Archives For conspiracy theorists

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While there have been numerous studies on the psychology of conspiracy theorists, people to whom everything is a conspiracy by the powers that be to push a secret agenda, and who keep countering criticisms of their theories by invoking negative evidence and malfeasance at higher and higher levels, most of them focused on how they shape their worldview and why. Few cover the apparent obsessive nature of the true believers of a conspiracy theory who go so far in the name of "finding the truth" that they lose all perspective of what they’re doing and why they get static from those they try to interrogate. For example, the Sandy Hook Truthers, who insist that the school shooting in New England is some sort of secret government plot, are demanding the death certificates of the murdered children and hysterically hyperventilated when the coroner’s office contemplated telling them to go away and wasting their time with their "theories."

Basically, the theorists’ argument goes like this. They didn’t see any photos of the dead kids or their bodies in body bags, therefore it’s probable that their parents were really actors and there were no kids actually shot that day. If they were, why are there no pictures and videos of their little corpses? Let’s see, how about because while our news media has very little shame, they’re still cognizant that it’s in such revoltingly poor taste to bombard us with pictures of dead children covered in blood and bullet wounds that there would be riots outside their offices? And why is a coroner thinking twice about giving them death certificates? Because he knows that they’ll only be twisted to serve the conspiracy theorists’ agenda. Somebody on Prison Planet, or InfoWars, or ATS, will announce that his girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend-in-law twice removed just got his fifth degree black belt in death certificate forensics and totally knows they’re fake. How? It’s what always happens with every document meant to answer conspiracy theorists.

Even if someone were to go as inhumanly far as exhuming the victims’ bodies and doing a full, public DNA analysis broadcast live on the web to confirm that the victims are who we were told they are, some fanatic obsessed with this theories will find a way to claim that the tests were just theater by the Reptoids from Tau Ceti or whatnot. Again, this is what conspiracy theorists do. All evidence that runs counter to their beliefs must be rationalized to still fit into them, made out as some sort of disinformation operation by evil forces, or dismissed as a fraud. You can tell that it will happen with their pseudo-religious approach to their theories: a messianic proclamation of a discovered truth no one wants them to know, with anecdotes, factoids, rumors, and third-hand, if not fourth-hand accounts, presented to the critics to be disproved and held up as dogma that all true believers must follow lest they be labeled a CIA/NSA/Illuminati mole in their midst…

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anons in the wild

Ars has a longform story on an unlikely cyber warrior, Christopher Doyon, aka Commander X. If you see him out in the wild and think that he’s merely a lanky 50-something panhandler smoking like a chimney in coffee shops while surfing the web, you could certainly be forgiven for making that mistake. Little does anyone know that he’s leading the worldwide fight against fascism and tyranny in Egypt and Syria after having battled persecution and injustice in the U.S. Now, this highly ranked general of the Anonymous armies is a fugitive from the long arm of the law trying to punish him for a DDoS attack against a local government office when it tried to tell people not to randomly sleep in local parks. Except when you read through Doyon’s story and the caveats carefully noted by writer Nate Anderson, you’ll discover that only the last part of all this is really true while the rest is basically a giant ego trip from a homeless conspiracy theorist with a laptop and a cause. Though exactly what that cause is gets very quickly lost in the histrionics…

Basically, the fight being fought by Doyon is against tyranny and oppression although what he’d call tyranny and oppression shows that he’s not familiar with a real authoritarian government and these verbs are usually used to say "’The Man’ isn’t letting me do whatever I want." Were he one of the many victims of authoritarianism, odds are that he would’ve been long sent to do a stretch of very hard time in a prison camp and the arrest he would’ve endured wouldn’t have been very gentle, proper, or brought to a court that released him on moderate bail while they reviewed his case. Even the reason why he fled was egotistic. After he coordinated a DDoS attack on Santa Cruz county, the judge didn’t want him to use social media to organize another one and while the case was being heard, ordered him to stay off Facebook and IRC. Imagining that this was a ploy to prevent the transformative work he was doing around the world over IM, he set off for Canada to seek political asylum. Because apparently, he thinks he’s important enough for that.

