The most outlandish conspiracy theories that made headlines this decade

Propagated by social media, conspiracy theories - long relegated to fringe parts of the internet - went mainstream in the 2010s. 

News organisations - their business models now founded on clicks - increasingly gave up their traditional gatekeeper role, giving airtime to bizarre claims that make some of the JFK assassination conspiracies sound sane. 

Here are 10 of the biggest that made headlines this decade. 

MH370 disappeared - so where did it go?
MH370 disappeared - so where did it go? Photo credit: Reuters

The disappearance of MH370

The decade began with the final season of plane disappearance mystery Lost, so when a jumbo jet vanished off the face of the Earth for real just a few years later, the comparisons were obvious.

But nearly six years later there's still no confirmed explanation of what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

The theories include:

Ancient - really, really ancient - Egyptians in Antarctica. Oh, and Nazis

In 2016 aerial photographs of the icy southern continent appeared to show pyramids peeking out from the snow

It sounds like a plot from Stargate - ridiculous enough already - but then some on the internet claimed they were built 100 million years ago.

It turned out they were just part of the Ellsworth Mountains. At least, that's what they want us to believe.

As for the Nazis, there have long been rumours they managed to set up a base in the what is undoubtedly the whitest place on Earth. That turned out to be about as true as anything else the Nazis claimed.

How the Earth really looks... according to some people.
How the Earth really looks... according to some people. Photo credit: Getty

The Earth is flat

One of the stranger phenomenons of the past decade has been the reemergence of the flat Earth theory. 

Believers claim Antarctica - that place with the 100 million-year-old pyramids which Newshub reporters have really been to - is actually a giant wall of ice surrounding a massive disc.

"I'd say the Earth is pretty much flat," Hamilton man Pat Balemi told The Project in 2018. "You know some people say [the Earth is] concave, some say it's convex, [and] some say it's hollow. The undeniable truth is that it's not a sphere; it doesn't stand up to scientific rigor."

That same year, Netflix documentary Behind the Curve followed a few believers and their attempts to prove 'globe Earth' is a lie, only to accidentally prove otherwise. 

Undeterred, flat-Earthers from around the globe flew to New Zealand in April for a conference.

"I mean, you don't feel like you're spinning 1600km an hour, do you?" organiser Adrienne Morrison told Newshub.

Science continues to work against them, however, with astronomers in November claiming it's not just the Earth that is curved - the entire universe is

A Qanon supporter at a Trump rally.
A Qanon supporter at a Trump rally. Photo credit: Getty


In 2018, the wackiest fringe of Trump's hardcore support base went mainstream. Believers in QAnon, described as "one part Pizzagate, one part X-Files", think Trump's true mission as US President is to take down a massive Satanic paedophile ring involving Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Tom Hanks.

Its name comes from Q, an anonymous person or persons posting cryptic nonsense on lawless internet forums like 4chan and 8chan.

Rather than dismiss them like any sane person would, Trump to this day uses QAnon imagery in his campaign adverts - despite the FBI considering it to be a real domestic terror threat. 

Pizzagate itself was crazy enough - the debunked theory held that Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking operation out of the basement of a pizza restaurant. 


Officially, 1080 poison is used to keep introduced predators at bay and protect native species. 

Unofficially, well, it depends who you ask. When someone did just that in 2018 on an anti-1080 Facebook page, the answers included:

  • 32 percent - "'Agenda 21' human extermination for the New World Order, usually involving the Illuminati"
  • 21 percent - "Control the world through food supply"
  • 9 percent - "Mine DoC land"
  • 6 percent - "Eugenics project to create a master human race"
  • 6 percent - "Killing all people to sell the land"
  • 5 percent - "Money-making scheme involving Govt/New World Order/Illuminati"
  • 4 percent - "Money-laundering scheme involving Govt"
  • 17 percent - "Other".

Newshub tried contacting the Ban 1080 Party to see what they thought, but their website had been replaced by a women's clothing store

Obama's secret plan to hide in Aotearoa

When the apocalypse hits the fan, New Zealand looks likely to end up being swamped with refugees a little different to the usual kind - these ones rich and powerful.

Billionaire Trump supporter and tech eccentric Peter Thiel has bought up property here, and several others have reportedly imported survival bunkers. Some the New Yorker spoke to were explicit about why they're moving to New Zealand.

But the former US President's not that kind of person, is he? Well, according to famed conspiracy nut Alex Jones, he's not just a prepper, he's also behind the coming "total worldwide meltdown" and is setting up an "alternate government" here. 

Of course, Jones also thinks NASA runs a child slave colony on Mars and there's a conspiracy to turn frogs gay, so... 

Charlie Kelly of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Charlie Kelly of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Photo credit: FXX

John Campbell's Kim Dotcom episode

In 2014, Campbell Live spent an entire episode stringing together seemingly random events, Charlie Kelly style, in an attempt to prove then-Prime Minister John Key knew all about the illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom as it was happening.

After the episode aired, Key suggested Campbell next investigate if Obama was born in the United States, whether the US Government did September 11 attacks and who killed JFK.

Epstein and future US President Donald Trump.
Epstein and future US President Donald Trump. Photo credit: Getty

Jeffrey Epstein

After the extent of his alleged crimes was made public, few shed tears when the billionaire financier was found dead in his cell from an apparent suicide.

But who believes that? According to polls, half of us don't. 

The phrase "Epstein didn't kill himself" has become a meme, with Epstein's ties to the world's elite providing plenty of suspects - among them the Clintons, the UK royal family and Donald Trump himself. 

Sandy Hook

Without a doubt the most tragic and easily debunked conspiracy theory on this list is that no one died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, in which 20 little kids and six teachers lost their lives.

Once again Alex Jones is responsible, claiming they were all actors and the hoax was designed to raise support for gun control in the US. He was later sued by the families of the victims, but the idiotic and hateful claims go on, despite the lack of any gun control measures in the US in the seven years since.

An 'Elsagate' scene from YouTube.
An 'Elsagate' scene from YouTube. Photo credit: YouTube


Bizarre clips showing popular children's characters taking part in violent and sexual activities flooded YouTube and YouTube Kids in 2017.

Some showed adults dressed as Spider-Man and Frozen's Elsa playing with machine guns and doing drugs; others had characters like Peppa Pig injecting drugs and drinking wees, the Joker fighting vampire toilets, Pikachu gunning down princesses and several children's favourites farting in each other's faces.

No one knows where they came from or what the objective was, with the most benign theories being they were made to get clicks and generate income, but others suggesting they were part of a plot to normalise paedophilia and sexual abuse.