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How to Evaluate a Conspiracy Theory Video

Written by Gary North on February 27, 2013

Here is a fundamental rule by which you can judge every conspiracy theory. If there is only a video, it is not worth trusting.

Videos are powerful in their ability to convey ideas rapidly. The script writer has a tremendous advantage over the viewer. He can pick and choose from his film clips, and then he can add narrative. Because the viewer is not in a position to verify the quality of the sources, he is much more likely to accept the theory proposed by the script writer and the artistic specialist who conveys the message of the script by visual and audio images.

I suppose the best example of this is Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK. It is disjointed. It offers little evidence. You cannot be certain what part of it is true and what is not. It has sections of the movie resting on dialogue. There is no way to know if any of the dialogue is accurate. In short, I would not trust that movie under any circumstances.

If the video is accompanied by a carefully annotated script, with footnotes for every aspect of the script, I might pay attention. If I could verify everything in the script, and then if I could verify the documents verifying everything in the script, I would give a video careful consideration. But without my ability as an historian to verify everything proposed in the movie, and without my ability to verify the accuracy of the documentation, I would not trust the video. I would not tell anybody that he ought to see the video. I would not promote the video. I might spend the time to verify it personally. I might do the groundwork necessary to do it. But I would not promote the video unless the video had a very narrow task, namely, to show that whatever is said by official experts not to have happened, did in fact happen.

A video that shows that something happened, when the official position is that it did not happen, is a worthwhile tool. This is because of the old rule: a single positive refutes a universal negative. In other words, a visual image that was not doctored that shows that something took place is a way of calling into question any official theory that something could not have taken place and did not take place. For that kind of conspiracy video, I have no strong objection. But there would have to be verification of the reliability of the video image. It is possible in the world of Photoshop to doctor an image.


A video exposé should begin, not with the script, but with a theory of historical cause and effect. This theory must then be supported by a carefully crafted book or website. Then the video producer hires someone to produce a script. The script should come in two forms. One is used for the production of the video. The other is for confirmation by specialists. It is released as a PDF. The video has to have back-up support from verifiable, publicly accessible documents. The critics of the video should not be able to tear it apart. It is easy enough to tear apart a footnoted book. It is extremely simple to tear apart a video, if the video proposes a theory of how a particular event took place. The plausibility of the theory is the heart of conspiracy theory. The visual images and the script are not the heart of it. The script and the images are used to verify the theory. The theory must be written. It must be footnoted. In the footnotes there must be analyses of why crucial documents are reliable, and why attacks on it are unreliable.

Historical training is basic to the construction of a conspiracy theory. If the conspiracy book is the first effort of the individual, it had better be a tremendous book. It had better have taken years of research, and the person who did the research had better have an instinctive grasp of what constitutes valid historical evidence. This usually takes years of training in graduate school. There are some exceptions, but those exceptions invariably involve years of self-training, and then years of investigating a particular problem.


Then why produce a conspiracy video? There is only one good reason: to promote the book. Any other reason has to do with moneymaking or ego-inflating. The video may be to excite people. It may be a good tool to get a mailing list. It may be to impress your peers. All of this is irrelevant unless the video is used to promote the book, or at least a comprehensive website that functions as a documented book. The video’s task is to get the idea across to people that something is rotten in the Establishment’s Denmark. The video gets the idea across in a rapid way, and presumably in an aesthetically effective way. In other words, the video is mostly rhetoric, but very little logic. It is not a substitute for footnotes. It is not a substitute for an annotated bibliography. It is not a substitute for appendixes showing why the key documents are reliable, and why attacks on the key documents are not reliable. The video is not a substitute for professional historical research.

Any time someone tells you to watch a video, and who does not also tell you where to buy the printed documentation, or where to go online to find PDFs of original documents, is wasting your time. I cannot stress this more heavily. A stand-alone conspiracy video is not worth your time. It does not possess the support necessary to believe it.

