when the world has no order, invent one…

January 17, 2011

Not all woo is created equal and not all of it is dangerous to the same extent. Homeopathy may be a waste of your hard earned money but the only way it can harm you is if you take it instead of real medicine for a serious condition, and even homeopaths will often say that you should use proper medication along with their potions and sugar pills, you know, to cover their tails if the authorities start asking questions. Curses and hexes won’t exactly put anyone in harm’s way all by themselves, and fluffy New Age woo about biocentrism only results in scientific illiteracy and sounding as if one is regurgitating pseudoscientific buzzword salad. But when it comes to bad ideas that do carry some serious danger with them, conspiracy theories have to be way up there on the list. Why? Their most fervent followers aren’t just a nuisance online, but they also run the risk of losing plenty of money to those who prey on their paranoia and fuel people with a really frail relationship with our world to do bizarre and even heinous things while undermining global peace and stability on all too many occasions.

Let’s get one important thing out of the way right now. There are very real conspiracies in our world and there’s always some sort of deal going on in a backroom because someone wants to make money on unrest or use some political dilemma in developing nations to grab valuable resources from a corrupt regime. This is how many of the world’s shadier characters make a living, characters like arms dealers and mob bosses, as well as naively optimistic conglomerates which think they can simply jam into a potential new market to make an easy buck if they just pay off the right people without realizing that they’ll be bled dry by the end. However, just because shady characters are trying to divvy up the world into their fiefdoms with very mixed success, proof of some elite international cabal running the world for centuries and orchestrating every election, war, and crisis doesn’t get any better. So while adherents of New World Order conspiracy theories drum on the evidence from real secret deals and conversations and say that since we have proof of real conspiracies around the world it would be naive not to believe their pet theory, they’re still wrong. If anything, the past few years have shown the exact opposite of what they claim. None of the world’s leaders can seem to agree on much of anything and in the supposed era of multinational interests and global cooperation, the only thing most nations worry about is their own pocketbooks and across the world, nationalist and isolationist trends are on the rise.

With the Great Recession, the world had a taste of what globalization and multilateral economic connections can entail on the other end of the economic scale and it seems that quite a few decided they’d rather bow out and go home. The same attitude seems to pervade the American Tea Party, and to some extent, they have a point about globalization as it’s played out now: that some of its biggest benefactors cheat and no one really seems to be able to bring them back in line. Remember that the global agencies powerless to put an end to Chinese currency manipulation are supposedly able to bend entire continents to their whims. Well, they don’t want to bring anyone back in line because this serves their goal, conspiracy theorists reply. But why would an immensely powerful cabal want to make people miserable when it could just keep them content and give the world enough slack to plod along while they do all their scheming in the background? Why saddle the planet with huge financial crises rather than slowly devalue the same assets over time and snap them up later? All a global economic blowout does is raise people’s suspicion and ire. If today’s supposedly infinitely wise cabals of rulers and bankers is even trying to control public opinion, they’re doing a horrible job. Any New World Order worth its salt would do far more on the public relations front end and keep the populace quiet and comfortable while it unfolds its plots over a longer period of time with better and less noticeable results.

Today’s events seem like a pretty clear indication that the world isn’t ruled by a single nefarious group, but by short-sighted disarray that has nations jokey for position in countless competitions for leverage and money. It really is a lot less dignified and organized than a single organization with global pull, the kind weaved from a collection of disparate quotes, tales, and events, then used as a coping mechanism with the word’s natural state of anarchy, especially now, during a major realigning of the world’s politics after the Cold War has faded from many nations’ memories and in the wake of the United States’ mounting national debts. But tumultuous times are often met with conspiracy theories to somehow give meaning to bad ideas or meaningless events. One popular conspiracy theory in South Korea says that the Cheonean, the South Korean warship sunk by an attack from North Korea, was actually destroyed by friendly fire from the American Navy and covered up by the nation’s militant administration. Conspiracy theories in the Arab world have people looking for nefarious plots by the Mossad in everything from tagged vultures to sharks near a beach. And in the United States, decades and decades of political discourse were dominated by conspiracy theories that rage to this day. In fact, the more fanatical Tea Party and libertarian rallies are warning their attendants of a looming crackdown by an evil government and urging them to stockpile gold, survival gear, and weapons.

