Mark Zuckerberg is an alien, and other wild conspiracy theories from 2019
Depending on where you get your news (and who’s in your forward-friendly WhatsApp groups) you’ve probably heard some kind of conspiracy theory this year. New Yorkers love the notion of reptiles living in the sewers. Nerds cling to the hope that aliens have already visited. Some Reddit users are convinced that the Earth is flat.
While fake news and misrepresented facts can cause serious harm, some theories are so outlandish, you can only laugh. Here are some of the craziest conspiracy theories of 2019.
Mark Zuckerberg is an alien, or a robot
When the CEO of Facebook had to go before US Congress to testify about the social media platform’s possible role in Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election, Mark Zuckerberg looked… well, more unusual than usual. At certain angles, his eyes looked widened, bulging and vacant. Rumours began doing the rounds that he wore contact lenses to hide yellow ‘lizard’ pupils. It was a short walk from there to… Is Mark Zuckerberg an alien here to destroy the planet (or at least democracy; the rest will supposedly follow)? At the very least, the onliners said, he must be a bot, judging by the blank, surprised look on his face throughout the hearing.
Greta Thunberg is a time-travelling messiah / An Australian actress
In November, someone shared a picture from 1898 online. It showed three children at a gold mine and one of them looked remarkably like the 16-year-old environment activist Greta Thunberg. Theories quickly began circulating that Thunberg was a time-traveller, here to save us. It didn’t help that, amid questions over whether the image was digitally manipulated, the University of Washington clarified through a blog post that it was an original from their archives!
Before that, in September, climate change deniers tried to float the idea that Thunberg was actually a fictional character being played by an Australian child actress named Estella Renee. She’s being paid, they argued, to act out protests against an invented crisis. What have these guys been smoking… and does it harm the planet further?
Keanu Reeves is a vampire
With John Wick: Chapter 3 came a surge of theories about Keanu Reeve’s alleged immortality. The actor shows few visible signs of ageing, so it’s been a joke for a couple of years. This time, though, there were ‘serious’ discussions between fans convinced that he’s a kind, generous vampire. A website, keanuisimmortal.com, traces Reeves’ supposed identities over the centuries and features a picture of him “from the future”. That last bit just says it all, though, doesn’t it?
Meghan Markle used a surrogate and faked her bump
The royal family celebrated the birth of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s firstborn, Archie, in May. Some, however, claimed that the Duchess of Sussex faked her pregnancy. They used the hashtag #moonbump on social media (Moonbump is a British company that sells fake pregnancy bumps). Brandwatch, a social intelligence company, found that 16% of online discourse about Markle’s pregnancy referred to it being fake.
The Melania Trump you see is a body double
When the US President and his wife visited Alabama in March, following a tornado strike, the hashtag #FakeMelania began trending, based on a video that showed the first lady, in sunglasses and a jacket, standing unusually stiff and quiet, even for her, next to the President. Word was it was a body double, as FLOTUS doesn’t like appearing in public. Again, it didn’t help that the Donald actually dignified the claims with a response. “The Fake News photoshopped pictures of Melania, then propelled conspiracy theories that it’s actually not her by my side in Alabama and other places. They are only getting more deranged with time!” he tweeted.