As I argued in an Op-Edge last year, there’s a great irony here. Over the last twenty years or so, the biggest pushers of conspiracy theories (CTs) have been Western Establishment gatekeepers themselves.
In fact, the most outlandish, fact-free and downright dangerous ‘CTs’ have been promoted by those who are the quickest to yell « conspiracy theorist! » at others.
So here are the top ten ‘acceptable’ Western establishment conspiracy theories. If you peddle them you won’t be labelled a ‘crank’ or nut-job’, but be hailed as an ‘expert’ who may even be deserving of a column in a ‘serious newspaper’ like the Washington Post, or the London Times. And who knows, you might even get a lucrative offer from a top publishing house to write a book about conspiracy theories.
1. Iraq has WMDs which threaten the world!
The most deadly conspiracy theory of them all – one which led to an illegal invasion and the destruction of a sovereign state and the deaths of up to 1m people. But the people who promoted it paid no professional penalty. Thirteen years on, the ‘punditocracy’ in the US and UK is still dominated by those who assured us Saddam had WMDs (and also that the secular, cigar-smoking Sound of Music lover had links to al-Qaeda). Remember that the next time you see a smug, self-regarding member of the neocon elite journos club loftily accuse someone they regard as their social and intellectual inferior of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’.
2. Iran’s developing nukes!
Since the early 90s we’ve been told the Islamic Republic is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, or has already got them. The claims made repeatedly over the past 25 years by Israeli PM Netanyahu have been echoed by the same bunch of uber-hawks who pushed conspiracy theory 1. If you assert, without any evidence that say, Zambia is on the brink of developing nukes, you’ll be called a nutcase. But if you assert, without any evidence, that Iran is doing the same, then you’ll greatly increase your chances of being invited as an ‘expert’ into the studios of Fox News or Newsnight.
3. Jeremy Corbyn deliberately sabotaged the ‘Remain campaign’ in Britain’s EU referendum.
This has been a popular conspiracy theory peddled in elite Blairite circles in the UK this summer. The same anti-Corbyn crowd who tell us that the left-wing Labour Party leader is a massive turn-off with voters, blame said Labour Party leader for not doing more to persuade Britons to vote to stay in the EU!
In fact, Corbyn’s qualified support for the EU was much more in tune with public opinion than the Blairites’ EU fanaticism. Labour under Corbyn did deliver a majority vote for Remain among its supporters. Meanwhile, Islington, where Corbyn has his own seat, registered the sixth best result for Remain (75.2 percent) in the country. Some ‘sabotage’, eh, folks?
4. Assad is helping/working with ISIS and wants them to expand.
This one has been pushed by and large by the same people who pushed CTs 1 and 2 above. The theory says that the wicked Syrian tyrant wanted ISIS to gain territory in order for him to present himself as the ‘good guy’ in the conflict.
However, we’ve learned from declassified secret US intelligence documents
from 2012 that the prospect of a ‘Salafist principality’ being established in eastern Syria was « exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want »
as it would « isolate the Syrian regime »
. But let’s not mention evidence that it was Assad’s opponents – and not Assad – who welcomed the rise and expansion of ISIS.
That will only be dismissed as a conspiracy theory’!
And let’s ignore the Syrian Army’s liberation of Palymra from ISIS as well, shall we? It just doesn’t fit the ‘Why Assad won’t fight ISIS narrative!
5. Russia is providing ISIS with an air force
In October 2015, after Russia had started air strikes on terrorist targets in Syria, a new variation of Conspiracy Theory 4 started to circulate. Russia, we were told, was also helping ISIS and giving the Islamic State an air force!
Yet when a Russian passenger airliner was taken down by an ISIS/ISIL bomb later that month, we were told that it was a ‘warning shot’ for Moscow. If Russia was helping Islamic State/Daesh and providing it with an air force in Syria, why on earth would the group target a Russian plane?
As I wrote at the time: « You can’t say on one day that Russia is helping ISIS and that ISIS is gaining ground because of Russian actions and the next day claim that ISIS is bombing a Russian airline because they are, er.. angry with Russia ».
Or rather you can, if you’re a neocon who peddles outlandish anti-Russian conspiracy theories.
6. Trotskyists are taking over the Labour Party!
Record numbers of people are joining the Labour party to support leader Jeremy Corbyn, an anti-war democratic socialist whose policies represent a clean break with Blairism. And guess what?- these new members are disciples of a Russian revolutionary who died over 75 years ago!
Labour’s membership surged by 100,000 this summer – whoever would have thought there were so many Trotskyists in Britain! It’s all the more surprising given that the main Trotskyist party, the SWP, only has around 6,000 members.
According to Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who opposes Corbyn, Trotskyist entrists’ are « twisting the arms » of young members. Perhaps they’re also threatening these young members with a spell in the Red Army…?
‘Trots under the bed’ is the 2016 variation of ‘Reds under the Bed’ for McCarthyite conspiracy theorists in the Labour Party, who are desperate to restrict party democracy and return to elite-friendly Tory-lite, pro-war policies.
7. Russia was behind the DNC email leak
No evidence has yet been produced that the Kremlin was responsible for the leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee, so let’s just push this conspiracy theory 24-7 shall we? It concerns Russia, an ‘official enemy’, so no need to wait for little things like facts, right? As Glenn Greenwald noted: « Democrats not only treated this evidence free conspiracy theory as Truth, but following the Clinton campaign, proceeded to smear Wikileaks as a Kremlin operation ».
8. Putin orchestrated football hooliganism in the European Football Championships to get Britain out of the EU
This has to be a strong contender for the nuttiest CT of 2016. Russia is very keen for Western sanctions to be lifted. So what does the Russian Prez do? He gets Russian football hooligans to attack England supporters in Marseille. And this apparently will make it more likely that Britain will vote to leave the EU.
I’m sure there were millions of people in the UK who read about English and Russian fans fighting each other in France, who turned to their partners and said ‘That does it. I’m voting for Brexit on Thursday’!
What a load of (foot)balls.
9. Donald Trump is a Russian agent
The argument in the West against Donald Trump goes: Since the Republican presidential contender does not seem keen on starting WW3 with Russia over Ukraine or Syria, he must therefore be a Russian agent! Either a ‘witting’ one or an ‘unwitting’ one!
We’ve even had claims that The Donald is a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ who is secretly working either for Russia, or for Hillary Clinton.
Again, peddle these evidence-free CTs in the US or UK and you won’t lose your credibility as a ‘respected commentator’. Far from it. But if you argue that Tony Blair or David Cameron were agents of the US – either ‘witting’ or ‘unwitting’ on account of their ‘pro-US policies’ you’d face ridicule and career death. Proving once again, that some conspiracy theories are more equal than others.
10. Dr Jill Stein is a Kremlin shill!
The Green Party candidate in the US Presidential Election is attracting plenty of support from progressives who can’t see what’s progressive about Wall Street-funded and neocon supported Hillary Rodham Clinton. So guess what? As her popularity rises, Dr Stein’s been smeared as a Kremin shill and is accused having ties to Vladimir Putin.
The ‘evidence’? Well, like Trump (see CT No 9), she doesn’t seem keen to start WW3, and wait for it, she attended, along with a lot of other public figures, the RT 15th Anniversary conference in 2015.
Going to Moscow and not wanting war with Russia – or indeed with anyone else – is apparently unacceptable, and enough to get another ‘acceptable’ Establishment conspiracy theory going, folks!
Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.