And again, none of this is new. It’s an old American tradition when we get right down to it, and it’s how people sometimes channel their feelings of being trapped in a situation form which there’s no escape. They build an enemy for themselves (the government or the alien / Mason / Illuminati / banker cabal) and come up with a rather important purpose (surviving the coming crackdown by the evil enemy) to feel like they’re actually working for a noble goal and trying to prevent their enemy’s sinister schemes. And it’s all harmless fun until someone who has a very deep-seeded need to really do something to make a statement decides to turn this resistance and angry rhetoric into violent action or decides to mix it with religion or pseudoscience and create groups we fear because of their propensity for both advocating and carrying out violence. Ironically, however, because we find ourselves demanding that our government protects us from secretive and violent groups, we might well be fueling even more conspiracy theorists and even more mentally unstable or violent people going off to join an ever growing variety of groups based around conspiracy theories gone too far…

Share
  • Paul

    Off-topic, but given the post yesterday, it reminded me of one of my favourite conspiracy theories. The idea that during the early part of the cold war 1950-1960, the KGB funded anti-government groups, communist sympathisers (obviously), civil rights activists, and even white-supremacist groups. When capitalism didn’t immediately fall, they switched to a new tactic. In the latter part of the cold war (1970-1980’s), they actively encouraging conspiracy groups in the US. UFO/area51 groups, Kennedy assassination, and secret world government nuts. Anything hostile to the US Government. Paying to publish books, forging and “leaking” documents, etc.

    The conspiracy theory of conspiracy theories.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … the only thing most nations worry about is their own pocketbooks …

    How many nations can you name with such monolithic self-interest? In just about every case, the dominant faction(s) in any given country focus on enriching themselves first, their power center(s) next, and the nation-as-such last.

    The closest thing to an exception to the above rule that I can think of is China, where the leaders seem focused on power per se and apparently see their nation-state as a tool to be strengthened, financially & otherwise, for that purpose.

    But why would an immensely powerful cabal want to make people miserable when it could just keep them content and give the world enough slack to plod along … Any New World Order worth its salt would do much more on the public front relations end and keep the populace quiet and comfortable …

    Watch out! You’re starting to sound like me

    One popular conspiracy theory in South Korea says that the Cheonean, the South Korean warship sunk by an attack from North Korea, was actually destroyed by friendly fire from the American Navy and covered up …

    I’m told, by a sometimes-reliable source citing this apparently well-documented article, that

    Won See-hoon, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence… told a South Korean parliamentary committee in early April, less than two weeks after the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank in waters off Baengnyeong Island, that there was no evidence linking North Korea to the Cheonan’s sinking.

    But some context is in order: the US Navy is getting a very bad name among many South Koreans for the takeover of Jeju Island and related destruction of local fishing zones to build another base as part of its China containment strategy. Even if entirely imaginary, it’s barely worth asking whether such stories have emerged as calculated propaganda or spontaneously – both modes are inevitable.

    … we might well be fueling even more conspiracy theorists and even more mentally unstable or violent people …

    Vicious downward spirals are so much easier to start, and harder to stop, than beneficial upward ones.

    Paul: … actively encouraging conspiracy groups in the US. UFO/area51 groups…

    Rupert Murdoch’s X-Files show as a communist plot. Wow, that explains so much… ;-)

  • Greg Fish

    “I’m told, by a sometimes-reliable source…”

    Sometimes reliable? Hardly a vote of confidence. Oh and speaking of which, the article seemed like a very, very extensive exercise in quote mining to construct the conspiracy theory. And you know how I feel about using quotes as evidence…

  • Pierce R. Butler

    When bringing up in passing a pertinent point on which my evidence is less than rock solid, is it better to bury my doubts with the zeal of a prosecuting attorney, to drop everything and learn a new language so I can peruse primary documents, or to admit what I’ve seen should be considered tentatively?

    My larger point remains: Korean politics are more than a little tense, and the “conspiracy theory” you mention is occurring within a cauldron of conflicting claims and viewpoints which in itself seems more important than any morsel scooped out of that context.