Throughout my childhood and a few years into my teenage years, I didn’t care at all to break out of the political/social bubble of views I was born into. I was more worried about listening to music, eventually making music, and contributing in the normal shenanigans of one of the angsty “outsiders”. But, as my family went from middle-bourgeois to working class with barely enough food in the cabinet to feed my mother, my sister, and myself, I began to question everything I had been taught. The ideology of “freedom” and patriotism I was indoctrinated into seemed like a complete failure. The money stopped “trickling down” when we hit the bottom. I found out that all my mentors were not just flawed, but were pretty abhorrent human beings. I would still attend my conservative mega-church only to hear politicized rhetoric about how poor people, like my family, were nothing but leeches. I listened to sermons that seemed to be based more on the philosophy of Ayn Rand than any old gospel. By this time I had an entirely new group of friends, being shunned by the well-to-do kids I had hung out with previously. These new friends of mine were what would be called(and what was called, by the church’s “elders”) degenerates. In reality, we were sick of the elitism that surrounded us. One of the breaking points was when the security personnel at this church made several racially-charged accusations against three of my African-American friends. We stopped holding back after that, and were banned from church grounds within a month.
Now, the above may seem entirely insignificant – just a short story about angsty teenagers vandalizing and taking what revenge we could against the micro-establishment that was that church. But the fact is, for my whole life up until that point, me and these friends of mine were sheltered, homeschooled brats whose only form of outside interaction was through this church. Being kicked out, coupled with my family’s “fall from grace”, meant that, as it seemed to me, everything I had thought to be stable parts of my life – and indeed the whole world – was crashing down under the weight of the lies which were its essence. This is all relevant because this is when I first began to poke holes in the bubble of my childhood ideas about the world.
And so it was at this point that I began to look outside of the standard neoconservative worldview. Being that I had not completely given up many of my right-wing capitalistic views, libertarianism was what first drew me into what I had believed to be “rebellious” or “new” views and ideas. And if we know anything about libertarianism, we know that it is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, some truly outlandish claims about everything that was happening in the world. The biggest name in the world of conspiracy theories is Alex Jones. I fell pretty deep into the his theories and those propagated by sites like infowars.
Of course, I now know the extent of Jones’s reactionary stances and almost fascistic rhetoric, but when I was a fan, I didn’t see it that way. Some of the things that drew me to Jones were: his opposition to the War in Iraq, his opposition to the War on Drugs, his opposition to the various oppressive measures of our bourgeois state(the Patriot Act and such). To this day I stand in opposition to these things, though for more rational reasons. But I now know that the solutions to these problems won’t come from a wealthy, attention-craving radio rambler. Here’s why:
THE REACTIONARY HISTORY OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES
As I stated above, I was still upholding capitalistic values when I fell into the hole of Jones-like paranoia. Indeed, all of the most outspoken conspiracy theorists are hardcore capitalists: libertarians, ancaps, patriotic traditionalists. However, conspiracy theories, while remaining about the same in theory and rhetoric, have not always been so bourgeois. The book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a disgustingly anti-Semitic and fictitious account of a Jewish cabal out to control the world, was a popular read among the Russian aristocracy and the nobility of the other various empires, for it was an attempt to demonize and slander the rising bourgeois class, the birth of capitalism from feudalism. It slandered this progressivism by tying it to a group of people hated throughout Europe. This new politico-economic form of rule, which threatened to topple tyrannical monarchies all over the world, was portrayed as a Jewish conspiracy to gain complete control and liquidate or enslave those of non-Jewish descent. Any rational person living today knows that this is total bullshit, but to the aristocracies of yesterday, it was an important piece of propaganda, created to make the masses fear the capitalist republicans who were starting to over-power the nobility.
Likewise, the myth of the Illumimati trying to take control of the world was also a product of monarchist propaganda against democratic uprisings. The actual Illuminati – properly called the Bavarian Illuminati – was a secretive group of democratic republicans founded in 1776. Their secrecy didn’t come from a desire to create some sort of “shadow government”, but was a necessary tactic in an environment which was very hostile to new ideas – ideas which went against the grain of monarchist tyranny and religious superstition. By the year 1790, the Bavarian Illuminati was abolished following a harsh crackdown on democratic movements by the aristocratic rulers.
These ideas which got the Bavarian Illuminati into so much trouble were ideas standard to the Enlightenment era democratic movements against monarchal rule. To quote Wikipedia: “The society’s goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life and abuses of state power.” That is to say, the Bavarian Illuminati was a society dedicated to the very same ideals as the American revolutionaries – and we all know how much Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists basically worship the American revolution and its fighters. The last two of the four points of their purpose – to oppose religious power over public life and to oppose abuses of state power – were essential aspects of the ideologies behind the American Revolution. They were ideas which Alex Jones himself promotes. This is the first big indication of the man’s ignorance.
