Friday, August 16, 2013

Conspiracy theory: The dangerous undercurrent

Paul Kimball has been called "the Jack Kerouac of the paranormal."

He also has one of the best personal credos I've ever come across: "Don't believe.  Don't disbelieve.  Think."

In addition to his contribution to paranormal research, he has also made me fully realize an aspect of conspiracy theories that has always unsettled me.  Not only that, but Kimball is doing something about it.

Let me back up a bit.  I used to read a good deal of conspiracy theory.  I did this partly because I feel there's a bit of truth to certain ones but mostly because I think it makes great stories...and not much more than that.  There are variations on the paradigm, but a popular conspiracy is that of the New World Order (yes, I'm giving out the Duran Duran link again.)  It goes something crudely like this:

Jews once went into hiding and became the Masons.  The Masons and the Illumnati then form the basis for the "hidden government" that controls the world.  David Icke, Jim Marrs, Milton William Cooper, and Jim Keith all espouse this theory to one degree or another.  What has always bothered me about this conspiracy theory, besides its absence of solid facts, is what is claimed to be the root of the problem.  If the Illuminati is really in control and responsible for much of human suffering, then we need to look at how they came to be.  According to these gentlemen and others, that would be the Jewish people.

This is a dangerously racist and antisemitic notion.  Syracuse University political scientist Michael Barkun has written books on the subject such as Religion and the Racist Right: Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (revised ed., 1997) and in Disaster and the Millennium (1986), has described the bizarre, alarming subculture of UFO enthusiasts who also zealously believe in Jewish, Masonic, 'Illuminati', or 'New World Order' world domination conspiracy theories in A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (2003).

Paul Kimball identified yet another supporter of this sort of dangerous thinking.  That would be Jeff Rense.  I used to think Rense to be another paranormal researcher just looking for the truth behind UFOs and other Fortean matters.  Now, I see that he often interviews neo-Nazis and others with similar political attitudes.  In response, Kimball created Rense Watch, a blog devoted to monitoring such speech.  The blog hasn't been updated since 2006, so I don't know what happened.  Perhaps Kimball and Rense came to an understanding or Kimball just thought it was giving Rense free press.  I don't know.  Nor do I know Jeff Rense personally.  He could very well be a fine guy who just wants to apply the opportunity for free speech as widely as possible.  I'll pass on the Nazis and anti-Semites though.

Besides the humanitarian dangers, there is yet another way in which this is all harmful.  Fortean research is already widely viewed as anti-intellectual.  That's one of the reasons that it remains on the shadowy fringes.  No one will commit vast resources and effort to studying the various phenomena.  When claims are made that carry a hideous odor of intolerance and discrimination, that does absolutely nothing to help the cause.

Not only that but wasn't there one other dark figure in history who wanted to blame the Jews for everything?  Come to think of it, he believed in things paranormal as well.

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  1. I stopped posting at the Rense Watch because I was satisfied that I had made my point, and had no desire to spend any more time reading through the drek that he posts at his site. I left it up to stand as a warning to any of my friends who might be tempted to appear on his radio show without looking into who he was - a mistake I made once.

    Paul Kimball

  2. Paul,
    Thanks so much for the comment and the update. I completely understand not wanting to devote any more time of your life to such garbage.
    On an unrelated note, I want to say that I heard you on the Other Side with Jim Harrold when you talked about Mac Tonnies. I never knew about Mac until sadly after he was gone. Wanted to thank you for letting people know more about a great man.