Following Jeffery Epstein’s alleged suicide last week we have been deluged by a tsunami of narratives that do not adhere to the shifting official reports of his death. Presumably a few of the intimate secrets of the most powerful people on this planet will be buried with Epstein. While it is rational to believe that people powerful enough to impoverish continents or launch world wars that kill tens of millions could easily arrange the death of a single registered sex criminal in a NY prison cell, anyone who advanced such a scenario, however plausible, was immediately denounced as a ‘conspiracy theorist.’
‘Conspiracy theory’ is how the mainstream media characterizes any narrative that differs from their reporting of the official line. What is a conspiracy theory? Can it be defined in categorical terms? Can a conspiracy theory be validated forensically or refuted by similar means? What criteria can be used to differentiate between a conspiracy theory and theoretical musings?
The labelling of a theory as ‘conspiratorial’ is an attempt to discredit its author/authors and deny its validity. A ‘conspiracy theory’ usually involves an explanatory thesis that points to a malevolent plot often involving a secretive interested party. The term ‘conspiracy theory’ has a pejorative connotation: its use suggests that the theory appeals to prejudice and/or involves a farfetched, unsubstantiated narrative built on insufficient evidence.
Those who oppose conspiracy theories argue that such theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning, that such theories are primarily based on beliefs, as opposed to academic or scientific reasoning.
But this critique is also not exactly based on valid scholarly principles. It isn’t just ‘conspiracy theories’ that resist falsification or are reinforced by circular reasoning. The philosopher Karl Popper, who defined the principle of falsifiability, would categorically maintain that Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism fail for the same reasons. The Oedipal complex, for instance, has never been scientifically proven and can’t be scientifically falsified or validated. Marxism also resists falsification. Despite Marx’s ‘scientific’ predictions, the proletarian revolution never occurred. I have personally never come across anyone who refers to Marx or Freud as ‘conspiracy theorists.’ ‘Resisting falsification’ and “reinforced by circular reasoning,” are traits of non-scientific theories and do not apply only to ‘conspiracy theories.’
The Oxford English Dictionary defines conspiracy theory as “the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; spec. a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event”.
The Oxford dictionary does not set forth the criteria that define a conspiracy theory in categorical terms. The history of mankind is saturated with references to hidden plots led by influential parties.
The problem with refuting conspiracy theories is that they are often more elegant and explanatory than the official competing narratives. Such theories have a tendency to ascribe blame to hegemonic powers. In the past, conspiracy theories were popular mostly amongst fringe circles, they are now becoming commonplace in mass media. Alternative narratives are widely disseminated through social media. In some cases, they have been disseminated by official news outlets and even by the current American president. It is possible that the rapid rise in popularity of alternative explanatory theories is an indication of a growing mistrust of the current ruling class, its ideals, its interests and its demography.
The response to the story of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide is illustrative. The official narrative provoked a reaction that was a mixture of disbelief expressed in satire and inspired a plethora of theories that attempted to explain the saga that had escalated into the biggest sex scandal in the history of America and beyond.
The obvious question is what has led to the increase in popularity of so called ‘conspiracy theories’? I would push it further and ask, why is a society that claims to be ‘free’ is threatened by the rise of alternative explanatory narratives?
In truth, the question is itself misleading. No one is really afraid of ‘conspiracy theories’ per se. You will not be arrested or lose your job for being a ‘climate change denier.’ You may speculate on and even deny the moon landing as much as you like. You are free to speculate about Kennedy’s assassination as long as you don’t mention the Mossad. You can even survive being a 911 truther and espouse as many alternative narratives as you like, however, the suggestion that ‘Israel did 911’ will get you into serious trouble. Examining ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ as a fictional, however prophetic, piece of literature can lead to imprisonment in some countries. Digging into the true origin of Bolshevism and the demographics of the Soviet revolution is practically a suicidal act. Telling the truth about Hitler’s agreement with the Zionist agency will definitely result in your expulsion from the British Labour party and you will be accused of being at the least, theoretically conspiratorial .
I suspect that one is allowed to deviate from the official narrative and speculate on hidden plots on any given topic except probably the Jewish related ones.
