By Peter Kreko
In an earlier post this year, Marley Morris and myself were writing about the importance of conspiracy theories in populist discourses and ideologies based on the French, Hungarian and Slovakian cases. This post will focus instead on the extremist threat of conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories are present in practically every violent intergroup conflict. And these theories are not just following violent events – they are driving them. The Russian official ideology and Kremlin-close media has been spreading conspiracy theories for years to justify the regime’s anti-western stance and give justification for the nationalist, expansionist goals of the Kremlin. The Middle East has always been and is a fertile ground for conspiracy theories – even the most ludicrous ones such as that Israel is distributing libido-increasing chewing gum in the Strip. At the heart of the ideology of the Islamic State we come across a theory that a part of the Muslim clergy is secretly conspiring with the West, plotting for the Crusaders to invade the Muslim World – and IS’s ‘defensive jihad’ is the only tool to prevent this epidemic of Westernization.
Conspiracy theories are extremely helpful for leaders provoking violent conflicts. They simplify the world, victimise the ingroup, diabolise the enemy, and give justification for violence against the outgroups, calling for “apocalyptic aggression”: “if we don’t defend ourselves today, they will destroy us tomorrow”.