« Conspiracy Theory

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« The history of any society up to the present day is the history of class struggle. 

Marx & Engels, Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (February 1848)

Can we think the conspiracy? The mainstream media considers that the unthinkable must remain unthinkable. Behind them, it goes without saying, are the do-gooders, of all stripes. But what exactly are we talking about? Of a reality that belongs to the (philosophical) domain of pure reason? Conditions of possibility (political) of democracy? Or of the extreme (psychological) difficulty to understand, and to revoke, the perverse manipulations(1)? Let’s start by setting the lexical scene. 

  1. Historically, the evolution of the lexicon is rather simple. It seems that the French have only been plotting since 1450. Curiously, we speak of a « plotter » (1571), before considering that there could be « plotters » (1580)(2). The Littré (1882) defines a plot as « a resolution concerted secretly and for a goal most often guilty « . A century later, the definition has hardly changed: Le Robert (1979), writes that to plot is « to prepare secretly and with several people « . The conspiracy consists therefore in a secret consultation with the will to harm; it can be distinguished from the notion of conjuration (which implies an oath), and from that of conspiracy (which seeks to overthrow the power in place).

    Unless I am mistaken, there is no trace of « conspiracy » until Popper took up the question in The Open Society and its Enemies, the first edition of which, dating from 1945, remains very allusive on this subject. The 1950 edition states the « Conspiracy Theory of Society »:  » it is the view that the explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who have an interest in its occurrence (sometimes it is a hidden interest that must be revealed beforehand) and who have planned and conspired to make it happen(3) « . He concludes: the social sciences teach us that it is only the secularization of a superstition. However, Popper does not deny that there can be conspiracies, but he insists on their usual inefficiency… It is assumed that he never read Machiavelli (1532).

    Who is the one who denounces Plato and the conspiracy of the Spartan oligarchs before condemning the monolithic and ruthless communist conspiracy? Popper is a very old friend (and colleague at the London School of Economics(4)) of Fr. Hayek, and G. Soros’ mentor, both of whom are known for networking society in order to, as M. Friedman (1982) wrote before N. Klein (2007), instrumentalize crises, real or imagined, natural or engineered, and practice the neoliberal Blitzkrieg . Hayek publishes The Road to Serfdom in 1944, and created the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947, the forerunner of such benefactors’ associations as the Bilderberg (de) Group (1954), the World Economic Forum in Davos (1971), the Trilateral Commission (1973), the European Round Table of Industrialists (1983), the Cercle de Lorraine (1998) or the Berggruen Institute (2010). Soros, on the other hand, is the founder of The Open Society Foundations (1979), and the most turbulent proponent of the liquid society (and thus of the liquidation of the state).

    At the same time, Arendt (1951) also took up the question, but this time to underline the effectiveness of the conspiracy narrative in a totalitarian framework: the theory of the world (Jewish) conspiracy is a typical tool of totalitarianism, and more particularly of Nazi propaganda(5). According to Arendt, the Nazi device was more logical than the Soviet device, but it is the latter that best illustrates the theme of the illusory (rather than illogical) conspiracy, as it has been mobilized in different variants (the Trotskyite conspiracy, the 300 families, imperialisms…)(6). It is a matter of locking in a vision of the world that reassures and mobilizes the crowds, which are credulous by definition. Two tools for this: the boundless imagination of totalitarian leaders and the tyranny of logic, that is, the submission of the mind to logic as an endless process.

    Unfortunately, Arendt was sorely lacking in discernment when it came to discriminating between Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism. Unfortunately, it must be recognized that she was instrumentalized by her adopted country, the United States, in the context of the Cold War (she was naturalized as a citizen of the United States in 1951) and, more particularly, when she accepted to have her research supported by the Rockefeller Foundation (for example by being a resident at the Bellagio Center). This general rhetorical framework can be found in Kennedy’s famous speech denouncing a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy (1961): he was not talking, as some would have us believe, about the conspiracy of silence of a « deep state », or even about the lobbying of the military-industrial complex, but of communist imperialism(7). There can be no real conspiracies in a democracy. 
  2. Does the question of conspiracy belong to the (philosophical) domain of pure reason? Yes, if we consider it as an existentially determining fact. No, if it is catalogued with the pre-modern stories, always more or less superstitious, paranoid and sectarian. In seeking to overcome the inconsistencies and absurdities of official narratives, the free thinker — who too rarely turns out to be a free thinker — is never more than striving to make sense of his life and that of his loved ones. How do we make sense of it? Western philosophy oscillates between deduction (from certain premises) and induction (from tangible facts). The hypothetico-deductive method, which holds both options, is at the base of the experimental approach since Roger Bacon (1266): one formulates a hypothesis, possibly by imaginative generalization (the « hypothesis »), which is the basis of the experimental approach. The model is then validated orrefuted .

