When I was a kid I loved a good conspiracy theory, from Aliens to JFK. They promised a world which nothing was true, which unfortunately turned out to be a lie. Conspiracy theories slipped away as I had to work in the real world and started to understand how people really worked. In the occult world, conspiracy theories are rife about all sorts of issues, from chem trails to big pharm anti-vaccinations and I am starting to sense there is a sort of conspiracy – only it is the conspiracy theorists who have been sucked in.
Firstly, conspiracy theories are constructed using false evidence or assumptions. This was seen in Umberto Eco’s must read book Foucault’s pendulum where the protagonists invent a Templar conspiracy, only to find that it was true. The idea is that you think there is a conspiracy and see all the facts which fit into that conspiracy and ignore those that don’t fit. The idea is to create a link of ideas to prove a false premise. If there are holes in the theory, then it is all due to some cover-up and those who point out those holes are either sheep, or part of the cover-up. The fact that a conspiracy theory survives this process is proof of its accuracy.
In 1996, the United States Air Force published a report about weather modification. As a result, it was accused of “spraying the US population with mysterious substances” from aircraft ” contrails.” Every time contrails were seen in the sky, it was thought that this was the government chemically trying to control its population. The conspiracy escalated so that every time a contrail was seen, it was the forces of darkness trying to control their populations.
The “‘Chemtrail’ hoax has been investigated and refuted by many established and accredited universities, scientific organisations, and major media publications” but it did not go away. In fact a fake science has built up around the idea. Realising that contrails are a natural part of air flight, the conspiracy theorists claimed that Chemtrails were different from contrails by their long duration. They last for half day or transform into cirrus-like clouds.
However atmospheric scientists say that this is normal – contrails can persist for hours, and that it is a perfectly normal characteristic for them to spread out into cirrus sheets. But they would say that wouldn’t they?
Conspiracy theories pop up around dramatic events and rather than helping find the truth they tend to obscure it. Instead of helping us find who are responsible and bringing them to justice, they end up protecting the real perpetrators. One of the rules of a good conspiracy theory is you should find out who benefits as a result of the event being organised. For this you have a range of possible good guys and bad guys. The forces of good are the conspiracy theorists who know the truth but are hunted for it, the forces of darkness are big pharm, government, CIA, FBI, aliens, the army, the Illuminati and Jewish Bankers.
At the heart of the conspiracy theory is the conspiracy theorist. According to Psychology Today Richard Bentall of the University of Liverpool, analysed the data of one of the largest surveys of psychological health ever carried out: the US National Comorbidity Survey-Replication.
Carried out in 2001-03, it asked the question: “I’m convinced there’s a conspiracy behind many things in the world.” More than a quarter of those who responded to the item felt that it was true.
Bentall said that these people had several things in common. They were, for example, more likely to be male and unmarried. They had lower levels of education and income. They were more likely to be from an ethnic minority. They were more likely to carry a weapon. They were less likely to go to Church regularly.
They tended to report lower levels of physical and psychological wellbeing; and to see themselves as socially inferior, both in comparison to their local community and to the nation. They were more likely to have seriously considered suicide. Their social networks were weaker (they often felt, for example, that they could not rely on friends and family in times of trouble) and they found it harder to maintain secure relationships.
Childhood relationships with parents had often been challenging. Often these individuals had not lived with both biological parents; they had spent extended periods away from home; or had experienced violence at the hands of their parents, the study said.
Conspiracy theorists were more likely to meet the criteria for all types of psychological disorder, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and alcohol and drug problems.
What is interesting about this picture is that fits a similar demographic to occultists. They are outsiders from the mainstream, who find it difficult to find their place in the world.
Having created the hero of the conspiracy story we can make a few generalisations about the theories themselves.
General rules about conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories draw attention away from the actual event and towards the conspiracy theorist and their ideas.
There is something narcissistic about conspiracy theories. If a terrible event happens, a conspiracy theorist will soon appear online to claim that it is a “false flag” or that the victims are all crisis actors. The act draws attention away from the terrifying incident and towards the conspiracy theorists’ worldview. The idea is that worldview, where only they know the truth, is more important.
Conspiracy theories overtly or covertly demonise a group of humans who are different from the theorist or that they have been excluded from.
