Along with the deluded “Jesus is my vaccine” whackjobs, the conspiracy charlatans are peddling their own anti-science snake oil and superstition faster than any coronavirusvirus.
“Hundreds of you have requested that I watch and respond to the Plandemic movie ft. Dr. Judy Mikovits, recently published on social media. I decided to check it out and respond point by point to the biggest claims the conspiracy theory movie makes.”
A sweep of arrests of a neo-Nazi group in the US has dealt a major blow to an organization associated with at least five murders and raised questions as to whether the extreme far-right movement the group is at the center of has been largely undone by pressure from law enforcement, journalists and anti-fascist activists.
Five senior members of Atomwaffen Division (AWD) have been charged with federal crimes in the past weeks, including former leaders and a man who was concurrently a member of the similar neo-Nazi terror group the Base. The recent charges involve members in four states in connection with two separate criminal cases.
In Virginia, a Texas man, John Denton, 26, was charged over an alleged “swatting” conspiracy – a practice involving making false reports about a targets address in the hope police will stage an armed raid on the address.
Denton – reported by ProPublica in 2018 as “involved in nearly every aspect of the organization” as its leader – is known inside Atomwaffen by the alias “Rape”. He allegedly coordinated swatting attacks in 2018 and 2019 on journalists, Old Dominion University, and a historically black church.
Four more members were charged with conspiracy to threaten journalists and people associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington state.
One of those arrested, Taylor Parker-Dipeppe, 20, was a former Florida chapter co-leader under the alias “Azazel”. Recent social media materials given to the Guardian by Australian anti-fascist group the White Rose Society show a muscular, bearded young man with fresh neo-Nazi tattoos.
Two more of those charged lived in Washington. Kaleb Cole, 24, alias “Khimaere”, who was the Washington chapter leader, and Cameron Shea, 24, alias “Krokodil”,have long histories in the neo-Nazi movement.
Cole is described in court documents as a former co-leader of the group. He had guns seized last October under Washington’s so-called “red flag” laws. He and another Washington Atomwaffen member and close associate, Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh, 23, were apprehended in November by Texas police, who found several firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and marijuana in their vehicle.
Bruce-Umbaugh was charged with and pleaded guilty to possessing weapons together with a controlled substance.
Cole visited eastern Europe with Bruce-Umbaugh in 2018, and the two made pilgrimages to sites associated with Nazism, posing for photographs with an Atomwaffen flag at the Auschwitz death camp. In 2019, he was detained for 42 days under Canada’s anti-terror laws and banned from the country.
Shea was described in court documents as a “high-level member and primary recruiter” for the group. Information obtained from confidential sources by the Guardian shows he was also a member of the like-minded group the Base for several months in late 2018.
A fourth arrestee, Johnny Garcia, was known in the movement as “Roman”.
According to court documents, the men allegedly cooperated in specifically targeting journalists with lurid violent threats, bearing slogans like “These people have names and addresses”, and “You have been visited by your local Nazis”. The plan was in response to reports on the group in late 2018 in outlets including the Seattle Times.
The men have been charged with conspiracy, stalking, and postal offenses.
Already, six members of Atomwaffen have been convicted since 2018 on charges including firearms offenses, planning terrorist attacks, hate crimes, and murder.
Not all charged members may stand trial. Devon Arthurs, accused of killing two other members of Atomwaffen, remains involuntarily in Florida state hospital. Nicholas Giampa, accused of killing his former girlfriend’s parents, has yet to stand trial. Initially he was unable to stand trial because of the effects of a self-inflicted gunshot wound
Atomwaffen was the first of a number of Neo-Nazi groups which emerged from 2015 and later that embraced a so-called “accelerationist” ideology, which preaches that western society is corrupt and violent acts sowing chaos will speed up its downfall and allow a white supremacist state to be built in its place.
They drew increasingly on the writings of the American neo-Nazi James Mason. Mason prescribed violent terrorism and a leaderless cellular structure, and praised the convicted murderer Charles Manson.
Mason became an advisor to Atomwaffen, and has appeared in propaganda videos made by the group.
Accelerationist groups also embraced a distinctive aesthetic which took in half-balaclava skull masks, bold and gruesome graphic design, and slickly edited propaganda videos, frequently depicting armed training camps.
All of those groups have now been subjected to significant legal consequences after their activities, their internal communications, and their identities were repeatedly exposed by antifascist researchers and investigative journalists.
The FBI appeared to be accelerating its efforts to crack down on the groups even before director Christopher Wray defined white supremacist extremists as a “national threat priority” which was “on the same footing” as Isis in early February. There have been at least 13 arrests of members of such groups since last October.
