Thursday, December 1, 2022

Avril Lavigne Conspiracy


Avril Lavigne: Celebrities That Might Not Exist


A photo edit by a fan comparing Avril Lavigne's appearance in 2003 and 2013


Introduction 

Whenever celebrity conspiracy theories are mentioned, it is inevitable that Avril Lavigne will be brought into the conversation. Circa 2005, a theory arose that the pop star had died two years prior and been replaced by look-a-like Melissa. 

Why did this theory quickly grow in popularity? What is the root of societal interest in celebrity conspiracy theories? 


Who is Avril Lavigne? 

Avril Lavigne is an early 2000s Canadian punk singer-songwriter best known for her first album Let Go, which included hit songs "Sk8ter Boi" and "Complicated." She continued to release two more albums, none of them gaining the same popularity as her first, but keeping her on the punk scene. 

Lavigne has also left a trail of famous lovers including Deryck Whibley and Chad Kroeger. She recently announced her engagement to fellow punk rocker Mod Sun. 


The Origin of the Theory 

This conspiracy theory began as something much simpler: fans believed that the young musician became overwhelmed by the attention and her music label would sometimes send her look-a-like Melissa to impersonate her for the paparazzi. 

Supposedly, a Brazilian fan page for the artist was the first to mention the slight differences in Lavigne’s appearance after the success of her first albums. Fans then began to analyze slight changes in her nose shape, jawline, eyes, voice, etc. 

The theory quickly snowballed from Lavigne having a stand-in for publicity to the belief of the artist's death. There are three popular theories that have surfaced about the star's death. First that Avril Lavigne died in 2003 via suicide and was replaced by Melissa so that the record label could continue to profit off of the star's popularity. Next, Lavigne died in a tragic snowboarding accident. Lastly, after growing to resent her popularity, the record label arranged for Avril's death and replaced her with Melissa to continue to make money.


The Rise: How & Why Conspiracy Theories Develop

    Avril Lavigne, being a new & upcoming pop-punk star in the early 2000s, found her audience in primarily teenagers. Excerpt from "I Was A Teenage Conspiracy Theorist":

“Teenagers are particularly vulnerable” to finding patterns where none really exist, Galinsky said, “because there are so many things happening simultaneously—biologically and socially—that make them feel less in control.” ... They’re obsessed with social hierarchy, and they are achingly aware, at all times, of how much agency they covet and how little they have."

    This lack of control often pushes teenagers to seek external validation for their ability to influence the world, often times turning to conspiracy forums. A teenager simply seeking answers quickly turns into overactive pattern recognition and a heightened sense of anxiety over the world, which feeds into itself, causing the cycle to continue. ("I Was A Teenage Conspiracy Theorist")

    This conspiracy theory didn't come out of nowhere; in fact, many celebrities have been accused of being clones or of being "replaced" in some way, Paul McCartney being a notable example. Anything from Taylor Swift being the clone of a late satanic priest to Beyonc√© being a clone sent by the Illuminati to provide subliminal messages through music has been proposed to explain why a celebrity may look different in their red carpet photos. Social media hadn't quite reached it's peak usage yet, so most people found out about such conspiracies through sources like MTV or talk shows that made fun of the idea. However, the concept supposedly started on a Brazilian fanpage. As social media gained popularity, such theories became more overt in online forums or social media juggernauts such as Facebook or Twitter. (The Guardian)


How 2000s Celeb Culture Breeds Paranoia & Resentment 

    2000s celeb culture became invasive with the rise of the entertainment industry & social media. The entertainment industry primed audiences to follow complex storylines and piece them together to create an overarching narrative. Then social media arrived to exaggerate the issue with new constant updates and gossip directly from the celebrity. More direct interaction between fans and celebrities has led to a strange formation of parasocial relationships that often lead the fan into thinking they know more about and that they are closer to the celebrity than they are in reality. 

    Ted Casablanca, an E! News article writer with two decades of experience, talked about how the types of "anonymous tips" that journalists get have changed. "You’ve got a lot of crackpots contacting you saying they’ve got inside information,” he said. Since social media emerged, these "tips" have become less about harmless scandals and gossip, and more about attacking the celebrity through targeting their image, simply because they don't like them. Celebrities weren't the only ones getting hate though. In fact in Avril's case, her record label is often the target of condemnation. 

