The chemtrail conspiracy theory is the erroneous belief that long-lasting condensation trails are "chemtrails" consisting of chemical or biological agents left in the sky by high-flying aircraft, sprayed for nefarious purposes undisclosed to the general public. Believers in this conspiracy theory say that while normal contrails dissipate relatively quickly, contrails that linger must contain additional substances. Those who subscribe to the theory speculate that the purpose of the chemical release may be solar radiation management, weather modification, psychological manipulation, human population control, biological or chemical warfare, or testing of biological or chemical agents on a population, and that the trails are causing respiratory illnesses and other health problems.
The claim has been dismissed by the scientific community. There is no evidence that purported chemtrails differ from normal water-based contrails routinely left by high-flying aircraft under certain atmospheric conditions. Although proponents have tried to prove that chemical spraying occurs, their analyses have been flawed or based on misconceptions. Because of the persistence of the conspiracy theory and questions about government involvement, scientists and government agencies around the world have repeatedly explained that the supposed chemtrails are in fact normal contrails.
Chemtrail conspiracy theories began to circulate after the United States Air Force (USAF) published a 1996 report about weather modification. Following the report, in the late 1990s the USAF was accused of "spraying the U.S. population with mysterious substances" from aircraft "generating unusual contrail patterns." The theories were posted on Internet forums by people including Richard Finke and William Thomas and were among many conspiracy theories popularized by late-night radio host Art Bell, starting in 1999. As the chemtrail conspiracy theory spread, federal officials were flooded with angry calls and letters.
In the early 2000s the USAF released an undated fact sheet that stated the conspiracy theories were a hoax fueled in part by citations to a 1996 strategy paper drafted within their Air University titled Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025. The paper was presented in response to a military directive to outline a future strategic weather modification system for the purpose of maintaining the United States' military dominance in the year 2025, and identified as "fictional representations of future situations/scenarios." The USAF further clarified in 2005 that the paper "does not reflect current military policy, practice, or capability", and that it is "not conducting any weather modification experiments or programs and has no plans to do so in the future." Additionally, the USAF states that the "'chemtrail' hoax has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organizations, and major media publications."
The conspiracy theories are seldom covered by the mainstream media, and when they are, they are usually cast as an example of anti-government paranoia. For example, in 2013, when it was made public that the CIA, NASA, and NOAA intended to provide funds to the National Academy of Sciences to conduct research into methods to counteract global warming with geoengineering, an article in the International Business Times anticipated that "the idea of any government agency looking at ways to control, or manipulate, the weather will be met with scrutiny and fears of a malign conspiracies" [sic], and mentioned chemtrail conspiracy theories as an example.
Proponents of the chemtrail conspiracy theory find support for their theories in their interpretations of sky phenomena, videos posted to the Internet, and reports about government programs; they also have certain beliefs about the goals of the alleged conspiracy and the effects of its alleged efforts and generally take certain actions based on those beliefs.
Proponents characterize contrails as streams that persist for hours and that, with their criss-cross, grid-like, or parallel stripe patterns, eventually blend to form large clouds. Proponents view the presence of visible color spectra in the streams, unusual concentrations of sky tracks in a single area, or lingering tracks left by unmarked or military airplanes flying atypical altitudes or locations as markers of chemtrails.
In October 2014, Englishman Chris Bovey filmed a video of a plane jettisoning fuel on a flight from Buenos Aires to London, which had to dump fuel to lighten its load for an emergency landing in São Paulo. The clip went viral on Facebook, with over three million views and more than 52,000 shares, cited as evidence of chemtrails. He later disclosed that the video post was done as a prank, and consequently, he was subjected to some vitriolic abuse and threats from several conspiracy believers.
Various versions of the chemtrail conspiracy theory have been propagated via the Internet and radio programs. There are websites dedicated to the conspiracy theory, and it is particularly favored by far-right groups because it fits well with a deep suspicion of the government.
A 2014 review of 20 chemtrail websites found that believers appeal to science in some of their arguments but do not believe what academic or government-employed scientists say; scientists and federal agencies have consistently denied that chemtrails exist, explaining the sky tracks are simply persistent contrails. The review also found that believers generally hold that chemtrails are evidence of a global conspiracy; they allege various goals which include profit (for example, manipulating futures prices, or making people sick to benefit drug companies), population control, or weapons testing (use of weather as a weapon, or testing bioweapons). One of these ideas is that clouds are being seeded with electrically conductive materials as part of a massive electromagnetic superweapons program based around the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Believers say chemtrails are toxic; the 2014 review found that they generally hold that every person is under attack and often express fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger about this. A 2011 study of people from the US, Canada, and the UK found that 2.6% of the sample believed entirely in the conspiracy theory, and 14% believed it partially. An analysis of responses given to the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study showed that 9% of the 36,000 respondents believed it was "completely true" that "...the government has a secret program that uses airplanes to put harmful chemicals into the air..." while a further 19% believed this was "somewhat true".
Chemtrail conspiracy theorists often describe their experience as being akin to a religious conversion experience. When they "wake up" and become "aware" of chemtrails, the experience motivates them to advocacy of various forms. For example, they often attend events and conferences on geoengineering, and have sent threats to academics working in the geoengineering field.
Patrick Minnis, an atmospheric scientist with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, has said that logic does not dissuade most chemtrail proponents: "If you try to pin these people down and refute things, it's, 'Well, you're just part of the conspiracy'", he said.
Astronomer Bob Berman has characterized the chemtrail conspiracy theory as a classic example of failure to apply Occam's razor, writing in 2009 that instead of adopting the long-established "simple solution" that the trails consist of frozen water vapour, "the conspiracy web sites think the phenomenon started only a decade ago and involves an evil scheme in which 40,000 commercial pilots and air traffic controllers are in on the plot to poison their own children."
Prodigy, the Mobb Deep rapper currently taking advantage of his incarceration to hone his blogging skills, is concerned about quite a few things: ritualistic murders, the 9/11 conspiracy, secret societies, missing children, and "NATURAL ENERGY LINES THAT CRISS-CROSS THE ENTIRE PLANET." How do these things all tie together? Allow Prodigy explain at length [Vibe], like a man with plenty of time to type and type and type and go crazier and crazier and crazier:
For years, Trump and his team have been advancing conspiracy theories along these lines. As each successive version is debunked, the argument gets continually reshaped, each version more outlandish than the prior one. It first began with Steele and claiming he duped the FBI into opening an investigation. Then it shifted the blame to a cabal of senior FBI agents surrounding then-FBI Director Comey who opposed Trump and conspired to open an investigation into him to damage his campaign. After that, the idea was that that then-CIA Director John Brennan personally orchestrated the investigation in an effort to get Clinton elected so that he could keep his job.
Scientists have tested and used cloud and atmospheric seeding for weather modification and considered them as ways to slow global warming. With so many unknowns and possible unintended consequences, these practices have the potential to cause harm. But the chemtrails conspiracy theory is much broader, positing that military and commercial airlines are involved in constant massive daily spraying that is harming the physical and mental health of citizens worldwide.
Convictions for conspiracy, false statement during the purchase of a firearm, and dealing firearms without a license, are each punishable by a maximum fine of $250,000, a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, or both, and a term of supervised release of three years.
Even before details were known about the shooter who killed 19 children and two school faculty at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, fringe media were awash in rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation. 2b1af7f3a8