The truth you don’t know

Because you refuse to accept that there are conspiracies everywhere, with bankers manipulating money and controlling the world, and aliens...

In New Zealand, a dozen fans of British singer Adele, invited backstage at the end of her recent world tour concert, watched in horror as their idol “shape shifted” into an eight-foot-tall reptilian with greenish-gray scales and eyes like a lizard’s.

The star reportedly complained that she was probably losing control of her capacity to maintain her human appearance and it compromised her ability to appear onstage.

Adele fans should not worry — their idol’s condition is not rare. Other stars and world-famous personalities are also afflicted, notably Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Angelina Jolie and the British Royal Family, as reported by many conspiracy-tracking websites.

There is also another reason to keep calm and carry on: Adele is probably not a reptilian after all. The story that allegedly appeared in the New Zealand Herald seems to be a piece of fake news planted on the web for “disinformation” purposes, according to ragingreptilian.com. One should not be surprised to find that conspiracy theories suffer their own inside conspiracies.

This is all part of the reptilian conspiracy, a global plot revealed to the world by former British sports personality David Icke in books published since 1994. The ultimate goal of these alien reptilians, known as the Babylon Brotherhood, who landed on Earth thousands of years ago and genetically engineered humans as a slave race, is to implement a world fascist government.

OK, BACK TO EARTH

Conspiracy theories (CTs) abound. The reptilian plot appears only as one of the more extreme and lunatic versions. Sitting on the outer reach of ghoulish plots, it does not have a large following, according to Joseph Uscinski, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami. “Only 4% of Americans say that they believe it,” he says. Still, that’s 12.6 million adult Americans, slightly fewer than Ontario’s adult head count of 10.8 million.

What connects it to other CTs is that it is one of a number of enduring “one-world fascist government” not-so-secret plans being hatched by the “Illuminati,” the “New World Order” and the “Elders of Zion Protocols” conspiracies.

The New World Order conspiracy seems to be the primary all-encompassing world enslavement offensive. In his 1991 bestselling book The New World Order, televangelist Pat Robertson knotted together the many branches of this ghastly plot in which, among other organizations, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve System, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission create and manage world events, such as wars and economic crises, in order to submit humanity to a planetary dictatorship dedicated to the Antichrist.

Unlike Icke’s reptilian conspiracy, most CTs are not interstellar or even planetary in scope. Most are rather more prosaic and regional, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, probably the all-time favourite. “It seems more popular than ever,” says Nicolas Fillion, a professor of philosophy at BC’s Simon Fraser University who teaches a class on conspiracy theories.

In the United States, “a little more than 50% of people think that JFK’s assassination was not the solitary act of Oswald,” reports Fillion. A 2012 national poll that questioned people about four conspiracy theories “found that 63 percent of respondents believed at least one,” write Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent in their book American Conspiracy Theories.

The business world also has its share of conspiracy theories. One that went around in the 1990s and early 2000s claimed that the oil industry had suppressed an invention to make cars run on simple water, its inventor purportedly kidnapped by Exxon. There is no serious evidence that any car can run on water — this violates everything we know about physics — but some cars can run on hydrogen and oxygen combining in a fuel cell to produce electricity, with water as a harmless byproduct. This is probably the source of the crazy water-run car conspiracy myth.

RATIONALITY REDUX

Believers in conspiracy theories abound. Prevalent views on the subject of “conspirationists” posit that such people are somewhat mentally or psychologically handicapped. Should one conclude then that 63% of Americans are in some way mentally unsound?

Research involving millions of conspiracy posts on a conspiracy website, and to which Fillion refers, finds that conspirationists are “extremely mindful of backing their plots with evidence and argument,” he notes. “Their beliefs are based on facts: we can’t say that of many people.”

The problem is “that we get our analyses back to front,” says Matthew R.X. Dentith, a fellow of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Bucharest, and author of The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories. Since most of the literature on conspiracy theories starts out with the idea that belief in them is irrational, he writes, “we have to find reasons as to why conspiracy theorists are acting irrationally.”

More recent treatments of the subject try to cleanse away biases. For example, Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at Kent University, England, defines conspiracy theory quite aseptically as “an alleged plot by secret and powerful groups to achieve a malicious goal.”