    In this case, the most solid hypothesis is that of class struggle. In particular, it can be matched with the obvious confiscation of political power by the business world. In the « cyberpunk » world desired by the neoliberal logic already identified by Ph. K. Dick and by St. Hymer, political developments are moving in the direction of privatizing the exercise of power(8). In this totalitarian world where the public sphere has been emptied of its content and the private sphere has been invaded by technoscience, the power of the oligarchs to dispose of dissociety is maximal. 
  3. What are the conditions of (political) possibility of democracy? The Greeks would answer that the laws must be the same for all («  isonomia  ») and that the word must be equally shared among all («  isègoria  »). When there is a secret consultation, the law disappears and speech is segregated. If the conspirator is plotting, what is the conspiracy-maker doing, if not denouncing the possibility, even the probability, of a conspiracy? How — and for whom — exactly is this work harmful? Designating a fellow citizen as a  » conspiracy theorist  » is at best censorship and at worst a threat. 
  4. The (psychological) difficulty is to understand the perverse communication and to revoke its sponsors. Let’s simplify the nosology by defining the pervert as the one (more rarely the one) who feeds on the manipulation of others and who drinks from the suffering he causes. Why do citizens accept to be mistreated by « politicians »? Why do they accept to be subjected to a perverse power? The answer lies in the analysis of the relationship that the predator imposes on its prey.

    Let us specify in two words the modalities which were identified within the framework of incest, of the Nazi concentrationary logic, or of what was called late (1973) the Stockholm syndrome. There is a vital link between the predator and its prey: it is the predator that feeds the prey, it is the predator that offers the prey a story to understand its plight, and it is the predator that sometimes makes a gesture that seems benevolent. The prey therefore instinctively refuses to open its eyes to the predatory mechanism. As Ferenczi points out, the traumatized child, physically and psychologically weaker, finding himself defenseless, has no other recourse than to identify with the aggressor, to submit to his expectations or his whims, even to prevent them, and finally to find a certain satisfaction in them(9).

    Besides, when the manipulation is obvious, the prey is obliged to make itself the work of alienation, even if it means taking refuge in the reefs of madness (see the question of the conformism treated in MW,  » Rendre le visible invisible « , Kairos, 2021).
  5. A certain Taguieff considers that anti-American-Zionist and anti-globalist (or anti-capitalist) obsessions characterize the contemporary conspiratorial imagination, which he caricatures in four points:  » 1. Nothing happens by accident. 2. Everything that happens is the result of hidden intentions or wills. 3. Nothing is as it seems. 4. Everything is connected, but in a hidden way(10) « . It is piquant to note that academics seeking to dismantle the conspiratorial imagination end up supporting a thesis as mawkish as it is simplistic. Common sense teaches us several things in this political register. 1. The event, or accident, is the key to life, that is to say that a spontaneity frames the world. 2. There are not only publicly manifested intentions, but also unconscious wills, and finally secret agreements. 3. To appear and to be are categories which fade away in front of that of becoming, and this one requires an intimacy, a life deprived of the glance of others. 4. Using the lexicon of the occult is the very negation of the idea of politics. 

What would be the unthinkable of the « Covid-19 event »? The concept of « (conspiracy) theory » can be activated gradually. 

First, we must point out the cruel difficulty that the multitude has in realizing five facts. The management of the crisis is calamitous: unpreparedness, incompetence, opportunism and corruption (or « conflicts of interest ») are very few words to describe the reality of the hospital and the social disinheritance. Crisis communication remains perversely exemplary: manipulation of citizens through guilt and shame, through fear and anxiety, through (the threat of) physical violence and psychological abuse… The totalitarian consequences of crisis management and communication are striking: censorship, propaganda, calls for denunciation, curfews, bans on demonstrations… The judicial question, i.e. the question of cui bono (« who benefits from the crime? ») puts the world of finance, digital companies (the giants of the Web — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) and the pharmaceutical industry in the hot seat. Finally, the medical question should be revisited urgently, from the fable of the pangolin to the use of PCR tests (which were never intended to diagnose « sick people » or even to identify « cases »), including the WHO’s grip on globalized health policy. Everywhere you look, you can see the hand of the promoters of universal vaccination. 

