True Believers In A False God

23
1872

WHEN ADOLF HITLER committed suicide on 30 April 1945, thousands of Germans followed his example. The most famous copy-cats were Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda. Not only did they take their own lives, but also those of their six children. The idea of surviving the Fuhrer, being held accountable for everything he, and they, had done, seeing National Socialism overthrown and accepting the inevitable ruin of everything they had hoped for and fought for, was simply too overwhelming for many fanatical Nazis to contemplate.

Good riddance! Well, yes, that’s one response. But just consider the following excerpt from US writer, Eric Levitz’s “QAnon Is Madness: But Believing It Can Be Rational” article posted on The Intelligencer website of 23/9/20:

“Speaking with voters in Wisconsin this month, Time reporter Charlotte Alter heard conspiracy theories from about 20 percent of her interview subjects. Many of these Wisconsinites were not familiar with QAnon but subscribed to its basic tenets. Tina Arthur, a small-business owner, told Alter that she was not a follower of QAnon but did believe that the Democrats were in league with a cabal of blood-drinking child rapists and that ‘if Biden wins, the world is over, basically … I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on, and it would be over.’”

What the hell is going on, when a businesswoman from the Mid-Western United States is willing to wipe out her entire family rather than face the prospect of living under a Democratic President? Because, when all is said and done, “Sleepy Joe” Biden is a very far cry from Joseph Stalin, and even the most strident antifa protester is nowhere near as dangerous as the vengeance-seeking soldiers of the Red Army. How did as many as 20 percent of Americans end up tumbling down this dangerously hallucinatory rabbit-hole?

According to Levitz, conspiracy theories have much more to offer confused and frightened citizens than may, at first glance, be apparent:

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“The tendency toward conspiracism is deeply rooted in the human psyche. It manifests across time and geography and is likely a product of evolutionary pressures. On an emotional level, human beings tend to find the idea of being threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control much more upsetting than being threatened by an intelligible enemy. Social psychologists have found that when fearful people contemplate potential misfortunes, they tend to feel helpless and pessimistic, but when angry people contemplate the same, they feel a sense of optimism and control. And one simple way to transmute fear into anger is to perceive an evil agent behind whatever development is causing you uncertainty and disquiet.”

With this in mind, we begin to appreciate the powerful psychological insight behind the New Zealand Government’s “Unite Against Covid-19!” campaign. By personifying the virus, transforming it into an “evil agent” which New Zealanders could defeat collectively, the Government and the Ministry of Health headed-off the sort of QAnon craziness that has turned so many fearful Americans into gibbering paranoiacs.

The other key factor in this country’s success in preventing the widespread uptake of insane conspiracy theories was the regular 1:00pm briefings from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Fear grows exponentially in the absence of timely and reliable information. New Zealand was, therefore, especially fortunate in having the “Jacinda and Ashley Show”. These two particularly gifted and credible communicators were able to deliver on an almost daily basis the answers and reassurance their frightened fellow citizens were so eager to receive. Such anger as was generated out of public fear tended to be directed against those who refused to “unite against the virus”. Not only did this popular enforcement of the Covid-19 Lockdown impede the disease’s spread, but it also served as a useful safety-valve for the tensions occasioned by the extraordinary limitations of individual freedom which the fight against the pandemic necessitated.

The comparison with the United States could hardly be more stark. Rather than the consistent and uplifting communications of Jacinda Ardern, the Americans were exposed to the constantly changing, often contradictory, messages of President Donald Trump. Also a formidable communicator, Trump deployed his talent in ways that fed, rather than calmed, his people’s fears, and fuelled their anger with hyper-politicised bulletins of unprecedented malignancy.

It would be wrong, however, to suggest that New Zealanders have been unanimous in their acceptance of the measures adopted to “stamp out” the virus. Although upwards of three-quarters of the population have registered either their “support” or “strong-support” for the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, that still leaves a quarter of the population unconvinced.

Some of these were the sort of hyper-individualists so often found in the upper reaches of societies dominated by the ideology of neoliberalism. Such people (most of them men) find the idea of standing in solidarity with the “sheeple” abhorrent. Equally unappealing, from the perspective of these “One Percenters”, is the unhelpful example set by the all-too-obvious success of collective intervention. Well-positioned to communicate their opposition, these Covid sceptics have been unceasing in their efforts to undermine the Government’s solidaristic appeals to “The Team of Five Million”.

