Conspiracism

This is the resource page for
the concept of conspiracism

 

Conspiracism is a narrative. In this context, a conspiracy theory is a narrative form of scapegoating. Conspiracist thinking exists around the world, and in some circumstances can move easily from the margins to the mainstream, as has happened repeatedly in the United States.

“Right-wing pundits demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation.
Some angry people in the audience already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil.
Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.”
 
Click here for the PDF of the Full Report

How Trump Taps into Right-Wing Conspiracism

by Anne Applebaum, New York Times

“Donald Trump’s campaign of conspiracy theories”

Background


Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the Internet was seething with lurid conspiracy theories exposing his alleged subversion and treachery. Among the many false claims: Obama was a secret Muslim; he was not a native U.S. citizen and his election as president should be overturned; he was a tool of the New World Order in a plot to merge the government of the United States into a North American union with Mexico and Canada.

Within hours of Obama’s inauguration, claims circulated that Obama was not really president because Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts scrambled the words as he administered the oath of office. A few days after the inauguration came a warning that Obama planned to impose martial law and collect all guns.

Many of these false claims recall those floated by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the armed citizens’ militia movement during the Clinton administration — allegations that percolated up through the media and were utilized by Republican political operatives to hobble the legislative agenda of the Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory attacks on Clinton bogged down the entire government. Legislation became stuck in congressional committees, appointments to federal posts dwindled and positions remained unfilled, almost paralyzing some agencies and seriously hampering the federal courts.

A similar scenario is already hobbling the work of the Obama administration. The histrionics at congressional town hall meetings and conservative rallies is not simply craziness — it is part of an effective right-wing campaign based on scare tactics that have resonated throughout U.S. history among a white middle class fearful of alien ideas, people of color and immigrants.

Unable to block the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, the right-wing media demagogues, corporate political operatives, Christian right theocrats, and economic libertarians have targeted health care reform and succeeded in sidetracking the public option and single-payer proposals. A talented environmental adviser to the Obama administration, Van Jones, was hounded into resigning Sept. 5 by a McCarthyite campaign of red-baiting and hyperbole.

Support for major labor law reform has been eroding. With a wink and a nod, right-wing apparatchiks are networking with the apocalyptic Christian right and resurgent armed militias — a volatile mix of movements awash in conspiracy theories.

Scratch the surface and you find people peddling bogus conspiracy theories about liberal secular humanists, collectivist labor bosses, Muslim terrorists, Jewish cabals, homosexual child molesters and murderous abortionists. This right-wing campaign is about scapegoating bogus targets by using conspiracy theories to distract attention from insurance companies who are the real culprits behind escalating health care costs

Quick Clicks

Collectivism Phobia A selection of well-known books

Currency Conspiracism

Conspiracy Theory Generator

Money Manipulators (Coming soon)

Debunking the Federal Reserve Conspiracy Theories
(and other financial myths)
by Professor Edward Flaherty
last updated September 5, 2000)

Gerry Rough Collection

A History of Printed Money (really! a serious website)

Right-Left Coalition Building

Pressebüro Savanne: Right-Left – A Dangerous Flirt


Site Reviews
Web of Debt

Ellen Hodgson Brown, http://www.webofdebt.com/

“Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been ‘privatized,’ or taken over by private money lenders.”

Brown is frequently cited on progressive websites as an authority on money and debt. Her claims on currency and the Federal Reserve are at their core revisions of the myths and conspiracy theories refuted  in the Flaherty Series.


It’s Our Economy

“It’s Our Economy is dedicated to changing the dynamic of the current economy designed for the wealthiest to an economy built on principles of equity, cooperation, and sustainability. An economy that puts people and the planet before profits would reduce the wealth divide while giving people more control over their economic lives. We believe that a more just, modern, and restorative economy would involve the people in economic decision-making in both their communities and the nation more broadly.”

This is an excellent website and highly recommended. It supports public banking and many other reforms. The review below of Popular Resistance is in no way a criticism of It’s Our Economy.


It’s Our Economy is a project of Popular Resistance.

Popular Resistance

Popular Resistance Report on “Fed-Up 100” demonstrations

Occupy Oakland posted reports from San Francisco: “San Francisco: Illuminate The Fed. A Mission Well Accomplished.”

“Occupy activist Jane Smith described their purpose: ‘The Federal Reserve is owned entirely by Wall Street banks, so our money is issued by a private institution.  Money should be created by the government as money, not interest bearing debt.’ ”

Jane Smith illuminated the crowd with a well-prepared and well-executed talk about what the Federal Reserve is (a private bank, owned by other, private, Wall Street banks) and what it does (controls the money supply to the benefits of its bankster owners). She was one of the original SF Occupiers in October of 2011, now of Occupy Bay Area United and Strike Debt Bay Area, and was one of the main organizers of the event.


From Washington, DC

“What’s going to happen when your pension is sucked up by these corporate cabals of bankers? What’s going to happen when your life savings is taken away?”

That’s what Barry Knight demanded to know as police hustled him off the steps of the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank

United Front Against Austerity (UFAA), an organization backing today’s protests against the Federal Reserve, suggests nationalization of the Federal Reserve ….


The report from Philadelphia at the bottom of the post includes a video that begins with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” apparently with no clue this would be offensive.

RT Russia Today

RT Carried a piece on the Fed Up demonstrations.

FED up? Hundred years of manipulating the US dollar

Adrian Salbuchi is an international political analyst, researcher and consultant. Author of several books on geopolitics in Spanish and English (including ‘The Coming World Government: Tragedy & Hope’), he is also a conference speaker in Argentina and radio/TV commentator. He writes op-ed pieces for RT Spanish as well as RT English, and is a regular guest on alternative media radio and TV shows in the US, Europe and Latin America.

