Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conspiracy theories oversimplify history

A conspiracy theory refers to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators. Source

Incidentally, - to conspire means "to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end."
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 243 (8th ed. 1976).

(Take note, that whenever I use the word “history”, I am in fact referring to “his” story, in other words – satan’s story, for that is exactly what it is; - it is a documentation of the confusion and chaos he has caused on planet earth. Although he has given man much to speculate, debate, and write about, the vast majority of news-and-views is distracting us from the truth, and also the true identity of the antichrist.)

Perhaps the most contentious aspect of a conspiracy theory is the problem of settling a particular theory's truth to the satisfaction of both its proponents and its opponents. Particular accusations of conspiracy vary widely in their plausibility, but some common standards for assessing their likely truth value may be applied in each case:
  • Occam's razor - does the alternative story explain more of the evidence than the mainstream story, or is it just a more complicated and therefore less useful explanation of the same evidence?
  • Logic - do the proofs offered follow the rules of logic, or do they employ fallacies of logic?
  • Methodology - are the proofs offered for the argument well constructed, i.e., using sound methodology? Is there any clear standard to determine what evidence would prove or disprove the theory?
  • Whistleblowers - how many people – and what kind – have to be loyal conspirators? The more wide-ranging and pervasive the conspiracy is alleged to be, the greater the number of people would have to be involved in perpetrating it - is it credible that nobody involved has brought the affair to light?
  • Falsifiability - would it be possible to determine whether specific claims of the theory are false, or are they "unfalsifiable"?
Well-known conspiracies include theories that the Americans themselves were behind the 9/11 disaster, that there never was a man on the moon, that Britain's MI6 assassinated Diana, that Aids was developed by the CIA to exterminate black people, and that a small elite group of Jews control the world.

Most conspiracy theories are relatively harmless inventions of the imagination. In the highly descriptive language of Afrikaans this phenomenon is usually referred to as “spookstories” (ghost stories). These stories are often magnified by fringe groups who, for various reasons, firmly believe that the stories must be true. Unfortunately this has lead to major tragedies, for example, when the Nazi’s convinced the Germans, after WW1, that it was the Jews who were responsible for their defeat.

Karl Raimund Popper in his influential two-volume work “The Open Society and Its Enemies” (1945) used the term “conspiracy theory” to criticize communism and the Nazi’s ideological basis. He pointed out that totalitarian theories lead to fabricated political schemes, which are designed to exterminate a specific race or class of people, and that its popularity increased due to the fact that it was based on oversimplified arguments for extremely complex events. It is normally these oversimplified conspiracy-based theories, which rely on a strong ideological interpretation of history, that contain devious half-truths.

Karl Popper, born in Austria on 28 July 1902, is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century; he also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. In 1919, Popper became attracted by Marxism and subsequently became a member of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria, which was at that time a party that fully adopted the Marxist ideology. He soon became disillusioned by what he saw to be the philosophical restraints imposed by the historical materialism of Marx, abandoned the ideology and remained a supporter of social liberalism throughout his life.

Illusory Stories (Spookstories)

This typically occurs due to a psychological reaction after a sensational and traumatic event. Its purpose is to simplify the explanation thereof and to identify and isolate the villains. The people who publicize and believe the illusory stories that are broadcast after the event, are themselves usually disillusioned and cynical victims of the event. It is these emotions that drive them to take revenge, and which incites them to ‘expose’ the group of conspirators as the guilty party. Some illusory stories usually fade away over time, but there are a few that simply refuse to evaporate and which often cultivates enormous fan-clubs, simply because it is digested far easier than the complex truth.

South Africa has had its fair share of political conspiracy theories. The most common must surely be the total onslaught and red danger (rooi gevaar) –theories, with its oversimplified explanations for the complex problems of pre-1994.

The ANC and their equally one-sided version of historical events is currently far more dangerous, because it has become the official viewpoint of government. It is deeply entrenched in the foundations of their policies, and will thus influence their future political strategies for many years to come. This viewpoint fulfils all the characteristics of a typical conspiracy theory, yet it is difficult to deny because people can easily be labelled as a racist or apologist of apartheid.

The ANC-theory

The ANC-theory can briefly be summarized as follows:

Since the beginning of the previous century, a secret Brotherhood of Afrikaners (Broederbond), were in a conspiracy with the National Party (NP), the NG Church, and numerous other supporting- and front organizations. They collectively conspired to oppress the Blackman and to exercise control through the policies of apartheid.

The Afrikaner Broederbond were the covert masterminds behind it all. The NP had to implement apartheid, while the role of the NG Church was to sanctify a godly justification, thereby smothering the views of all opposition through religious preaching and prayer, directly from the pulpit.

