The latest disturbing trend on the internet is the creation, or threatened creation, of mega-conspiracy theories as an attempt to provide cover for the malign influence of Zionism on the United States and the Middle East. The idea is that it isn’t the Zionists, it is some shadowy, undefined group, ‘Illuminati’ if you will, that is really behind all the machinations. Indeed, Chomsky’s theory that the American Establishment is really the root cause of everything is just a particularly addled version of the mega-theory, with the added implied fillip that the Establishment is so clever that it set up the Jews to take the fall by putting them in such prominent positions of power in the Bush Administration (the Establishment make it even better by having prominent Establishment figures plaintively complain about American policies!).
These theories give conspiracy theory a bad name. On the other hand, good conspiracy theories will have three features:
I want my conspiracy theory to look like a criminal indictment. I want it to name names, and provide detailed particulars of the crimes involved. For example, I want to be able to identify specific Zionists in positions of power in the Bush Administration, Zionists who have written papers commissioned by the Israeli extreme right to plan Zionist colonialism, which papers contain detailed plans which have subsequently been followed, to the letter, as a result of actions taken by the specified Zionists. I want to be able to identify specific huge donors to the Democratic Party, followed by bizarrely one-sided actions by the same party regarding the Middle East. I want to see specific examples of the power of money in repressing what appears to be mainstream Establishment thought. I want to know why specific Establishment voices, like Carter and Brzezinski, are marginalized if the American Establishment actually runs everything.
If my conspiracy theory refers to an ongoing issue, I want it to provide predictions of future events. For example, if the specific plans don’t mention an attack on Iran, because in fact Iran doesn’t lie on the territory of Greater Israel and because Iran is an obvious doctrine-of-the-periphery ally of Israel, I want to be able to make the prediction that the Zionist-controlled United States won’t attack Iran.
I want my conspiracy theory to be falsifiable. Chomsky, who should know better, has a totally unfalsifiable world-view. If X happens, it is because the American Establishment wanted it to happen and arranged for it. If negative-X happens, same thing. There is no imaginable set of facts which could disprove the Chomskian meta-conspiracy theory. Similarly, there is no conceivable set of facts which will disprove the grand ‘Illuminati’ theories. Since we can’t even identify who these illuminated ones are, or what their plan is, we can’t come up with any set of facts which would disprove the theory that they control everything.
Generally, the suspect theorists have a fascination with a number of specific topics. The most prominent of these are Satanism, mind control, sexual abuse of children, the ‘occult’ and its most charismatic figures, and UFOs (the ‘testimony’ of obvious schizophrenics is often the evidence relied upon in these areas). The most deft (or daft) of these theorists will pretend that they are really only interested in the ‘meta’ aspects of these old CIA-promulgated tabloid fabrications, but they will quickly and cleverly shift from considering the psychological/sociological/economic/political aspects of these ideas to being ‘True Believers’. There are deep theological roots to this kind of magical thinking, having to do with the idea that the Devil is the agent of Discord, uncertainty, and confusion. Some political agents, e. g., Ledeen, actually like to hide their real goals behind a façade that they are just general sowers of discord and shit-disturbers, without any real intentions or values other than stirring the pot.
Unfortunately, this kind of magical-thinking nonsense has a big audience in the conspiracy circles. It would all be just clean fun if it didn’t hide what is really going on, and allow the perpetrators of some horrible crimes to continue their schemes.