The most obvious conspiracy theory, which keeps getting recycled in different forms, is that the Jews are involved in some grand plan to enslave Christianity. While there is no doubt that the finance industry is responsible for many of the world’s problems, it is always the Jewish bankers who get the bad press. The media is also supposed to be controlled by the Jews. Anti-Semitism is a blot on the psyche of Western culture and does not appear to be going away. Conspiracy theories enable racial and other forms of prejudice to justify themselves. It is probably obvious to the conspiracy theorist that race/religious hate ends up in shocking holocausts, but they do not see themselves as doing that. They are standing up against an evil cabal which is taking away their freedom, and just happens to be run by Jews.
Muslims are a more recent target for this sort of attention. Historically they have never been a threat and lacked the money to play the role of conspiracy masters. That was until Saudi Arabia became a significant power which combined the image of obscene amounts of wealth with religious fundamentalism. To a protagonist described above they make perfect super-villains even to the point of dismembering their enemies. Don’t get me wrong here, I do not have any love for the Saudi Arabian government, but they are just as unlikely to be part of a huge international conspiracy as the Jewish.
Masons being a secret organisation have been a target for conspiracy theorists for hundreds of years. The reason is that they are club which typically forbids admittance to outsiders (who as we have said make up the bulk of conspiracy theorists). While this is seen a joke by modern masons, who could not run a conspiracy to save themselves, there is just enough historical evidence to put masons in the heart of some significant conspiracies. There was the small matter of the American Revolution which was lead by a core of masons. In the UK many police forces had a high percentage of masonic members and there were indications of that power being misused. British and American masonry has gone out of its way to purge itself of that sort of thing – not so in mainland Europe where Eyes Wide Shut style lodges do exist to further political or criminal goals. However, these are of limited effect. The real reason is you are going to run a political cabal, the masonic model is out-of-date and too inflexible to be of any use. It does not need esoteric symbols or rituals. A modern boardroom and company procedure is all you need.
Other groups which might be subject to conspiracy theories are Roman Catholics, particularly Jesuits and Atheists. Obviously a strong protestant Christian bias, but as we have seen above, one which does not translate to religious action. Black rights civil groups are sometimes part of white conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories ignore victims.
Ironically while conspiracy theories seek to champion human rights and the ability of the individual to stand up against imaginary enemies, they do so at the expense of the real and verifiable body count. Dead are collateral damage to the conspiracy theory.
School shootings for example are all events organised by the authorities so that governments can take people guns away. The dead people are just “crisis actors” hired by the government, which always makes the mistake of using the same actors to do the same sort of “performance.”
It takes a certain coldness and a lack of logic to follow this through as most of the dead are children of families who have been part of a local community which knows them.
Conspiracy theories make the theorist feel better at the expense of others
Conspiracy theorists believe that they are the only ones who know the truth and that others are simply “sheep” who follow blindly. They make rather aggressive trolls.
Conspiracy theories ignore science
It has been a recent thing, but much of the conspiracy theories are anti-intellectual and science. The classic has been climate change, but to that you can add the moon landings being faked and bizarrely that the world is flat!
While conspiracy theorists will fall over themselves to find “whistleblowing” scientists to quote, to prove their points, they treat science as part of the conspiracy. Most of this is because, like most people, they don’t understand the science and distrust it. This is an instinct which is not helped by science becoming even more esoteric and withdrawn from reality. This does not mean that what it finds and creates is not real. I grew up around scientists and none of them doubted climate warming. One said that in ten years a waterfront property will be a liability and he sold his two years ago.
Conspiracy theories do not take into account human incompetence.
One of the stranger aspects of conspiracy theories, particularly espoused by Libertarians, is that they are reassuring. Random events do not happen, everything terrible is organised. Although it is part of an evil conspiracy it is somehow reassuring to know that everything is carefully planned and organised. But anyone who lives in the real world will tell you that accidents happen and people fuck up all the time. One of the key weaknesses of many of conspiracy theories is that it depends on politicians to be evil geniuses. Having met rather a lot of politicians there are not many clever ones and those who are not in senior positions. Most of the British and Italian ones have an anti-charisma which inspires people to vote for them in the same way people are drawn to look at accidents and train wrecks.
Politicians are incompetent and self-interested which is a winning formula for a cock-up which can easily be seen as a conspiracy.