The better part of Atomwaffen’s leadership structure is now awaiting trial. Eight members of the Base have been arrested, and the identity of their leader exposed. Smaller groups, like Feuerkrieg Division, have now publicly called a halt to recruiting.
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The road to a police state: how ‘anti-terrorism’ is destroying democracy
Theory & History
via Vashti Kenway
In 1956, science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote the short story “Minority Report”. In it, a shadowy government agency known as “pre-crime” arrests people in anticipation of crimes they suspect individuals will commit in the future. What appears as a dystopian fictional nightmare in 1956 has become a reality in Australia 60 years later.
One of the major legal transformations associated with the introduction of the various anti-terror acts in the 15 years since 9/11 has been the normalisation of the idea that you can be charged with a crime that you have yet to commit.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has the right to seek warrants that allow the detention of someone suspected or someone related to someone suspectedof considering a terror offence. This person can be detained in custody with no right to confidential legal counsel and no right to see the evidence brought against them.
Furthermore, the Terrorism Act 2002 makes it a crime to “provide or receive training, to possess a ‘thing’, or to collect or make a document, if (in each case) that conduct was connected with preparation for, the engagement of a person in, or assistance in a terrorist act”.
In 2010, these laws resulted in the conviction of three men for “preparing to prepare” an attack on the Holsworthy Army Base. One of the men visited the barracks and another had a phone conversation with a sheikh, seeking religious counsel about the moral virtues of possibly committing an act.
The sheikh eventually answered in the negative and advised the men against any action. Even the Victorian Supreme Court judge responsible for sentencing the men, justice King, admitted that “the conspiracy was not that much further along than just sitting and thinking about it”. She nevertheless sentenced them to 18 years’ jail. For thought crime.
What’s more shocking is that, legally, these “preparatory” offences are committed if the person either “knows or is reckless as to the fact that they relate to a terrorist act”. Being “reckless” can mean a whole range of things. It can mean that you say or write something that may inadvertently encourage someone else to engage in terrorist activity.
For instance, Division 102 of the Criminal Code imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment “where a person provides or collects funds and is reckless as to whether those funds will be used to facilitate or engage in a terrorist act”. This means that someone who donates money to a charity that turns out to have some putative involvement in terrorism could be imprisoned for life.
The definition of terrorism is suitably broad for a ruling class looking to criminalise a wide range of anti-government activity. Section 101.1 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as “conduct engaged in or threats made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”. The conduct or threat must be designed to coerce a government or population by intimidation. It must involve “harm” – broadly defined.
Added to this is “urging violence”. For example, it is an offence punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to “urge the overthrow of the constitution or government by force or violence, or to urge interference in parliamentary elections”.
Such definitions are disturbing. Again, “interfering in parliamentary elections” could involve encouraging voters to cast donkey votes or rip up ballot papers. Left wing newspapers regularly run pieces on the necessity of overthrowing many and various governments. The fact that such laws have been penned indicates how far we have come.
Under such legislation the United States Declaration of Independence, with its claim that “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the Government], and to institute new one”, could be deemed a terrorist document.
Crime by association
A law introduced in 2014 that prohibits the advocacy of terrorism extends this issue of incitement into even more alarming territory. An organisation can be listed as terrorist if it “directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a substantial risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person … to engage in a terrorist act”.
If these laws had been enacted in the past they would have meant that the author of an article supporting the actions of Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa would become liable if someone might have read that article and acted upon it in a manner deemed terrorist by the state.
Today, the organisation of any author who is accused of “praising terror” can be listed. Being a member or even associated with a member of a listed terrorist organisation can incur up to 10 years in prison.
The mutability of what constitutes a “terrorist organisation” was revealed in the trial of 13 Muslim men in Melbourne in 2005-09. These young men were arrested after more than a year of intense surveillance of conversations between them and a radical Islamic preacher, Abdul Nacer Benbrika.
An extraordinary 27,000 hours of police surveillance revealed nothing more criminal than discussions about the morality or immorality of revenge actions against Australians for the government’s crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. No specific or concrete terror actions were planned, and they were never charged with planning a terrorist attack.
Nevertheless, the state charged them with membership of an unspecified, unlisted, unnamed terrorist organisation. The attorney-general declared it so – and a few more men who had had some association with Benbrika were charged with “supporting or providing funds” to a terrorist organisation.
Greg Barns, one of the defence lawyers in the Barwon 13 trial, pointed out the absurdity of the situation: “An organisation can be a terrorist organisation even if it has no terrorist act in mind”. Such realities call to mind Alice in Wonderland. “‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.”
