One topic that is of particular interest vis a vis the politics of Utopia and Dystopia, and its relation to the occult, that is to say, to magic, is what I will term ‘western conspiracism’, a particular term that I use in reference to the body of study that has been termed ‘western esotericism’, of which conspiracism is, in many ways, a subset.
Western conspiracism is a diverse body of beliefs, propagated through a vast corpus of books, films, websites, television and radio programs, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, lecture tours and pretty much every other potential medium available to it. It is broadly Christian in character, manichean in worldview and paranoid in style. It has a long intellectual history rooted in medieval anti-Semitism and witchcraft panics, and in the traditionalist fringe of the counter-enlightenment. It concerns itself with a huge array of topics that includes, but is not limited to:
- The hidden influence and agendas of secret societies, either real or imagined.
- The existence of concealed ‘over-governments’ that secretly administrate the world, often with an occult character.
- The existence of secret cults, including many prominent figures, that hold Satanic or Luciferian beliefs, and diabolical rituals (including human sacrifice, child abuse etc.) associated with these cults.
- Monetary and banking conspiracies, often involving the secret ownership of organisations (including whole governments) by banks, often including explicitly or implicitly anti-Semitic overtones.
- Hidden messages embedded in films, music, television etc. that reveal the nature of the conspiracy and/or exert subliminal control over the audience through scientific or occult means.
- The falsified nature of various historical events, including the staging of fake space operations, ‘false-flag’ terrorist attacks, etc.
- Concealed histories involving hidden artifacts, occult knowledge, sunken continents, notable figures, secret societies and so forth, with clues embedded in famous works of art, architecture and so on.
- The secret poisoning or sedation of the population through fluoride, food additives, chemicals sprayed from aeroplanes, or other means.
- The existence of concerted programs to suppress widespread knowledge of important scientific breakthroughs in areas such as alternative medicine, free energy, anti-gravity etc.
- The secret assassination of prominent figures or of supposed whistle-blowers by shadowy governmental or by the over-government.
- The origins, meaning and purpose of UFOs and the degree of official knowledge thereof (including phenomena such as alien abductions, crop circles, ancient astronauts etc.)
These beliefs can occur singly or be completely intermingled in a complex pattern of belief. In ‘Them: Adventures With Extremists’, Jon Ronson identifies the core of conspiracism as being a belief in the titular ‘Them’:
“a tiny elite [that] rules the world from inside a secret room. It is they who start the wars…elect and cast out the heads of state, control Hollywood and the markets and the flow of capital, operate a harem of under-age kid-napped sex slaves, transform themselves into twelve-foot lizards when nobody is looking, and destroy the credibility of any investigator who gets too close to the truth.”
We will refer to this ‘Them’ as ‘the Conspirators’. Note the capitalisation. In modern conspiracy literature this group is often called the New World Order (NWO) or the Illuminati. What their goal is depends largely on the particular political beliefs of the conspiracist being asked. Conspiracy theories appeal to individuals across the political spectrum, though there is a definite trend towards the far right, both authoritarian and libertarian, and particularly the religious right. David Aaranovitch, in his book ‘Voodoo Histories’, theorises that conspiracism is the natural resort of people who, for whatever reason, feel themselves to be on the ‘losing side’ of history, particularly groups whose power and influence has declined from a previous height, either permanently or temporarily. Conspiracy theories serve to ‘shift the blame’ for political failures on to a diabolical opponent, and provide a rallying point for a resurgence. One can note how, in America, there is a broad trend of conspiracy theories swinging to oppose the incumbent president; in recent years, there has been a swing from generally left-wing (and libertarian) conspiracies implicating the Bush administration in 9/11, to generally right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama. Conspiracism in the sense that we are particularly discussing, however, as a total worldview and historiography, is almost exclusively right-wing, though it includes many, often opposing, viewpoints. It is possible that one of the reasons for this is that the political right is lacking in cohesive, materialist views of history to rival Marxist and social history. Indeed, one can see conspiracism, from a historiographical perspective, as being a resurrection of the ‘great man’ view of history, in which History is shaped largely by the conscious will of individuals, the individuals in these case being the Conspirators.
Conspiracism is of interest to us because it paints a picture of our modern world as a Dystopia, in a very particular way. Although radical political ideologies tend to offer a strong critique of contemporary society, and advance explanations for and solutions to its failings, they tend not to view society as truly Dystopic. Explaining why will hopefully provide us with some insight into some of the peculiarities of Dystopia, and indeed of Utopia.
Generally, critiques of a society are centred on perceived flaws within its cultural, political, social or economic systems. Very often, these flaws are held to be down to a disconnect between the values of a society and a particular conception of human rights and/or human nature. Whether these flaws are accidental or deliberate, incidental or fundamental, they are obvious and evident, at least to the view of the one making the criticism. For example, when criticising contemporary British society, a communist might focus on systemic flaws in the economic system, as evinced by economic inequality and high unemployment, whilst a traditionalist might cite the content of films or the lyrics of pop music as evidence of moral degeneracy and deeper social breakdown. The conspiracist appears to offer a similar critique, but, when we look closely, we notice a peculiarity; because the aims and methods of a conspiracy are, necessarily, hidden, the conspiracist must insert an extra stage of reasoning. Not only must they mount a criticism, but they must create a ground upon which the criticism can be mounted. They must reveal the flaw, which is otherwise invisible; the flaw is the conspiracy, and it is of a distinct character when compared to the other flaws people might identify in a society, for it is simultaneously both hidden and deliberate, whilst often lacking a clear motive, except in hindsight.
Indeed, the portraits of Conspirators painted by conspiracists bear more resemblance to fictional entities such as Blofeld or Fu Manchu than any real person. The antagonists in conspiracy theories, and their servants, tend to possess a combination of three inhuman properties: superhuman competence and superhuman foresight, combined with superhuman malice. It is this last quality that makes the conspiracist worldview truly Dystopic. Consider the well-known quotation from Orwell’s 1984 in which O’Brien lays out the aims of the Party:
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
It is no coincidence how often 1984 and the adjective ‘Orwellian’ are invoked by conspiracists. As we have seen previously, to be at its most effective, a Dystopia must be total and irresistible. In order to do this, they must contain an element of conscious planning or control. This is what distinguishes a ‘true’ Dystopia, which is a subversion or inversion of the carefully planned paradises of Utopia, and the ‘accidental’ Dystopia, in which the Dystopic state has arisen by accident, and in which those apparently in charge may not even be fully in control themselves. Accidental Dystopias can be either more or less hopeful than deliberate ones; the fact that the Dystopia is not designed may indicate that it is less able to sustain itself than more complete totalitarian systems and is likely, much like many examples of excessively pernicious regimes in the real world, to collapse into chaos. However, it may also indicate what the author considers to be a fundamental flaw in the human character that automatically dooms human civilisation. In the face of these cynical and anti-social Dystopias, the only solutions are individual escape, or apocalypse.