The Week in Conspiracy Theories – 3/8/2015

Quassim Cassam contributed a piece to the Independent, announcing a survey to find out why “some are more ‘receptive'” to conspiracy theories. Cassam hhas softened his position a good deal since his last piece; he here states clearly that “conspiracy theorists” aren’t mad or mentally ill, merely “more vulnerable to “intellectual vices” such as dogmatism, gullibility and close mindedness”, which therefore “makes them more likely to listen to extreme “alternative” sources of information”. Presumably, Cassam doesn’t count the Independent as “alternative” media.

Nevertheless, there is no definition of what a “conspiracy theory” might be – rather there is the implication that we all know already. Those who don’t think like “us” have something wrong with the way they think. It’s the only possibility, right? We couldn’t be wrong. They are “extreme”, “overly dismissive”, “gullible” and “irrational”, because they believe things that “go against common wisdom”. Whose common wisdom? Because Cassam’s knowledge, of which he is so certain, would be challenged in many places, perhaps most places in the world.

In my opinion, Cassam commits two intellectual sins. Firstly, like the scholars of the colonial period, he assumes that there is something wrong with those who think differently from him, and sees his task as a scholar to correct them. Secondly, at the same time, he fails to follow up the implications of his argument, and challenge powerful groups who use the same styles of thought as the marginal groups he studies: Christians, Muslims, Jews and any large religious group – not to mention Republicans and Democrats. Isn’t that Cassam being “overly dissmissive” of evidence that goes against his own beliefs?

Meanwhile, over at the right-wing, populist Telegraph, Alex Proud opines that “conspiracy theorists may have had it right all along”. Surprisingly, he only makes passing mention of the EU, and his conclusion is rather odd for the Telegraph: “we need more regulation”:

This nice, cozy state of affairs lasted until the early 2000s. But then something changed. These days conspiracy theories don’t look so crazy and conspiracy theorists don’t look like crackpots. In fact, today’s conspiracy theory is tomorrow’s news headlines… Of course, our real-life conspiracies aren’t much like The X-Files – they’re disappointingly short on aliens and the supernatural. Rather, they’re more like John Le Carre books. Shady dealings by powerful people who want nothing more than to line their profits at the expense of others. The abuse of power. Crazy ideologues who try and create their own facts for fun and profit. Corporations supplanting governments via regulatory capture.

One for the “David Icke: Was he Right?” file: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announce an investigation into claims that Wiltshire Police shelved a child abuse investigation to cover up links to Edward Heath. While Icke has often claimed to have named Jimmy Savile as a paedophile prior to his death, he did not do so publicly. Heath, on the other hand, he did, and Icke is not going to miss the opportunity to point  this out:

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Conservative Press uses David Icke to Discredit the Green Party

The Telegraph blog yesterday ran a piece which is clearly intended to tarnish the Green Party by association to David Icke. You can read the article here. If you are unaware, the Telegraph is perhaps the most overtly Conservative of the major UK newspapers.

Asa Bennett draws a comparison between Natalie Bennett’s recent interviews and David Icke’s infamous interview with Terry Wogan in 1991. As I have previously written about, Icke’s appearance on the early-evening Wogan programme on April 29, 1991, led to widespread ridicule in the media, which it appears a large number of people remember 24 years later. He had recently had a series of channelled communications with Theosophical Masters, and was announcing it together with his wife Linda and a second woman, Deborah Shaw, both of whom had changed their names and were all dressing in turquoise. In the interview, Icke makes several Edgar Cayce-derived predictions of ‘earth changes’, and when prompted, states he is a “son of God”. Wogan is rather mocking, and the video seems to be unavailable in its entirety as a result.

Prior to this, however, Icke was a rising star of the Green Party. In 1989, he was elected one of four “national speakers”, and by 1990 was described as “the Green’s Tony Blair” and was widely considered de facto co-leader with Sara Parkin. He was dismissed by the BBC in 1990 (either as a result of his prominence in the Green Party, refusal to pay the Poll Tax, or forthcoming announcement of his spiritual awakening), and resigned from the Green Party on March 20, 1991, prior to Wogan. Icke was involved with the Green Party for little more than three years.

Bennett writes:

The Green party swiftly descended into a spiral of insanity and infighting, with its vote in the 1992 election slipping to 171,000. At that year’s conference, members gave a rapturous reception to their ex-leader after he told them that the world was run by giant lizards (including the Queen) and that global warming was a scam.

The first sentence is clearly polemic: “insanity” is a highly loaded word, and there is no reason to assume that a party inn disarray means they are insane. Would the Telegraph use similar language to describe the chaotic state of the Conservative party in 1990 when Thatcher was unnsuccessfully challengened by Michael Hesteltine, ultimately leading to John Major’s leadership? But the latter sentence is either misinformed or deliberately misleading. Icke did not announce the reptilian thesis until 1995, nor was he ever “leader” (as the article actually acknowledges elsewhere). In fact, the other national speakers of the Green Party were extremely upset by Icke’s claims, describing them as “an embarrasement”, and Sara Parkin actually quit in protest to the decision to invite him to speak at a 1992 event (not conference) in Nottingham. The antagonism continued, and Icke was heckled at the 1995 Glastonbury Festival by then Green Party speaker, David Taylor. Clearly, the Green Party did not endorse Icke’s views.

The article’s point? “The Green Party is a Looney Tunes alliance of druids and trots,” it says, quoting another recent op ed by Tim Stanley. Not Christian; not capitalist (although they deny being socialist, let alone communist); therefore insane. It seems that the recent surge of support for the Green Party is upsetting the Conservative press. It also shows that Icke’s Wogan interview is still a subject of ridicule, a quarter of a century on.