Punished for being Muslim
The Barwon 13 trial also brought to light a number of other disturbing aspects of the anti-terror legislation. One of the most shocking revealed the prejudice against giving terror suspects bail.
This meant that from 2005 until 2008, when the judge handed down a decision, the defendants were held in the maximum security Barwon prison. Here, some as young as 19 were kept shackled in isolation for up to 18 hours a day. During their trial, they were strip searched every day and transported back and forth on the hour-long journey with their arms shackled to their waist and their ankles tied together.
Four of the 13 were found not guilty of any charges but were held in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions for, one can only suspect, being Muslim and associating with other Muslims. Four of the 13 were convicted on such spurious grounds that Michael Pearce from Liberty Victoria told reporters that they were victims of one of the “most sustained assaults on civil liberties in 50 years”. “Their treatment is an affront to the most basic principle of the rule of law”, he said.
The current targets of the anti-terror laws are Muslim. Nineteen of the 20 proscribed organisations are Muslim, and of the 46 people charged under the laws, all, with the exception of a couple, identify as Muslim. Not one of these people has been charged with actually committing a terrorist offence. All are offences of association, of planning or planning to plan.
State representatives claim that nipping terrorist actions before they happen is more important than civil liberties. But such claims are bogus when most of the terrorist atrocities they claim to be thwarting were never even in the planning stages.
One young man, Faheem Lodhi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the fact that, according to a lawyer in his trial, he “had not yet reached the stage where the identity of the bomber, the precise area to be bombed or the manner in which the bombing would take place had been worked out”.
As civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary told Katherine Wilson in an interview for Overland: “They talk the talk, and it’s dangerous talk. But I can say whatever I like about who the real Iraq or Palestinian war criminals are, and how they should be brought to justice, and I won’t be imprisoned for it. Not unless I convert to Islam”.
When Muslim kids mouth off, they can be locked up for decades. If anything is likely to prompt feelings of hatred, anger and frustration that lead to the desire to commit terrorist acts, it is this kind of systematic legal persecution.
Islamophobia is the ideological mechanism through which the state has managed to get through such draconian legislation. Concerted public media campaigns vilifying Muslims – representing them as medieval barbarians intent on bringing down Western civilisation – has had its effect. Opposition to the anti-terror laws is minimal – the conflation of Islam with terror has been achieved.
Fifteen years in the making
Prior to 9/11, politically motivated violence was dealt with under criminal law. This all changed after 2001. In March 2002, federal attorney-general Darryl Williams introduced the first package of anti-terrorism legislation to parliament. He said the laws were “exceptional” but that “so too is the evil at which they are directed”.
Hyperbole abounded. Australians were told to be alert to shadowy internal threats and to report any “suspicious” activities they might witness.
From 11 September 2001 to the fall of the Howard government, the federal parliament enacted 48 anti-terror laws. In other words, on average a new anti-terror statue was passed every seven or so weeks under the Liberal government. The Labor Party supported the overwhelming bulk of these laws.
When Labor came to power, the pace of lawmaking slowed but the fundamental approach remained the same: use the terror threat to usher through increasingly draconian laws. Indeed, the Rudd government actively opposed independent reviews into the passing of its own anti-terror legislation.
Abbott came to office with an open and aggressive agenda. He was unabashed in 2014: “Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like … the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift”. The scales now well and truly have tipped.
Under Abbott and Turnbull, the existing anti-terror legislation has been strengthened and expanded, most dramatically with the introduction of astonishingly extensive data retention laws.
All of this frantic legislative activity has been accompanied by regularly staged anti-terror raids.
The Australian state has far exceeded the UK, the USA and Canada in the number of laws enacted. UNSW professor George Williams argues: “It would be unthinkable, if not constitutionally impossible, in nations such as the US and Canada to restrict freedom of speech in the manner achieved by Australia’s 2005 sedition laws”. US author Ken Roach describes Australia as engaging in “hyper-legislation”.
While initially introduced as “emergency legislation” to deal with imminent terror threats, anti-terror legislation has not only stuck, but has crept into other legislative areas. Laws recognised as exceptional, even by their proponents, are now used against groups and individuals who have nothing to do with the “war on terror”.
Bikie gangs and their members are subject to laws virtually identical to anti-terror legislation. The Rann Labor government in South Australia began the trend, drawing dramatic comparisons between bikies and terrorists. In 2008, Rann said, “Organised crime groups are terrorists within our communities” and described bikies as “an evil within our nation”. The laws passed almost without a whimper of opposition.
