Like everything good and pure and fun, the world of conspiracies and the paranormal has been and is being used by various assholes promoting various hateful or problematic agendas. When this happens, it’s often obvious to anybody capable of critical thought, but sometimes the insinuations are a little more subtle and easy to overlook. With that in mind, I’ve put together a short list of warning signs to look out for in terms of crappy alternative theory.
Note that conspiracy theories and paranormal literature are, by their very nature, quite loose, enabling theorists to join two or more ideas and link them together in various ways. These are merely warning signs of problematic details; if you find them somewhere, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire framework into which the theory has been worked needs to be demolished. The problematic detail can be excised and replaced with something less shitty. The flipside to this arrangement is that an argument can rely on one of these details without explicitly stating it; we need to be on our lookout for when these things are being implied but not mentioned.
So here we go. Your spidey-senses should tingle if you come across these:
“International Bankers” / “Banking / Financial Cabals”
People who use this term are very careful not to ever use the word ‘Jewish’, but rest assured, that’s what they mean. The sinister mythology of the ‘greedy Jew’ has its roots in the Middle Ages, and it’s persisted right up until the modern day in various permutations, causing massive damage in terms of human life and dignity along the way. Nowadays, the language has been cleaned up, according to eternal deliberate misunderstanding of the concept of ‘political correctness,’ which oafishly argues that you can propagate whatever kind of garbage idea you want as long as you don’t use certain taboo words.
Nowadays, the enemy is euphemistically referred to as “international bankers” or some type of “cabal” (that word is weirdly omnipresent in these sources) and the argument is typically that ‘Zionist’ banks are pushing toward electronic money-keeping as a means of consolidating the world’s wealth so that it can be seized all at once in a kind of financial apocalypse, ushering in a global state of emergency which will be handled by the UN, who will then coalesce with other shady groups into a one-world government. Following the principle above, you should note that it’s possible to have an NWO / one-world-state idea which doesn’t rely on anti-Semitism from the dark ages. You could argue that the UN is in cahoots with aliens, for instance, or with nefarious eldritch beings from the Earth’s molten core, hoping to seize all power and rule humanity with an iron fist forevermore from the Lava Citadel of almighty Volcanopolis. You’ve got options, is my point.
Certain “Ancient Alien” claims
“Ancient Alien” hypotheses suggest that clues can be found in ancient writings and monumental structures which support the idea that aliens visited Earth in the remote past. Such claims aren’t entirely without value and some of the evidence is actually quite compelling. The problem arises when claims are made regarding ancient monuments that “people as technologically unskilled as these could not have possibly built X.” History has shown time and again that ancient peoples were capable of astonishing feats of engineering and construction. If we’re going to suggest an alien origin for something from the past, we need something better to go on than “it had to be aliens because these people just weren’t clever or talented enough.”
While these claims have been made of pretty much any large-scale ancient construction you can think of, a particularly insidious detail is that they’re applied more often than not to the works of American indigenous peoples. People are more willing to believe that the Romans really did build the Coliseum, for example, than that ancient Peruvians really did build the Nazca lines. This is a way of leveraging the unfortunate Eurocentric bias that American indigenous peoples were (and are) ‘backwards’ or ‘uncivilized’ compared to European civilizations. Don’t let them get away with it. It’s worth noting in this connection that the most famous ‘ancient alien’ book, “Chariots of the Gods?” by Erich von Däniken, commits this error repeatedly; one of the many and varied criticisms I could level against that awful book.
Pretty much anything that mentions Shariah
Modern Islamophobic diatribes take pretty much the same form as the anti-Semitic garbage mentioned above, with a few slight differences. Rather than seeking to control the world’s money, proponents of this nonsense argue that Islam is aiming to control the world’s laws, by instituting “Shariah” worldwide. Sometimes the argument is that they’re doing this through terroristic violence, but more often the means of coercion is just ‘whining’ until Muslims ‘get their way.’ You’ve read about this in a million email forwards and Facebook updates from extended family members and idiots you used to hang out with in high school (statistically, you probably thought Blink 182 was cool too, which is a real testament to the teenage mind’s capacity for reason). All around the world, schools are apparently being ‘forced’ to do away with pork in school lunches, or they’re ‘forcing’ all of their female students to wear Islamic veils, or whatever, because some Muslims complained and thereby sneakily manipulated society via the abhorrent ‘PC culture,’ with its insidious agenda to make us all respect each other and stop shooting each other in the face.
A quick search around Snopes will lead you to realize that this “Shariah plot” is total, unmitigated buffoonery. Ruminating upon the situation with a cool head will further cause you to understand that unless you actually live in a Muslim-majority country, the 1.6 billion Muslims on Earth do not, for the most part, give a shit about your country’s laws, any more than you give a shit about internal policy in Yemen or Indonesia. As for Muslims living in Western countries, the overwhelming majority are quite happy to have their kids ‘brown-bag it’ on school pork day (if that even exists?) and they basically just want to get through their days without being physically attacked for wearing the wrong thing or having the wrong skin colour, something that’s a lot more likely for them than it is for many of us, so let’s not add to their problems with this sucker-league Alex Jones horseshit.
Atlantis and Lemuria theories / Theosophy
The idea that the Nazis had a well-developed mystical / occultist religion is not entirely without a shred of truth, but it’s certainly been blown rather out of proportion since the fall of the Third Reich and the consequent rise of the History Channel. That hasn’t stopped neo-Nazi occultists from jumping on the paranormal train. Nazi occultism is derived from something called “Ariosophy”, which is itself an offshoot of Theosophy, a 19th-century mystical movement whose most famous figurehead was the Russian-German medium Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891). Ariosophy as a separate tradition has largely fallen by the wayside, but many morally-deficient “people” still cling to Ariosophist ideas (such as the mystical ‘purity’ of ‘Nordic blood’) and simply choose to refer to them by the broader heading of “Theosophy” to deflect attention. Note, however, that most people who practice or study Theosophy are not, in fact, Nazis; given that it is a possibility, though, we should be careful and try to read between the lines when we deal with Theosophy generally. Germanic runes, in basically any context except legitimate ancient history (or Germanic neopaganism), are a big red flag, if you’ll excuse that hideous pun.
Similarly, watch out when you’re reading about the lost continents of Atlantis and/or Lemuria. Not a lot of people know about this, but the Nazis were weirdly big on Atlantis. Nazi occultists claimed that one or both of these lost lands were the ancestral homeland of the “Arian” people (the SS actually carried out expeditions trying to find evidence of these places). As a result, much of the literature on these topics has now been polluted by neo-Nazi scumbags trying to re-establish the perverted idea of Nordic racial supremacy in the post-WWII era.
Again, these shouldn’t be taken as blanket prohibitions, but as warning signs to keep your eye out for when you’re digging around in the paranormal / conspiratorial world. Thousands of people over the years have contributed a lot of time and resources to make the world of alternative theory as rich and interesting and fun as it is. Don’t let the shitty efforts of a few prejudiced dunderheads ruin it for the rest of us. In this world, just like in the ‘real’ world, we need to keep our eyes open and hold people accountable for their bullshit.