    The two most common theories for why Avril supposedly died are that she committed suicide but the record label hid it to continue selling her music or that the record label executives killed her off to replace her with someone who would only do what they wanted. In either scenario, the one at fault is her record label, not Avril herself. This is an important distinction because the people creating this conspiracy theory didn't think of it out of hatred for Avril, but rather resentment at her "controlling" record label. Remember that the main people getting involved in this theory are usually teenagers, who have a natural distaste for authority and would love to project themselves (and their own issues) onto a young, rich celebrity. 

    Another important element here is the paranoia over the record label's capabilities as successful business owners in Hollywood's back pocket. Although their names aren't instantly recognizable like Avril's, they have no less influence and likely even more. Such influence allows them to get away with many things that the average person would never get away with. Watching the elite getting anything they want with little to no consequence or effort is frustrating and breeds resentment. Resentment that has made itself known through the multitude of theories involving someone being killed by the elites. (“How a Fake Baby Is Born.”)


Responses from Avril Lavigne

In 2017, a Twitter thread by the user @givenchyass became very popular where they described why the believed Avril Lavigne was replaced by a clone. It garnered much attention, leading the post to have 196 thousand likes, 100 thousand retweets, and 160 thousand favorites. In the thread, they compared genre of music, the way Lavigne looks different in pictures across years, and states that "instead of letting the news of her dying go into the media, [her record company] used her look alike." Many fans responded to the thread, stating various proof such as Lavigne's popular song "Complicated" must be about Melissa Vandella, that "Avril" lost her Canadian accent because Melissa is American, and that how she pronounces sounds aren't the same way she did in past songs.

Fans came to her defense, sharing pictures where they highlighted that pictures that took place many years apart contain the same birthmarks, and that the difference in her face is plastic surgery.

Avril Lavigne has responded to this theory many times. In an interview in 2018, she states that "people think that [she] is not the real [Avril] which is so weird!" Left with a rather ambiguous response, fans continued spreading this theory that she was replaced by a woman named Melissa Vandella. After her statement, Avril "went a bit robotic" and "even accidentally started pressing random buttons" in what people thought was meant to be a distraction.

Moving to 2019, her music changed genres because she wanted to evolve musically and show the pain she has experienced through her music. In an interview discussing her album "Head Above Water," she states that the conspiracy is a dumb internet rumor and that she's surprised that people believe it. Some of her fans saw the change in genre as Melissa wanting to sing her own style of music instead of fitting into the punk narrative that followed Avril.

In early 2022, she says in an interview that many people state that she looks and sounds the exact same as she did in the past, so she doesn't understand why people still bring up the theory that she is a woman named Melissa. She then said that her fans coming up with a name for a fake woman is so bizarre that she can't help but find it funny.

With the rising popularity of TikTok, she addressed the rumors in mid-2022 with a video that discussed how all the comments on her Instagram are her fans asking if she is the real Avril Lavigne. In the video, she does not confirm nor deny if she is truly real, but by picking fun at her comment section, she shows that she finds it amusing in how little proof there is that she isn't truly herself.

@avrillavigne

♬ original sound - Millennial32

Responses From Die-Hard Fans


During the 2021 VMAs, the already-spiraling rumors skyrocketed with Avril Lavigne's first appearance on the red carpet in 2 years. MTV put quotation marks around her name, leading fans to believe that even MTV was unsure if Avril is truly the real Avril.

Twitter exploded with threads about this being confirmation of Avril Lavigne's death, and memes were made about the confirmation. Even Vulture, a popular entertainment site, quoted the mishap on their Twitter. 

Die-hard fans stated on Twitter that although they fully believe she is the original Avril, they see the rumors and wonder if they are actually true. This could be problematic because, with enough reinforcement, fans might start believing that Avril actually is Melissa. This could then lead to issues with believing other conspiracy theories that might be more dangerous.

Conclusion

Throughout the time of this conspiracy living, most fans have expressed that they do not truly believe that Avril Lavigne was actually replaced by a clone who goes by the name Melissa. However, her target audience is a very impressionable age. Teenagers are more susceptible to conspiracy theories, and it is well known that when a person believes one (seemingly harmless) theory, they are more likely to believe ones that can be dangerous to society and themselves. Without proper education about conspiracies and the danger in believing them, people are more likely to harm themselves and the world around them. 

Works Cited:

Alternative Press Magazine. “Avril Lavigne Confronts Conspiracy Theory That She's a Clone.” Alternative Press, 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.altpress.com/avril-lavigne-reacts-clone-conspiracy-theories/. 