For more detail, I certainly recommend checking out the story itself, it’s well worth your time, but what really resonated in it with me was the textbook image of a conspiracy theorist looking for a conspiracy to fight. Doyon the 50+ year old drifter living off $15 a day used on coffee, smokes, and a fast food sandwich, perfectly matches with society’s definition of a bum. While many of his peers were studying, working, and trying to build families and careers, he was dropping acid and hanging out with anarchists who saw everyone who didn’t see eye to eye with them as enemies, sinister sleeper agents of the state, sort of like the Agents in The Matrix. He has nothing to show for his half century on this planet. But Commander X, his alter online ego, is the liberator of the oppressed, the digital Gandhi, King, and Eisenhower, all rolled into one. He commands legions and legions of followers and fierce digital artillery in the form of "ethical botnets" that can muscle giant companies like PayPal off the web. Commander X’s facade of a vagabond is a cover, much like that of a secret agent. Now, doesn’t that seem a lot better and more grandiose?

Too bad that this too is pretty much bullshit. Well known Anons have a real distaste for him as a so-called "leaderfag" who thinks he’s in charge of things he’s not, and whose chest-thumping is effectively worthless. So he talks to a small group of his fans and imagines that he’s fanning the flames of revolution against puppet governments of the New World Order. Like many conspiracy theorists on the far left, he’s ready to jump down anyone’s throat should he hear disagreement, rushing screaming at top speed at various strawmen about supporting The Plutocracy or busy stuffing words into critiques of his absolutist worldview, accusing his detractors of simply taking fascist oppression lying down or being blind to the government’s misdeeds. Whatever legitimate gripe he has, has long been obscured by hyperbole and reflexive categorization of anything an authority figure with which he disagrees does as either a war crime or enslavement of the 99%. I can understand why. He’s lived in cozy far left echo chambers in which being radical was simply not radical enough so nuance and debate are simply not part of his world anymore.

Finally, I can understand that there are plenty of people out there not happy with the way things are and wishing their lives had turned out differently. A lot of people feel the same way, like we got stuck on a treadmill and are going exactly nowhere. I know I’ve written plenty of posts which decry the fact that so much potentially transformative science and education is constantly being given the short end of the stick by visionless, bloviating empty suits we elect to govern us. A lot of these potential programs could make the 9 to 5 cubicle grind unnecessary in the long term as well as give us more options for what to do with our lives. So I get it, we’re not in our utopias yet and I’m sure my version of a perfect would would be someone’s mechanical nightmare. But the way to change the world isn’t to pretend to command hordes of cyber anarchists. It’s a tedious, long process that may involve waiting until the visionless retire or fall out of power. It takes time and sorting through competing ideas. DDoS-ing the shit out of stuff produces a speed bump on the way to something new and to pretend that it makes a real difference leads nowhere.

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new world order

A while ago, a seemingly harmless opinion article about digital currency on a current events site provoked a flood of conspiracy theorists claiming that digital money was a tool for the New World Order to track down those they didn’t like, or that it was one of the signs of the End Times which were described in Revelations. Considering that the Illuminati probably don’t care about how you spend your time and money while planning global domination and whatnot, the odds that digital money was going to make you a target for the NWO seem rather slim. But there’s another news-making Mark of The Beast out there, according to a Texan high school student, an RFID tag to track attendance and make sure that a certain district gets its daily allotment per student. When she refused to wear it, the school suspended her and told her parents she should either wear a tag or find a new school. The parents were quite obviously furious about what they see as major violations of their freedom of religious expression and the legal manure soon hit the fan.

Considering that equating the mark of a demonic creature most historians say serves as a rather heavy-handed metaphor for Roman emperors, with an RFID tag in a badge seems hyperbolic at best, there is a very valid issue in all this. There’s significant potential for abuse if you can track the movement of every student at will and if the webcam case in Pennsylvania is any indication, administrators will abuse their privilege and law enforcement will decline to punish them, which really makes the mind boggle because the administrators in question took hundreds of candid pictures of students involved in various stages of undress and the FBI would’ve had a very solid child pornography case on its hands, one they should’ve made and prosecuted. What will RFID tags reveal about students’ habits and will administrators drunk with newfound power abuse this information to met punishments that cross the line? As the above-mentioned case shows, the only way to prevent that is not to give the administrators this information in the first place.