Even after the erradication of the Bavarian Illuminati as a working society, the monarchists continued to use them as a scapegoat, a fictional fear-base to drive the masses away from bourgeois progressivism. These monarchists claimed that the Illuminati still existed in now total secrecy, and were responsible for the French Revolution. Why would they claim such a thing? Well, much like their use of “Protocols”, they needed to scare the masses away from the revolutions which were knocking aristocrats from their thrones of absolute power all across Europe and in the colonies, including the American Revolution Jones loves so much.
To be more clear: the conspiracy theories used today by capitalism-praising libertarians and patriots have their source in anti-capitalist, anti-democracy, pro-monarchist propaganda. If that doesn’t prove the ignorance behind conspiracy theories, I don’t know what will. But I’ll go on.
In essence, the history of conspiracy theories can’t be traced back to truth-seeking freedom-fighters, but quite the opposite. They were creations from the thrones of power meant to demonize those fighting for more freedom and more societal representation. The conspiracy theorists of today, if they had lived in the 18th or 19th centuries, wouldn’t be the “freedom-loving” bourgeois democrats they are today, they would be throne-worshiping monarchists, Red Coats, anti-republicans(I’m talking system of governance here, not the Republican Party).
Despite their ignorant change of stance over time, conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones still uphold the most reactionary, regressive stances they can, but this time they’re doing it in the name of bourgeois power rather than monarchal power. Quite ironic, don’t you think?
CONSPIRACY THEORIES TODAY: SAME REACTIONISM, DIFFERENT TARGET
So, the history of the most popular conspiracy theories is in total contradiction to the values held by conspiracy theorists today. At first, they were tools of propaganda to warn people away from bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Now, they are tools of distraction to warn people away from continual progress. If these theories were personified, that would make for one very confused person. “Oh, well,” this person would say, “I was apparently wrong about the dangers of democracy and the righteousness of aristocratic rule, but now…now I know that the new system is better, and anything that tries to push any further forward is wrongwrongwrong!! Trust me this time.”
Conspiracy theorists today have been smart to try to distance themselves from the previous “hiccup” that was “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” But really, they only just refuse to mention the name or to reference that book(with the exception of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, as well as the christian fundamentalist Kent Hovind). But the anti-Semitism is still there. For instance, the Rothschild family is still a popular target for conspiracy theorists, despite the fact that the family’s importance has fallen drastically since the start of the era of imperialism. They are no longer one of the big players in the game of acquisition, though they are still members of the class of large capitalists. This very specific demonization is a left-over of the old monarchist anti-democratic ideology. There are plenty of wealthy capitalists controlling governments and media, but to oppose them all would be almost like opposing capitalism itself, which the conspiracy theorists would never do(unless they lived a couple of hundred years ago). So instead, these theorists nit-pick which cappies to oppose, and, being as ideologically lazy as they are, they just stuck with blaming the capitalists who happen to be Jews, and not many more.
I would also like to point out another scrap of dumbass-ery left over from the old days of pro-throne conspiracy theories: the condemnation of the French Revolution. Now, it is(or should be) common knowledge that the French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution which sought to replace aristocratic rule with bourgeois democratic rule(bourgeois democratic rule being the form of governance today’s conspiracy theorists hold up as a system of “freedom and liberty”). It was fought for the same reasons why the American Revolution was fought – to overthrow aristocratic power and install some form of representative government. It should be noted here that the monarchists blamed the American Revolution for the same things they blamed the French Revolution, but Mr. Jones is apparently picking and choosing which accusations(from the same sources) he wants to use for his own fame. So, why does he so often name the French Revolution in his lists of things he hates? Well, the French Revolution was a little different from the other bourgeois revolutions – it was more radical, its sights were set on an egalitarian future, it did not hold itself back from giving the aristocrats what they deserved. It pushed hardest for progress and liberation. This is what Alex Jones and others fear so much – moving forward.
Today’s conspiracy theorists, as we have seen, are much the same as their monarchist predecessors in that they despise and fear anything that could possibly be seen as progressive, as going against the grain of the existing economic power structure. Only, this time around, they are protecting the bourgeoisie and slandering the true progressives – we socialists. The capitalists are the new monarchs, and the conspiracy theorists are still working for the rulers as propagandists and fear-mongerers. “Fear democracy” has become “fear workers’ democracy”. “Fear capitalism” has become “fear socialism”.
Having solidified a history of opposing the growth and further liberation of society, conspiracy theorists are now claiming everything considered progressive today are a part of some big diabolical plan – anti-racism, women’s rights, LGBT+ liberation, etc, etc are all “evils” that are trying to “destroy all of our great traditions”. Capitalism is their new idol, and socialism is their new target.
However, being conspiracy theorists, they’re not very accurate or consistent at all. “Socialism”, to them, is anything and everything they dislike. It is capitalist corporations who “go green”. It is the bourgeois US government with its mail service and stop signs. These theorists don’t actually know what socialism is, they just slap that label on almost everything. They do this because they are the most diehard pieces of left-overs from the Red Scares. They think labelling things as “socialist” will scare people into imagining pictures of “Orwellian Totalitarianism”. And often times these scare-tactics work – Alex Jones didn’t make a fortune by being laughed at.