In Queensland, bikie gangs have been “declared” in the same way that so-called terrorist organisations have – which means anyone associated with a gang can be arrested and charged. If you are a member of a gang you cannot be seen with one or more “criminal associates”.
Bikies are also subject to something very similar to control orders – one of the most controversial aspects of the anti-terror legislation. They can be placed under house arrest, and have their movement and their oral and electronic communications limited. These restrictions can be decided in a secret court hearing, and the person will discover if they are subject to an order only after their arrest. All states have introduced similar laws.
The depth and breadth of the anti-terror legislation provided the perfect precursor to the use of equally (if not more draconian) laws against construction workers in the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
Turnbull is now preparing to fight an election over the reintroduction of the body. The ABCC’s coercive powers mirror ASIO’s. It has the right to hold secret interviews and jail those who don’t cooperate. Habeus corpus is out the window. Construction workers will again have no right to silence and no right to be represented by the lawyer of their choice. The terror bogey was simply the thin end of the wedge.
It is clear over the 15 years of the “war on terror” that many legal rights have disappeared. Basic legal assumptions like innocent until proven guilty, the right to silence, the right to a fair trial and the right to legal counsel no longer exist in expanding areas of the legal system. What’s more, the state’s powers to watch, listen, detain and punish have grown dramatically, and there is no indication that the government wants to pull back.
The US whistleblower Edward Snowden said of similar actions in the USA: “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power”.
Australia’s behemoth security state is now more powerful than even Philip K. Dick’s paranoid imagination could have dreamed.
It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism.~1
When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Dismissing the conspiracism often found in right-wing populism as irrational extremism, lunatic hysteria, or marginalized radicalism does little to challenge these movements, fails to deal with concrete conflicts and underlying institutional issues, invites government repression, and sacrifices the early targets of the scapegoaters on the altar of denial. An effective response requires a more complex analysis.
The Dynamics of Conspiracism
The dynamic of conspiracist scapegoating is remarkably predictable. Persons who claim special knowledge of a plot warn their fellow citizens about a treacherous subversive conspiracy to attack the common good. What’s more, the conspiracists announce, the plans are nearing completion, so that swift and decisive action is needed to foil the sinister plot. In different historical periods, the names of the scapegoated villains change, but the essentials of this conspiracist worldview remain the same.~2
George Johnson explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:~3
“The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.
“[N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy [from the late 1700’s].
“Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.
“The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.
“It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.
Conspiracism can occur as a characteristic of mass movements, between sectors in an intra-elite power struggle, or as a justification for state agencies to engage in repressive actions. Conspiracist scapegoating is woven deeply into US culture and the process appears not just on the political right but in center and left constituencies as well.~4 There is an entrenched network of conspiracy-mongering information outlets spreading dubious stories about public and private figures and institutions. They use media such as printed matter, the internet, fax trees, radio programs, videotapes and audiotapes.~5
If you want to jump out of this article, try these related pages:
If you asked me, I would say that we witnessed a recrudescence of a nihilistic tendency that has never been far from the surface in American politics—a conservatism that is as far from the dictionary definition of conservatism as Obama is from being a socialist. Last fall, on the eve of the election, I wrote in Salon that “America is becoming more multicultural, more gay-friendly and more feminist every day. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the white, patriarchal, Christian hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious.” Was it vicious enough to strap a figurative suicide vest to its chest and threaten the U.S. with default? If you had asked me at the time, I would have said no. Little did I know.
Some of the Republican jihadists who pressed for default feel so personally violated by the presence of a black family in the White House that they would just as soon burn it down as reclaim it. And some live in such a bubble of denial—an alternate cognitive universe in which the poor lord it over the rich and white Christians are a persecuted minority, in which a president who was twice elected by an overwhelming popular majority is a pretender, and a law that Congress attempted to overturn more than 40 times was “never debated”—that they have convinced themselves that a default would have actually been a good thing, that it would have restored the U.S. economy to a sound foundation.
It is a triumph not so much of a conspiracy as of conspiracist thinking. As John Judis wrote in The New Republiclast week, even “lobbyists I talked to cited….Richard Hofstadter’s essay on ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republicarticle, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.”
Lest I be accused of falling for a left wing conspiracy theory myself, I want to say a few words about “conspiracy theory” before I continue. “Conspiracy theory” is a loaded and frankly a bad term, one that unfairly besmirches any and all theorizing about conspiracies.