I suppose one could argue that millions of adults wear RFID tags in their ID badges for work and seem no worse off for it. But adults choose to work at a place that tracks their movements. High school students have very little say or choice in the matter and for many, moving to new districts may not be an option and if it is, an unfair one at that. For conspiracy theorists who ran with this story in InfoWars, this disregard for students’ rights is just the latest reminder that schools exist as brainwashing factories for the powers that be, an long held idea that both left wing and right wing conspiracy theorists believe. But the real issue we need to address is why this idea was not vetted with the public before it was implemented and what it says about how schools view how to educate their students. Are the kids and teenagers entrusted to them merely id numbers, exam and standardized test scores, and fund sources? How quickly the administrators wanted to tag their students and how they reacted when one said no seems to say an awful lot about how that school district views education and its students, and what it says is not encouraging.

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lost at baikonur

Apparently the start of the Cold War must’ve been really easy on intelligence agencies since it seemed that whatever strange rumor surfaced, these agencies bought it hook line and sinker, if you believe a relatively recent article on Discovery Space. In this case, the rumors were those of mysterious cosmonauts who either didn’t survive the Soviet space program’s more ambitious or riskier efforts, or survived them but were now unfit to be shown in public. Now, you can’t fault an enthusiastic conspiracy theorist too much when it comes to the Soviet space program because for its entire history, it was shrouded in deep secrecy and cloaked by zealous propaganda that made sure only the successes were ever broadcast or detected. The Politburo feared that any public accident would be immediately taken as a sign of weakness and damage the image they were trying to project for the USSR and its doctrine of "classify now, announce later if ever," had even spawned some bizarre space-related rumors among Soviet citizens.

One of the more pervasive conspiracy theories has always been that of a flight before Gagarin famously soared into orbit, and another astronaut who was either denied fame or never made it back. At the time, the USSR could afford several do-overs for the first manned launch, and so some reporters were told by unnamed sources speaking off the record — or so they thought — about a Soviet test pilot who either died when his rocket exploded on the launch pad, made it to orbit but didn’t survive the re-entry, or survived the flight but was horribly disfigured after a very nasty accident during descent and hid away from the public eye. The last version was popular mostly in the Western Communist circles while the Russian conspiracy mantained that Gagarin was an alternate for a pilot who died during the mission. Adding to this theory’s popularity was a Soviet admission that Gagarin ejected from his spacecraft rather than land with it, as they had initially insisted after the flight’s announcement. If the government would lie about something as small as that, goes the conspiracy mindset, what else could they have covered up?

Couple the leaks about failures, accidents and shortcomings beneath constant claims of a swift mastery of manned spaceflight with bizarre transmissions caught by radio enthusiasts and often attributed to Soviet spacecraft or spy stations, and you can see why the conspiracies would be flourishing. Everyone knew the Politburo was image-conscious to a fault and admitting that their vaunted space exploration program was not going as smoothly as it had hoped, or acknowledge any accidents which could be simply covered up and forgotten, simply wasn’t in its nature. And so these rumors grew and survived, taking every Soviet article or photograph of its cosmonauts, their craft, or their training as more proof that something was being glossed over, or someone’s death or disfigurement was being suppressed for all those happy promotional news reels and fluff pieces in the state-run press, even when things were indeed going smoothly. But that’s what will happen when a government in inherently dishonest with its people and the world. Even when it really does have nothing to hide, people are convinced that it does, and is actively hiding it…

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Either that, or the tool of the New World Order to erase all anonymity and track us wherever we go as they spy on our every conversation, text, e-mail, and IM in their new data centers if you believe all the religious zealots and conspiracy theorists drawn to an otherwise unassuming article on why we should go cashless. Most of the dire warnings fall strictly into two camps, with one being "the government is out to get you," while the other is the typical "repent sinners, the Beast approaches!" spiels threatening the unbelievers. Rather than being a debate on the merits of not having to deal with bills and coins versus the risk of keeping all our money purely digital in a bank’s system, the discussion ended up as raw data for a study of how modern New World Order conspiracies bridge different ideologies, uniting seemingly disparate groups with very different beliefs under the umbrella of suspicion and mistrust of The Man. Yes, the fact of the matter is that we increasingly rely on an electronic funds exchange system. But is it some sort of nefarious scheme to be tagged, tracked, and silently enslaved by demons/aliens/bankers, engineered by their henchmen controlling banks and governments?