Cresci, Elena. “Why Fans Think Avril Lavigne Died and Was Replaced by a Clone Named Melissa.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 May 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2017/may/15/avril-lavigne-melissa-cloning-conspiracy-theories. 

Cushing, Ellen. “I Was a Teenage Conspiracy Theorist.” The Atlantic, 13 May 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20221118184827/https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/i-was-a-teenage-conspiracist/610975/. 

Givenchy. “Avril Lavigne Is Dead & Was Replaced by a Look Alike: A Conspiracy Theory Thread .” Twitter, 12 May 2017, https://twitter.com/givenchyass/status/863222658766450693?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E863222658766450693%7Ctwgr%5E573d2fbebdf4f0c599e2595e1e1ca9d41c5c560a%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rollingstone.com%2Fculture%2Fculture-news%2Fthe-avril-lavigne-death-hoax-that-wont-die-117706%2F. 

Kaplan, Illana. “Avril Lavigne on Head Above Water, near-Death Experiences, and That Crazy Conspiracy Theory.” Entertainment Weekly, 11 Feb. 2019, https://ew.com/music/2019/02/11/avril-lavigne-head-above-water-interview/. 

Lavigne, Avril. “Avril Lavigne on TikTok.” TikTok, 27 June 2022, https://www.tiktok.com/@avrillavigne/video/7114106481695264043?embed_source=70842511%2C120811592%2C120810756%3Bnull%3Bembed_blank&is_from_webapp=v1&item_id=7114106481695264043&refer=embed&referer_url=kiisfm.iheart.com%2Fcontent%2F2022-06-28-avril-lavigne-hilariously-calls-out-lookalike-conspiracy-theory%2F&referer_video_id=7114106481695264043. 

MrJamesWeber. “How Did Avril Lavigne Fall from Her Grace?” Reddit, Jan. 2022, https://www.reddit.com/r/popheads/comments/s7yu5p/how_did_avril_lavigne_fall_from_her_grace_was_it/. 

Newton, Jennifer, and Tereza Shkurtaj. “Is Avril Lavigne Dead? Conspiracy Theory Explained.” The Irish Sun, 3 Nov. 2022, https://www.thesun.ie/news/1003349/avril-lavigne-dead-conspiracy-theory/. 

Song, Sandra. “Fans Think Avril Lavigne's Clone Showed up to the VMAs.” Paper, 13 Sept. 2021, https://www.papermag.com/avril-lavigne-clone-2021-vmas-2655005049.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1. 

Tiffany, Kaitlyn. “How a Fake Baby Is Born.” The Atlantic, 13 July 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20221118184833/https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/07/fake-pregnancy-celebrity-theories-benedict-cumberbacth-babygate/614089/. 

Tiffany, Kaitlyn. “Maybe You Missed It, but the Internet 'Died' Five Years Ago.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Aug. 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2021/08/dead-internet-theory-wrong-but-feels-true/619937/. 

Uzer, Ashley. “Avril Lavigne Is Still the Motherf*Cking (Pop-Punk) Princess.” Galore, 17 Jan. 2022, https://galoremag.com/avril-lavigne-is-still-the-motherfcking-pop-punk-princess//. 

Williams, Leah J. “Behind the Wild & Obviously True Internet Theory That Avril Lavigne Died in 2003.” Pedestrian TV, 16 July 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20211028111819/https://www.pedestrian.tv/music/avril-lavigne-dead-theory/. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Secret Space Program Conspiracy

 The Secret Space Program: The Wackiest, Most Outlandish Theory You'll Ever Hear




In this blog post, we discuss the multi-layered, fascinating conspiracy that is the Secret Space Program!  Today, we will dive into paranoia-based folklore about Nazi super soldiers, extra-terrestrial clones, and hidden government information about a military force on Mars.  Yet to fully explain this phenomenon, we must look into its origins and purpose.  After all, how could it have spread to such a large magnitude as it has?  Why does it matter that so many people are starting to believe in it in the first place?

To start, let's look at the beginning.  Why did this come about?  Who created it?  What is it about this otherworldly escapism that draws so many people into its cult?


Could the Nazis Get Any Weirder?

So, believe it or not, this conspiracy ties back to before World War II with the German Nazis! This theory starts during World War II, a time in which the government took a lot of authoritarian control over the economy and materials created in the country.  As their search for new technology and universal explanations grew, there became a deep-rooted fascination with mysticism.

