Out at the coffeeshop last night, I happened to be sitting next to a man (40ish and Muslim) and a woman (30ish and Muslim) talking about conspiracies. The man was enthusiastically pointing out details on the dollar bill – talking about the secret symbolism on the dollar, saying how American presidents were all in some secret (Masonic?) group, and that the bloodlines of world leaders were just continuations of ancient monarchy bloodlines. I don’t know how people get all mixed up in believing these kinds of conspiracy theories, but I had heard once that conspiracy theories were appealed to a person’s sense of control – that even if they can’t control the world, they understood the forces “truely” at work beneath the surface. It also “explains” why some people are successful, while they aren’t.
At first, I thought the woman was just humoring him, but she started agreeing with him. He was talking about how he had read about all of this stuff in a book – and, so it was all completely true. (As if lies cannot be printed in book form.) It was kind of fascinating to hear the bizarre theories. At one point, the woman said that she had a group of Jewish customers, and in the months before the election, they didn’t seem concerned about who would win. She concluded that the Jews were all part of the conspiracy – they knew, well beforehand, that Obama was chosen to win the US presidency. (You know: all the millions of Jews in the world are in on this whole global conspiracy – they all have a front-row seat, and never tell any of their non-Jewish neighbors.) At one point, she remarked how evil these conspirators were (and, and since she thought the Jews played a major role in it, she must’ve been vilifying Jews in general). I couldn’t help but think that conspiracy theories end up confirming people’s pre-existing beliefs about the world. As muslims, they probably didn’t think very highly of Jews to begin with, now the whole conspiracy idea “confirms” their ideas that Jews are wicked and evil.
The man talked excitedly about how Obama’s mother was actually part of the ancient royal bloodline, that facebook and google were in on it to – these websites weren’t created by a couple guys (how absurd to think a couple guys could create these sites). Rather, they were obviously created by the government and used to track our personal relationships and figure out what information we were reading. According to him, capitalism and communism were always under the control of the global conspiracy. (Apparently, the whole cold war was just an elaborate stage play.) Underlying it all was the belief that Allah would punish these people in the end. I couldn’t help but notice that they were vilifying everything (the US government, capitalism, and communism) and, presumably, leaving Islam as the only true refuge against this global conspiracy. It was a rather ‘interesting’ set of ideas.
As a side note regarding the whole bloodlines thing: every time there’s an election, it seems that someone makes some claim about how candidates or presidents are related to royal blood several centuries earlier. For example:
Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, but took his stepfather’s name as a teenager. Clinton’s ancestry can be traced back, on his mother’s side, to King Henry III who ruled England from 1227 to 1272. He is descended from King Robert I of France.
I don’t know how true these claims are, but considering that people have more and more ancestors each generation backwards, I would think that everyone has royal blood somewhere in their ancestry. For example, I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. The number of ancestors doubles every generation backwards (ignoring inbreeding, of course). This means I should have 16,777,216 ancestors if I go back 24 generations (and 24 generations is only 600 years, assuming 25 years per generation), plus another 16 million ancestors in the intervening 23 generations. This means I’m probably related to every Dutch person alive in the 1400s, and a decent portion of the Western European population at the same time. It’s pretty unremarkable to have royalty in your ancestry.
Oh wait, I get it now – we’re ALL in on the global conspiracy. I can’t believe I was a part of it this whole time! (Gosh, it’s like I’m suddenly in that scene in the Sixth Sense.)