I published a post over at CenSAMM, the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements, on the function of conspiracy narratives in Heaven’s Gate. Check it out here.
One function of conspiracy theories is to deal with uncertainty, which includes theological uncertainty, particularly failed prophecy. These challenges to the truth-claims of such groups can be sidestepped by positing a conspiracy against them, which shifts the blame from the group itself to an external force. In effect, it would explain that Nettle’s death did not lead immediately to TELAH not because it was wrong, but because it was prevented from happening by these “negative forces”. Such a move can even make a potentially divisive ideological issue into a source of group cohesion, by heightening the impression of an existential threat against them.
I also have a chapter in Fabricating Identities, edited by Russell McCutcheon. The book’s a spin-off from the Culture on the Edge blog, and explores identity not as a thing we possess, but as a thing we enact. My chapter is about academic identities, and how in becoming specialists (in my case, a religious studies scholar), we actually help maintain and reify those categories. The book is an entertaining collection of short, accessible essays, and because it’s Equinox, it’s cheap too. Have a look here.
Some updates… The manuscript of The Brill Handbook of Religion and Conspiracy, which Asbjorn Dyrendal, Egil Asprem and I have been working on for the last couple of years, was submitted to the publishers last week. I’m getting ready to travel to Chester for the annual conference of the British Association for the Study of Religion, where I will be giving a paper on Competing Narratives of Gnosticism, the first fruit of my current research project on the contemporary discourse on Gnosticism. More on that soon…
But wait! Before you go, let me tell you that my book came out in paperback this week! If you have been waiting because the hardback was too expensive, now you can get it for about £25. Get it here, or your local Amazon (not forgetting to use the Religious Studies Project affiliate link so we get some money back off The Man).
Alex Jones has publically apologised for his coverage of #PizzaGate, and specifically the allegations against James Alefantis. There is obviously considerable legal pressure being applied behind the scenes here, and it is at this point unclear how this relates to his close connections to the Trump White House. Video below, and a full transcript here.
Antarctica is a hot topic in alternative history narratives these days. Here’s David Wilcock and his latest “insider” Corey Goode on how “The Antarctic Atlantis” relates to the secret space program:
“Health Ranger” Mike Adams claims “I am being threatened with the ‘complete destruction’ of my reputation, my brand and my character by left-wing media operatives who have issued a new threat this week: ‘Destroy Alex Jones or we will destroy YOU.’” Poor snowflake – sounds like he’s been triggered.
I haven’t done one of these in a while. That’s because all the wild conspiracy stuff I used to post is now our everyday reality, and the stuff of the regular news shows… So perhaps today is a good time to post.
John Carpenter publicly denies that They Live (1988) is an allegory for the secret Jewish control of the world:
THEY LIVE is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism. It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.
The CIA have declassified 13 million documents and published them online. Most news outlets are focusing on a small number of inconclusive UFO reports. Sky news, however, focused on their tests on Uri Geller, something that Geller has claimed for a while, though not always being taken seriously. The papers provide evidence, however, stating that “As a result of Geller’s success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perception ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”
A review of Holy Hell, a documentary by Will Allen about his years in the Buddhafield, a Californian group led by hypnotherapist Michel. It seems like the tone is relatively even-handed, which means that this will be of interest to scholars like me, as well as the use of archival footage. I say “relatively even-handed” however as I have yet to see it, and there is certainly a slightly sensationalist tone to the trailer. Ideas of sexual misconduct are, of course, the standard accusation in the construction of malevolent Otherness, and has been since the Classical world, and financial misconduct is another. Nevertheless, they do happen, and there have been a number of recent documentaries (“Going Clear”, “The Family”) which trade on the “corrupt leader and his brainwashed stooges” model, which is worrying. As religious identities become more polarised, are we seeing a return to the media universally constructing new religions as dangerous cults?
Pentecostalism has a strong sense of the other-worldly, and its emphasis on spiritual forces sometimes means a readiness to accept claims about “occult” and Satanic conspiracies. Sometimes, pop-culture science-fiction elements may be incorporated, such as the idea that UFOs are visions of demons. However, the extravagance of the conspiracy theories now being promoted by Bakker are closer to the realms of David Icke’s imaginings than the exhortations of old-time religion or even the old conspiracy theories that were dusted off and made less overtly anti-semitic by Bakker’s old employer Pat Robertson in 1991.
James Carrion has new evidence suggesting a larger role in the UFO story for the Joint Security Control, a strategic deception unit formed during WW2 and answerable directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A revised charter allowing them to operate in peacetime, as well as wartime, come into operation in May 1947, immediately preceding the original wave of “flying saucer” sightings. A long, very detailed, but fascinating read for anyone interested in the historical development of the UFO narrative, and its origins. At http://historydeceived.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/human-deception-at-playduring-ufo-wave.html
Hey there! The kids are back at school, so I have time again to curate your weekly dose of conspiracism from around the web.
(Via Daniel Jolley:) The International Journal of Communication reports that people convinced by a conspiracy theory may not immediately change their mind again. Well, duh.
Recent research published in the International Journal of Communication … found that after exposure to a video promoting government conspiracy theories about the moon landing (segment taken from Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon), belief in conspiracy theories increased immediately after the exposure and two weeks later (when compared to people who had not watched the video). This provides, to my knowledge, the first empirical evidence that being exposed to conspiracy theories can change your attitudes for a prolonged (two-week) period of time. If you are interested in reading the paper, you can access a PDF copy here.
There’s a movie about holocaust denial starring Rachel Weisz coming. I’m in.
The case of alleged abductee Stan Romanek is such a hot tangled mess I can’t even begin to describe it. As he appears in court on child pornography charges this week, go grab a beer, head over to Jack Brewer’s UFO Trail and enjoy.