[Photo via Instagram]
If you follow Kylie Jenner on Twitter, you might have noticed something odd pop up in your feed yesterday evening. It was a photo, presented without comment or context, of airplane contrails -- that cloud-like vapor formed in a plane's exhaust -- in a cloudy sky. Innocent enough... or is it?
The text accompanying the picture poses some hard to answer questions: Why did I see 75 planes spraying white stuff into the sky on my 15 minute drive to work? Who pays for this and why is it happening? Is something being exterminated here? Is that something me? Does this have anything to do with why Honey [sic] Bee's [sic] are Dying [sic] off really fast? etc.
Since then, breathless headlines have been popping up that say things like "Kylie Jenner comes out as a chemtrail conspiracy theorist" and "Famous Teen Kylie Jenner Unravels Global Conspiracy In Her Spare Time." If all this seems like... a lot to process, have no fear: we're here to break down just wtf is going on.
What is that picture all about?
Whether or not she's fully on board with this, Kylie is promoting the questions commonly asked by believers in chemtrails.
What's a "chemtrail"?
Great question. Theories about chemtrails were popularized in the mid-90s by Coast to Coast AM talk show host Art Bell, well known for host scientist guests with what we'll call dubious bona fides. The popular theory goes that chemtrails are the visible remnants of the government using commercial and private aircraft to spray chemicals throughout the atmosphere. It's a sinister interpretation of the contrail phenomenon. According to Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, a contrail "is a type of cloud that is formed from the vapor contained in the exhaust of a jet when it is flying at high enough altitudes for cold temperatures to cause the vapor to turn into ice crystals like cirrus clouds."
Why the hell would anyone want to spray chemicals on us?
Another solid question. There are a lot of theories about why the government or Monsanto or a secret cabal of international financiers might want to spray chemicals. Global SkyWatch, a website by "a 40-something year old male...living in Maine" that's dedicated to educating the public about the "largest crime against humanity in human history" has a four-pronged theory that chemtrails are a means of large-scale vaccination through chemical misting, population control, agricultural control -- that's where Monsanto comes in -- and centralization of power. There are variations on these themes but it hits all the major points. Basically, it boils down to "the government is lying to us and trying to manipulate the population."
But is there evidence?
Kinda. Proponents of the chemtrail theory point to a few things usually. First, the perceived increase in instance of persistent airplane contrails, which can spread out into cirrus clouds over time. That's true and explainable by the fact that there are just a lot more flights now. There's also this YouTube video called "BUSTED Pilot Forgets To Turn Off CHEMTRAILS while landing" showing an airplane trailing vapor clouds as it hits a runway. There's other evidence, like higher rates of certain diseases and more presence of chemicals like barium and mercury in the soil and air, but it's a lot to go through and is circumstantial at best.
But that pilot is totally busted!
Not really. That plane is exhibiting a phenomenon called "wake turbulence," which is visible when a plane is flying through especially damp weather. You can see a lot of examples of it here. It was also a major plot point in Top Gun, as Goose dies when Maverick gets caught in a jetwash. RIP Goose.
Hmm ok. I've also heard about cloud seeding. What's that?
So this is a part of the theory that's true. Cloud seeding is a process of dispersing chemicals -- usually silver iodide -- to increase the chances that it will actually rain. China did it to guarantee clear skies during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics. It's debatable whether or not it actually works. You can read more about it here.
So the government isn't controlling the weather or secretly vaccinating us?
As with any conspiracy theory that relies on the government's ability to pull off a large-scale hoax that's noticeable only by people that alternate conspiracy videos with katana care guides, this one is probably also not true.
Either way Kylie's picture has received 4,300 retweets at the time of writing but, other than telling her fans that she just "reposted the pic" and "know[s] how to spell responsible," her account has fallen mysteriously silent on the subject. Either she's a 17-year-old who saw a picture and posted it without thinking too hard about it or she just blew the lid off a massive conspiracy happening right before our very eyes. We'll let you decide.