Of course there are risks to storing all your money digitally. Hacking and identity theft can drain bank accounts in seconds but nowadays we have mechanisms for combating that and restoring everything stolen in about a day or two. And what’s the alternative to electronic banking? Let cash just sit in the bank’s safe or pile it under your mattress for a rainy day? Will you really dive into the vault or under the bed if you need more bills? Or is it easier to just use the nearest ATM which turns your digitally stored assets into cash? According to those who believe that a cashless society would be a tool of the New World Order, cash provides anonymity and freedom from those who can track every transaction you make to figure out where you are and where you were at every minute of every day. This line of thought raises two questions with the first being what makes someone think that cash grants them true anonymity? Sure, it’s much harder to trace, but it has been done before, especially when it’s used legally, leaving a paper trail of receipts and sales numbers along the way. Plus, don’t the cash advocates in question have accounts with utility companies which send them bills? Or some sort of mortgage or rent they have to pay every month? No matter how they pay them, those interested in getting a hold of them could always use the countless paper and digital traces we leave as we go about our daily business.

If you want to be really hard for someone with access to banking and utility records to find, your best bet would be to move into an off-the-grid compound in the middle of nowhere and close every bank account, credit card, and subscription you have. You’ll also have to ditch your cell phone and internet, communicating with anybody only via public resources such as those in city libraries and recreation centers. Even then, when you show up in the same libraries and centers to make calls and check your Hushmail account, anyone looking for you will eventually get wind of what you’re doing and track you down, especially since you won’t own a car. That’s right, you can’t have a car because you have to sign for a title and register it with the DMV to get your tags. Fail to do that, and the police will pull you over for not having tags or proof that you actually own the car you’re driving. So even after going way off the grid, you can still be found unless you live like a hermit for the rest of your life if an authority of some sort is really interested in tracking you down. That brings us to our second question. Why is your persona so incredibly interesting to the New World Order? Let’s be honest here, 99.5% of us will always be more or less average people and keeping track of where we buy our groceries or how much we pay for our internet access are hardly riveting topics for a shadowy cabal that supposedly plans the fate of the world.

After all, these powerful secret rulers have to plot the direction of the global economy and the next major wars, were we to believe the conspiracy theorists. How does knowing that Jane Q. Public just filled up her car at the gas station on the corner of Main and Broadway in Wherever, SD for $43.17 and paid with her Local Bank Visa debit card help them better execute their grand strategy? As painful it may be for conspiracy theorists to admit, the probability that they’ll be actively watched by the NWO is infinitesimal because frankly, they’re just not at all interesting and their posts on ATS, Prison Planet, Whale.to, and InfoWars are not exactly all that threatening to global organizations with virtually unlimited resources. Yes, there are exceptions to this and there are ordinary people do find themselves under surveillance by a government agency for just being who they are, and in this case, no amount of cash use will help them. And they’re not under surveillance because the NWO ordered an investigation into them out of the blue, they’re under surveillance because an agency tasked with a nebulous, open-ended task like "keeping the nation safe" think this person may have links to terrorists or criminals, or a foreign spy agency. How it makes that determination and what it should or should not be allowed to do needs to be debated, but the point again is that having cash is no guarantee of anonymity and you’re almost certainly not being targeted by the New World Order just because you posted some comments or blog posts.

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A big story by Politico asserts that the famously archconservative Fox News is moving to the political center, probably to attract a younger and less partisan audience the share of which it saw slipping in the ratings. And it does make sense that a company would want to make their product more marketable because once you’re essentially an unabashed cheerleader for a partisan cause, only other devoted partisans will watch what you have to offer. Likewise, giving $1 million to a political party from the entire organization would not engender your credibility as a news source, much like a referee publicly making plans to go for a drink with players from one team after the game is over would not instill viewers with confidence about the objectivity of his calls on a playing field. But a move towards greater objectivity is making lots of partisan zealots very unhappy and they’ve resorted to full blown conspiracy theories to describe why Fox would ever dare to move slightly leftward…

Cliff Kincaid, president of America’s Survival, had a whole booth at CPAC dedicated to questioning Fox’s programming choices, complete with Bring Back Beck buttons and bumper stickers. “What happened is that [Fox] buckled under pressure from George Soros and his operatives to get rid of Glenn Beck,” said Kincaid, who wants Beck back on the air so Beck can continue his “investigative journalism” into Soros’s influence on the media. He said the pressure went beyond the $1 million that Soros gave Media Matters in October of 2010 “to hold Fox News accountable.” “We talked to a private investigator who interviewed representatives or employees of News Corporation about the threats and intimidation against them for going after Soros,” he said.