That allows us to paint the conspiracy theory crowd in broad strokes. Thus many categories of US citizen fit in: men as well as women, Democrats as well as Republicans, whites as well as blacks. There are common traits: they tend to be “poor in terms of formal education and money,” write Uscinski and Parent, less likely to participate politically and more accepting of violence. “On the whole, they appear to deserve their reputation as outsiders.” (Sixty-three percent makes “outsiders” a majority.)

Conspiracy theory theorists, such as Fillion and Dentith, only look at the issue in epistemological terms. “It’s a theory [or a hypothesis], which can be right or wrong, just as in science,” says Fillion. One famous way to distinguish science from pseudoscience, put forward by the great philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper, is “falsifiability.” A scientific theory must have testable conditions in which it can be demonstrated as false. “Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory [as people often think] but a vice,” wrote Popper.

So, is Elizabeth II a reptilian high priestess of the Babylonian Brotherhood? This is impossible to falsify to a true believer because it is not testable. So it’s not scientific, and most likely untrue. Did the CIA conspire to carry out nasty drug experiments to test mind control methods for more than 20 years? Seemingly unlikely, but falsifiable — and true. The MKUltra Project, first regarded as a conspiracy theory, was recognized as a real project in which the CIA experimented with LSD to extract deep confessions from unsuspecting subjects such as prisoners and psychiatric patients, and closed down in 1975.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. BANKER

Some conspiracy theories float in a gray realm of partial truth and partial delusion. The story behind the creation of the Federal Reserve is an eloquent example and follows a splendid conspiracy line. In 1910, on Jekyll Island — that’s right, Jekyll Island — a highly secretive gathering of six power players from finance and government met at its resort club, including representatives of John Pierpont Morgan, “at the time, the unquestioned king of Wall Street,” wrote Neil Irwin, author of The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire, in a 2013 Washington Post article.

The plutocrats, as recounted by Irwin, aimed at solving “a problem as old as their republic”: protect the US from crises that happened with alarming regularity in 1884, 1890 and 1893, with the biggest one striking in 1907. For that, they wrote the original draft of what would become the Federal Reserve Act in 1914.

That’s the plot and its avowed intention. Now the conspiracy theory. In a report titled Century of Enslavement: The History of the Federal Reserve on his website The Corbett Report, Calgary-born James Corbett writes that the conspirators of Jekyll Island drafted an act that ultimately allowed the banks “to cartelize the nation’s money supply.”

One participant, reports Irwin, wrote much later: “If it were to be exposed publicly that our particular group had got together and written a banking bill, that bill would have no chance whatever of passage by Congress.”

Corbett writes as if the draft had gone from bill to act in one fell swoop, fully remote-controlled by Wall Street. In fact, reports Irwin, the bill met ferocious opposition and the “plot” to hand over the exclusive control of the money supply to bankers was heavily watered down.

Today, the Fed occupies an important place in what Corbett sees as the New World Order. But his view of this order is far from the monolithic “Antichrist” organization seeking to enslave the world that televangelist Robertson denounces. Corbett views it rather along the lines that David Rothkopf describes in his 2008 book The Superclass: the Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making. It is a loose organization of about 6,000 very rich, powerful and influential people who share ideas and meet, “but it is not a single group with a single plan,” says Corbett, who spoke with CPA Magazine from his home in Japan. However, it is a stratum that wields more power than any national government.

So, was the Federal Reserve Act a simple banking plan, or a dark money-grubbing conspiracy? The jury is still out. Today, one can still wonder if the bankers got their way: a powerful institution designed to help their specialized interests, not to serve the general welfare. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Fed, argued repeatedly that the single aim of his institution was to “save” the economy.

Many other credible sources disagree, notably Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, who can hardly be accused of conspiracy-theory mongering. In a 2009 article in The Atlantic titled “The Quiet Coup,” he claimed that the whole bailout aimed first and foremost at saving the bankers — forget the economy.

Feeding off such analyses, it is only a very short step to developing a conspiratorial view of finance, as does Pierre J. C. Allard, an economist, lawyer and author of Crisis and Beyond. “The system is rigged by the financial oligarchs,” he claims. “They control Washington and the Federal Reserve and have turned the monetary system into a ‘funny money’ joke.”

Does that sound conspiratorial? Oligarchs controlling Washington and the Federal Reserve — how far is that from Robertson’s New World Order lunacies? In his article Johnson says the same thing. What he witnessed in Washington during the crisis is exactly what the IMF regularly sees in underdeveloped countries: financial crises are the work of Third World oligarchs and, to save the sinking country, the IMF needs to fight them back — something that was not done in the US.

