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Above Top Secret
| Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
|—Above Top Secret's motto[note 1]|
Above Top Secret is the internet's beehive for all things conspiracy, UFO, paranormal and just about anything crank-related. The domain was registered in 1997 by Simon Gray, but he didn't actually start developing the site until 1999. Initially it was a compilation of various documents and texts concerning shadow government, the New World Order, and related theories, but it primarily focused on extraterrestrial life and alleged attempts by the government to cover up its existence. Following the 9/11 attacks, the site received a boom in popularity, has since undergone several major layout changes (the current one being quite GFX-laced, rather odd for such a website, don't you think?), and eventually mutated into one of the largest and most popular conspiracy theory discussion boards on the internet with over 9.5 million posts of, apparently, "substance".
Nowadays the site can be considered oxymoronic. It advertises itself as and embraces the beliefs of the alternative conspiracy media, but it is all very stylized and the site utilizes all sorts of gimmicks to attract viewers, which really doesn't seem like a good presentation for "classified" information. One might say this is so it can be accessible to the brainwashed sheeple, so the "truth" can set them free, but is it necessary for it to almost satirize itself?
The site's main feature is the forum, harvesting 94 subforums (due to lack of child boards, it appears quite cluttered). Some of them will make you think "WTF is this doing here?", while others seem to be in need of being merged. Of course, the main activity rests in news, conspiracy, politics, current events, and... mystery. New topics are constantly being opened by the site's users, but very little of them are actually theirs, instead being lifted from their friendly neighbors at Infowars, Godlike Productions or some other site, which does lead to some hilarious results at times. Even still, they claim ownership of the articles they hijacked. Ironically, the moderation staff employ a lot of censorship when policing the site, including their tendency to censor rival conspiracy theory websites, even though ATS is in the top 1,500 most viewed websites according to Alexa, and it is highly unlikely anyone there hasn't heard of Alex Jones.
The website and forum lack a secure login (https), leading users to question the staff and owners about the safety and security of the website. As of early 2018, no official answer has been provided.
As mentioned before, the site initially focused mostly on UFOs and aliens, and today it remains a driving force in the message board. New topics featuring all sorts of Photoshopped images, fake videos, sci-fi excerpts, and quotes are constantly opened. The claims generally range from "I saw a UFO." to "Jesus was a reptilian alien cyborg from the constellation Draco." Some of it makes a good read, though.
Ironically for a forum mainly populated by paranoid conspiracy theorists, it has an extraordinarily large number of trackers, so if you don’t want 100+ organizations labeling you as a bona fide nutter, then you should only view the ATS site via a proxy or with an ad-blocker set to "high".
Bans are handed out for breaking the site's "Terms & Conditions" which seem to be randomly and loosely enforced, heavily dependent upon the mood of moderation staff on any given day. Users are not notified as to why they are banned, but suddenly find their account login credentials no longer will function.
Any and all criticism of the site is considered "carpet pissing" by the forum staff, and posts critical of the forums are removed, with the user generally permanently banned. This type of censorship seems to defy the site's motto of "deny ignorance", as criticisms about staff bias are swept under the carpet and hidden from the wider user base.
On political subjects, ATS's user base used to swing towards the radical end of whichever side was currently out of power. During the George W. Bush administration, a lot of far-left users inhabited the forums, and 9/11 Truthers, people calling Bush a fascist, and various conspiracy theories about the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and the 2000 election were never more than a couple of clicks away. When Barack Obama was elected, though, most of the moonbats left (or became less active) and were soon replaced by equally rabid wingnuts, with the site crawling with birthers, religious whackjobs, claims that Obama was a fascist and/or a communist, and claims that the latest mass-murder spree was a false flag operation so that They could take away your guns.
In the latter half of the 2010s, however, ATS' politics began to reflect the increasingly far-right tilt of conspiracy theorist culture. Much of the site was in the tank for Donald Trump during the 2016 election, and by late 2017, Trump supporters had overtaken the forum, having driven off the majority of progressive members. QAnon now takes up a good chunk of the forum's discussion, along with fear-mongering about foreigners, Muslims, leftists, and Kids These Days. The staff/moderation team exhibits and posts with a clear alt-right and conservative bias, leading to a slow purge of Democrats and left-leaning members over the past several years. One staff member has even (on occasion) used a Confederate battle flag, in a clear attempt to advertise their political beliefs.
The horseshoe theory, though, guarantees that a lot of the content, especially the less politically-charged stuff (like the aforementioned aliens), tends to show up whether it's leftists or rightists posting.
Other features of ATS have included, in a desperate attempt at getting more traffic and money, the Conspiracy Chicks, a weekly news report featuring an all-girl staff. As you may guess from the title, it's mostly centered on the fact that good-looking women are reporting it rather than the actual content, which is just your average, trivial conspiracy blabber. Not even Alex Jones has stooped that low.
ATS also hosted their own weekly ATS LIVE streaming broadcast show, which again discussed generally trivial, often kooky and odd matters. The videos featured all sorts of editing and effects to make it more accessible, as well as spin-off series to further that goal. They also allow user-generated content.
Perhaps the most curious addition to their multimedia vault was... the ATS comic series.
- Okay, now you're just making stuff up.
No, seriously, they had a comic and it's called Mr. Mask's (Somebody stop me!) Adventures in Conspiracy. The comics are presented as video slideshows with sound effects and voice acting. It is fan-made, but people liked it so much, it made it to the front page. To be fair, it is somewhat amusing.
From about 2006 until 2008, ATS's members had a wiki devoted to
the latest fashion in tinfoil hats all the things they discuss, but it later disappeared. It described itself as:
“”[T]he first full-feature Wiki dedicated exclusively to all the topics that inspires the authors to consider "tinfoil hats". Topics such as conspiracy theories, UFO cover ups, extraterrestrial programs, New World Order, Illuminati, secret government programs, top secret bases, and nearly any other "alternative topic" that would cause paranoid fear of the government reprisals, wire taps, and email monitoring are the focus of this collaborative Wiki.
It also sounds like it would have been an ideal home for many of our more disturbed IP contributors.
The main page has been archived by the Internet Archive, but if you try to access TinWiki.org, you are redirected to a TinWiki subforum on ATS in which former entries have been opened as discussion threads. So far they have only been archived up to C.
- Jared Loughner: Mass murderer, attempted assassin, and definite crank who posted on ATS but was too loony even for them.
- Told like gospel on their site. Unfortunately, this would mean that they essentially deny themselves.
- See the Internet Archive copy of the main page from January 25, 1999.
- ATS Member "about" page
- From their main page, accessed December 9, 2007, sic.
- Wayback Machine results for tinwiki.org
- TinWiki Discussion Forum