Bracketing all thinking about conspiracies with tall tales and outright delusions about secret societies whose leaders toast each other with blood drunk out of human skulls is unfair and misleading. Some anti-government conspiracy theories—that the Tonkin Gulf Incident didn’t happen as reported, for example, or that the CIA was involved with international dope dealers, are so far from being ridiculous that they turn out to be true. The NSA does have access to your emails. For that matter, a certain amount of toasting with skulls (if not actual blood) has been reliably reported to go on in some quarters.
Still, there are theories and then there are theories. Scientists know the difference between unfalsifiable ones like intelligent design and genuinely scientific ones like evolution. Theories about political conspiracies are harder to put to the test; absence of evidence, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, is not evidence of absence. In fact it’s the whole point.
I do think most people know the difference between a “conspiracy theory” in its pejorative sense—say, that the Fed takes its orders from a secret society of Jewish elders, who cause depressions and wars to further their plan of ruling the world—and its literal sense, such as a serious inquiry into Oswald’s relationship to the CIA.
Still, truth can be stranger than fiction and we need to respect that.
If I were to tell you that a cabal of Congressional Republicans had been quietly working with a roster of little-known political organizations since the last election, many of them funded by a pair of shadowy billionaire brothers, to bring the country to the brink of financial ruin, I’d understand it if you thought I was talking about a conspiracy theory. But really I’d be describing the sausage making that goes on in politics today and the blurry lines between lobbying and influence peddling—and even more than that, about the behavior of people who are so blinded by rage, so driven by their own fever dreams about Obama’s plot to turn the U.S. into a Third-World, multi-racial, socialist, Muslim, atheist paradise, that they would pay any cost to ruin his presidency.
But if there is still any question about what a badconspiracy theory is, I’d like to submit as Exhibit A one proposed by an anonymous author at the Canadian website Press Core, which was promoted a couple of weeks ago by World Net Daily columnist and Fox News contributor Erik Rush (sometimes known as “the other Rush”) on his radio show. Part of what makes it a classically “bad” conspiracy theory, besides its tendentiousness, is its meanness. It’s like a push poll; its sole purpose is to propagate a meme that demonizes and delegitimizes the president. I think it also provides insight into the mindset that characterizes far-right thinking these days.
The Navy Yard shootings in D.C., this theory goes, was a false flag incident perpetrated by the Obama administration to stop the Navy from arresting the president for treason. The victims of the shooting, who were all NCIS commanders, the story continues, had discovered that Obama was planning an even more horrific false flag—he was going to explode a nuclear device in Washington, D.C., to justify going to war with Syria. Some of this “sounds like a conspiracy theory,” the other Rush admitted, but “a lot of stuff that seemed to some of us like conspiracy theories years ago turned out to be true over the last few months.”
One way to judge a theory is to look at its source. Is it a generally respected news gatherer or a propaganda mill? Scanning the headlines at Press Core, I couldn’t help noticing another article, this one with the byline Paul W. Kincaid, the site’s editor. The piece reveals that the Vatican, the U.N., and the Third Reich have been working together on a covert and sinister plan to exterminate, and I am quoting now, “as many as 3 billion people through Vatican unholy wars of terror against Muslim and Jewish states, designer diseases, and famine.”
This story really astounded me, because it sees both Jews and Muslims as victims rather than perpetrators. That’s not what you usually read on websites of this kind, trust me. Some of the most virulently anti-Islamic websites today, many of them run by Jews, feature stories that could have been written by 1930s anti-Semites like Elizabeth Dilling or Gerald Burton Winrod, except the word Shariah replaces the word Kehilla, and instead of out-of-context quotes from the Talmud about the necessity of lying to the gentiles they are pulled from the Koran and refer to the supposed doctrine of Tawriya. Of course a major theme at those sites is Obama’s suspicious sympathies toward the Muslim world.
The theories that we file under the unfortunate rubric of conspiracy theories are theories of everything. They have a kind of metaphysical authority, and, in their confidence that everything is ultimately connected, a scope and a moral framework that is almost theological.
Most of all, they are reactive. Conspiracists are people who feel threatened—in their pocketbooks, their status, or both. Conspiracy theories explain what is happening to them and why, assigning blame to an adversary who is consciously and deliberately carrying out an evil intention.
Conspiracists use the word “evil” as a noun as well as an adjective; they believe that their adversaries are literally demonic. Much as a Kabbalist believes that God fashioned the world out of Hebrew letters, many conspiracists believe that their enemies sign the catastrophes that they cause in visual, numeric or symbolic codes.
They look backward nostalgically to what they’ve lost, they look forward with anxious expectation to a bloody reckoning. As a political candidate once said in an unguarded moment, they cling to their guns and their religion.