As a result of this, the problems of black Africans were simplified and blamed on apartheid and white racism. Consequently, the solutions were based on a protracted rectification of this historical process. Any resistance or disagreement is used as evidence of counter-revolutionary racism and adherence to the remnant of apartheid.

Although not all supporters of the ANC are submissive followers of this conspiracy theory, the damage has been done. As with all illusory stories (spookstories), this one mainly developed due to historical events, but it ignores the complexity of reality, and thus creates more problems because it is one-sided and greatly oversimplifies history.

It is interesting (and disturbing) to note that there exists a reasoning among modern-day Afrikaner-circles, which supports the ANC-theory. These Afrikaners seem to be intent on propagating the same theory among other Afrikaners, with the sole purpose of convincing them to accept it as truth. The question is why?

One possible answer to this question can be found in the research of the French philosopher Jacques Ellul.


Ellul’s research is mesmerizing, because much of what he said can be applied to the circumstances of many post-1994 white South Africans, and particularly the Afrikaner.

He states that propaganda which suddenly comes to an end when a new authority comes to power, has drastic and far-reaching influence on the minds of those who formerly supported it. The familiar world created by the old power crumbles, and overnight they feel like strangers in their own land - (I know the feeling!) Everything changes and everything they believe in disappears in the transformation (revolution). In an attempt to establish themselves, the new order shoots the old order down in flames. The old order cannot defend itself because it does not exist anymore!

This situation leads to fragmentation of the group and the consequent disintegration of the individuals thereof. They loose faith in themselves, in the cause they stood for, in their former leaders, and occasionally in life itself. They withdraw from the group, “we” becomes “I”, and past life-principles and morals appear preposterous in the new dispensation. There is a feeling of anger, disillusion and mistrust. They feel deceived, and betrayed, and withdraw from public life and privatize themselves in business. They feel that all their sacrifice was worthless, and that they were misused as fools by the old system. They loose all interest in their previous life, and become aloof towards their community, history, heroes, symbols, establishments and ideas.

According to Ellul, people who are suddenly cut-off from their lifeline propaganda, can develop guilt complexes, stress and other psychological disorders. The new system’s propaganda goes full-force (opens all taps) in an attempt to demobilize potential opponents, to establish its own authority, and to place suspicion on possible competitive systems. Everything in the old system is publicized as evil, while the new system, its leaders, statues and symbols, are commemorated and glorified.

Nobody wants to touch anything that is related to the old order, and you will inevitably place yourself outside the civilized debate as soon as you think or talk beyond the officially accepted ideological framework, - which may never be doubted. In many cases a group will join forces with the former enemy, and in other cases the new generation will revolt against the former, because they cannot believe that their parents actually supported the old order.

Incidentally, Jacques Ellul was also a Christian anarchist. He wrote several books about the "technological society" and the intersection between Christianity and politics, such as Anarchy and Christianity (1991) - arguing that anarchism and Christianity are socially following the same goal. The term "Christian anarchism" was not coined by Ellul, - it was coined in 1894 in reviews of a book written by Leo Tolstoy entitled The Kingdom of God Is Within You.

As I said before, much of what Ellul talks about can be applied to post-1994 citizens of South Africa!

Historical Balans

The only way to neutralize conspiracy theories and the dangers of propaganda in the South African context, is to have access to accurate information on both sides of the case. The past is multifaceted, and if the events are not placed in the correct historical context, then it will most certainly create misrepresentations.

There are notably two reasons why a balanced view of history is important for South Africans:

Firstly, -- the current criminalizing of white Afrikaner history can cause Afrikaners to reject their own identity and consequently discontinue their bonds with South Africa and also the African continent, which is part thereof. It can give momentum to the exodus of skilled professionals, which will have a further negative impact on the country.

Secondly, -- the ANC’s existing race-based policy is built on an extremely one-sided interpretation of the past. The more wicked the viewpoints of the past, the more wicked and malicious corrective measures will become, and the more difficult it will be to reverse the viewpoints, or to disprove the unfairness thereof.

The younger new generation must realize that their forefathers were not superhuman, and neither were they criminals. They did not deliberately conspire to commit evil acts against the majority. They were normal people who had to face unusual circumstances and at the same time deal with extraordinary problems. Although they made mistakes in the process, they also accomplished major achievements.

Inspiration for this posting came after I read an article written by Flip Buys, which was published yesterday (3 Nov 2010) on the Solidarity Blog. The article, written in Afrikaans, is entitled - “Samesweringsteorieë oorvereenvoudig die geskiedenis”, and can be viewed here.


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