On conspiracy theories


A particularly important type of conspiracy theory is the sort that attributes designs for global domination to particular groups of people, like the Free-Masons, the Illuminati, the Jesuits or the Jews. Thus, the notorious forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, partly responsible for the wave of Anti-Semitism that swept Europe in the 20th century and a contributor to the Nazi genocide, alleged that Jewish leaders conspired to take over the entire world. The Nazi party published numerous editions of the Protocols and used it as a means of mass propaganda, long after it had been exposed as a fraud. Conspiracy theory can define entire historical periods, notably those characterized by purges and witch-hunts, like Stalin’s Moscow show trials in the late 1930s and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade in the early 1950s. In such instances, conspiracy theories became hegemonic narratives dominating the discourses of their time. More often, however, conspiracy theories emerge as counter-narratives seeking to puncture or debunk official accounts and explanations and seeking to account for failure or adversity by appealing to various invisible and dark forces. Unlike nostalgic narratives, conspiracy theories address the past but have no yearning for its return.”