Conspiracism turns chaotic events into coherent narratives—surprisingly often, one that hews to the storyline of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an early 20th-century anti-Semitic pastiche that was cut and pasted together by Eastern Orthodox defenders of the absolute monarchy of the Tsar.
Conspiracy theories’ narratives unfold much as the storylines of massive multi-player online games do. They take place in a universe that’s bounded by hard-and-fast rules and peopled by broadly drawn, cartoon-like characters. Whatever happens is either part of the algorithm or something that one of the player gods has intentionally caused to happen.
You see this kind of thinking when you read claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by “actors,” or that purport to identify the fake blood and prosthetic limbs in the carnage after the Boston Marathon “false flag” bombing. Like the ancient Gnostics, or the characters in “The Matrix” or “The Truman Show,” they believe that God is a Satanic impostor—that the world is a deliberately constructed illusion, the opposite of the place that its designated authority figures purport it to be.
The Left, I freely admit, is not immune to conspiracy theories. If many of the “false flag” claims originate with quasi-Bircher populists like Alex Jones, they resonate in some leftist quarters as well. Communist dialectics and the theory of history that undergirds Premillennial Dispensationalism share some attributes; party propaganda was as filled with paranoid conspiracy theories (some of them true) as anything that the organized right has ever produced. But I do tend to think that the very reactiveness of reactionary thinking predisposes it to conspiracism a bit more. This is why as many extreme ideas resonate within the Republican mainstream as they do.
Conservatives, especially conservative white men of a certain age, many of them living in the states of the Old Dominion and the mountainous West, are feeling beleaguered in this fifth year of the Great Recession. As conservative as his governance has turned out to be in practice, the election of an African American president has tended to exacerbate their feelings of victimization.
Public Policy Polling has issued a couple of surveys on conspiracy theories this year. And belief pretty clearly breaks down along partisan lines:
34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents believe a global power elite is conspiring to create a New World Order—compared to just 15 percent of Democrats.
Fifty-eight percent of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax; 77 percent of Democrats do not.
Sixty-two percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Independents believe the Obama administration is “secretly trying to take everyone’s guns away.” Only 14 percent of Democrats agree.
Forty-two percent of Republicans believe Shariah law is making its way into U.S. courts, compared to just 12 percent of Democrats.
More than twice as many Republican voters (21 percent) as Democrats (9 percent) believe the government is using “false flag incidents” to consolidate its power.
Forty-four percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents believe that Obama is making plans to stay in office after his second term expires. Only 11 percent of Democrats agree.
Most elected officials who traffic in conspiracy theories are too rich and successful themselves to believe in them; they deploy them opportunistically, to push voters’ emotional buttons. As Michael Tomasky wrote in The Daily Beast last week, “The rage kept the base galvanized….The rich didn’t really share the rage, or most of them. Even the Koch Brothers probably don’t….But all of them have used it. And they have tolerated it, the casual racism, the hatred of gay people, and the rest….because they, the elites, remained in charge. Well, they’re not in charge now. The snarling dog they kept in a pen for decades has just escaped and bitten their hand off.”
Back in the winter of 2012, a couple of weeks before my book “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right” was published, I was at a party at my sister’s house, and she introduced me to the husband of a friend of hers, a lawyer active in the Democratic party. I told him how conspiratorial memes about the Illuminati have echoed down to us from the 1790s, and how the influence of fringe groups like the John Birch Society extends beyond marginal figures like Alex Jones and Ron Paul and can even be discerned in the GOP’s campaign rhetoric.
He just laughed derisively. “What possible relevance do those nuts have today?” he said. “Nobody cares about them.” Judging from the recent events in Washington, I think it’s safe to say that his complacency was a bit premature.
Arthur Goldwag is the author, most recently, of “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right”
8 Ways to tell a Conspiracy Theorist is really a Fraud
As I have been observing conspiracy theories, and by extension, conspiracy theorists themselves. From my observations I’ve noticed that some of them may not be entirely truthful in what they believe, and that some of them may be out right frauds.
Here are eight ways to tell if a conspiracy theorist is a fraud:
1. Constant self promoter
It’s one thing for a conspiracy theorist to promote the conspiracy theories they believe in, it’s quite another for a conspiracy theorist to constantly promote their own materials and media concerning conspiracy theories they allegedly believe in.
The fact is, is that some people do make money off of promoting conspiracy theories, and some fraud conspiracy theorists do realize they can make lots of money creating and pedaling books and videos about conspiracy theories.
