Conspiracy theories a competition
The other day in the middle of a Washington radio phone-in a gentleman from the Middle West announced that President Kennedy had been murdered because he tried to cut the CIA budgt/ \. When asked for the source of this startling information the caller said “that it was all in the archives”. It was a relatively harmless example of a condition called conspiracy theory, a term which goes back to the year 1909; the word conspiracy is of course much older, it can be found as far back as the early 14th century. Its original meaning was to “breathe together” to agree, to unite” but also “to plot”.
Conspiracy theories were relatively infrequent in the 19th century, except at the very end with the campaign against the Elders of Zion, the masons and the Illuminati.. But in recent decades, and especially in recent years there has been a tremendous upsurge of conspiracy theories. There are even encyclopedias about the subject,; the media are full of it, so are the bookshops and even more the Internet. \\\\\C.G. Jung the great Swiss psychologist was quite right when he wrote that the high tide of parapsychology, astrology and similar pastimes was not , as frequently believed, the Middle Ages, it is the present ime.
The same is true with regard to conspiracy theories. It is difficult to think of any major event (let alone any major disaster) which has not attracted the conspiratologists, \from the murder of President Lincoln to John Lennon and Princess Diane. Hundreds of of conspiracy theories have been woven around events such as 9/11 and the Iraq war but also natural disasters such as AIDS, globals warming, Katrina and most recently the Chinese bird disease.There have been countless conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor, about the Pope and the Jesuits, about the Council of Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg group, about extraterrestrials and of course the Zionists.
Not all conspiracy theories are bona fide. When a French author wrote a book in which he proved that the attack against the Pentagon in September 2001 never took place, there is no certainty whether he really believed in it or whether the motive was to produce a bestseller. It is also true that according to a well know saying even paranoiacs have enemies. But the overwhelming majority of these theories are sincerely and intensely believed, among their protagonists are British and German ex-government ministers. and even a few scientists.
How to explain this enormous popularity of conspiracy theories? This is a subject that has ben insufficiently studied so far ; the late American historian Richard Hofstetter wrote an important essay on the subject many years ago but it dealt only with the United States ,the subject certainly needs further investigation.
If one were to prepare a geopolitical atlas on the diffusion of political paranoia,, the Arab countries and some ;parts of the Muslim world would probably emerge on top. It is widely believed in these parts ( by about 80% or more) that the Israelis carried out the attacks of 9/11. For how to explain that 3000 Jews working in the World Trade Center had been warned and did not appear to work that day? Muslims lacked the know how and sophistication to carry out a complicated operation of this kind. But at the same time about equal numbers believe that the brave jihadis were the heroes of 9/11 and America had the punishment coming in view of its anti-Arab and anti Islamic policies. These beliefs are not restricted to the more backward sections of sockety, they are widespread among academics and the TV station Al Jazeera , among others, has made a notable contribution.to the spread of these beliefs.
However. other parts of the globe` are also close contenders in this race for the conspiracy championship. Historically the far right was the main champion of the belief in the “hidden hand”but in the 1930's the Soviet Union was not lagging far behind with the propaganda about Wallstreet as the source of all evil, and the Moscow trials constituted another breakthrough. They proved that the Old Bolsheviks had all been agents of British and French, Polish, Romanian and Japanese intelligence. This trend continues to day among many anti Globalists and the believers in the neo conservative conspiracy, with Leo Strauss having replaced Leon Trotsky.
However conspiracy theories are also strongly represented in the Mediterranean world and other European countries,. Less so in India and China but quite prominently in Japan.
I do not think we shall find any time soon convincing explanations for the prevalence of conspiracy theories, and why some societies are more prone to believe in them than others. But the attempt should be made and I would like to suggest a competition—Readers are asked
to submit the most fascinating conspiracy theories they have encountered off late.. We are not in a position to offer an award at this stage , but if a donor will be found , it will be announced. I shall present in a forthcoming posting an example.