Even the banking industry, which would make an ideal Bond Villain, is more likely to cock up rather than arrange a conspiracy. The mortgage crisis which bought the last recession was criminal incompetence with a hope to make vast amounts of money. It had huge economic fall out, but it was not a conspiracy to put lizards in power.
Conspiracy theories lack logic.
Many of the conspiracy theories just do not make sense outside their own universes. Why would the US government blow up their own buildings in 9/11? Sure you could go to war with Iraq or something else, but there are much easier ways of doing that. Occam’s razor says that the simplest theory is likely to be the most accurate, and conspiracy theories never are simplest.
Conspiracy theories do not resolve things
Humans are responsible for a huge mess on this planet, but nothing in conspiracy theories which seems to resolve anything. Even if the world believed that a conspiracy theory took place, there does not appear to be an alternative offered. In fact if a conspiracy theorist had a case, then very often the alternative ends up being worse than the problem. If the Protocols of Zion were valid, then the only solution is to round up all Jews and lock them up to break the conspiracy. The only way to stop Monsanto Company controlling the world’s food supply is to ban GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which stops the development of crops which could feed the world. The only way to stop school attacks is for everyone to carry a gun then the government will be too frightened to take them away. The Orkney satanic conspiracy, which existed in the minds of a few Christian social workers, was “resolved” by arresting a lot of innocent people and taking their children away. None of these are solutions which would work even if the conspiracy were correct in the first place.
Conspiracy theories discriminate against occultists
One of the things I never understood about occult conspiracy theorists is that they are turkeys looking forward to Christmas. So many conspiracies are based on twisting their beliefs and practices into something evil,
For example one conspiracy site made the claim that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded by lizards as part of their plan to take over the world. Other sites have attempted to say that the modern Golden Dawn is a right-wing nazi front. Anyone who actually names me as a right-winger clearly has ignored all the conspiracy theories where I am left-winger.
The biggest issue with conspiracy theories is that they often dig up the old concept that occultists are “Satanists” who perform baby murders. For example the recent conspiracy theory darling is Ronald Bernard. He was a high powered Dutch banker who can be seen tearfully telling his YouTube audience how he was required to take part in baby sacrifice as part of his satanic banking career. While in the Christian conspiracy land the whole thing makes sense, and you will not find any site debunking the story, in the occult world it is just so shit. Magic and the occult really does not work like that and only ever did in the fantasies of Christian monks during the middle ages, and the Tabloid journalists who liked running stories of naked witches.
The video reminded me of a mate of mine who was manic depressive, who when he was up was utterly convinced he was the best journalist in the world. He would hand-write pages of “news” for his company’s cricket magazine. He was living in another world where he was a Pulitzer prize winner and had memories of things which never happened. He would tell you impossible stories of events which never happened outside his own mind. Bernard holds a similar conviction. There is no doubt in my mind he believes what he is saying, but I do not believe that the story is true. If I did, I would believe that occultists are Satanists who sacrifice babies. Bernard mentions he had a mental breakdown after a friend committed suicide and was institutionalised. Recovery from this breakdown would fill a gap between the 1990s when he was involved in his baby murdering antics and turning up a decade or so later trying to set up an “ethical banking” scheme. He claimed the breakdown was guilt for his satanic banking activities, but the conspiracy theorists do not have to look at questions like that.
The Conspiracy of Conspiracies
While the world is chasing conspiracy theories or acting as if they existed, they are ignoring having to deal with the very real problems the world is facing. While climate change is a conspiracy theory, we don’t have to anything to stop it. While the government is our enemy or under the control of aliens or lizards, we opt out of supporting it. While conspiracy theories are good at attacking globalisation and the mythical move to a “one world government,” they are less likely to call for government taxation of corporates, or trade isolation. While leftist conspiracy theorists do go for corporates, they do not feature government bureaucratic conspiracies. Right Wing conspiracy theorists see their enemy as government. This suggests that conspiracies are not real, they are just projections of the left or right’s political views and fantasies.
Ironically the only effect of a good conspiracy theory is to create fear and anxiety. A frightened person is less likely to stand for office, try and improve things, stand out from the rest. The irony is that if there is a secret cabal ruling everything to keep humanity docile, then it will certainly be encouraging conspiracy theories.