Apophenia, Capitalism, Class War, Colin Todhunter, Confirmation Bias, Corporate State, Corporatocracy, Dr Patrick Leman, Empire, Financial Elite, Glenn Beck, Gross Inequality, Inverted Totalitarianism, Michael Parenti, Military Industrial Complex, Noam Chomsky, Patternicity, Plutocracy, Police State, Poverty, Regulatory Capture, Security and Surveillance State, Social Unrest, Subjective Validation, The Elite 1%, True-Believer Syndrome, unwashed public, Wall Street Fraud
If you are a person who gets their news solely from mainstream media and forms a worldview from that information, then this website would perhaps strike you as radical, off-base, and conspiratorial. But what if nearly everything you listen to and read has been filtered through the monied interests of the most powerful entities on the planet? And what if those entities quite literally control the government by way of a revolving door, campaign contributions, and lobbyists who unduly influence the crafting of legislation in favor of big business while ignoring the needs of the common citizenry? What if you are merely a pawn in the machinations of such a system — a consumer for the all-important world market and a disposable human resource in its labor pool? What if the wealth created by such an economy is amassing at the very tip of this pyramid scheme while leaving those below to fend for themselves in a world depleted of its resources and poisoned by industrial waste. Would such a grim reality be considered a conspiracy theory? In other words, would the previously described outcome of such a socio-economic system necessarily have to be the plan of a secret cabal of powerful people? If corporations must compete to survive and are legally bound to look after the financial interests of their shareholders, then protecting and growing profits must in the end override all other concerns — environmental and social. The gross wealth disparity, environmental destruction, and political disenfranchisement created by capitalism is not the byproduct of a conspiracy; it’s simply the end-result of a system operating as intended. Concentration of wealth, a characteristic result of capitalism, inevitably leads to a near total corruption of journalism and democracy. Of course the corporate elite may collude to price-fix, bribe regulators or heads of state, and cover up environmental damage and dangers to public health, amongst many other devious activities, but it is invariably done in the interest of gaining dominance in the market place and protecting profits. Capitalism and democracy are not compatible. In fact, life on Earth is ultimately not compatible with capitalism.
One author who has written extensively on conspiracy theories is Colin Todhunter. In his essay New World Order “Conspiracy Theories”: Diversions and Deceptions, he pinpoints the time at which conspiracy theories became widespread:
“…Although conspiracy theories have been around for centuries, some gained in popularity during the 1960s and 70s as ‘post-modern disillusionment’ set in and people began to question the very notion of ‘progress’. Modernity had not lived up to expectations. Living under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, environmental degradation, poverty and the inability of science or politics to address such concerns, people began moving towards ‘new age’ beliefs and concepts or embracing unconventional theories that seemed to explain humanity’s plight.
This all occurred against a backdrop of (failed) proposals to collectively address worldwide problems that went beyond the capacity of individual nation states acting alone. The UN had been set up along with various other international institutions in order to address global issues but also to cement US global hegemony…”
In his insightful essay The Role of Anti-Establishment “Conspiracy Theories”, Todhunter informs us about the exploitive and unstable nature of a system that has given rise to so much conspiracy theory:
“…The advocates of populist conspiracy theories seek to explain everything in terms of secret societies and codes, Zionism, ‘communism’ or the hand of ‘Rothschild’. Of course, families like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers and groups like Bilderberg exist and do hold great power. That much is not in dispute. However, the nature of the dynamics of power is. Groups or think tanks like Bilderberg, Brookings Institute, Trilateral Commission, Chatham House, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation and so on are where capitalism’s state-corporate hegemons, including the rich families mentioned above, meet to discuss, devise policies and manage capitalism.
Radical critiques of society have often focused on the underlying logic and processes of capital accumulation and capitalist economic crises as well as capitalism’s inherent contradictions. An analysis of the historical antecedents of modernity according to scholarly analysis has also been prevalent. Today, it is popular to assert that the members of some shadowy group have been in charge all this time – the Illuminati, often used as a metaphor for ‘the Jews’.
The rise of such explanations are understandable in a complex world, where the ordinary person feels utterly powerless, confused and craves easy answers. Little surprise then that events and crises are said to be the work of some sinister ‘Illuminati’, an explanation which tends to steer clear of any genuine analysis of capitalism.
In the West, jobs are being outsourced, wages are falling and unemployment rising. As the market becomes saturated with goods and demand is unable to mop up supply, firms go bust. There is a shift towards powerful monopoly capitalism, while citizens and workers experience increasing powerlessness and immiseration. And to seek out new profits, imperialist ventures abroad become the norm. State-corporate monopoly capitalism and imperialist intent are not part of a ‘New World Order’ but are part of a world in which the few benefit at the expense of the many and that has been in the making ever since Britain became the first industrial nation and capitalism emerged.
But what we now have isn’t free market capitalism, some might say. The notion of the free market has always been a myth. It’s always been controlled and manipulated. It’s never been ‘free’. And we are now witnessing advanced capitalism in all its gore.
