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Conspiracy Theory – Part 3 – Nature And Significance
Conspiracy Theory – Part 3 – Nature and Significance
Previous articles in this series introduced the topic, defined it and gave some examples. In this article the fabric of conspiracy theory will be examined in more detail and a few conclusions will be drawn.
Conspiracy Theories could be interpreted within the context of conflict and strategy. According to Beaufre strategy is the dialectic of opposing wills, and according to The International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences societies and organisations are the arenas for personal and group conflicts. Depending on the intended use of a specific conspiracy theory, it can either be seen in a psychological warfare role, where people must be influenced by it for some event, or as a special case of indirect strategy. Beaufre has it that in indirect strategy the enemy is not challenged directly in a trial of strength, but the balance between the forces are redressed by indirect means before the event of conflict. Conspiracy theory fits as a special case into this category. Seen in this light, conspiracy theory can definitely be an instrument in the conflict amongst contenders, to shape the psychological environment of the conflict in order to influence the final outcome/decision of the conflict.
Conspiracy theory feeds upon the insecurity and fear of people, which reflects their perceived threats and vulnerabilities. While Buzan relates insecurity and fear more to weak states than to strong states, strangely enough conspiracy theories show no such correlation, since they occur extensively among the people of strong states. The driving forces may therefore be more basic (on the level of the individual or on the micro-societal level) than the quest for sovereign statehood, but fundamental issues like one party gaining at another’s expense, or disagreement about goals.
Conspiracy Theories, and particularly the theories about world domination impact directly on one of the bases of the state, namely the idea of the state as described by Buzan. As such it has an influence on one of the most fundamental values of national security, namely the survival of the state. As long as national sovereignty and the nation-state concept is important, so long world government will be seen as a threat, although the weakening of the nation-state concept and the increasing rate of globalization may do much to change the perceptions about this threat.
Since the concept of world domination by a world government is so fundamental to international conspiracy theories, something should be said about it. Literature about the subject paints a picture of a group of people viewing themselves to be destined to rule the rest of the world, who are not (in their view) capable of properly appreciating freedom. Therefore these people must be alienated from their own kings and via the process of a liberal republic be brought under the control of a world dictator. He will come into power by economic and pseudo-democratic means, and will stay in absolute power by control over the economy, the labour situation, the media, the educational system, the religious environment and with the ruthless use of force to ensure subjection. This will leave very little ‘lebensraum’ to the common people and even the most basic rights, like the freedom of expression will be curtailed in favour of political stability. This is little more than outright slavery, and many of these elements were previously already realised in totalitarian states of previous eras. No wonder that the liberal, Western mind is so much opposed to this concept.
The global threat is perceived by the conspiracists on a micro-level, i.e. influencing them in their everyday lives. They experience it in everyday things like the collapse of local economies, repressive tax structures, lack of free press, marginalization of some groups of people, crime etc. And they ‘recognise’ it as to be part of the ‘bigger picture’. Every unfavourable condition experienced is then argued to be part of the orchestrated global threat against them.
The progress in world development towards something that resembles world government does not necessitate any conspiracy as driver for it to happen. The formation of the League of Nations after WWI, for example, as well as the formation of the UN after WWII can perfectly reasonably be argued as to result from the frustrations of the different nations on the globe because of the lack of peace making instruments on the globe. In the same manner the drive towards globalization today is not a matter of conspiracy, but rather of international economic and political necessity.
In conspiracy theory the conspirators are mostly viewed larger-than-life. They usually are seen to have vast resources and powers to execute their actions, as well as the capacity to manage them to fulfilment, and can also command the support of collaborators in different parts of the world. Rarely do their plans suffer setbacks. This can obviously not be true. Rather is the observation of Buzan applicable when he remarks that the perception of the seriousness of a threat is a function of the specificity of its identity, its nearness in space and time, its probability of occurring, the weight of its consequences and whether the threat is amplified by historical circumstances. Threats that for instance resonate with historical experience may well be amplified by the heightened sensitivity thus created. Such fears easily cloud rational judgement, and lead to certain kinds of threat being given higher priority than they objectively warrant. Most threats in the international arena involve a host off complex factors which make their outcome and consequences uncertain.
In principle the striving for world domination is no crime. Why these theories are then considered as ‘conspiracy theories’? The literature is full of the ‘fingerprints’ of such unlawful conspiracy activities, which legitimises the use of the term. Such activities are political assassinations (especially poisoning by sodium morphate), bribery and blackmail, drug and weapon smuggling, money laundering, control of financial institutions and markets, control of the media and political manipulation. Invariably the gaining of power goes hand in hand with exchanges of large sums of money, mostly via illegal means. Coercion or bribery of politicians, and other vices, which on many occasions, can be related to the work of major international crime syndicates.
Finally, a few thoughts on the perpetrators of these crimes. There is no coherence in the parties identified in the literature as the force behind the drive towards world domination. Quite a number of organisations are contenders for this dubious honour. Some names that appear frequently in this regard are the following: International financiers and philanthropists (e.g. the tax free foundations in the US), Secret Societies (like the Masons, Illuminati, Round Table, Jesuits etc.), the CIA (probably as an agent of the US government), the Roman Catholic Church, the British Empire (probably through its agent MI6), the Mafia and the Russian government (probably through the KGB). Though these parties are so diverse, it presents no problem to the conspiracist. The fact that the mind of the conspiracist is so flexible, most of these ‘smaller’ conspiracies can easily be postulated as nested within greater conspiracies - conspiracies within conspiracies - all within the grand plan for world domination.
The conclusions that can be drawn from this study are numerous, but only the most important ones will be listed here.
- Conspiracy theory is a subset of power politics that feeds upon the fears and insecurities of people, and this is apparently not a function of strong or weak statehood.
- Conspiracy theory is a very old phenomenon and as an indirect strategy it has been used for many ages.
- Conspiracy Theory reveals the fears that people have of being controlled by foreign powers, and especially in terms of a perceived dictatorial world government.
- Conspiracy theory is complex and difficult to understand. To comprehend the meaning of a piece of literature the vantage point of the author must be well understood. The understanding and utilisation of conspiracy theories need considerable patience and skills in:
Identifying the relevance of the theory (topical, national or international) to the current situation
Understanding the context from which the author comes (From which “camp”?)
Understanding the intention of the author
Understanding the approach used by the author
Identify the main characteristics of the conspiracy (Victims, conspirators, goals and the plot)
Evaluating the facts for historical correctness and significance.
- Conspiracy theories, especially the world domination theories, describe activities that threaten the concepts of sovereignty and state-nationhood. Should such conspiracies exist, they would constitute a serious threat to nations adhering to these values.
- The conspirators in these theories are mostly perceived to be ‘larger-than-life’.
- Conspiracy Theory may be used as an instrument to influence people and shape their thinking although it may not be an ethical thing to do.
- Conspiracy theory - thinking is also prevalent in South Africa, especially amongst groups that are feeling threatened by the current dynamics in the national development.
This broad spectrum analysis of conspiracy theory as a philosophy, as well as the number of examples that were studied, yield insight into the nature of, and approach to the understanding of the field. It is hoped that these articles may help to de-stigmatise the field and to open it up for objective study, not only in the field of national security, but also as an expression of the human psyche under threat. The conspiracy view also places an interesting slant on world history, and may well lead to models that can yield good results for future scenario projections.