The other pool of scepticism and resistance is fed by the fear and ignorance of New Zealand’s least educated and most marginalised citizens. With little cause to trust a state which bitter experience has taught them to regard as an alien and hostile entity, these folk remained largely untouched by the Government’s campaign against Covid-19. In terms of social-psychology, they are precisely the people who feel “threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control”. Looking for “an intelligible enemy” to blame for their shitty world becoming even shittier, they have every reason to believe, and insufficient intellectual resources to refute, the conspiracy theories fed to them by the algorithms of social media and the political predators who so adroitly exploit them.

Once inside the rabbit holes of the conspiracists; once supplied with the identity of the “evil agents” against whom their now inflamed emotions can be directed; once filled with the optimism and sense of control that makes being angry in the company of like minds so much more bearable than being alone and frightened; once the hallucinations have become more compelling than reality; what then is the incentive to stop seeing things that aren’t there? Better by far to expand the rabbit hole until in encompasses the whole world.

And if reality reasserts itself: either in the form of the Fuhrer’s death and the Red Army’s victory; or in the person of President Biden and a Democratic Party-controlled Congress; then what is the point of going on? Better to grab the kids, administer the poison, and avoid shouldering the unbearable heaviness of being exposed as a true believer in a false god.

23 COMMENTS

  1. It’s much Simpler than that Chris. At this point the mainstream media are the conspiracy theorists. Think russiagate, Covington kids, Jussie Smollet, MLK bust in the Whitehouse. Epstein and the spiking of that story by the MSM. It goes on and on.

    And then you use a Time reporter as a source. Please.

    • off white is quite right ,,, our media supplies heaps of counter factual cool aid ,,, things like the Epstein coverup and perversion of justice leave the door wide open for Q Anon to fill in the blanks with mad MAGA fantasia.

      Same with Russia gate and ‘outside influence’ in the usa elections ,,, in reality a ‘kick-back’ scheme has one country dictating usa politics in a mutually enriching way ,,, How Much Pro-Israel Money Politicians Attacking Ilhan Omar Received https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1bQzcx9iBE

      Given Ron Marks and Winstons hard-line one sided ‘friends of Israel’ actions in Govt ,,, I wonder if NZ first received donations? ,,, bundled through the appropriate New Zealanders 😉 . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBBVl-g4QXo

      I will say we are a better standard of customer than some who buy Israel exports .. https://thegrayzone.com/2018/07/10/ukraine-embassy-israel-arming-nazis-max-blumenthal/

      The Christchurch subpremacist would have loved the Israel killing kit ,,, but had to settle for just the fascist symbols ..
      *****************************************************

      Regarding Trump ,,, ironically if he loses their election he recreates the dementia days of Reagan Presidency ,,, when they were last “great”.

      Personally I hope Trump just wins ,,, or better yet he just loses and refuses to go ,,, because he is pretty friggin incompetent ,,, and that’s safer for the world than those bloodhound Democrats ,, The Dems would do this harder and faster I suspect, “After 9/11 Attacks, U.S. Wars Displaced at Least 37 Million People Around the World” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwoY_DoZvNs&list=LLbE5hpEbiUutWYXzuWg0_TA&index=5

      Hillary was a war criminal candidate who brought slave markets to Libya ,,, no need to ask what sort of slavery a lot of the females would be sold into ,,,,, same with ISIS slaves ,,womens rights for ‘exceptional’ women only ,,from Hillary?.

      Trumps idiocy is also the opportunity for usa citizens if they are ever to make a stand against authoritarianism and its marriage with modern technology ,,, Both parties are “make America Eat Pain” options, but trumps more likely to motivate change ,,,its still Just at the stage where lawfare and peaceful protests like workers doing general strikes ,,, could bring about civil solutions to their dire exploding poverty and evictions crisis ,, and get them some healthcare ,,,

      Trump is Nero versus the people “93% of BLM Protests Have Been Peaceful”
      https://heavy.com/news/2020/09/blm-protests/

      Give me Nero trump over those nice demss ,,, 10 mins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfbTkwVp6nc&list=LLbE5hpEbiUutWYXzuWg0_TA&index=9

      • Reason, I appreciate your perspective. Chris Trotter is all ‘orange man bad’ and his supporters uneducated. Straw men and media punditry. Really it is all too lazy.

    • I agree with the effort of President Trump going to the UN meeting yesterday and accusing China openly; – of exporting a pandemic upon the world that was responsible for killing many was a fact that China will not accept any responsibility for.
      At least he stood up for us all.
      Why didn’t others??.

      • China not accepting any responsibility for it? Do we want a formal apology?

