Reference and Repetition in Conspiracy Theory | @ghostofchristo1
Guest Column #004
In October 2001, surveying the fallout from the events of September 11 for Le Monde, Jean Baudrillard described the attacks as “triumphant globalization battling against itself.” The terrorists had not materialised from thin air. Instead, the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represented a counterattack from within the global system itself, that aimed its violence at globalisation’s dominant symbols. In a biopolitical metaphor that gains a new frisson when read in the age of COVID-19, Baudrillard compared terrorism to a “virus” and globalisation’s battle with its antagonists to a “fractal war of all cells, all singularities, revolting in the form of antibodies.”
Of course, the emergence and global spread of COVID (discounting those conspiracy theories that suggest otherwise) was not itself an act of terrorism. When viewed alongside each other as traumatic and politically disjunctive events, however, 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic reveal some striking similarities. In New York City, the 9/11 attackers deployed the infrastructure and technologies of global capitalism—regularly scheduled commercial aviation jets—against the Twin Towers, generating spectacular images of system components in violent, mutually annihilating collision with each other.
COVID, too, spread from continent to continent through the disease vector of the passenger jet. The global travel and tourism industries—instantiations of what Baudrillard called “the ideology” of “free circulation”—inadvertently brought about their own collapse via normal operations. Even now, almost a year into the global pandemic, new strains of the virus continue to emerge and circulate across the globe, the competing impulses of global capitalism—to ”open up” versus “protect the economy”—locked in perpetual contradiction.
Both 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic quickly developed conspiracy cultures. As Michael Barkun observed in his account of contemporary American conspiracism, those “who believed they already held the master key to events” had no difficulty assimilating 9/11 into their pre-existing theories of world history. 9/11 was swiftly incorporated into Christian millenarian rhetoric as a sign of the end times; read as a precursor to the imposition of One World Government, or seen as an “inside job” or LIHOP (Let It Happen On Purpose) event orchestrated—or allowed—by the American national security state. The conspiratorial subcultures that sprung up in America with the Kennedy assassinations—variants of which were subsequently diffused worldwide through American pop culture—provided a range of prefabricated interpretive moulds into which 9/11 trauma could be poured. Conspiracy theorists “already knew,” as Barkun put it, “who was responsible for the world’s evil; therefore the attacks were seen as merely an additional demonstration of what was already established truth.”
COVID-19 conspiracies have followed a similar flightline. Early accounts interpreted scepticism about COVID’s severity, or questions about the virus’ origins, as a simple reflection of underlying party-political preference or xenophobia. As the pandemic unfolded, however, more complex and esoteric theories emerged. COVID was explained as a UN plot to divert the world’s population from their impending demise via looming (and secret) cometary impact; as a side-effect—deliberate or inadvertent—of 5G mobile technology rollout (itself involving “many hidden agendas”), or a ploy by Hollywood elites to replenish their dwindling adrenochrome supply, the shortage of which had supposedly been signalled by Tom Hanks while receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the January 2020 Golden Globes. COVID vaccines were identified as components within George Soros or Bill Gates-led plots against the global population. A British interviewee who gave his name to The Independent as “Allegedly Dave” informed the paper that a secret cabal in control of “the world’s banking system, most governments, [and] the World Health Organisation” had “decided there are too many of us, too many useless eaters.” He expected future vaccines to “implement technology that makes us controllable.” Others speculate about the Great Reset, seeing—in the pandemic’s disruption of the preexisting economy—a billionaire-led plot to fundamentally reorient the way the world functions. Conspiracy theories have ramified with each month of the crisis; the virus appearing as simultaneously man-made and illusory, its conspiracist strain mutating into new variants in response to state actions and the news cycle.
What’s striking about these COVID conspiracies is how they draw on and develop aspects of the updated New World Order, Antichrist, and Illuminati conspiracies that emerged on the far-right fringes of the conspirasphere, but ultimately circulated more widely in the conspiracy-curious pop cultural environment of the 1990s. The fear that any COVID vaccine would be a ploy by shadowy elites to implant a microchip into every recipient is the revision of a mid-1990s millenarian conspiracy by far-right author Texe Marrs, according to whom microchips would carry the Mark of The Beast. This would enable Antichrist to enact a cashless society in which only the microchipped could “buy and sell,” in accordance with a Book of Revelations prophecy. Bill Gates and George Soros are contemporary avatars in a long line of figureheads implicated in various conspiracies and superconspiracies as manipulating world events for their own ends. The appearance of adrenochrome in COVID conspiracy theorising points to overlaps with Q and its lurid fantasies of kidnap, torture, abuse and bodily violation. More recent fears expressed on the far right, in which a resurgent Democratic Party would use the virus as a pretext to place Republican voters into internment camps, mirror the New World Order paranoia of the 1980s and 1990s, aspects of which focussed on a supposed network of FEMA-run concentrations camps that would house “subversives” and tax resisters.