The Fourth Reich separated from the Third Reich to go after such knowledge, looking for people to be believed of possessing "fantastical powers."  This is how they met Maria Orsic, leader of the Vril Society.  She was said to have been able to channel Nordic and Draco reptilians -- lizard people, so to speak -- who offered the Nazis information on anti-gravity technology and other alien secrets.  Subsequently, the Die Glocke was created not long after -- a purported weapon that supposedly could travel through time and space.


(pictured above is the Die Glocke)

Following this, the lore continues by the Nazis actually gaining access to space by 1948, where they used this technological advantage to land and create a settlement on the dark side of the moon.  Not long after, they ventured towards Mars.



Despite all this universal, otherworldly knowledge, the Germans still lost World War II.  (Hence the split of Reichs).  The "Space Germans," as the Fourth Reich has become known as, since got engaged in a war with the very reptilian aliens that had helped them before.  To fight this war, the Nazis needed an army to help them, and the tale is that they began kidnapping people to act as officials or slaves on Mars, and that they were forced to serve in this secret military program called the Mars Defense Force.  These people are called MILABS, or Military Abductees.

That leads us into the next section about what the Secret Space Program actually is.

So . . . What Is It?

What happened to all of these Soldiers?  What did they do in this "war" between space?

There's a YouTube channel named Super Soldier Talk where real-time interviews are given to people who believe themselves to have lived into this conspiracy and actually fought on Mars.  A lot of their stories are similar, varying per legion or rank.  Randy Cramer is one of them, and probably one of the most popular.  He claimed to have been abducted and forced to become a Super Soldier for seventeen years on Mars.  Cramer also claimed that Mars had developed into a population of over 7 billion with settlements and bases across planets, consisting of human and extra-terrestrial species as well.  He states, “I was genetically engineered from the ground up, tinkered with some extraterrestrial hybridized DNA to, you know, be smarter, faster, stronger for soldiering abilities.”


(pictured above is Randy Cramer)

His statement resonates with a lot of others, where they all believed to have been genetically manipulated into a species completely different.  Whether that be an eagle, turtle, blue wolf, or others, they were changed this way for spying purposes.  Then, they accused the government of wiping their memories and changing them back to their human forms so they would have no remembrance of ever being taken and used as militarized weapons.

While the Secret Space Program has grown well beyond its original premise, the core of the theory remains the same. As originally proposed by “whistleblower” Randy Cramer, the Secret Space Program is a joint effort by the major world powers to train and genetically enhance humans for military use on Mars. These super soldiers engage in conflicts with the insectoid and reptilian species of Mars, each with their own civilization and culture. The theory also claims that humanity has achieved far greater technological advancement than is publicly accessible, and that the Program uses de-aging, memory manipulation, and time travel to send soldiers back to Earth after they retire. The “whistleblowers” of the Program claim to recall their previously erased memories and past lives, revealing their former experiences with the Space Marines.

After Randy Cramer’s initial interviews, many more witnesses began to come forward with their own accounts of recalled Space Program memories. These witnesses had varying backgrounds, ranging from lower-middle-class Americans to Laura Magdalene Eisenhower, the granddaughter of former United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower. These witnesses eventually formed a community, which is now primarily centralized on forums and YouTube. The most prominent of these community outlets is the YouTube channel Super Soldier Talk, run by self-proclaimed former Space Marine James Rink. Rink’s channel hosts many witness accounts and interviews, and Rink himself has written multiple books discussing the Secret Space Program and its connection to other theories. 


(pictured above is James Rink)

With such a great emphasis on community accounts, the theory has bloated in scope and gained new facets, absorbed other theories, and even taken from fictional universes such as Star Trek and Resident Evil. This has created an environment in which witnesses pull from a broad variety of sources to create elaborate backstories and roles for themselves, in a similar vein to role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

How Conspiracies Stem, and the Allure of It All.

The Secret Space Program, like many conspiracies before, must begin with something and someone.  It has to be created for a reason, you know?  And the reality of this is that all conspiracies involve at least a kernel of truth before they get extrapolated into the wild, otherworldly tales they become.  Digging further, that little kernel must be rooted somewhere for it to be able to bloom into a greater ideology.  Most often, those roots find themselves reaching toward our own government.

Hugo Drochon, a political theorist, wrote for The Guardian, "We’re suckers for conspiracy theories – and it’s a sign of a deep social malaise."  Drochon goes on to explain that these conspiracies are born out of a “disenchantment with democracy.”  This means when a group of people become fed up with the government and the way things are being run, or the things that are happening, they create a false narrative to explain those wrongdoings of the government.  So then this creates a Malay of thought and descent from what is known.  People want a justification for everything, especially if it supports their own worldview.  From this, hidden discussions and secret organizations rise up on the belief that they are "rebelling" in astronomical ways.  They seek out others who share their beliefs or look to people who are gullible enough to be persuaded into it.