Right, right, it’s not that Fox considered him a liability for spouting the right’s versions of 9/11 Truthism and did what it thought was necessary about a contractor who seemed much more interested in promoting his brand than the channel’s goals, it’s that sinister George Soros and his network of spies and hired guns. Yes, Soros doesn’t like Fox News and he’s happy to try and discredit the rabidly partisan hosts it hires, but the distaste is mutual here and intimidation attempts that could even semi-reliably be traced to Soros would definitely make the channel’s prime time news lineup. Hell, they don’t even have to be semi-reliable. Pundits are not exactly a journalistic vanguard of truth, objectivity, and fact. They’re entertainers who stretch and twist facts to fit into the narrative they’re famous for selling to their audience. Beck sells hysterical fears of the communist New World Order coming to take everyone’s guns and property. That’s what he does best and that’s what people pay him to say, so he’ll scribble on that blackboard while sobbing until he gets the right acronym/hidden words to help him sell his newest Alex Jones-style potboiler. This is a business for everyone involved, first and foremost so whenever there’s a public split or disagreement in the world of political punditry, look at the business first.

However, the rabidly partisan language doesn’t allow for that. Political dogmas are considered to be like holy texts and the talking points are the commandments, therefore the idea of business interfering with recitations of the dogmas or a sermon on the infallibility of the partisan commandments seems to be alien to these very angry zealots. To them, Fox isn’t making business decisions but becoming a traitor to The Cause in including more dissenting voices and breaking ties with someone on the fringe. Note the countless references to what sounds like repurposed Cold War terminology about "the Left’s language" and "caving in to the Left’s agenda" among those turning away from Fox News. To them, politics is not a collaboration between different groups of people with different ideas which takes priorities and compromise to achieve certain goals, it’s a war that they must win if the nation is to survive, and they mean that literally as evidenced by Kincaid’s choice of a think tank name. Of course in this case, the nation means their idealized conception of how the country should be with a complete lack of tolerance for even the slightest deviation and what it really does is make them partisans first and citizens seconds since they reject all those who disagree with them as traitors to the nation.

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If you’ve ever read anything by Evgeny Morozov, you know that his views of the web tend to be rather mixed. In his best known work, The Net Delusion, he argues against the idea that the web could liberate authoritarian regimes by giving its oppressed subjects information and a means to organize while chastising the heady notions held by techno-utopians about the future role of the web in our lives. And now, after taking web-based freedom fighters across the world to task for their exuberance, Morozov set his eye on an online phenomenon familiar to any skeptic, asking whether search engines should warn users that conspiracy sites and blogs are in their search results and offering a gentle alternative to stem the growth of the movements spawned by avid readers of sites like Prison Planet and Info Wars, and devoted listeners of Coast to Coast AM. But will the conspiracy theorists who’ll spend their nights dreaming of Illuminati sex slave dungeons or harassing their former friends who changed their minds about their favored conspiracies, really want to see any opposing viewpoints presented by a search engine? Wouldn’t they just declare it as a nefarious plot to stop them?

Let’s keep in mind that conspiracy theories attract those with a certain mindset, people looking for a blueprint of how the world works and hopefully one that will make them seem like agents of freedom fighting against a sinister cabal planning to enslave humanity. They’re trying to derive order from a tangled mess, to find rather simple answers to complex problems while labeling those they mistrust as the evil masterminds behind the conspiracy they’ve invented. So what will be their first reaction when a Popular Mechanics article debunking all the arguments of 9/11 Truthers comes up when they search for something about the 9/11 conspiracy theories to bolster their latest blog entry? Obviously the government is trying to stop them and Popular Mechanics is in on the whole thing, just like everyone else who pokes holes in their arguments is either a government shill or simply one of the naive sheeple who can’t see the truth. Why would anyone who is not in cahoots with the evil conspirators ask them to question if vaccines are an alien population control tool, or if evolution is really an insidious Zionist scam? Morozov readily acknowledges this mentality, especially in anti-vaxxers…