Recently, Jones had a guest on his show: a man named Michael Savage. Michael Savage is a self-proclaimed anti-progressive “conservative nationalist”. That’s right, Mr. Jones seems to be fine with the horrific, oppressive history of right-wing nationalism(which has branches such as Nazism, fascism, Peronism, etc.), probably because nationalists are hardline enemies of socialism(progress, working class liberation, internationalist solidarity, etc.). Savage is also rabidly anti-immigration and a strong supporter of the English-only movement. It is frightening to me that such people, who want to oppress, deport, or even kill foreigners, are considered by so many to be “freedom-loving rebels”. I guess they forget that “conservativism” means the conservation of the ruling status quo. What these people are really “rebelling” against is rebellion itself.
In many ways, Savage’s ideology is linked to that of Hitler’s and the Nazi Party. He sums up his main topics of concern thusly: borders, language, and culture. That is, he wants closed borders due to his hatred and distrust of foreign peoples; he wants the language and culture of the USA to remain “pure”. I don’t think it can be denied that this is straight up Hitler-style nationalism.
Now, about that interview Jones gave to this crypto-fascist Michael Savage: In it, Savage makes the claim that Obama(whom both ignorantly consider to be a “socialist”) is arming the Crips and the Bloods(he probably thinks all Black people are members of one or the other) for the “coming race war”. Just a reminder: this was not an interview with Charles Manson. And Alex Jones totally fell in line with this outrageous claim. Savage made this claim because of the recent truce between the two gangs in Baltimore, a truce meant to bring them together in order to protest the police murder of People of Color.
Of course, in the interview, the French Revolution was brought up as a tool for demonization. Savage says “the guillotines are ready” and that the “blades are being greased”. He’s saying that Obama is using the anti-cop-murder protesters in order to ignite a “race war” in which white people will be erradicated.
Let me put this into perspective: These so-called “anti-authoritarians” are helping the murderous cops in demonizing protesting civillians. They are essentially taking the side of the state they claim to hate because they fear Black people who want freedom. Anti-racist protests scare them because it goes against their version of the “freedoms” of America’s yester-years, when people like Jones and Savage could own slaves, when it was illegal for women to vote, when starving children had to go into the mines to help their families afford the most basic necessities. These are the “freedoms” these two wealthy, white men long for. These are the “freedoms” they want to reinstall: their freedom to own another human being, their freedom to oppress immigrants, their freedom to make half of the population the proletariat of the home(as Engels termed the state of the female sex in patriarchal capitalist society).
There is plenty more wrong with pretty much all of Jones’s assumptions and claims, but his reactionism is most evident in his not-so-subtle racism, sexism, and homophobia. He is also profoundly anti-science, and makes some really ridiculous statements almost religiously, like when he made a video claiming that the Pyramid in Memphis, TN was an occult symbol where occultists would go to a room at the top to worship a dancing demon monkey, or something. He then ends the video by saying the “country boys” had won because the massive corporation, Bass Pro, bought the Pyramid. Another instance of this “anti-authoritarian” taking the side of the powerful against imaginary enemies.
CONCLUSION: CONSPIRACY THEORISTS ARE NOT REBELS
Observing the history of the most popular conspiracy theories and its consistently reactionary nature, it should be clear that these “activists” are fighting for anything but freedom and liberation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they fought for absolute rule by monarch. Today, they fight for absolute control by the bourgeoisie. They pretend to be fighting against the upper-strata of society, when in fact, as is evidenced in Jones’s and Savage’s condemnations of the Baltimore protesters as “tools for evil”, they are opposing anyone who is oppressed struggling for a better life. They veil their worship of the status quo in pretend-stories about invisible enemies. They claim the powers that be are the opposite of what they really are, so as to be able to demonize the true rebels and uphold the system that protects them and their riches.
As more and more people are growing disenchanted with the current structures of power, more and more are being deceived by the flip-flopped rhetoric of Jones and his peers. People are falling for the false belief that all of society’s problems are coming from “socialism” or “progressivism”, when the US and other powerful countries are the opposite of socialist or progressive. The conspiracy theorists stand for the very same things these “big governments” stand for: white supremacy, nationalism, xenophobia, and so on.
What is “liberating” about shooting people at the border? What is “liberating” about wanting society to regress? Where is the “freedom” in constant paranoia, race-hatred, nationalist chauvenism?
Alex Jones is by no means oppressed or a member of the downtrodden, with his fortune gathered through fear-mongering. A revolutionary leftist could only wish to gain the fame he has in this society. A socialist would be blacklisted the second s/he gained that kind of notoriety. While the FBI is raiding the headquarters of socialist anti-war factions, Jones is sitting comfy in his studio spewing hate and fear.
If you are unsatisfied or angry at the system that oppresses, kills, tortures, be careful not to fall into false “rebellions” that advocate the very same things(or much worse) as this system.