Daniel Pipes. Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. Free Press, 1997.
Jim Keith. Black Helicopters II, The Endgame Strategy. I1luminet Press, 1997.
As conspiracy theories continue to flourish in popular culture, Daniel Pipes' study is a timely expose of their origins and power for evil in the world. He traces notions of conspiracy back to the time of the Crusaders, where the two great strands of modern conspiracism have their origins: the myth of the Jewish conspiracy (the heretic and Saracen within) and from Philip IV of France's campaign accusations against the Knights Templar, the omnipotent and omnipresent secret society. Both these belief systems emerged into the political mainstream in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Age of Revolutions. Here both the deist Freemasons and the newly emancipated Jews became symbols of the hated modernity.
It is in the 20th century and in the totalitarian ideologies and Hitler and Lenin-Stalin that mass conspiracy became dominant state ideologies, with genocidal consequences, He traces the development of the conspiracy theories within the American political fringe, and notes how there conspiracy theories have tended to accuse relatively benign and powerless groups of being the agents of conspiracy, while ignoring real, powerful, enemies. Even the Communists were seen as the tools of other groups such as Jews, IIluminati or international finance. Here I think Pipes overlooks the role of anti-Communist conspiracy theories within the. near mainstream, Here there are mirror image perceptions of the other to those held in the Soviet Union. Why when our society is perfect, when our people are virtuous, do things go wrong? Because the terrible others, the dreadful capitalists and/or Communists, are subverting and corrupting the virtuous state.
Pipes summarises conspiracism as containing several features. The chief motivation of human action is lust for power; benefit indicates control; conspiracies drive history; there is a purpose and a pattern behind everything, nothing happens by chance; the world we appear to see is an illusion, apparent friends are really enemies, apparent enemies friends.
There are some other features, which should be stressed: the idea that our society is perfect, that if things go wrong, then it must be because of THEM. The enemy is the incarnation of cosmic evil active through all history; omnipotent, omnipresent, and indestructible; visible enemies are but temporary manifestations or agents of the Great Enemy in the background. The Other is both profoundly different from us (wholly immoral, dirty, wily, scheming, sexually rapacious or foreign) but is also so like us that we can never be sure who the enemy is; he might be next door, he might be in our own family. The enemy is a contaminant, either physically or spiritually,
It is these latter features which have caused much distress to American conspiracy theories, For fifty years they had constructed an image of the Soviet Union not just as totalitarian dictatorship which did truly dreadful things to its population (indeed American anti-Communists rarely deal with the gulags and the famines and other real crimes of the Soviet regime) but as a near supernatural, indestructible force of cosmic evil, possessed of terrible secret weapons and a robotic population. Thus the sight of this mighty empire of evil being brought down, in effect, by Afghan rebels was incomprehensible. Therefore, as the work by Jim Keith demonstrates, they have constructed a world view in which the terrible enemy only seems to die, in order to infiltrate the West.
The other solution is to bring the enemy home, there is a stark either/or here. America is not an ordinary state led by ordinary fallible human beings, but either the Republic of Virtue, or Amerika the Terrible, eater of nations. Thus the Federal Government becomes to people like Keith, what it was to Khomeini: the Great Satan, empire of the secular future. Or rather the Republic of Virtue has been taken over and occupied by the terrible others in government. The US government now is credited with the same evil intents and supernatural powers of mind control that was once accorded to the Soviet Union. The fact that this government is elected by popular vote and allows an extraordinary degree of freedom of speech and action counts for little.
The overzealous local officials are a Gestapo, and the Clinton administration is the devil. His instrument of power is the Black Helicopter, which aims to bring the horrors of One Worldism and feminism to the wilderness. The helicopters are ascribed the same sort of paranormal powers as flying saucers, projecting blinding beams, stopping cars with mysterious rays, mutilating cattle, etc. The government abducts people and puts microchips in them, and pretends it's all done by flying saucers. Behind it lies the United Nations (these days in reality more often an obedient servant of the US). Perhaps the ultimate in elevating the really harmless to the rank of cosmic conspirator, is to add the Fabians to the list of conspirators; a more harmless bunch of social democratic, do-gooding pamphleteers it would be hard to find. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 64, August 1998.