2. Tells people to ignore facts
While most legit conspiracy theorists will usually ask a person to examine all of the facts before asking you to conclude that they are right, a fraud conspiracy theorist will tell you to ignore any facts other then the “facts” that they present. Some even go so far as to call real facts disinformation. This is done as a way to discourage people from actually examining real facts, and by doing this a person might stop believing a certain conspiracy theory, and thus stop believe the fraud conspiracy theorist.
3. Constantly making up stuff
A fraud conspiracy theorist constantly makes up stuff, and then discards certain “information” when no one believes it any more, or no one really cares about it any more.
One of the main reasons this is done is because it keeps people coming back, wanting “new” information.
4. Claims to be withholding information until a later date
Many fraud conspiracy theorists claim they have “secret information” that they claim they are withholding until a later date. Most of the times this “information” isn’t even revealed at all, or the “information” that is revealed is actually false and made up, and sometimes not even new at all, just reworded.
5. Presents known fraud media as real
Some fraud conspiracy theorists will take documents, photos, and videos that are known to be fraudulent, some that were even created as a hoax in which to point out how gullible some conspiracy theorists are, and present such media as real and legit. Sometimes a fraud conspiracy theorist will even create the fraud media themselves.
6. Claims persecution, but presents no evidence
Many fraud conspiracy theorists claim they are being persecuted, but present no evidence what so ever that they are being persecuted, whether it be official legal documents, photos or videos showing they a being persecuted, or other credible eye witness backing up the claims of persecution.
7. Lying about credentials
Fraud conspiracy theorists will often times lie about their credentials, such as lying about military service, or about their education, or their expertise. This is done in order to make it seem that they know what they are talking about when they are discussing a conspiracy theory, and in hopes that the conspiracy theory they promote will seem more valid.
One of the most likely ways to tell if a conspiracy theorist is a fraud is that they are unable to pass a lie detector test concerning the conspiracy theories that they promote, or they are unwilling to take a lie detector test concerning the “information” they present, or concerning whether or not they believe in what are promoting in the first place.
Why people who believe in one conspiracy are prone to believe others
ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, I spent several hours on a hot bus in a neon desert called Las Vegas with a merry band of British conspiracists during their journey around the Southwest in search of UFOs, aliens, Area 51 and government cover-ups, all for a BBC documentary. One woman regaled me with a tale about orange balls of energy hovering around her car on Interstate 405 in California, which were subsequently chased away by black ops helicopters. A man challenged me to explain the source of a green laser beam that followed him around the English countryside one evening.
Conspiracies are a perennial favorite for television producers because there is always a receptive audience. A recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary that I participated in called Conspiracy Rising, for example, featured theories behind the deaths of JFK and Princess Diana, UFOs, Area 51 and 9/11, as if there were a common thread running throughout. According to radio host and conspiracy monger Alex Jones, also appearing in the film, “The military-industrial complex killed John F. Kennedy” and “I can prove that there’s a private banking cartel setting up a world government because they admit they are” and “No matter how you look at 9/11 there was no Islamic terrorist connection—the hijackers were clearly U.S. government assets who were set up as patsies like Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Such examples, along with others in my years on the conspiracy beat, are emblematic of a trend I have detected that people who believe in one such theory tend to believe in many other equally improbable and often contradictory cabals. This observation has recently been confirmed empirically by University of Kent psychologists Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton in a paper entitled “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories,” published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science this past January. The authors begin by defining a conspiracy theory as “a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal” that is “notoriously resistant to falsification … with new layers of conspiracy being added to rationalize each new piece of disconfirming evidence.” Once you believe that “one massive, sinister conspiracy could be successfully executed in near-perfect secrecy, [it] suggests that many such plots are possible.” With this cabalistic paradigm in place, conspiracies can become “the default explanation for any given event—a unitary, closed-off worldview in which beliefs come together in a mutually supportive network known as a monological belief system.”
This monological belief system explains the significant correlations between different conspiracy theories in the study. For example, “a belief that a rogue cell of MI6 was responsible for [Princess] Diana’s death was correlated with belief in theories that HIV was created in a laboratory … that the moon landing was a hoax … and that governments are covering up the existence of aliens.” The effect continues even when the conspiracies contradict one another: the more participants believed that Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered.