According to Salbuchi:

In 1995, American investigator and author, G. Edward Griffin, published what is clearly the most authoritative book on the“FED” – as it is colloquially called in banking circles and by the mainstream media – “The Creature from Jekyll Island”.

Griffin’s book is one of the best known of conspiracy theory books about the Federal Reserve.

United Front Against Austerity (UFAA)

The page on recommended reading shows 3 out of 4 essays are by Webster Tarpley, the former LaRouchite and notorious antisemite who still spins conspiracist theories.  http://againstausterity.org/recommended

Tarpley spoke at the 2014 Left Forum:

“Webster Tarpley revisits his riveting lecture to the 2014 Left Forum. Essential, a must watch! Continued at tarpley.net – See more at: http://againstausterity.org/article/end-fukuyama-re-starting-history-after-quarter-century-unipolar-globalization



Basic Bibliography

J. Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860–1925, New York: Atheneum, [1955] 1972; R. Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965, pp. 37–38; D.B. Davis (ed.), The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un–American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1971; D.H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: The American Far Right from Nativism to the Militia Movement, revised and updated, New York: Vintage Books [1988] 1995; G. Johnson, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics, Los Angeles: Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin, 1983, 17–30; F.P. Mintz, The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985; R.A. Goldberg, Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001; M. Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2003).

Introduction to the Report:
Toxic to Democracy

Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States the Internet was seething with lurid conspiracy theories exposing his alleged subversion and treachery.

Among the many false claims: Obama was a secret Muslim; he was not a proper citizen of the United States and his election as President should be overturned; he was a tool of the New World Order in a plot to merge the government of the United States into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.[i] Within hours of Obama’s inauguration, the Internet circulated claims that Obama was not really President of the United States because the wording of the oath of office had been scrambled by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

A few days after the inauguration came a warning that Obama planned to impose martial law and collect all guns.[ii] The first clues of the impending tyranny would involve changes in traffic laws and signage. Many of these false claims recall those floated by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the armed citizens Militia Movement during the Clinton administration – allegations that percolated up through the media hierarchy and were utilized by Republican political operatives to hobble the legislative agenda of the Democratic Party.[iii]

The conspiracy theory attacks on Clinton damaged far more than the Democratic Party. The entire government became bogged down. Legislation became stuck in Congressional committees and appointments to federal posts dwindled and positions remained unfilled, almost paralyzing some federal agencies and seriously hampering the federal court system.[iv]

During the same period, the lurid (and false) claims of the Militia Movement suggesting Clinton had engineered the death of his associate Vince Foster or that he had engaged in a cover-up of drug-smuggling and child molestation created an atmosphere of suspicion and fueled a crisis of legitimacy for the entire government. [v]

While suspicion of government remains high, especially in the U.S. Political Right, it was the conspiracy theories that told of foreign troops massing along U.S. borders under the command of the United Nations that mobilized “patriots” across the country to join “Border Watch” organizations. To this day there are acts of intimidation and violence by paramilitary vigilantes along the southwestern border areas, and a growing xenophobia toward immigrants, especially people of color.[vi]

A similar scenario to Clinton’s could make the work of the Obama Administration more difficult. When Obama’s “web-savvy” aides saw “conspiracy theories building up on the internet,” they staged a repeat swearing in as “the fastest way to stop the speculation getting out of control.”[vii] If past is prologue, it is inevitable that some activists on the Political Left will become mesmerized by the startling and convoluted explanations of the plot.

The study begins by looking at the rise of conspiracy thinking in recent years, especially after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It traces the bigoted roots and dangerous dynamics of conspiracy theory as a form of political analysis in the United States. The study follows periods in United States history when conspiracy theories gained a mass public following. It demonstrates how the basic dynamics behind conspiracy theories remain the same even though the named scapegoated targets are interchangeable at different moments in our history as a nation.

It is easy to dismiss conspiracy theories as marginal phenomena with little importance. This study argues otherwise, and suggests that progressives need to be critical of conspiracy theories no matter where they come from on the political spectrum. Even the most sincere and well-intentioned conspiracy theorists contribute to dangerous social dynamics of demonization and scapegoating—dynamics which are toxic to democracy.

[i] On the North American Union, see Chip Berlet, “The North American Union: Right-wing Populist Conspiracism Rebounds,” The Public Eye Magazine (Spring 2008), http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v23n1/NA_Union.html (accessed January 15, 2009).

[ii] Conveyed by a researcher who received the warning at a coffee shop while on his way to work.

[iii] “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” memo prepared in 1995 by the White House counsel’s office, with attachments, obtained from the White House Press Office. First revealed by editorial writer Micah Morrison in Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1997. See criticism of the memo in “Who’s Shooting the Messenger Now?” Media Watch, March 1997.

[iv] Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 369-373.

[v] On the theory of delegitimization and social turmoil, see Jürgen Habermas, (1973). Legitimation Crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973).

[vi] Juan F. Perea, Immigrants Out! The New Nativism and the Anti-Immigrant Impulse in the United States (New York: New York University Press, 1997); Dale T. Knobel, “America for the Americans”: The Nativist Movement in the United States (New York: Twayne, 1996); Devin Burghart, “Do It Yourself Border Cops,” The Public Eye Magazine 19 no. 3 (Winter 2005); Roberto Lovato, “Far From Fringe: Minutemen Mobilizes Whites Left Behind by Globalization,” The Public Eye Magazine 19 no. 3 (Winter 2005).

[vii] Ewen MacAskill, “Obama retakes oath to quell conspiracy theories,” The Guardian (London), January 23, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/23/obama-presidential-oath (accessed January 23, 2009).