With all conspiracy theorists, there comes the allure of fitting in with a group of people who also do not fit in with regular life.  They feel like outcasts, and these bizarre theories are just desperate ways to connect.  When you feel tossed out by society, or when you feel like the environment you are in does not support the person you are, you seek out an environment that does.  You seek out any possible reason to spin it back on society and say "No, you are the one that is wrong."  Think of it like an emotional security blanket taken to the extreme.  Another author states in his work, “These forms and practices of conspiracies revel in powerlessness, seeking to recapture lost control through revelatory fantasies and role-playing carnivals that infuse a hip, pseudo-paranoia” with an enervating sense of fun” (Fenster 217).   What could possibly be more empowering than being a literal space marine in a past life?

In a study about how likely people are to believe conspiracy theories, Gary Marcus in “WHAT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST BELIEVES” commentates on this. There was an online study done to prove that people supporting “free market ideology” were less likely to support any array of conspiracy theory; moreover, on the contrary, people that did not support the idea of “free market ideology” were more likely to support the conspiracy theories. This was found through a survey rating the likelihood to believe on a scale of 1-4, the study consisted of about 1,000 responses. Marcus calls this phenomenon “‘motivated reasoning,’” which is when “people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them.” This goes to show confirmation bias on pre-existing beliefs that these people have, and how it affects any new information that they will take in and believe.

Like described in the column above, conspiracies thrive on the community that keeps it alive, especially in this new age of technology where chat rooms and websites are built to lure people in and create a sense of unity within them.  The Internet has helped bring the SSP into modern recognition.
For example, here attached is a YouTube account where they post video interviews about the Super Soldiers who were supposedly a part of the Secret Space Program, as well as a comment made under said video.






The second comment illustrates how this theory is so far-flung, a user could easily mistake it as a role playing exercise.  This theory, which is a verified “everything bagel” of conspiracies, throwing together everything under the sun, still has a large enough following for people to make a living off of it. The enduring popularity of the Secret Space Program theory has interesting implications for human psychology and belief in general. The documentarian Oki, in his video “How I infiltrated a Bizarre Conspiracy Cult” linked above, stated “What you believe becomes your own reality, no matter how ridiculous it is.” If people could be adherents to something so bizarre, they could believe in anything. Of course, the effect of seeing some belief as far-fetched is common among all conspiracy theories, but this theory is as far-out as possible, and yet it still holds a following! No matter how ridiculous an idea, if it is part of an appealing enough package and presented to the right person, somebody could believe in it. 



Works Cited


Drochon, Hugo. “We’re suckers for conspiracy theories – and it’s a sign of a deep social malaise.” The Guardian, November 2, 2017.

Fenster, Mark. Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 2008. 

“How I Became Space Jesus (w/ @okisweirdstories1327).” YouTube, uploaded by NightDocs, 11 Jan. 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyVeBELbtQQ&ab_channel=NightDocs.

“How I infiltrated a Bizarre Conspiracy Cult.” Youtube, uploaded by Oki’s Weird Stories, 30 Dec 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYvnKc908Fw



Marcus, Gary. “WHAT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST BELIEVES.” The New Yorker, April 10, 2013.

“Randy Cramer Discusses His Time in the Secret Space Program.” Gaia, 19 Dec. 2019, https://www.gaia.com/article/randy-cramer-mars-defense-force. 

“Super Soldier Talk – Dr. Dean Allen – Body Talker Biofeedback Device.” Youtube, uploaded by Super Soldier Talk, 5 Nov 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWTYYtviBXI

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Celebrity Conspiracies and Social Media

Celebrity Conspiracies and Social Media: 

How Social Media Lead to the Rise of Celebrity Conspiracy Theories


Conspiracy Theories and Media

Conspiracy theories are a prominent mode of communication for a society. Whether they are based on politics, religion, secret organizations, or specific events, conspiracies often reflect how people view their environment and the people in it. This can be seen in theories surrounding Covid 19, where people expressed fear and uncertainty through theories involving denial of the virus and government involvement in the release of the virus. The approach to a conspiracy theory can tell us more about society than the theory itself.


