Conspiracy theories experienced a serious hype throughout the last years. The number of books, websites and even movies who try to prove that 9-11 was an inside job (i.e. done by the U.S. administration itself) is legion and with “offenbarung 23” an audioplay series that deals will conspiracies of all kinds gathers a growing fanbase. It is this social climate that inspired Daniel Kulla to his book “entschwörungstheorie” ( a neologism roughly to be translated as de-conspiracy theory).
According to Kulla “conspiracy theory” is an inappropriate term because the ideas which normally bear this label are no theories at all if you define theory the usual, scientific way. In Kulla’s words they are ideology or conspirationism. Over roughly 200 pages he gives a broad overview about today’s trends in the conspiracy scene and traces back the roots of today’s conspiracy ideology all way to the French revolution. While the sheer amount of names, dates and facts is hard to be kept in memory two things becomes very clear: The root of all – or at least most – conspiracy “theories” is on the political far right and all of today’s popular conspiracy theories have their roots in these old school conspiracy “theories”. Another thing Kulla offers as a common feature of conspiracy “theories” is that they seek the enemy or the villain abroad, outside the own social circle, class or country, while the own country or culture is regarded as pure, good and natural. Conspirationism means externalisation of problems. Conspirationism always needs scapegoats.
The very core problem of dealing with conspiracionism is that its followers are completely resistant against all logic or proof as in their eyes every proof is made up by “them” and everyone who doesn’t share their beliefs is one of “them”, too, or s/he is at least serving “them”. However despite or even because of its irrationality and surrealism conspirationism – especially that which sees the enemy in “the Jews” – is a very real threat that has to be confronted with rational solutions. Kulla regards it as a problem when scientists try to discuss with conspirologists because this way they already got what they were looking for: scientific acknowledgement. He rather sees the golden path in a blending of critical theory and discordianism. How exactly this blending could look like he doesn’t say. Maybe this would already be substance enough for another whole book or at least a long essay…
The book is very substantial and although I tried my best to give a broad overview of its contents I know that many important parts are missing in this review. It is written very densely with a lot of information per page and I really recommend reading it because I agree that conspirationism is a serious problem, especially because it has affected large parts of the political left. However Kulla doesn’t deny conspiracies. He just states that this world is far too complex for just one big conspiracy of a few powerful ruling over everyone else. Reality, according to him, could rather be described as a net of myriads of conspiracies of everyone against everyone else. Conspirologists are right when they don’t believe in everything the media offers them but they are wrong when they believe everything they are offering themselves and each other. Self-criticism is the key.
I like the tone of the book that is never too scientific and only rarely too polemic. I also agree with most things written in the book. The only point I strongly disagree about is the “fight club” bashing that occurs in a few passages. It is true that “fight club” is about a brotherhood of men and doesn’t show a lot of gender awareness. It is also true that the end of the movie (or the book, but has actually read it?) with the blowing up of the credit card companies’ buildings offers a very, very short criticism of capitalism. But this is not everything to be mentioned about the movie. I’d also bring up the hypothesis that “fight club” was an important catalyst for the recent revival of interest in situationism which in my eyes is like an influx of fresh blood into crusted debates and practices of the current left. On the other hand I don’t agree either with Kulla’s favouring of “the matrix”. Not because the two sequels were totally horrible but because I think that most people perceive it in a different way than the author. If you browse through the world wide web or talk to people in the streets they might agree that we live in a matrix but they will most probably not regard it as something we are constantly generating ourselves but rather as something “they” impose on us through media, commercials and the way “they” control everything. What one sees in the movies tells more about the recipient than about the movies themselves, I think. In a way it is the same about conspiracy “theories”. They don’t explain reality but they tell a lot about those who believe in them.