The week in conspiracy

Via xkcd.com – Thanks Krittika

 

Donald Trump says he will attempt to release redacted information on 9-11 if elected – “Americans deserve answers and I would definitely request a new investigation so that this horrible tragedy never happens again”.

David Icke appears on the Richie Allen Show – a show that he funds – and gets a positive response. He talks mostly about his new book, The Phantom Self. Then, again, the next week, following Terry Wogan’s death. 

Meanwhile, the first episode of the new series of the X-Files uses Icke’s “problem-reaction-solution”, coming from the mouth of a character based on Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. Which is ironic as Glenn Beck is essentially a character based on Alex Jones.

The Week in Conspiracy Theories

Lizzard Warning
Via DGM Live

A draft of Dame Janet Smith’s report from the inquiry into Jimmy Savile and the BBC is leaked by Exaro News. This is a particularly troubling situation, because while a great deal of the conspiracist material surrounding Savile and the broader “institutional paedophilia” scare is hysterically exaggerated and speculative, and at worst – such as the case of the supposed witness “Nick” – based on what is either mental illness or outright fraud, there is plenty that is true and highly disturbing in this case.

David Icke has a new book coming out and a “world tour” later this year, so we can expect a run of new interviews across the alternative media. Here he talks to Alex Jones about “how the Public Is Programmed To Become Slaves”. I find his Infowars appearances particularly interesting because we get to see clearly how he selectively chooses his topic to suit his audience, in this case, politically right, Christian and pro-gun, in stark contrast to Icke’s own position.

Tila Tequila joins the growing flat earth revival with a wonderful Twitter rant. She demands scientific evidence! She blames the resistance to Flat Earth Theory arguments on brain damage caused by vaccines. Take that, Haterz!

On a more serious note, over at Disinfo.com, there’s an interesting take on conspiracism’s relationship to partisan politics, reminding us that there is more than one “orthodoxy”:

How can you believe that the government would not conspire against the people, when you obviously believe to the point of constant accusation that the other party you are not in, is constantly conspiring against your party and it’s leader?

Meanwhile, Rob Brotherton contributes an excellent op-ed for the LA Times, outlining the psychological and cognitive systems and biases that mean that conspiracy theorising is perfectly normal. Still, I would have liked to have seen him twist the knife a little more by pointing out that these same systems also produce religion…

Dismissing all conspiracy theories (and theorists) as crazy is just as intellectually lazy as credulously accepting every wild allegation. The tricky part is figuring out what’s reasonable and what’s ridiculous, and we can do that only by honestly scrutinizing why we believe what we believe.

The Week in Conspiracy Theories

The revived X-Files TV show features a character based on Alex Jones and Glenn Beck (the irony there being that Glenn Beck seems to be a character based on Alex Jones also). Looks like this is going to be essential viewing for me:

O’Malley eventually sways Mulder and Scully to adopt a new conspiracy that lays a framework for the six-episode revival. The theory involves global warming, war in the Middle East, NSA spying, chem-trails (here called “aerial contaminants”), police militarization, supposed FEMA prison camps, and the eventual military “takeover of America” by a UN-like group of “multinational elites.” The conspiracy theory plays a bit like Oliver Stone during his JFK fever pitch — only if his source material was Infowars instead of UFO lore.

Is Myra Hindley really dead? Coleman thinks not. What strikes me most is his ability to link everything by insinuation to child abuse. Thatcher met Savile, Savile knew the Royals, thatcher didn’t investigate Hindley, therefore Hindley and Savile procured children for the elite. And, these speculations are built upon other unproven allegations, treating collusion between the royals and Savile as fact, for example. On the other hand, I do like all the newspaper images he uses, showing how involved the popular right tabloids are in this kind of fear porn.

Only five years ago, Sweden’s Red Ice Radio was focused on a mix of new age, UFOs and conspiracy theories, what I would call millennial conspiracism. Today, their content is right wing, apocalyptic and openly anti-Semitic. Sadly, I feel this is typical of the milieu as a whole.

There’s a good article by Rob Brotherton over at the Daily Beast about the Illuminati conspiracy theories circling around the hip-hop world since the mid-1990s:

Have you noticed how a lot of musicians have been covering one eye when posing for photos? Or making some kind of triangle with their hands? Or both? And what’s up with all the occult imagery in videos for Jay Z’s “On to the Next One” and Kanye’s “Power”? Is it just because it looks cool and mysterious? The conspiracy-minded say there’s something more sinister to it. This is evidence, they say, of a vast, nefarious secret society—the Illuminati—and its plan to institute a New World Order.

But Will.I.Am calls bullshit on that:

IMG_20160118_114520

Sometimes a triangle is just a triangle, guys.

Nova Religio special issue published

2.cover-page-001Nova Religio 19.2, a special issue on “Conspiracy Theories in New and Emergent Religions” guest edited by your humble author, has just been published. It features an introduction and article by myself (Silver Bullets and Seed Banks: A Material Analysis of Conspiracist Millennialism), plus articles by Beth Singler (Big Bad Pharma: The Indigo Child Concept and Biomedical Conspiracy Theories), Kevin Whitesides (2012 Millennialism Becomes Conspiracist Teleology: Overlapping Alternatives in the Late Twentieth Century Cultic Milieu), Carole Cusack (The Messiah is a Salesman, Yet Consumerism is a Con(spiracy): The Church of the SubGenius, Work, and the Pursuit of Slack as a Spiritual Ideal) and Spencer Dew (Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah: Counterfactual Religious Readings of the Law). I am very proud of the issue and extend my gratitude to the authors and the general editors of Nova Religio. I hope you enjoy it.