        Should there be a big list of things for each country to ‘take responsibility’ and apologise for? What would the Chinese have on the American list?

      • The thing I like about Trump (and Winston too) they call a spade a spade and to hell with the niceties of diplomacy. In my view China definitely are responsible for releasing this virus, if not deliberately then by sheer negligence. One can easily imagine the information that POTUS has about this virus with all the intelligence agencies at his disposal. Fuck China.

        • China was faced with trying to isolate and understand a newly emerged virus. The US had inherited masses of knowledge including from China with warnings. Despite that, the US failure to act and ignorantly trying to follow its own course it passed Covid-19 on to other countries, including NZ. Which of the two countries is more culpable for the international outcomes?

  2. Interesting article, however,… it strikes me that because of political ‘face saving’ and misinformation, …that for arguments sake,… when so many rail against neo liberalism , when it gets close to actually naming the groups and the individuals responsible, it is at that point people shut down for being labelled ‘ kooks’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’. Yet it didn’t just fall from the sky. And like covid, overtook the globe.

    So often it is that there exits compelling evidence of skullduggery in govt circles but is hidden behind ‘plausible deniability’. Deliberately. The sinking of the Lusitania, Pearl Harbour, the origins of the Spanish flu and govt lies about it not being spread in the community ( for a time ) , that it was less than it was and only afflicted the troops. There are literally thousands of examples. And then there’s the demonization of an enemy, – calling them the bloodthirsty hun etc, to which million’s signed up to fight the rich mans war, and died. Fake news is what I believe is the modern parlance. Or propaganda if living in the time of world war one. Or worse, news blackouts for obvious reasons.

    Then you have scientific authority figures proclaiming it all a bunch of hogwash until years later what was once considered a ‘conspiracy theory ‘ turned out to be factual and the truth. Like the earth being a globe and not flat. That the earth orbits the sun and not the other way round.

    In the case of your article, you most probably are correct. But lets just remember the power brokers of this world didn’t get to and stay in positions of power by always telling the truth.

    • “Then you have scientific authority figures proclaiming it all a bunch of hogwash until years later what was once considered a ‘conspiracy theory ‘ turned out to be factual and the truth. Like the earth being a globe and not flat. That the earth orbits the sun and not the other way round.”

      What utter nonsense. It was science that demonstrated that the Earth is a globe and corrected the earlier, non-scientific, assertion that it was flat.

      Have you any better examples for your absurd claims?

      • Perhaps you should realize lad that before more modern techniques were developed authorities figures did INDEED believe the world to be flat and the sun orbits the earth…

        Perhaps before you get all aggressive you should bother to read what is actually in front of you rather then present your own absurd claims…

        And unless you have a problem with that, look at some ancient cultures and look into what they believed, – well before the time Newton.

  3. This interesting from a psychological perspective.

    However, it would be far more productive to examine the mindless belief in the economic and financial ‘gods’ of GDP and ‘quantitative easing’ which infest the minds of most politicians and bureaucrats. Even worse, the ‘god’ of perpetual growth [on a finite planet] which has infected the mind of the Prime Minister.

    These false gods are far more dangerous than other outlandish beliefs because they are incorporated into the structure of society.

  4. “Tina Arthur, a small-business owner, told Alter that she was not a follower of QAnon but did believe that the Democrats were in league with a cabal of blood-drinking child rapists” I really wonder If Tina and the other 20% of the interview subjects believe that the Democrats drink blood? Or if that part was insertad after the interview fro “colour”.
    As far as the child rapist bit is concerned, when isolated from the blood drinking aspect, there seems to be no shortage of evidence of Bill Clinton having made numerous trips on Jeffery Epstein’s private helicopter to his private island where he kept a harem of under age ( in US law) girls as prostitutes. Or so the multidudenous accounts assert. It is not a long shot to suppose that other members of the elite Democrat circle may have joined the party from time to time. So without the blood drinking part of the story , 20% of respondents holding Tina’s beliefs does not seem surprising at all. And it could hardly qualify as a conspiracy theory.
    D J S

  5. “Because, when all is said and done, “Sleepy Joe” Biden is a very far cry from Joseph Stalin…”

    When a weak leader is anointed, there is always a thug waiting patiently in the wings to either play the role of puppet master (Rasputin) or just takeover (Stalin).

    Biden is just a corrupt old shill – the real problems are his backers.