The best way to examine a society’s approach to a conspiracy is through media. Media allows for widespread communication, meaning a specific message or narrative can reach a multitude of people at once. Today, we interact most with social media. Social media differs from other forms of media in its speed and its outreach. With one click, an idea can be shared to millions of people around the globe instantaneously.


So, how does social media impact our approach to conspiracy theories? We can study this by looking at conspiracies through traditional media (tabloids and newspapers) and through electronic media (internet and social media).


Princess Diana’s Death

Princess Diana, the first wife of Prince Charles III, has been subject to an uncountable number of conspiracies since her death in 1997. While many of these theories revolve around the possibility of foul play, some go as far as to believe she never died, and actually ran away to some far flung country. However, the specifics of each theorist’s perspective on the matter is not as important as the origin of the myth. 


According to History, Diana was having a normal evening with her romantic partner Al-Fayed when paparazzi harassment caused them to leave early. Henri Paul, their driver, drove quickly to avoid the paparazzi and crashed into a pillar of the Pont d’Alma Bridge. Paul and Al-Fayed died instantly, and Diana passed later due to complications. Paul was proven to be drunk at the time of the crash, causing the courts to rule that both Paul and the aggressive paparazzi were at fault for the accident. 


TIME Magazine claims that the court’s ruling led to a decline in tabloid sales, and that “43% of the U.K. public” blamed paparazzi photographers for Diana’s death. The United Kingdom would later create laws that would block paparazzi from acting so extremely, such as altering the Press Complaints Commitment to include barring photographs of the famous when on private property. 


After these laws were passed, the journals that had relied on the shady paparazzi tactics were forced to change their style. The Sun, a tabloid that was known for celebrity gossip, was noted by Britannica as having shifted to “faked news stories of aliens and supernatural powers, religious prophecies, curious mysteries, juicy scandals, and political conspiracies” by the 2010’s.



By examining the world’s reaction to Diana’s death, we find that conspiracies were created and spread through traditional media. Though it started as an attempt to keep tabloid sales on the rise, this narrative of deceit spread throughout the world and left many people convinced that the fatal accident was no accident at all. Many news sources still use this tactic to generate revenue and hold our interest, encouraging paranoid thoughts and obsessive tendencies.


The narratives pushed by traditional media are still alive in social media. People use sites like Instagram and TikTok to discuss old theories, spread new theories, and to study Diana’s life as a royal. Social media offers us something that traditional media cannot: two-way communication. We are free to share whatever to whomever within seconds, and can use other posts to support our own stories. There are many factors that impact the relationship between conspiracy theories and social media, and they can be further studied through psychology.



@theseshpodcast A lot of suspicious parts to this case! Part 2 on our page!ūüė≥ #fyp #podcast #conspiracytheories #princessdiana ♬ Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano songs - Skittlegirl Sound

https://www.tiktok.com/@theseshpodcast/video/7114453417745091886


Cognitive Shortcuts and Proportionality Biases

Dr. Daniel Jolley, a psychology lecturer at Staffordshire University, believes that the fast-paced nature of social media encourages new developments within the brain. He explains this in an online article from VICE, a Canadian-American magazine. “We have many different demands, so our brain has developed cognitive shortcuts. This allows us to respond quickly…” These shortcuts give our brains a way to efficiently process the constant flow of new information received by social media. 


Unfortunately, cognitive shortcuts often lead us down the wrong path. Cognitive shortcuts can morph into cognitive biases, which cause our brains to make quick assumptions based on past experiences or preferred ideas. Dr. Jolley describes a specific kind of cognitive bias called proportionality bias. “This is where we believe a significantly large event must be explained by something equally as large.” Dr. Jolley believes this bias is a direct aspect of our interest in celebrities. “With celebrities, they are naturally going to spark attention because they are well-known people, who people may be likely to make proportionality bias connections with.”


Proportionality bias plays a large role in the development and the spread of conspiracies surrounding Diana’s death. She was loved by millions, making it harder to accept that her death was simply an accident. While social media is not to blame for the creation of this specific bias, it is the main contributor in keeping the bias alive and growing. When combined with other aspects of social media, proportionality bias becomes a force that cannot be ignored.


Access to “Evidence”

Some theories are based less on brain functions and more on intention. The internet provides access to all types of information through social media and search engines like google. This allows people to find “evidence” for any theory, whether it be through hours of studying photographs or reading articles fitting the preferred narrative. Julia, a conspiracy enthusiast, tells VICE magazine, “…lots of evidence makes me love a theory more- particularly pictorial and video, as it makes it seem so much more convincing.” This limitless pool of information causes more outlandish theories to develop, and the more outlandish a theory, the more it will spread. This can be seen in a newer conspiracy theory developed by the Transvestigators.