If a video stands alone, the producer expects the true believers to send links to all their friends. But the true believer cannot articulate why the video is true. If he does not understand the use of documentation, if he does not understand the use of historical narrative, if he does not understand the rough-and-tumble world of historiography, then he is incapable of defending whatever the theory of the video is. If you cannot defend the video, point by point, document by document, do not send out links to the video. Again, I am referring to a video that is only a video.

(To read the rest of my article, click the link.)

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5 thoughts on “How to Evaluate a Conspiracy Theory Video

  1. Very Upset says:

    Thanks for the warning. I watched Lindsey Williams promote his book about peak oil and Gull Island? and I think it fits your criteria, but I am not a history professional or even a history buff. It seems plausible, and all, but how is one to know? In short, how is a non-professional to really know if something is TRUE? I think the rational person has to hold a lot of theories in suspense while additional information becomes available. Still, it seems to me, certail leaders in high position are crminals, con-men and out and out crooks and they need to defend their unseemly behavior and be prosecuted for their apparent disregard for law.

  2. Ron Willison says:

    Gary. There is wisdom in what you say. I'm 65 and have a good working memory still. Where the rub comes in on the precision for validation on a video produced for the purpose of identifying or exposing an injustice or crime,. is this new animal out there called "Revisionist History"

    I have paid close attention to world events from an early age. That began the day JFK was murdered. And I have to tell you my friend. What is being erased from History by ruthless people with an agenda. Raises the hair up on the back of my neck. What is NOT being taught in our school systems, is even more alarming. Ok so I've just made statements based on my historical memory banks. The validity of those statements can be validated by asking every person you know or their offspring that are under the age of thirty, a couple of questions.

    One. What were you taught if anything about the "Balfour Declaration or the Hussein McMahon Letters"
    Two Who were the people involved and biggest proponents of the creation of the U.N.?
    Three. Loaded question. Who were the people that derailed the hope and promise America offered the world at large, as envisioned by the framers of our constitution in 1913, when they executed and foisted the deception and Trojan Horse called The Federal Reserve Central Banking Act.
    Four. Was the creation and establishment of the I.R.S in that same year constitutional?

    Looking forward to your response. R.W.

  3. @ Very Upset: "I think the rational person has to hold a lot of theories in suspense while additional information becomes available"

    Here is that additional information for you…:

    Any time someone says "We are running out of XYZ…" you are 99.9% guaranteed of a conspiracy to increase your taxes and reduce your freedom.

  4. I was a brainwashed Republican 'conservative,' and 'knew' not to trust anything from Oliver Stone, such as JFK.

    I awakened in '04. Ultimately, I went to evaluate the JFK conspiracy theories.

    I read 'JFK and The Unspeakable.' I read 'Family of Secrets' on the Bushes. I read columns at Veteran's Today, that evidence participation by GHWB.

    'JFK' is based on a book by the New Orleans D.A. who investigated the assassination. The movie was excellent, and tied in many regards to 'JFK and The Unspeakable,' which I think is an unimpeachable, immaculately documented work.

    The movie 'JFK' is most worthwhile.

  5. Ron Willison says:

    Very Upset.From personal experience I can tell you that Lindsey William's is real good at making mountains out of molehill's. Back during the BP Gulf Oil disaster. He did the Radio/ Internet talk show circuit and and had unwitting people scared out of their minds. The last eight years of my working career I spent in the Oil Gas and geothermal field as a Well completion services tech. A heart attack had me sidelined with nothing to do but pay really close attention to what transpired in the Gulf. Two weeks after the rig sank I was so angry at the way BP was managing that mess, That I made and uploaded a youtube video. I basically Let BP and company have both barrels. I mention all this only to give you a heads up an just about any fear selling campaign you hear coming from Mr. Lindsey. Should you be interested in how vetting what I have said. This is how and what it took to get BP and clowns motivated to shut in that well as should have been done in less than 2 weeks from the moment that rig sank. Here is the link.