How Conspiracy Theories Begin

This story from Boing Boing, about a CIA gambit to obtain Osama Bin Laden’s children’s DNA via a fake vaccination campaign, is enough to break your heart. And it hammers home an important message: that the most intractable conspiracy theories are premised on a simulacrum of truth.

This is bad. Very bad, from a public health perspective. The New York Times story linked above doesn’t really get into the implications the CIA’s (failed) venture will have for real vaccination campaigns, but Maryn McKenna does a great job of explaining the issues at her Wired blog: “It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm.”

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