The authors suggest there is a higher-order process at work that they call global coherence that overrules local contradictions: “Someone who believes in a significant number of conspiracy theories would naturally begin to see authorities as fundamentally deceptive, and new conspiracy theories would seem more plausible in light of that belief.” Moreover, “conspiracy advocates’ distrust of official narratives may be so strong that many alternative theories are simultaneously endorsed in spite of any contradictions between them.” Thus, they assert, “the more that participants believe that a person at the centre of a death-related conspiracy theory, such as Princess Diana or Osama [bin] Laden, is still alive, the more they also tend to believe that the same person was killed, so long as the alleged manner of death involves deception by officcialdom.”
As Alex Jones proclaimed in Conspiracy Rising: “No one is safe, do you understand that? Pure evil is running wild everywhere at the highest levels.”
On his Infowars.com website, Jones headlines his page with “Because There Is a War on for Your Mind.” True enough, which is why science and reason must always prevail over fear and irrationality, and conspiracy mongering traffics in the latter at the expense of the former.
[As previously blogged, conspiracism or conspiracy thinking and religious fundamentalism go hand in hand. Both are irrational world views. Conspiracism, like religion, provides a false sense of enlightenment and “… a thread of insistence exists that only certain, truly enlightened people can see the truth behind the secret plots. Most conspiracies are, so the thinking goes, invisible to the vast majority of sheeplike citizens who go grazing through the pasture of life, never suspecting the evil wolves lurking behind the rocks of everyday occurrences.
In a way, conspiracism can be comforting to true believers because it removes the scary notion of randomness from the universe. For some, conspiracies can seem like an extension of religious faith, with God and Satan locked in a struggle for supremacy on Earth. In fact, many conspiracists are strongly connected to a belief in the coming of the end of the world. After a specific series of world events happens, these “millenialists” believe, those events will usher in Armageddon, the final battle between the forces of good and evil on Earth.”]
A double-whammy of stupidity from Rabbi Daniel Lapin, in conversation with Pat Robertson:
The Torah, in ancient Jewish wisdom the Bible, actually explains something which we have lived through which is one of the great mysteries: the plot of 9/11… Not only do we find references in Zachariah to four mysterious crafts that come through between two mountains made of metal, in biblical terminology mountains can be natural mountains or also anything tall that grows up like two buildings, also the idea that the plot was hatched not in Mecca or Medina or Riyadh or anywhere else in Saudi Arabia, that plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany…
Lapin is making a garbled and absurd reference to Zechariah 6: 1-8:
I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?” The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.” When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth. Then he called to me, “Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.”
There are no “mysterious crafts”: instead, the author is obviously describing symbolic chariots for the four “spirits of heaven”. The “mountains of bronze” are not buildings: the image has been taken from Babylonian mythology to represent the gateway into heaven. It should be further noted that the chariots are “coming out from between” the two mountains, rather than crashing into them, and that their drivers are spirits sent to do God’s work around the world, rather than terrorists sent to the USA to massacre people. Lapin is either a fool or a fraud: but either way, it’s clear from this that he doesn’t give a damn about interpreting the Bible with any kind of integrity. And the same goes for Robertson, for endorsing such a farrago of nonsense.
But while we’re still trying to swallow that, Lapin serves up a dessert. 9/11, he explains,
… was based on a dream that Adolf Hitler had in 1943 which was to fly suicide Luftwaffe German air force bombers into the towers of Manhattan… That was a Hitler dream described in a book called ‘Spandau Diary’ written by one of the Nazis who was captured after the war and who witnessed, and actually I’ve seen drawings, and I don’t doubt for a moment that the Muslim plotters, in the mosque in Hamburg who laid out the plans for 9/11, I don’t doubt for a moment that they encountered those same plans. I don’t think they thought of this themselves. This was the fulfillment of a dream that was really put in place early on in World War II.
I never saw [Hitler] so worked up as toward the end of the war, when in a kind of delirium he pictured for himself and for us the destruction of New York in a hurricane of fire. He described the skyscrapers being turned into gigantic burning torches, collapsing upon one another, the glow of the exploding city illuminating the dark sky. Then, as if finding his way back to reality from a frenzy, he declared that Saur must immediately carry our Messerschmitt’s scheme for a four-engine long-range jet bomber. With such range we could repay America a thousand-fold for the destruction of our cities.
The plan for a “jet bomber” is mentioned again in passing in the entry for 2 November 1953. There is no mention of Manhattan, and no concept of a suicide mission: the “jet bomber” was obviously envisioned as dropping bombs on New York, rather than as being a bomb itself.
Last year, Lapin took part in Glenn Beck’s “Divine Destiny”, as one of Beck’s “Black Robe Regiment” of conservative pastors. A subsequent Media Matterspost, drawing on earlier Washington Post reports, notes Lapin’s links to Jack Abramoff, whom I previously discussed here.