When viewed from a sufficient temporal distance, conspiracy theories appear like sunken lanes in a landscape of long human history. They direct intellectual foot traffic down certain (well-trodden) paths, the origins and provenance of which may be completely obscure to new travellers. From this vantage, the lure of the conspiracy explanation lies in its provision of what Frederic Jameson called a “poor person’s cognitive map”: a way of coming to terms with the “inherently disorienting, fragmented and alienating nature of late capitalism.” The cognitive map of the conspiratorial takes what seem like random crises and disasters and renders them as components in a system of control, providing the psychologically comforting sense that someone—somewhere—is in charge.
The vehemence with which Covidian conspiracies are being expressed and denounced, however, indicates something about the COVID moment itself. The pandemic represents, among other things, a crisis of the voice, of the mode of spoken and written expression. The aerosol mode of viral transmission places the act of vocalising in the presence of other people under suspicion, rendering it as a physical threat that increases in direct proportion to the degree of force or vehemence involved. (We are informed that singing and shouting in crowded internal spaces carry the highest risks of transmission.) Almost inevitably under current conditions, the perceived riskiness of the speech act becomes politicised, with public gatherings—whether they be protests or rallies—perceived by opposing parties as sources of real or potential contagion. Driven inside into our domestic social bubbles by the dictates of quarantine or lockdown, we turn instead to our screens, exposed as never before to the virtual mediation of voice and human contact. Pandemic messaging—state-level pleas for behaviour modification to minimise the spread of the virus—therefore takes the form of psycho-politics. It becomes an internal battle waged on the terrain of emotions, ideas, attention, or engagement, one that takes place on the same screens and platforms that simultaneously carry the opposing message.
Giorgio Agamben was widely vilified for his comments on COVID at the outset of the pandemic. Almost one year on, and in the wake of subsequent events, some of them look increasingly prescient. In his “Clarifications,” published in March 2020, he wrote:
It is not surprising that for the virus one speaks of war. The emergency measures obligate us in fact to life in conditions of curfew. But a war with an invisible enemy that can lurk in every other person is the most absurd of wars. It is, in reality, a civil war. The enemy is not outside, it is within us.
Agamben’s words return us to Baudrillard on 9/11, and to the image of a system of components “battling against itself.” The logic of viral contagion reproduces itself on the level of information, an infodemic running parallel to the pandemic. The binary between the healthy and the sick appears, on the ideological level, as a bifurcation between the compliant and the resistant, between those “vulnerable” to conspiracist messaging and those seemingly inoculated against misinformation and “fake news.” Through the mechanism of affective polarization, the modes of online communication we use to keep in touch with each other and the wider world under lockdown have driven this fork into opposing camps. Our mediascape, and the affordances of the online platforms and devices we use, encourage us “to divide the world into a liked in group (one’s own party) and a disliked out group (the opposing party).” Exposure to content and opinions we disagree with no longer offers the possibility of persuasion or compromise, but only the desire to drive the opposing party’s ideas away, like the virus itself. As Baudrillard put it, in this new ground, “the antagonism is everywhere, and in every one of us.” Yet, in the same way as each human body has its own medical history, its own legacy of exposure and morbidity, so too do ideas and their modes of transmission. Keeping this long intellectual history in mind can help us understand where ideas and conspiracy theories—no matter how seemingly outlandish or ornate—come from, which motifs they recycle, and how they mutate and adapt to changing events and ideological terrains.
Sephirothic Map of the Pharaonic Death Cult
Map of the Great Awakening
Map of the Deep State
I'm gonna say those diagrams, while the first one at least was a decent forgery, the other ones look like pure confusion layered on top of pure boredom.
The first one is incorrect most notably in the fact that if two circles (which represent a nation, a people, and its culture) have the same date, then they can't be located above / below each other. The ordering needs to be consistent with respect to time vertically.
And furthermore, one of the labels will be its secret society, so there would be one circle for (Illuminati, USA, 1776). The problem is, it didn't happen, it was sort of a "near miss." The aim was for the entire British Empire to adopt the Constitution and become a free federal republic. So now there's a previous "Bavarian Illuminati" which has been replaced with the new one.