Apocalyptic graphics, bristle with audaciously punctuated headlines urging you towards reams of densely argued revelation. They are often about things that we have all heard about like; 9/11 was an inside job; the world is secretly controlled by the Bilderberg group, global corporate dictatorship is imminent, and so on. Winston Churchill said: "Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."
Jim Corr, Irish Rock Star has a web site which conforms to all of these tropes, but differs from all its seething peers in one key respect. It is not the work of some lonely, tinfoil-hatted denizen of his parents' basement, but of a multimillionaire rock star. It is jimcorr.com, the online presence of Jim Corr, guitarist with the Irish soft-rock band the Corrs. Corrpanoramic thesis, is a "truther": that is, a person whose worldview is largely rooted in the belief that the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 were a stunt contrived by the US government to excuse the subsequent Middle East wars. Rock has always been fertile ground for the sowing and growing of such myths, and little wonder: the field is disproportionately populated by people who are over endowed with spare time, money, hallucinogenic drugs and delusions of grandeur, and/or correspondingly underequipped with common sense. Conspiracy theories flourish at all levels of the music industry, from the journeyman plodder whimpering that his decades of obscurity are due not to his manifest uselessness but to some backroom industry stitch-up, to the aggrieved music press reader accusing rock journalists of building a band up just to knock them down, to the successful, but dimwitted pseudo-sage megastar earnestly pronouncing on the vast range of subjects about which he knows nothing.
Chuck D of Public Enemy has claimed both in song (Race Against Time) and on stage (more than once) that the World Health Organization is, in fact, engaged in the propagation of racially targeted biological warfare. This was, granted, a while ago now, and Chuck's sporadic blog on Public Enemy's website is generally more sensible, but just as excitable conspiracy-mongers in days of yore used to send journalists interminable letters in green ink, so Chuck's website adheres to the equivalent contemporary trope of publishing in white writing on a black background for maximum eye-strain.
Possibly as a consequence of Public Enemy's incalculable influence, hip-hop has appeared all but determined to corner the market in conspiracy theorising. One Public Enemy old boy is especially prolific in this regard. The Grammy-winning rapper Prodigy, of Mobb Deep, recently released from prison, is another sworn enemy of the Illuminati, and another who believes Jay-Z is among their number. Canibus once upped the ante still further, setting out his stall on his 1998 debut Can-I-Bus with the track Channel Zero, which appeared to suggest that almost all the conspiracies along the wilder shores of popular culture – alien abductions, Freemasonry, cattle mutilations, DNA testing, Bible codes – are themselves united in some sort of overarching super conspiracy. There are few beliefs so daft that a musician won't espouse them, even the people old enough to know better. Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, according to Andrew Smith's book Moondust, is a Moon landings sceptic ("I never really believed they went, to be honest with you"). Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac has expressed approval of the wittering of David Icke ("I find that sort of stuff really interesting," he told Word magazine in 2004, before speculating perplexing on the number of US presidents who may have been Freemasons). Megadeth's Dave Mustaine told American radio host Alex Jones in 2009 of his apprehension to an imminent one world government, and his plans to escape it by moving to Canada. All of which is a necessarily incomplete survey, and all of which also neglects the rich heritage of conspiracy theories that flourish about rock, pop and hip-hop, as opposed to within it. Many of these are as much staples of conspiracy thought as the assassination of John F Kennedy – the notions that Elvis Presley faked his death, that Kurt Cobain was murdered, that John Lennon was whacked by the FBI/CIA/Freemasons, that Paul McCartney was disposed of and replaced with an impostor by the rest of the Beatles, who then – for unexplored reasons – embedded their album covers with clues to their crime, that the iconography flaunted by Kiss contained hints of allegiance to Satan and/or Adolf Hitler (the latter accusation, especially, must have bemused Kiss's substantially Jewish lineup). Hip-hop has also contributed in this regard: various baroque theories circulate the deaths of Tupac Shakur, Eazy-E and Biggie Smalls. Above and beyond even these state of rarefied paranoia, there are those who have insisted that pretty much all modern popular culture is itself a conspiracy theory, intended to (depending on your predisposition) subvert public morality.