[FEAR] and the cult of conspiracy...
“Why look for conspiracy when stupidity can explain so much”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Conspiracy theories have long been used to maintain power: the Soviet leadership saw capitalist and counter-revolutionary conspiracies everywhere; the Nazis, Jewish ones. But those conspiracies were ultimately there to buttress an ideology, whether class warfare for Communists or race for Nazis. With today’s regimes, which struggle to formulate a single ideology – indeed, which can’t if they want to maintain power by sending different messages to different people – the idea that one lives in a world full of conspiracies becomes the world view itself.
Conspiracy does not support the ideology; it replaces it. In Russia this is captured in the catchphrase of the country’s most important current affairs presenter: ‘A coincidence? I don’t think so!’ says Dmitry Kiselev as he twirls between tall tales that dip into history, literature, oil prices and colour revolutions, which all return to the theme of how the world has it in for Russia. And as a world view, it grants those who subscribe to it certain pleasures: if all the world is a conspiracy, then your own failures are no longer all your fault. The fact that you achieved less than you hoped for, that your life is a mess – it’s all the fault of the conspiracy.
More importantly, conspiracy is a way to maintain control. In a world where even the most authoritarian regimes struggle to impose censorship, one has to surround audiences with so much cynicism about anybody’s motives, persuade them that behind every seemingly benign motivation is a nefarious, if impossible-to-prove, plot, that they lose faith in the possibility of an alternative, a tactic a renowned Russian media analyst called Vasily Gatov calls ‘white jamming’.
And the end effect of this endless pile-up of conspiracies is that you, the little guy, can never change anything. For if you are living in a world where shadowy forces control everything, then what possible chance do you have of turning it around? In this murk it becomes best to rely on a strong hand to guide you.
‘Trump is our last chance to save America,’ is the message of his media hounds. Only Putin can ‘raise Russia from its knees’. ‘The problem we are facing today is less oppression, more lack of identity, apathy, division, no trust,’ sighs Srdja. ‘There are more tools to change things than before, but there’s less will to do so.”
― Peter Pomerantsev, This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality