Changes in tech lead to rise of new conspiracies

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This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 14, 2019).

In the soft blue light of the screen, faces flicker. Scrolling through endless text, watching hundreds of frames flash by, freshman Sofia Lopez consumes the content. 

“I spend hours watching conspiracy and investigation videos sometimes,” Lopez said.

It’s not just Lopez who finds herself drawn to this content; millions of others watch or read conspiracy theory explanations. 

“I do go into that realm of YouTube sometimes,” said senior Abigail French.

YouTuber Shane Dawson and other prominent internet personalities hold the attention of many students. But the conspiracy theories most students are into today are different from ones that have gained attention in the past.

“I feel like conspiracies have definitely gotten more mundane, like they’re not as crazy as the usual ones,”  French said. “The conspiracies that are popular now are things that affect us more in our everyday life.”

The rise of a new wave of conspiracy theories has led to more people finding both entertainment and truth in them. 

“I’m really into how unsolved crimes are explained,” Lopez said. 

Junior Alison Archer tracks new conspiracies.

“The Chuck E. Cheese pizza conspiracy is one of the newer and more popular ones,” Archer said.

Popularized by Dawson, this theory argues that pizza served at Chuck E. Cheese’s gaming arcades is “recycled”: uneaten slices from previous customers’ pies are reheated and served to new customers. The primary evidence supporting this is the mismatched sizes and shapes of the pizza slices in a full pizza pie. 

“I definitely am not going to Chuck E. Cheese’s again,” Archer said. 

The theory gained widespread popularity and a devoted following after Dawson uploaded a video called “Investigating Conspiracies with Shane Dawson” to his YouTube channel. 

Within 24 hours, it had 17 million views. As of March 12, it had 35 million views. Dozens of videos by others summarized and followed up on the theory, which rocketed up the attention to the theory. Chuck E. Cheese’s eventually issued a statement denying the allegations of recycled pizza; however, the conspiracy lives on. 

Other theories popularized by Dawson include the staging of the recent California wildfires and iPhone monitoring.

“I’m currently really into the theory that iPhones are always recording us,” said junior Maddy Menoher. 

Menoher said this relates to how the Live Photos tool works.

“It records a little bit before I even take the photo,” Menoher said. “How could it do that if it wasn’t always recording us?” 

Lopez finds it all fascinating.

“A lot of days I come home from school, pull up an hour-long video, and just watch,” Lopez said. 

The accessibility of the content makes it a source of entertainment for many and leads to prominence. 

“It’s just the internet,” French said. “The small things that people notice, they write about it on the internet. Then other people reading it think, ‘Oh my gosh, I noticed that too!’ It just gathers into a giant conspiracy from there.”