BIRTH OF THE UNITED STATES OF PARANOIA

Centralized financial control is not the only hydra that American conspiracy theorists have taken aim at. Targets abound: Freemasons, Catholics, Mormons, big business, government, Jews, Communists, and more recently, Muslims. Is conspiracy-spinning exclusively an American pastime?

Certainly not, yet conspiracy theorizing is deeply embedded in the American genome. Take the Declaration of Independence, certainly one of the most lofty political documents in history. It is also an exercise in conspiracy theory, points out Uscinski.

After the soaring political rhetoric, there are a “bunch of crazy conspiracy ideas about the King of England,” who was secretly scheming to strip colonists of their liberty and rule over them with absolute authority. “It is curious and consequential that the justification for independence was a shaky conspiracy theory,” Uscinski and Parent state in their book. (Conspiracies can have positive outcomes.)

The “birth through conspiracy” of the US highlights a defining feature of CTs: they wax and wane with political power. Many drivers of CTs have been suggested: economic hardship, social upheaval, big government. None works. For example, the Great Depression didn’t mark a high point of conspiracy theorizing.

What does drive the ebb and flow of CTs is power and threat. “The most important factor domestically is the party of the president,” says Uscinski. When Republicans are in power, conspiracy talk turns to big business; when Democrats take over, it turns to Communists and world government.

THE BUSINESS OF CONSPIRACY

Today, conspirationists seem busier than ever thanks to the internet and social networks. That is a false impression, says Uscinski; conspiracy theories are rather in decline. But Uscinski and Parent’s study is mostly based on newspaper documents. That’s not where conspiracy conversations happen anymore. They have moved to social networks and the web, says Jesse Walker, author of United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory.

One thing is certain, “the Internet has changed the way conspiracy theories are generated and spread,” says Walker. Even more, the web has allowed CTs to become a thriving business, insists Fillion. Talking heads such as Alex Jones, Glenn Beck and Jesse Ventura have large followings. “With 1.3 billion views since 2008 on YouTube, adds Fillion, Alex Jones (website: Infowars) has nearly as many as CNN’s 1.9 billion views since 2005. And he sells advertising and products, such as ‘kits’ for people who want to live ‘off the grid.’ ”

Another effect of the internet: where conspiracy narratives were previously self-contained, they now cross-pollinate, says Walker. The Reptilians have invested the Illuminati, who now plot the New World Order through the Bilderberg meetings and the Trilateral Commission.

CTs extend from the delusional to the plausible, from the ludicrous to the real, and that’s why many specialists now take them seriously. History is full of conspiracies and gives credence to conspiracy hypotheses. Conspiracies led to Caesar’s assassination in the Roman senate and to Hitler’s move to blow up the Reichstag in 1933 and later incinerate millions. Why should it be ludicrous to think that Lincoln and Kennedy could also have been victims of conspiracies and that the plots were covered up?

BE ALERT

Conspiracy theories have been associated with paranoia and irrationality. But Dentith rejects such words. “I think,” he writes, “any historically or politically literate citizen should at least entertain the possibility that a) there’s a conspiracy going on at a high level somewhere and b) governments, corporations and influential institutions generally have a history of conspiring.” Adds Uscinski: “The whole point of democracy and electing leaders is that we don’t trust people to hold power for a long time.”

Knowing that the CIA’s MKUltra was a reality can make people suspect that, indeed, the NSA is probably spying extensively on American citizens, as Edward Snowden’s leaks of thousands of classified NSA documents to the press lead us to believe. A study informs us that once Facebook aficionados have posted more than 227 “likes,” Facebook knows more about them than their spouse. Without conspiracy theorizing, the authors of the study write, “knowledge of people’s personalities can also be used to manipulate and influence them.”

There is a conspiracy theory floating around, report Uscinski and Parent, that Facebook was created and financed by secretive US government agencies hell-bent on mining the personal information of millions “to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location.”

Yet Facebook is only one component of a vastly spreading matrix. Increasingly, the Internet of Things will be “spying” on everyone’s fridge, car and stereo system. Never mind imagining a conspiracy; it is obvious that the collection of all that information, if it were to fall into the hands of malicious conspirators, could give them huge powers of manipulation and coercion.

Fillion is right: conspiracy theories per se are not irrational or lunatic. “I think that it’s part of a sane attitude to entertain the possibility of conspiracies,” he says. “In these times of potential control and surveillance, a certain level of alertness and suspicion is indicated.”