this introductory post, I will pick out a news story from the past week that has some of the hallmarks of a “conspiracy theory” to it. I’m not doing this analysis to make a political point. I’m doing this because it’s easy to pull the source material. The goal is to demonstrate the structure of these types of posts in the future.
So don’t worry, all of my future “conspiracies” will be much less hot button and will have had time to collect some dust.
Did a group of conservatives conspire to falsely accuse the Biden Administration of spending $30M on free crack pipes this week?
Is the dispute reasonable?
* There is no question that conservative news outlets made this claim.
Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/blackburn-demands-answers-regarding-reports-of-bidens-taxpayer-funded-crack-pipe-distribution
Washington Free Beacon: https://freebeacon.com/biden-administration/biden-admin-to-fund-crack-pipe-distribution-to-advance-racial-equity/
* Other outlets – not traditionally viewed as conservative – also made the claim but subsequently walked them back:
MSN (note the correction at the bottom): https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/why-the-biden-admin-is-handing-out-free-crack-pipes/ar-AATE0r8
[An example though of a “dispute” that might not be reasonable would be something like: “Conservative news outlets claim NASA is hiding evidence that Pluto is populated by cartoon dogs.” It’s not a reasonable dispute because nobody is actually making that claim.]
Are the conservative claims false (you can’t falsely claim something if your accusation is true)?
This is where we enter the realm of the dueling fact-checkers:
[The crack pipe distribution] was just one of around 20 components of the grant program and far from its most prominent or important one, despite being the primary focus of outraged news reports. The purpose of the program was to reduce harm and the risk of infection among drug users, not to advance racial equity, although that was a secondary consideration.
Secondly, the provision of safer smoking supplies did not have as its purpose advancing the cause of racial equity. Rather, its purpose was, quite logically, to reduce harm and infection among existing drug users. However, the grant description did state that priority would be given to applicants who serve communities that are historically underserved. In other words, the grant’s terms encouraged recipients to advance racial equity while working for harm reduction, not the other way round — a crucial distinction which many outlets got wrong.
Snopes rates the claims as “Mostly False” on the basis of conservative outlets misrepresenting how much of the money went to crack pipes specifically and a mischaracterization of the program’s purpose.
The Biden administration is funding the distribution of “safe smoking kits” — colloquially known as “crack pipes” — to help reduce substance abuse. Perhaps this is a helpful program, though maybe not. I couldn’t say. What I do know is that increasingly people are having a difficult time distinguishing between “things that are untrue” and “things conservatives say that annoy me.”
In 2022, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services substance abuse harm reduction grant did require recipients to provide safer smoking kits to existing drug users. In distributing grants, priority would be given to applicants serving historically underserved communities. However . . .
“HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives. The Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities. We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner.”
This statement has created some confusion given that “safe smoking kits” typically include pipes used for smoking crack. From the Boston25News article linked above:
According to a health organization in British Columbia, Canada, a safe smoking kit would generally contain a glass stem (crack pipe), a meth pipe that has a bubble at the end, a plastic mouth piece (hose), pipe screens which the website describes as a “safer alternative to Brillo or steel wool, a wooden push stick, Vaseline, foil used when smoking heroin and alcohol swabs.
I did some sleuthing and found the following screen grab online:
It appears that some types of pipes were intended to be funded for safe smoking kits. The note from HHS does not specifically say that the pipes were for crack but I believe that this is a reasonable inference given the history of those kits and their use elsewhere. Besides, an alternative illicit narcotic pipe in the place of a crack pipe would not be better received by the public. Further, as the article above points out, the history of these kits is to provide safer pipes for smoking crack, in place of lesser quality glass pipes that can lead to cuts and infections. As a result, in this instance, I think it is safe to argue that it was at least initially true that the Biden administration wanted to fund the free distribution of crack pipes through these kits. The burden of proof to dispute that claim seems to lie with the administration. What do “safe smoking kits” (which include pipes per the above memo) look like when they do not include pipes for smoking crack? If one uses a commonly understood term in a way that is different from its common understanding, the fault for confusion lies with the speaker.
Adding in context though, it is false to claim the entire fund was for those pipes specifically. The headline could read “The Federal Government is spending a portion of a $30M fund on crack pipes for safe usage distribution.”
The debate over whether this is a good policy is not relevant to the conspiracy theory. I will not go into it.
To the extent the claims are false, who are the secret plotters?
This is actually pretty easy. The “plotters” here are not secret at all. They are journalists and political operatives.
But if the dispute were over some other topic, the go-to secret plotters often include the CIA, the Vatican, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, etc.
Since there is at least some measure of truth in the claims (or at a minimum a very valid reason to believe the claims are true), and because there are no secret plotters (we know the actors are in this instance), we do not need to delve into the “outlandish” issues of point number three from my checklist above.
[However, sometimes there is not a reasonable dispute nor are there obvious secret plotters. Claims just exist without any grounding at all. For example, if I were to tell you that “Finland does not exist” the claim is both unreasonable and there is no explanation for why any secret cabal would make it up.]
Anyway, that’s the introduction for Conspiracies. In the future, I plan to look at “The Great Pyramid of Giza,” “The Disappearance of the Knights Templar,” “Historical Giants,” “The Moon Artificial,” and “UFOs” (the last from various angles.) If there is anything you’re interested in me taking a look at, I will consider it so leave a comment below.