The darker side of Occupy and the language of conspiracy theory

So, the Occupy movement. Let’s get something straight, first: I like the idea of Occupy, what it was like in its infancy around the world: a grassroots movement to expose corporate malfeasance and the like. A left-wing version of the Tea Party, but without birther idiots. But I don’t like Occupy as it is today. There’s a reason for that. People have stopped caring, so a lot of sympathisers, like myself, stopped being involved. It left the movement with only the dedicated people. And it’s not dedicated anarchists or dedicated socialists or dedicated liberals, it’s the dedicated anti-establishment.

Let’s use an example: the Zeitgeist movement are very dedicated to Occupy. On the surface, the Zeitgeist movement looks like your standard anti-establishment group: “we don’t like the current financial system, we want something like out of Star Trek” is a rough version of their belief system. It’s a nice way of thinking.Or, if you want to be malicious, “Transhumanist Time Cube”. But there is a very fine line between hating the current system because it benefits “the 1%” or hating the current system because it benefits the Jews.

There is obviously anti-establishment vibe running through Occupy, but I would argue that it’s not proper theoretical anti-establishmentism. Liberals, socialists, and anarchists both practice a form of this: liberals and anarchists hate police statism, socialists and anarchists hate the capitalist establishment. But the anti-establishment at Occupy are like the anti-establishment of the Greens: they’re new to the idea, having not given much thought to it before (they voted Labour or Lib Dem previously, for example, because they’re not the other two parties), so they don’t/can’t differentiate between the good type of anti-establishmentism and the bad type of anti-establishmentism.

The bad type invariably leads to conspiracy theory, for example, the supposed “pharmaceutical conspiracy”, which doesn’t exist as a method to suppressing the efficiacy of homeopathy or other alternative medicine (in case you’re wondering, alternative medicine has either been not being proved to work or being proved not to work). But there isn’t a pharmaceutical conspiracy, except for the “conspiracy” to make profit. As a skeptic, I have to be skeptical of the conspiracy theory as well as the establishment; if in doubt, one must always assume a profit motive. Because profit does make the world go round.

So a person new to it might be drawn into believing stuff such as chemtrails, FEMA death camps, and an international banking cartel that controls the world… all hallmarks of ultra-right-wing conspiracy theory. You think you don’t believe me? Imagine Alex Jones, the loveable angry conspiracy nut, saying that. It does make sense. And it’s not a straw man to say this: spend five minutes at an Occupy site, and you’ll hear someone say “Bilderberg” or “Rothschild“.

Which leads us to our main problem: these conspiracy theories are just redressed anti-semitism. Jon Ronson’s book Them: Adventures with Extremists highlights this perfectly: conspiracy theory is masked in language: instead of saying “we don’t like negroes”, the Ku Klux Klan of today say “we love the white race”. And the same is of conspiracy theory: Rothschild is a Jewish name. Banking is a Jewish profession. Law is a Jewish profession. And so on. With the exception of David Icke – who really believes that the international elite are twelve foot reptilians – it’s all a way of trying to keep the Jews down in a post-Holocaust society. The changing of language isn’t new, either; Lee Atwater, former Reagan aide, said that you start out in 1954 saying “nigger, nigger” and by 1968, you start talking about states rights, when it’s the same thing.

(A previous version of this post asserted that “Bilderberg” is a Jewish name. It’s not; the group takes its name from the hotel it first met at. However, and as Ronson points out, Bilderberg is still used as a codeword for “Jew”.)

On the same line of thought, it’s depressing how V for Vendetta has transformed, like Occupy, from (in the comic’s case) a pro-anarchist screed to an arm of the conspiracy theory movement. Alan Moore likes the idea of greater consciousness of anti-establishment thought: in fact, he wholly endorses his comic being appropriated by groups such as Anonymous, but he would throw a fit if he saw it being used the way it is:

Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up… the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.

And, to show I’m not bullshitting, here are excerpts from the Occupy Leeds group: I am aware that they are the same people, but they are the most vocal. The ground operation, however, is slightly less batshit insane:

2 replies on “The darker side of Occupy and the language of conspiracy theory”

Bilderberg is the name of the hotel that the group first stayed at. It’s not a Jewish family name jut wcause it sounds german. That assumption might in fact be considered racist.

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