The Transvestigators

The transvestigators are a group who believes a majority of public figures and many of those around them are secretly transgender. It is often tied into spirituality, with claims that this group of “inverts” have made deals with Baphomet and sacrifice children to gain influence. These groups frequently have infighting, with one group going so far as to accuse the head moderator of being trans before removing her from the group.

Transphobic meme “fact checked” by a member of the Facebook group


Michelle Obama was the origin of this group’s campaign, with many asserting that she was transgender based on awkwardly taken photos of her. This specific theory had become large enough that the North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson posted on his Facebook in 2017 , “[I’ll] be glad when he takes his boyfriend and leaves the White House”. This Facebook post was later shared by State Senator Jeff Jackson in 2020.


This conspiracy theory is rather fringe and spreads almost exclusively via the internet. YouTube videos are used as a means of onboarding people to the theory using a “scientific approach”, which involves looking at vaguely gendered traits to determine the person’s birth sex. This often ends up with the transvestigator simply making fun of the person’s appearance for being more masculine or feminine than the person “should be”. There is some Twitter presence, but the largest groups of transvestigators congregate in Facebook groups. Here, the “analysis” can be as simple as a gut feeling or claiming to see it in their eyes.


This group has some overlap with other contemporary far-right conspiracy theories, such as the large amounts of bigotry in the groups. However, they do not align with these groups politically. These groups see almost all influential public figures in history as transgender people, including mainstream Republican politicians such as Donald Trump, who are usually the heroes in other far-right conspiracy theories. More dedicated members of the groups come to see almost everyone around them as secretly trans, going so far as to post images of strangers in public. As increasingly far-fetched accusations are gradually accepted, some people struggle with their brains making connections that are not there.


A nearly 4 hour long compilation made by a group member


As a footnote, as with most gender norm enforcing in society, this group targets women, especially women of color, much more frequently than it does men. 


YouTube video essayist Mia Mulder goes into much more detail and gives her own personal views on the driving force behind this groups’ behaviors. If you have an hour to kill, I recommend it.

Transvestigation: The Conspiracy Theory That Everyone Is Transgender | Mia Mulder


Our Need for More

Proportionality biases and unlimited access to “evidence” work together in creating our need for more. This refers to our need in finding an interesting story where one does not exist. Julia discusses this need with VICE, claiming, “It also helps if the celebrity is seemingly a ‘normal’ celebrity who doesn't have crazy stories attached to them already…”. Chloe, another enthusiast, describes her own interest in celebrity theories through curiosity. “A lot of these celebs are so private and guarded about their personal lives…it’s only natural you’d want to fill in the gaps with your own imagination.”


Dr. Jolley explains that our interest in celebrity theories and our need for more relates to a feeling of individualism and specialness. “Feeling like you have unique knowledge that sets you apart from others can be something that is appealing for some people.” When a wild story about a ‘normal’ or private celebrity comes to the surface, it fulfills our need for more. This need can be seen in theories surrounding Keanu Reeves, a popular actor who lives a typically quiet life.


The Immortality of Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves, known for his role in the Matrix, puzzles people with his youthful appearance, despite his claim of being 58 years old. Reeves looks almost the same as he did in the 1990s, with the exception of a different haircut. Many have questioned Reeves’ peculiar timeline, wondering what he has done to retain his boyish looks. A popular theory developed by the elusive Davide, who created the original blog post on this theory, claims that Keanu Reeves is immortal and has lived for hundreds of years under many names, some of which we know as very famous historical figures.


This theory claims that Reeves first popped up as Charlemagne, the first Roman emperor, from 748-814 A.D. Charlemagne’s questionable act of crowning his son just before his ‘death’ and his rushed burial during cold weather lead to the belief that he planned to disappear in order to start over under a new name. The most popular figure believed to be an alias of Keanu Reeves, and the first resemblance discovered, is French actor Paul Monet. Monet’s alleged ‘death’ in 1922 is heavily scrutinized, as his body mysteriously disappeared and was never found. Monet bears a prominent resemblance to Keanu Reeves, one that the actor himself acknowledges in an interview with Jimmy Fallon. Reeves noticeably never denies the possibility that he is an immortal, saying that “We’re all stardust, baby!”