Secondly, let us notice that the awareness, possibly furtive, of one of these crisic facets does not lead to the highlighting of the other facets. At most, it signals a predisposition to question the issues. 

Third , one can achieve a superimposed, or parallel, awareness of these five facets without seeking the thread that connects them. And to say to oneself: still fortunate that the political world, in general, and the experts that they invite to objectify the management of the crisis, as well as the journalists who show so much pedagogy, in particular, are completely foreign to the manipulation of the sanitary stakes by the oligarchs. As we know,  » lies have always been considered necessary and legitimate tools, not only of the politician’s or demagogue’s trade, but also of the statesman’s(11).  »

Fourth, It is rational and reasonable to look for the grand narrative that makes sense of these issues, the independence of which is difficult to affirm, unless we consider that all the actors in question (politicians, scientists, media, pharmaceutical companies, industrialists, financiers…) only react to stress epidermically, like those stock market algorithms that seek to optimize a stock exchange in the millisecond. One is reminded of the organic — but not mechanical — collusion of the economic and political worlds(12), i.e. there is strategic convergence of the oligarchs, but multiplicity of personal interests. 

Fifth, some will be tempted by a more complete story, which, betting on mechanical collusion, leaves nothing in the dark. They then get a panoramic view quite comparable to the one that J. F. Kennedy offered, in all honor, to his contemporaries. Who claimed that conspiracy is a symptom of political dispossession (Frédéric Lordon)? 

In short, those who conspire denounce as conspirators those who are not part of the conspiracy, for the simple reason that they are its target. They thus make it impossible to identify the plot and to understand it by operating an Orwellian dissolution of language. It is therefore not surprising that those who look for the lowest common denominator in political (the tropism of global governance), health (the health orthodoxy of the WHO) and judicial (GAFAMs) issues come to suspect that B. Gates has more than just good vaccine intentions. And whether they are assimilated to the superstitious plebs (Popper), or to the proto-fascist masses (Arendt).

Michel Weber

Notes et références
  1. Cf. Michel Weber, Covid-19(84) ou La vérité (politique) du mensonge sanitaire : le fascisme numérique, Louvain-la-Neuve, Éditions Chromatika, 2020 et Pouvoir de la décroissance et décroissance du pouvoir. Penser le totalitarisme sanitaire, Louvain-la-Neuve, Éditions Chromatika, 2021.
  2. Alain Rey (Sous la direction de), Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, Paris, Le Robert, 2011.
  3.  Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2013, p. 306.
  4. The Open Society a été publié grâce à l’entregent de Hayek ; Popper est nommé professeur à la London School of Economics, en 1946 sur proposition de Hayek, et ainsi de suite.
  5. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Antisemitism, Imperialism, Totalitarianism), New York, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1951
  6. « The Nazi development may be more logical, more consistent in itself, but the history of the Bolshevik party offers a better illustration of the essentially fictitious character of totalitarianism, precisely because the fictitious global conspiracies against and according to which the Bolshevik conspiracy is supposedly organized have not been ideologically fixed. They have changed—from the Trotskyites to the 300 families, then to various « imperialisms » and recently to « rootless cosmopolitanism »—and were adjusted to passing needs. » (Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, p. 378)
  7. « We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence—on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. » (J. F. Kennedy, Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, 27 April 1961).
  8. Hymer, Stephen, The International Operations of National Firms: A Study of Direct Foreign Investment. PhD Dissertation [1960] published posthumously, Cambridge, Mass, The MIT Press, 1976.
  9. Sandor Ferenczi, « Abwehrmechanismus der Identifikation mit dem Aggressor » [1932], in Schriften zur Psychoanalyse, Frankfurt am Main, S. Fischer, 1970–1972.
  10. Pierre-André Taguieff, « La pensée conspirationniste. Origine et nouveaux champs », in Emmanuelle Danblon et Loic Nicolas (Sous la direction de), Les Rhétoriques de la conspiration, Paris, Éditions CNRS, 2010, pp. 281–323.
  11. Hannah Arendt, « Truth and politics », The New Yorker, February 25, 1967 ; traduit in La Crise de la culture. Huit exercices de pensée politique, Paris, Éditions Gallimard, 1972, p. 289.
  12. Geoffrey Geuens, Tous pouvoirs confondus. État, capital et médias à l’ère de la mondialisation, Anvers, EPO, 2003.
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