They are far too vested in upholding their contrarian theories. Some have consulting and speaking gigs to lose while others simply enjoy a sense of belonging to a community, no matter how kooky. Thus, attempts to influence communities that embrace pseudoscience or conspiracy theories by having independent experts or, worse, government workers join them, the much-debated antidote of “cognitive infiltration” proposed by Cass Sunstein, […] won’t work. Besides, as the Vaccine study shows, blogs and forums associated with the anti-vaccination movement are aggressive censors, swiftly deleting any comments that tout the benefits of vaccination.

In other words, they’re not willing to listen, they have too much to lose by listening to actual experts, and they’ll aggressively censor any objection to their ideas in their communities. So how can we inject skepticism into a community that will dismiss it at best, or revolt against it at worst? We can’t. If we actually try to steer people in the right mindset to accept a conspiracy theory towards a debunking, no matter how unobtrusively we try to do it, we’ll just be fueling the fire and introducing a cure that’s worse than the disease. While it may sound bizarre to just let conspiracy theorists run wild and free, if we do, we can always point to the fact that we’re letting them do as they wish and dismiss their theories based on facts and evidence. After all, what we’re really afraid of is conspiracy theorists fueled by their beliefs doing harm to others or themselves and when that happens, there is a legal and procedural framework for handling such incidents. Conspiracy theories have been around for a very long time, basically since the birth of civilization with the first networks of powerful city states and they’ll be with us forever. Why should we task ourselves with the fool’s errand of fact checking them into extinction?

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It certainly takes a certain kind of psyche to wholeheartedly ascribe to conspiracy theories the was many loyal listeners of Coast to Coast AM do. Their world is very much unlike ours. They’re on the lookout for government agents spreading disinformation and undermining their movement in the form of skeptical blogs or just a few friends with a skeptical take on their favored theories. They constantly imagine how the sinister masterminds behind the New World Order will execute their evil plans and detail a wide range of bloodthirsty, cruel, or just downright perverse ideas for what one should expect to uncover the Illuminati doing behind our backs. For an example of one such idea, here’s an attempted prediction from a Coast to Coast AM listener

Within the Illuminati, there will “be a wild sex slavery factory where blond-haired teenage girls are enslaved to make Illuminati babies since they’re trying to create the perfect race. There will be sex slavery. This will be revealed this year when someone is “caught red-handed with these girls.”

Wow, amazing. Perky co-eds locked up as sex slaves for deviant racial supremacists of unknown origins in a modern incarnation of Project Lebensborn and that’s how the powerfil elites in on the Illuminati conspiracies spend their evenings, taking pleasure with the elites’ sex slaves? Really? Is it just me or does it sound like a premise for an S&M-themed porn flick in very poor taste rather than something one could imagine the world’s top businesspeople and most powerful diplomats doing with their free time? Who thinks of things like this as plausible answers to all the frustrating or strange events around the world? And what kind of mind would it take to concoct such scenarios, scour the web for traces of nefarious Illuminati symbolism, preach the gospel of the imminent global takeover which will end in misery, war, and enslavement for all, and should you start to question this gospel, rush to call you the enemy in disguise with an unholy zeal.

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You may have heard that in the latest round of rigged elections in Russia, the government stopped even trying to pretend that it cares about what the people want as was the bargain of managed democracy after the fall of the USSR. According to this bargain, the people debate and vote on handpicked candidates, then the Kremlin says some very nice things about democracy, freedom, and the right to being heard at the polls, and promptly does whatever it wants behind closed doors until the next election. But as videos and stories of a widespread campaign of fraud by United Russia officials made it to the news, both Medvedev and Putin descended into a stream of insults and derision in response to those exasperated that the duo would so transparently change places come election day. Massive protests erupted in Moscow, and the Kremlin went into damage control mode, trying to insinuate that the U.S. State Department is fostering global unrest, including recent protests in Moscow. And their authoritative sources include British "political scientist" David Icke. Yes, that David Icke.