Many see Reeves’ avoidance of a denial to his possible immortality as proof that there may be some truth to this theory. Davide says in an interview with Vulture that he created his blog post for some lighthearted fun and to make people laugh, but it quickly spiraled out of control as more people began to make their own connections to other historical figures. Davide continues, saying that he received emails from dozens of believers, some telling him to “stay safe” as he uncovered the secrets of the ‘true gods’ and that ‘the immortal race of the angels’ would come after him if he continued to look into the possibility of immortality. Davide’s official stance is that he believes Keanu Reeves is immortal and that he wants to keep the theory alive, but he doesn’t claim some of the more extreme believers and fans.


This conspiracy theory has grown and become more widespread as the years have passed. One blog post that started out as lighthearted fun has spiraled into a theory that some believe has inklings of truth behind it. This theory has been passed around on several other social media sites, such as Tumblr and Twitter, allowing for more people to create false speculation around Keanu Reeves. Thankfully, this conspiracy theory has not been very harmful to Reeves’ image, as he continues to prove himself to be a caring, generous guy with his repeated donations to charity and considerate treatment of others on set.



Social Media and Us

Social media plays a large role in the rise and/or development of each theory listed above. By creating new brain functions and giving unlimited access to information, social media has built a bridge connecting us (average folk) to celebrities. Unfortunately, this bridge is built on false assumptions and obsessive tendencies, which can be harmful. According to Dr. Jolley, “…conspiracy theories can actually increase mistrust, uncertainty and powerlessness - if people have conspired about this event, could they have conspired about other events? …This can not only impact the individual, but wider society.”


So, how do we protect ourselves and our society from these harmful behaviors? The most important thing to do is to remain aware. Acknowledge your brain’s instinctive behaviors, and remember that other people’s brains have similar functions. Learn to differentiate between true information and narratives born of a need for more. Think about what you share on social media, and who you are sharing it to. Indulging in an interesting conspiracy theory is relatively harmless, just remember to separate fiction from reality.



Works Cited

Alter, Rebecca. “Is Keanu Reeves Immortal? We Asked the Only Expert.” Vulture, Vulture, 2 Sept. 2020, www.vulture.com/2020/09/is-keanu-reeves-immortal-we-asked-the-only-expert.html.

Davide. Keanu Reeves Is Immortal, www.keanuisimmortal.com/.  

Degent, Jimmy. "Transvestigation Disclosure NOW 3.0 - FREE FROM INANNA'S CENSORSHIP." 8 April 2022. Facebook. 10 November 2022. <https://www.facebook.com/groups/526303955514738>.

History.com Editors. “Princess Diana's Death.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 3 Aug. 2017, https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/princess-dianas-death. 

Hunt, El. “Why Do Our Brains Love Celebrity Conspiracy Theories?” i-D.vice.com, Vice Media Group, 11 Sept. 2018, i-d.vice.com/en/article/gy7bbq/celebrity-conspiracy-theories-taylor-avril. 

Gossel, Daniel. “Tabloid Journalism.” Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc., 23 Feb. 2017, https://www.britannica.com/topic/tabloid-journalism. 

“Keanu Reeves Almost Changed His Name to Chuck Spadina.” YouTube, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, 24 June 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkUVRGCidjE.  

Klee, Miles. "UNHINGED ‘TRANSVESTIGATORS’ THINK THEY’RE THE ONLY CIS PEOPLE LEFT." 18 July 2022. MEL Magezine. 10 November 2022. <https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/transvestigator-celebrity-conspiracy-theories>.

Mikkelsen, Emily. "What are ‘transvestigators?’ Conspiracy alleges numerous celebrities, politicians secretly transgender." 29 August 2022. Fox8. 10 November 2022. <https://myfox8.com/news/what-are-transvestigators/>.

Mulder, Mia. "Transvestigation: The Conspiracy Theory That Everyone Is Transgender | Mia Mulder." 16 September 2022. Youtube. 10 November 2022. <https://youtu.be/QH5-MDXzfmg>.

Samuelson, Kate. “How Princess Diana's Death Changed the British Media.” Time, Time, 27 Aug. 2017, https://time.com/4914324/princess-diana-anniversary-paparazzi-tabloid-media/. 

“Transvestigation in Hollywood.” OverDrive, www.overdrive.com/media/4940369/transvestigation-in-hollywood. 


Velocci, Carli. “Keanu Reeves Addresses Those Immortality Rumors (Video).” TheWrap, The Wrap, 24 June 2017, www.thewrap.com/keanu-reeves-immortality-rumors-jimmy-fallon