This is where things become complicated because there are no Jewish conspiracies, all is done in the open. Israel, Zionism, Jewish institutions and individuals operate in the public eye and don’t conceal their actions. AIPAC doesn’t attempt to hide its agenda nor do America’s elected politicians make an effort to cover their shameless capitulation at AIPAC conferences. Labour Friends of Israel is acting against the Labour party and its democratically elected leader is mainstream news. The Israeli jets that attacked the USS Liberty on 8 June 1967 were decorated with Jewish symbols. Jeffery Epstein didn’t disguise his ‘Pedophile Island’. He operated in the open. I am afraid that there is not much evidence of Jewish conspiracies. But there is plenty of evidence of institutional suppression of any attempt to discuss any of this. AIPAC’s agenda is openly avowed, criticising its agenda is strictly forbidden. The same applies to other Israel Lobby activity, Israeli war crimes and even crimes committed by Jewish individuals. Jewish power, as I define it, is the power to suppress discussion of Jewish power.
For obvious reasons Jews are alarmed by theories that focus on their politics, culture, religion, folklore etc. It seems that Jewish bodies have been sufficiently forceful to silence most attempts to criticise Jewish and Israeli politics. That leads to the question of why Jews, Zionism, Judaism and Jewishness are so often the subject of conspiratorial theories. Is it that anti Semitic prejudice again or is there perhaps something about Jewish ideology, culture and politics that invites such theories? It is worth consulting Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. According to Walker there are five kinds of conspiracy theories:
- The “Enemy Outside” refers to theories based on figures alleged to be scheming against a community from without.
- The “Enemy Within” finds conspirators lurking inside the nation, indistinguishable from ordinary citizens.
- The “Enemy Above” involves powerful people manipulating events for their own gain.
- The “Enemy Below” features the lower classes working to overturn the social order.
- The “Benevolent Conspiracies” are angelic forces that work behind the scenes to improve the world and help people.
It is fairly easy to figure out that each of Walker’s conspiracy types describes an openly manifested aspect of Jewish politics, culture or religion.
The ‘Enemy Outside’ could be a legitimate American patriotic/nationalist reaction to foreign domination of American foreign policy. This kind of argument is supported by well-researched academic studies such as that of Mearshehimer and Walt as well as that of James Petras who studied the Israel Lobby and its impact. Such hostile foreign domination has been explored by various media outlets including Al Jazeera’s exposé of the Israel Lobby in both Britain and the USA. The current American administration and its biased policy in favour of Israeli positions gives credence to those who see Israel as the ‘enemy outside.’ Yet, none of the above has ‘conspired’ behind the scenes. All is done in the open. You just can’t discuss it in the open.
The ‘Enemy Within’ could easily point at the intensive work of Israel advocates, Jewish Lobbies (AIPAC, J Street, etc.) and Israeli stooges within American politics and other Western countries (Britain, France etc). Similarly, those who uphold deep Christian values may identify Jewish progressive elements as the enemy of their conservative life style. The same applies to anti immigration advocates who see Jewish pro immigration supporters as their enemies from within. The prominent role of Kushner and his proximity to the president doesn’t help gainsay doubts about the so called ‘enemy within.’ But the Jewish Lobby in America is loud and provocative and Jewish progressive and pro immigration supporters are at least as loud. Kushner doesn’t hide his affiliation with Chabbad or his Zionist sympathies. There is no hidden plot, yet, you can’t discuss this openly.
The ‘Enemy Above’ is an apt description of Epstein’s close orbit and its high connectivity within the world’s ruling classes. And, as we know, Epstein didn’t bother to conceal his operation. Calling his Boeing 727 the Lolita Express was little short of titling his private fleet ‘Pedo Air’ or ‘United PedoLines.’ Bernie Madoff falls within the same rubric. The man who was at one point NASDAQ’s Chairman, didn’t work that hard to disguise his Ponzi scheme, in fact Madoff admitted that he was surprised by law enforcement’s failure to uncover his crimes. Some might regard George Soros as a prototype of the ‘enemy above.’ Soros is a Jewish billionaire who uses his wealth to fund identiterian causes and social changes that are not exactly welcomed by the conservative/nationalist crowd. Again, Soros doesn’t hide a thing. He does his funding through his Open Society Institute. Yet, for some reason, criticism of Soros’ agenda is frequently denounced as perpetuating ‘conspiracy theories’.
The ‘Enemy Below’ can be illustrated by Jewish involvement with revolutionary movements, human rights campaigns, the gender revolution, the feminist movement, LGBTQA advocacy and so on. Again none of this occurs behind a curtain. Jews often boast of their prominent role in these liberal and humanitarian causes. But criticism of these movements, and especially their supporters, is pretty much forbidden.