Really, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes on state-run Russian television, I would’ve laughed at the notion of a conspiracy theorist who believes that the world is ran by mystical reptilian aliens from Tau Ceti who landed on our poor little planet thousands of years ago, mated with humans, and now call themselves the Illuminati, being presented as a political scientist and consulted on current events by a former superpower. But there he was, expanding on his notions of nefarious cabals steering global politics from the shadows. One could see the editors quickly cutting the part where he explained that the cabals in question were extraterrestrial, and as quickly as possibly, talking about an unidentified group of Yugoslavian youths who taught the tactics of proper non-violent protests in Egypt and several other nations, receiving attention from the U.S. State Department, as well as a game simulating how to trigger regime change by controlling mass protests. Wow. Talk about some bad propaganda. When your experts in political science are either paranoid pundits who haven’t met a single conspiracy theory they didn’t love at first sight, and you’re referring to video games training people for revolt on the command of a foreign power to defend your hide, you’ve reached a new low.

Of course like all good lies, there is a grain of truth in some of these accusations. There really is a group that teaches people techniques for non-violent protest created by two young Serbians who originally helped form an organization known as Otpor, which means pushback or resistance in Russian. Originally, Otpor was an expression of distaste with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and after the former authoritarian was deposed, it morphed into a political party. But two of its members formed CANVAS, an activist collective intended to help those living under authoritarian leaders learn non-violent, PR-friendly protest strategies. After a small number of young, social media-savvy protesters in Cairo mentioned meeting with CANVAS, authoritarians very quickly began to fan rumors of CANVAS being a U.S. project, highlighting that its members have been in contact with the State Department and had some praise for their work in the United States. In reality, their positive press is somewhat meaningless since there are a lot of things of which the United States publicly approves but does not really follow. But having that connection is enough to give random conspiracy theorists some red meat to weave into their tales of New World Order international subterfuge, and with the right editing and a somewhat respectable, flattering title, viola, the Kremlin got some "experts" with evidence for subterfuge.

In reality, the protests we see today are not really coordinated past Facebook pages and calls on Twitter, and the role of CANVAS, while noble in purpose and hopefully with good effect, is limited to small meetings with a limited number of activists who were already looking for a protest movement to join. Authoritarians can go on and point their finder to whomever they like and drag out every other conspiracy theorist under the sun while a pundit on their payroll declares them to be world class 23rd degree black belts in political science, but there’s really no need to go to such lengths when it’s quite obvious that their subjects are simply fed up with their tired and old machinations. If anything, it’s downright insulting to insinuate that in a wired country of highly politically versed people who are deeply cynical about politics, the powers that resort to essentially saying that all those who see past their games and want to call them out on it are simply not smart or savvy enough to organize an occasional protest, especially after they catch the ruling party with it’s arms buried up to the elbow in the ballot box on video and post it on YouTube for the entire world to see. Actually, strike that. It’s downright pathetic.

[ illustration by Vesgnev ]

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Either PZ Myers wanders off to the deepest, darkest recesses of the web on some sort of self-inflicted horrific mission to dredge up examples of the absolute worst in some of our fellow humans, or his readers are very, very eager masochists who supply him with a stream of despicable lunacy he feels compelled to share since one his recent entries is a summary of a missive by a conspiracy theorist, racist and anti-Semite Ted Pike, a man who really likes to call himself Reverend and get chummy with New World Order klaxons. There are few types of writing that I honestly can’t stomach and even fewer that make me experience a sudden desperation to take a shower after reading them, but Pike’s hateful, pathologically paranoid and sociopathic spew has that rare effect on me. Really, I do like good conspiracy theories because they are entertaining and if you’re not an incurious person, they really make you think and do some research. Even if you prove them wrong, you found something out and learned from having your views challenged by someone stirring the pot. Pike doesn’t even feign trying to stir the pot. He just takes his pants off and defecates in it to indulge in conspiracies ripped right out of The Protocols and warped by the kind of radical fundamentalism that should be treated by doctors.