  6. Why should people not believe in conspiracies? A group of senior Labour MPs dragged NZ into neoliberalism so that they could steal public assets – a conspiracy if ever I saw one. Repeated studies have shown that our democracies no longer serve our citizens. And the media certainly don’t. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/america-is-not-a-democracy/550931/
    The conspiracists are merely the leading edge of the wave of contempt neoliberalism has earned by its constant failing. That they focus on the wrong targets is concerning – but their aim will improve, if politicians do not.

  7. It looks like whatever the outcome of the November Presidential election. The American future is Trumpist.

    Given his past comments — even in an election (2016) that he won! — there’s every reason to believe that even if Trump vacates the White House in January 2021 that he will never, ever concede that he lost. And that would have massive consequences on not only our politics but on the broader foundations on which American democracy is built….

    ….it’s very easy to imagine Trump — with his 80-plus million Twitter followers and the potential that he would be the head of a TV network post-presidency — beating the drum of illegitimacy day in and day out….

    The result isn’t hard to imagine: An even deeper divide within the country between the Trumpists and everyone else…..

    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/11/politics/donald-trump-joe-biden-2020-election/index.html

    In Effect Donald Trump in opposition will set the table for the next US president, after Biden, to be a Far Right evangelist fundamentalist with delusions of power, to make Donald Trump look like a moderate.

    After a lackluster and disappointing, Biden middle-of-the-road administration which satisfies no one, the next Republican administration will be empowered, repressive, racist, misogynist, religious fundamentalist, science denying, Trump style administration on steroids

  8. Many have wondered how millions of German and East Europeans could have followed and believed in fascism.

    We are getting a modern lesson in how it was done.

    The most striking parallel between Qanon and the German fascists of the 1930s, is the accusations aimed by both movements at their political enemies that they are blood drinking pedophiles.
    The same baseless accusations that the Qanon accuse their perceived enemies of, are almost exactly the same accusations the German Hitler fascists accused people of Jewish faith of.

    German newspapers, news reels and movies of the 1930s and ’40s depicted Jews and other enemies of the Nazis as a ‘Degenerate People’ guilty of all sorts of deviant sexual practices committed against children and women.
    Exploiting peoples visceral emotive fear of pedophiles made any violence committed against them, no matter how horrendous, appear rational, even justified.

    The German nazis deliberately and systematically channeled and fed people’s fear of ‘pedophiles’ and ‘degenerates’ this enabled the nazis to commit the holocaust, the rounding up of millions of innocent men women and children from German and European cities with little objection from their friends and neighbours. From there, millions of people were loaded into cattle trucks on the edge of town to be transported to interment camps to be murdered on an industrial scale. Few objected.

    “I lay awake at night and worry if my brother’s going to shoot a bunch of protesters,” said Daniel, 36….
    Daniel began to research online, trying to find where his brother was getting his misinformation. Greg had said something vague and outlandish before about pedophile rings, but Daniel had assumed his brother was talking about Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation, and that he had been especially upset because both twins had experienced childhood sexual abuse.

    But Daniel soon learned about QAnon, a far-reaching and baseless conspiracy theory that alleges, among other things, that Donald Trump is conducting a covert operation to save millions of children from a secret cabal of powerful pedophiles….

    …..In 2016, the Pizzagate conspiracy theory falsely alleged that Hillary Clinton and other prominent figures in the Democratic party were trafficking children, and that victims were being held at Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in Washington DC. In 2020, alongside a deluge of Covid-19 misinformation, Pizzagate has experienced a resurgence.

    Denise began to send videos. One of them, titled “PedoGate 2020”, opens with a chilling piano theme. A soft-voiced narrator then claims that a hidden message in a photograph of Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain is linked to trafficking children. It also makes bizarre and seemingly-unconnected allegations tying together Instagram hashtags, Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis, and internet personalityBhad Bhabie….

    From the outside, QAnon is a deranged spectacle. For some Republican leaders who stand to benefit from its influence, QAnon functions as an opportunity to garner political support. To the FBI, QAnon is a domestic terror threat…..

    ….The QAnon conspiracy may assert the existence of untold masses of abused children, but perhaps it is an easier pill to swallow than the unfettered chaos of present reality, where the gap between poor and ultra-rich is ever-widening, and rising sea levels threaten the future of human life on Earth – where millions of children are indeed abused, but not at the hands of a singular organization that can be eliminated with a simple mass arrest.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/23/qanon-conspiracy-theories-loved-ones?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR0QlYYYLIymRzL3svzaSPj8iSU8yoVI5htXVUmUv2WNCCWtPsUrZ56EYjU

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