‘Benevolent Conspiracies’ are demonstrated by Tikun Olam‘s philosophy: the idea that it is down to the Jews to ‘fix the world and reinstate its ethics.’ Those who refuse to ‘be fixed’ may well see Jewish elements at the core of a progressive cause and may see a malevolent dark force in such altruism.
Most ethnic or interest groups fit into only one or two of the types described by Walker’s Conspiracy Theory Model, Jewish politics fit with them all. In the eyes of ardent bigoted European nationalists such as Tommy Robinson, Muslims immigrants represent an ‘Enemy Outside.’ Racists who hate Black people may see those with dark skin as the ‘Enemy Within.’ Those who disapprove of Gays and their culture may find them to be the ‘enemy below.’ Still it is bizarre how easily Walker’s entire five conspiracy theory types can be found among Jewish politics, individuals, institutions, activist networks and campaigns.
How is it possible that one relatively small ethnic group manages to embody all the types of ‘conspiracy theories?’ In my recent book Being in Time, I argue that Jews tend to dominate the discourses that are relevant to their existence and interests. I refer to it as Jewish survival instinct. Jewish activists and intellectuals also tend to dominate the dissent to problematic symptoms associated with their group identity: Jews are often, for instance, associated with capitalism, banking and wealth in general, and Jews are also equated with Marxist and socialist opposition to capitalism, banking and wealth. Obviously, many Jews are associated with the Jewish State and the Zionist project but it is no secret that Leftist Jews also dominate the anti Zionist discourse and politics. Jews, at least in the eyes of some, are leading pro immigration advocates. But some of the most vocal anti immigration and anti Muslim campaigners are also Jewish. In Being in Time I argue that the fact that Jews dominate both polls of pretty much every topic relevant to their existence isn’t necessarily ‘conspiratorial.’ It is only natural for ethical and humanist Jews to oppose Zionism, or Wall Street. It is also natural based on their history, for Jews as a group to simultaneously oppose and support immigration. Natural as it may be, the presence of Jews in key ideological, political, cultural and financial positions is undeniable. It is more than likely that their domination on both sides of so many crucial political debates invites conspiratorial thoughts.
Jewish economist Murray Rothbard contrasts “deep” conspiracy theories with “shallow” ones. According to Rothbard, a shallow theorist observes an event and asks, who benefits? He or she then jumps to the conclusion that the posited beneficiary is responsible for covertly influencing events. Under this theory, Israel benefiting from the events of 9/11 made it into a prime suspect. This is often a completely legitimate strategy and is exactly how detective and investigative researchers operate. In order to identify the culprit, they may well ask who would benefit from the crime. Of course this is only a first step towards substantiation.
According to Rothbard the “deep” conspiracy theorist begins with a hunch and then seeks out evidence. Rothbard describes deep conspiracy theory as the result of confirming whether certain facts actual fit one’s initial ‘paranoia.’ This explanation pretty much describes a lot of how science works. Any given scientific theory defines the realm of facts that may support or refute its validity. Science is a deductive reasoning process, so that in science, it is the theory that defines the relevance of the evidence. Would Rothbard describe Newtonian physics as ‘deeply conspiratorial’? I doubt it. My guess is that, bearing Rothbard in mind, attributing a ‘conspiratorial nature’ to a theory is an attempt the deny the relevance of the evidence it brings to light. If for instance, the theory that Epstein was a Mossad agent is ‘conspiratorial,’ then the facts that he was a business partner of Ehud Barak and involved in a company that uses Israeli military intelligence tactics become irrelevant. The same applies to former Federal Prosecutor Alex Acosta’s admission that Epstein belonged to intelligence and that was why he was the beneficiary of a laughable plea deal. If, for example, the theory that it was the Jews who led the 1917 Bolshevik revolution is ‘conspiratorial,’ then the facts regarding the demography that led the revolution and its criminal nature are of no consequence. The labelling of a theory as conspiratorial is an attempt to erase uncomfortable evidence by reprioritising the relevance of certain facts.
It seems that Rothbard and others have failed to produce categorical criteria to identify or define Conspiracy Theories. We may have to accept that as of now, there is no categorical standard to define a conspiracy theory. We may have to learn to live with the fact that some theories are superior; simpler and more elegant than others. We will have to accept that some of these theories make a few people pretty uncomfortable and they will explore every avenue to discredit such theories and their authors. Attributing a conspiratorial nature to an explanatory theory is just one of these methods.