Aside from the typical tropes about how Karl Marx supposedly dedicated Das Kapital to Darwin, which is just the kind of nonsense myth that can only be seen as a manipulation of Cold War-era paranoia, and how there are thousands of leading, cutting edge scientists doing incredible work on creationism rather than facing the fact that "creation science" is firmly in the realm of theologians with fewer science credentials than a middle school student, Pike’s grand revelation to the world is that evolution is a Zionist conspiracy. You know, like the last big New World Order conspiracy for which he signed up without a single thought in his breezy head. Yes, it’s always about the Zionists with an awfully disturbing amount of conspiracy theorists and every single query about foreign policy and global events has to somehow be pointed to Jews for an explanation they consider a valid one. Terrorist groups? Zionist influence. The events of 9/11? Zionist plot. Poorly managed wars? Zionist conspiracy. Stock market fluctuations? Zionist corruption. Moon landings? Zionist hoax. Blizzards which made you wreck your car on your way home from a holiday vacation? Zionist weather manipulation device. And I am pretty sure that if I search for the last snarky item in my litany, I’ll find it. The web is already very familiar with all sorts of conspiracies about Zionist sharks on Egypt’s beaches and spy vultures in the Arabian desert.

Go as far back as Martin Luther and you’ll already find giant screeds accusing Jews of masterminding almost every last dilemma faced in Medieval Europe, conspiracy theories promoted by the Vatican itself and quite probably contributing to the Holocaust. Which an awful lot of conspiracy theorists will deny ever happened no matter what evidence you present, even the Nazi orders and paperwork specifying how many were killed and when at what camp; some 50 million of them unsealed by Germany a few years ago. How can a tiny cabal of people from a certain ethnic group be responsible for just about everything that’s gone wrong for a thousand years, from economic depressions to the Black Plague? Even the supposedly almighty Jewish lobby wields a paltry $1 million in donations to politicians and its supposedly fiercely loyal plants in Washington consistently influence policy decisions that fence Israel into a tiny little box and further undermine whatever peace process the Israeli liberals and moderates want with Palestine to just end all the fighting, bombing, and bickering. But somehow, those sinister Zionists are always on top and manipulating the entire world through some sort of a mind control beam, even when they shoot themselves in the foot again and again on the world stage.

I know, they must do what Pike says they do and sway the world with teaching evolution in class! Ayee! That’s how the Jews, plenty of whom reject evolution as a valid scientific theory or which they substitute with a rather vague deism, must brainwash the world into following their subliminal orders and we must stop teaching any concept even remotely resembling evolution to stop the Zionist plot to… to… do something! I guess Pike must have found some common ground with Turkish cult leader Adnan Oktar who also believes that evolution is a sinister Jewish conspiracy to subjugate his fellow Turks. Who says interfaith dialogue can’t work? We have an obsessed Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim creationist actually agreeing on something, primarily on their searing hatred of Jews, but still, as the great accommodationist communicators teach us, that’s really a step in the right direction. Get two parties to agree with each other on something and further dialogue could follow. Let’s just start working in some of the conspiracy theories so popular in Pakistan nowadays and we’ll have plenty of material for the next great conspiracy potboiler. It will star Osama bin Laden as an actor for the Mossad to stage the events of 9/11 along with the CIA and feature all sorts of mindless drivel from Jeff Rense and Alex Jones as its backbone. Actually, I’m pretty sure that book is being written right now.

But even more repellent than Pike’s usual Jews-did-it conspiracy theory policy is the mention of how what the entire ethnic and religious group is really good for is helping good Christians ascend into Heaven and bring about the end of the world. The scary thing is that it’s not just this crazed conspiracist’s belief. No, I’ve brought this up before when discussing the evangelical obsession with Armageddon and it’s a sadly popular part of the modern doomsday canon preached by televangelists and theologians. Imagine that, holding a people as some sort of sacrificial lamb to get you to your personal heaven, there only in your service and to die so you’ll be given wings and a halo. When people say that Israel must stay a U.S. ally not because it’s a regional giant with a vast military and economic ties with the nation, but because according to some scriptural prophecies, any peaceful, two state solution must be prevented to make sure the world ends, it fills me with horror. These people are apparently not only fine with genocide, they want to encourage it because they get to fulfill all their fantasies about the afterlife on the corpses of millions of Jews and Arabs. I’m sorry, what were all those high brow theological gurus and accommodationists telling us about religious devotion making people moral and selflessly humble again? I didn’t catch that over the thinly veiled bloodlust…

[ illustration by Then One Art ]

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