This is the abstract from my introduction, which sets up the approach of the issue:

This introduction addresses a number of approaches to the emerging field of the study of conspiracy theories and new and alternative religions. Scholars can examine how certain religious groups have been the subject of conspiracy narratives created by the wider culture, and how conspiracy narratives are mobilized within religious groups such as Aum Shinrikyo, Scientology or others. Moreover, we can fruitfully examine secular conspiracy theories through ideas typically applied to religions, such as theodicy, millenarianism, and esoteric claims to higher knowledge. Most studies assume that conspiracy theories indicate pathology—paranoia or simply stupidity. Increasingly however, scholars have begun to interpret the term “conspiracy theory” as operating polemically to stigmatize certain beliefs and ideas. The field therefore offers a microcosm of broader trends in the interplay of knowledge and power. The study of both new and emergent religions and conspiracy theories comes of age only when we cease to think of them as necessarily deviant and irrational.

More to come later this week, as I finally get my head above water with work again…

The week in Conspiracy Theories, 17/9/2015

Only two this week, but they go together so well. They just WORK:

Dinosaurs Never Existed – http://www.atlanteanconspiracy.com/2015/09/dinosaur-hoax-dinosaurs-never-existed.html

Why were dinosaurs never discovered before the evolutionist renaissance in the mid-19th century?  Why do paleontologists think they can reconstruct an entire species of ancient animal from a few teeth?  Why have so many dinosaur “discoveries” turned out to be hoaxes?  Why are all “authentic dinosaur fossils” kept under tight lock and key away from any independent analysis?  Why has erosion and weathering not destroyed all these supposed prints and fossils that are allegedly millions of years old?  If dinosaurs were supposedly wiped out by a meteor impact or other such global catastrophe, why is it that all the other various animal species that exist today were not similarly wiped out?  There are many more questions which need to be answered before anyone in their right-mind should consider the existence of dinosaurs anything but a convenient evolutionist myth.

Dinosaurs did exist – and they exist still! – http://www.strangeconspiracies.com/2015/09/extinct-dinosaurscould-some-still-be.html

My friend is not a liar…what she saw on the other side of the lake was unbelievable… it was a real life dinosaur. A brontosaurus to be exact, based on her description. It had a long elongated neck and it was an herbivore that was eating leaves, based on her description. When the girls saw this living thought to be extinct monster, they took off and told everyone in the village. Most of the villagers laughed at the girls, but the village elders knew better.

The Week in Conspiracy Theories – 31/8/2015

Via Music for Deep Meditation.

A new Australian documentary is being released which has the awesome title, Australien Skies. One of its main focuses seems to be the classic Men in Black narrative, along with its updated 1990s variant, Black Helicopters. So conspiracy and UFOs clearly still linked in the popular imagination. Some might make a connection between recent immigration policy and a fear of attack by aliens, but not me. Trailer below. (Thanks to David Pecotic).

David Clarke posted an extract from his recent book, How UFOs Conquered the World, describing a mid 1960s flap in Wiltshire, known as the “Warfield Thing”. I won’t steal any of Dr Clarke’s vivid account here, but I will link to this 1966 BBC documentary on the subject, entitled Pie in the Sky.

Harvey Proctor is the latest MP to be drawn into the Operation Yewtree paedophile scandal. His response to the accusations against him by an anonymous source (for which he has not been charged, but his name has been apparently given to the press by the police) should give pause to how the police and the UK press are handling such accusations. You can read his full statement here. He concludes:

In summary, the paranoid Police have pursued an homosexual witch hunt on this issue egged on by a motley crew of certain sections of the media and press and a number of Labour Members of Parliament and a ragbag of internet fantasists… Anonymity is given to anyone prepared to make untruthful accusations of child sexual abuse whilst the alleged accused are routinely fingered publicly without any credible evidence first being found. This is not justice. It is an abuse of power and authority.

Conspiracy Theory Conference, University of Miami

I’m a bit miffed that not only was I not invited to this conference, but I didn’t even know it was happening. Maybe THEY didn’t want me to know about it… A couple of colleagues were there however, along with a few people who haven’t published on the subject at all yet.

There’s an interesting write-up by Jesse Walker over at reason.com, in which she/he echoes a couple of observations I’ve made about the field myself. The first is that most scholars have moved past the “conspiracy theory = paranoia” paradigm as per Hofstader’s 1954 The Paranoid Style of American Politics, even if the popular press have yet to catch up:

When the conference heard from Peter Knight, author of the seminal book Conspiracy Culture, he recalled that in the ’90s his circle’s “defining mission” had been to overturn the Hofstadterian tradition, with its tendency to pathologize conspiracy believers and to be alarmed at manifestations of public distrust. Listening to the interdisciplinary crowd, he felt on the one hand pleased that the field had grown so large, on the other hand alarmed at how little his group’s efforts seemed to have influenced the work being done elsewhere.

Secondly, the different approaches have different aims and (more problematically) often start with different assumptions. For example, psychological approaches often start with Hofstaderian assumptions. Walker suggests that philosophers generally fail to turn their critiques into research programs, even when the work is the most critically sound. For my money, the answer is a social epistemological approach combining philosophical insights into the construction of knowledge/s and a contextualisation of the broader cultural context from critical social theory. With this approach, the study of conspiracy theories can go beyond looking at “irrational, paranoid” Others, and instead tell us something about how competing epistemés are constructed and maintained.