Capitalism has inherent contradictions. All was never intended to be fine. Remember the slogan to end poverty by 2020 (or whatever the date was)? Capitalism thrives on poverty. It’s integral to the system. That’s why it is rampant in the West and much more so in the cheap labour economies of the ‘developing world’. The increasing concentration of power, ownership and wealth and the rising impoverishment of the masses is one of capitalism’s greatest contradictions. It’s not some kind of conspiracy to keep the masses in poverty or in fear of falling into it. It’s built in to capitalism.
But many do not refer Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky to gain an understanding of the processes of dialectic materialism and capitalism. They and their theories are regarded as being part of the Zionist conspiracy. If socialism and communism are the creation of Zionism, which supposedly exerts so much control over the US and Britain, strange then that the secret services of both the US and Britain spent so much time and energy on infiltrating, deradicalising and subverting the left (3).
While the late Antony C Sutton (sometimes regarded as the father of modern conspiracy theories) provides food for thought in his writings and research (4), conspiracy theories tend to provide limited insight into the dynamics of power and oppression in the 21st century.
However imperfect the work of people like Robert Brenner (5) and Barrington Moore (6) may have been, their research was based on broad comparative sociological analysis of the cultural, historical, agrarian and economic factors that led to the rise of capitalism, fascism and communism in various societies. In the absence of this, however, prominent proponents of conspiracy theories in the US and Britain make crude assumptions about such phenomena comprising part of an Illuminati plot, which play on the prejudices and fears of ordinary people, who in turn latch on to the explanation offered as a proxy for the underlying causes of their powerlessness and frustrations.
Why bother having an informed understanding of the dynamics of the modern world based on rigorous research? Much easier to watch a few YouTube clips about some secret, manipulative elite or even amphibians from outer space with an agenda to control the world.
Many conspiracy theorists have indeed actually been quite informative on how the banking system works and how bankers conspire to control policies by keeping governments in permanent debt. They have also highlighted glaring flaws in official accounts of 9/11. They have rightly pinpointed what the mainstream misses out of its narratives and have raised issues that many on the left had tended to ignore or gave scant attention to. But such useful insights then become wrapped up in theories that too often appear to be based on flights of fancy.
There is no doubting that people can and do conspire to shape events. Not everything can be explained by structures where individual motive is eradicated. For example, corporations conspire to produce price cartels, media barons conspire to dominate and state-corporate interests embark on military jaunts to control markets and resources. And yes, bankers conspire to restrict credit for various reasons. But this has to be placed within the wider context of Empire and capitalism.
In capitalism, the compulsion to compete, dominate and pursue profit casts long shadows over virtually every social and cultural institution, from government and politics to education, law, agriculture and entertainment.
Conspiracy theorists and their followers may well appreciate aspects of this, but merely speculate about the intentions of and actions of groups of people without addressing how capitalism shapes any of it…”
How many commercials and advertisements are bombarded at the average person every waking day of their life. It’s in the thousands – everything from TV commercials to billboards to junk mail to radio adverts. Don’t you think this would have some sort of effect on a person’s psychological well-being? Is it any wonder that the one country in which conspiracy theories thrive most also happens to be the epicenter of unbridled capitalism? British author Roger Cohen said, “Captive minds… resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the disempowered.” In an environment where everyone is expected to sell themselves everyday in order to eat and ‘the truth’ is manufactured so as to protect the vested interests of those who bring you the ‘news’, desperate souls grasp at any explanation for why the system is so dysfunctional, corrupt, and unfair. According to Dr Patrick Leman, a psychologist at the Royal Holloway University of London, the weak and marginalized of society gravitate towards conspiracy theories because they have no voice in society:
…People are also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories if they feel powerless in the face of large social authorities or institutions, and not part of the mainstream of society.
This is supported by the observation in the USA that beliefs in conspiracy theories tend to be stronger amongst members of ethnic minority groups.
Sociologists suggest that these minority groups feel politically disenfranchised or discriminated against and this gives rise to higher levels of belief in conspiracy theories…
Cognitive bias also encourages the acceptance of conspiracy theories. One such behavior is the human tendency to seek patterns from random information. Conspiracy theorists are said to be notorious for this proclivity and it goes by several different names such as apophenia or patternicity. Other cognitive biases include confirmation bias, subjective validation, and true-believer syndrome.
Development of hi-tech communication technology coupled with the rapid expansion of the World Wide Web and social networking has fueled the growth of conspiracy theories around the world. With little money, the rantings of anyone can be voiced to the world. Below is a picture of a twenty-dollar bill folded in such a way as to resemble the twin towers on 9-11. It quickly spread across the internet and was picked up by Glenn Beck, a monger of conspiracy theories, and featured on his blog:
“What are the odds that a simple geometric folding of the $20 bill would accidentally contain a representation of both terror attacks?”
“The radical analysis sees such things as ecological crises, military interventions, the national security state, homelessness, poverty, an inequitable tax system, and undemocratic social institutions such as the corporate owned media, etc… It sees these things not as the aberrant outcome of a basically rational system, but as rational outcomes of a system whose central goal is the accumulation of wealth and power for a privileged class…” ~ Michael Parenti