In 2002, possibly April 2, I was crouching behind a car in Bethlehem. The Israeli army was advancing into the city with panzers and infantry to suppress Palestinian militia. It was intense, but luckily a door opened behind me, and I was invited into the home of a well-dressed Palestinian in his thirties. Sitting safely behind thick walls we could hear hollow thuds of grenades and bombs as well as rattling of machineguns while we chain-smoked, enjoyed coffee and cake, and the two children of this kind man worked on their homework by a computer. He was a Muslim, shipping man by education, and he had sent his children to a Lutheran school that they could get a decent education.
Whilst discussing the world situation we inevitably came to touch upon the conflict which we happened to find ourselves in the midst of. I suggested in broad strokes, that although all kinds of injustices had been committed, and that the loss of land and property was painful to Palestinians, one had to understand the need for Jews to have a safe space, having been reduced by six million people.
Holocaust: 2.500 Jews
“No, no!” he said, waving his finger with a wily smile: “Not six million!” Well, as I was enjoying the hospitality of my host, I was willing to negotiate the number down to 5,5 or perhaps even 5 million without feeling myself placed in the company of David Irving. However, when I asked him to detail his dismissal, he answered: “Two thousand and five hundred”. That is common knowledge”, he said, explaining: The Zionist World Association, Zions Elders, had themselves approached Hitler. The two parties agreed, that if the Nazis were allowed to kill 2.500 Jews, then the rest would be free to leave Europe to steal Arab land – which they then immediately went on to do.
Years later I was in Bagdad discussing the attacks on the World Trade Center with the principal of a high school. He was convinced that Mossad had placed explosives on several floors, bringing down the Twin Towers. The airplanes were photoshop products. He had two irrefutable arguments: all Jews employed at the World Trade Center had phoned in sick on September 11. And his trump card: Where were the black boxes? Why have we never heard of their records? (Once again: one must pick one’s battles, and I did not care to mention, that, given the temperatures which melted concrete, steel and aluminum, the black boxes would hardly have made it either).
Lies are amusing
Whereas such should supposedly be categorized as theories of conspiration there are also lies or merely gossip and hearsay.
In Iraq, I was told a story in which spiders as big as armchairs had attacked the American soldiers. In Lebanon I was told that Hezbollah soldiers attached small propellers to their backs and flew into Israel on destructive nightly raids. (My immediate reaction was: could it be that an engineer in the group had read certain children’s comics?)
However, if I mentioned these types of ‘Arabic folklore’ in connection with my work in the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, I was met with undisguised irritation and in one instance outright dismissal of a report I had written by the editorial office.
My point is, that such stories should be permitted to the media and broadcast as they do tell a lot of the culture from which they originate, and they surely should not be kept out. (Incidentally, for summer holiday reading lists, I would recommend “The Hidden Hand – Middle East Fears of Conspiracy”, written in 1998 by Daniel Pipes)
II It was in the spirit of this matter that the Danish Free Press Society invited Kasper Sand Kjær, spokesman of the Social Democracy on media questions, to a debate on this topic. It took place during the annual ‘folkemøde’ (a public meeting across political parties) on the island of Bornholm in Denmark. The Free Press Society has similarly objected to the EU blocking the Russian channels RT and Sputnik as part of its sanctions against Russia. Not because we doubt that these Putin-controlled medias do broadcast massive lies and far-fetched fabrications but because we maintain, as a principle, that we prefer even too many lies and fabrications than too little freedom of expression on the social medias.
The Secret Bio-labs of CIA
As an example of this, RT and Sputnik have broadcast a story, that the US developed biological weapons in secret labs in Ukraine. The American movement QAnon, which incidentally thinks, that Donald Trump has saved the US from being taken over by a satanic cabal of pedophiles with its headquarters underneath a pizzeria, has promoted this same story of CIA-run biolabs and named them as the very reason for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Chinese media have broadcast these same ‘news’ stories, while the Chinese government has requested insight into said laboratories. The Russian interior minister, as well as their ambassador to the UN, have demanded removal of the bioweapon laboratories.
And nothing has been gained from the thorough dismantling of the story.
The US has indeed placed laboratories in all the former soviet satellite states with the original aim of disarming the old soviet nuclear- and chemical weapons. Nowadays, however, these laboratories treat all kinds of epidemic diseases among humans and animals. These are purely altruistic projects which furthermore are under the sovereign control of the countries in question, while the US merely furnishes them with equipment and supplies. Nor are they secret by any means: a list of these labs and their geographic locations has been published by the American Secretary of State.
Incidentally, it is not the first time that this perverse alleged predilection of the CIA for biological warfare has been ‘disclosed’.
When a genuinely “socialist” crappy potato harvest in former East Germany occurred in the 50’s it was allegedly caused by CIA, which had dropped specially infected Colorado beetles across the iron curtain. And despite what you may have heard, it was also the CIA, who spread AIDS among the Afro-American population in the US simply to get rid of this unwanted segment of the population. The latter was endorsed through Afro-American role models such as Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and Will Smith in varying degrees.
And what about genetically modified Frankenstein-crops? Monsanto? Oh My God!
Futility of prohibition
Nevertheless, if authorities block these types of stories from the media, it only results in those who adamantly want to believe the stories being triumphantly verified in their beliefs. When e. g. Twitter blocked the author Naomi Wolf for advocating, that pregnant women who were vaccinated miscarried and that Covid19-adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci was ‘the Devil himself’ it only provided additional proof to the “I-told-you-so”-types.
There is a qualitative difference between lies and conspiracy theories. It was, for example, a primitive lie, when CIA furnished Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Security Council of the UN with ‘proof’, that Saddam Hussein sheltered Islamic terrorists and within minutes would be able to reach Europe with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Another example is when the US in 1991, before the first Gulf War, spread the story of how Iraqi soldiers had thrown Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators at a hospital.
Conspiracy theories, unlike direct lies and simple urban legends, are much more complicated and require much more fantasy.
The Lodge of the Know-betters
Their members are characterized by thinking, that they can decipher an ingenious relation between completely disparate phenomena seemingly independent from each other, due to an exceptional ability to interpret and decode which empowers them to link these into a logical pattern invisible to others. They thereby become part of an order, a lodge or society of likeminded “know-betters” confirming each other in this exclusive insight as well as in their bravery in speaking up about “The Dangerous Truth”. With the serene tranquility of a martyr, they handle the fact that they are crying out in the wilderness.
To this group of people it is not sufficient, for example, merely to point out that anti-covid19 vaccines could have unexpected side-effects – that is too goddam boring. No no, they contain microchips which Bill Gates intends to use to control all of us through the 5G-network; and moreover: this is all of it part of an even more grandiose conspiracy: the Great Reset, a plan as thought-out and vile that it reduces ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ to an assembly instruction from IKEA in comparison.
However, they might be just as right as the anti-vaxxers in Africa. Anti-vaxxers in Africa are typically Muslim mullahs and medicine men, who circulate as the truth, that polio vaccinations are in reality designed to make African men impotent and their women barren, a ‘truth’ which has caused the increasing spread of polio in central Africa.
Conspiracy theories cost lives
It is to me understandable, if health authorities in civilized countries in pure frustration are tempted to expel all tin foil hatters from social medias because they with their convincing fanaticism seduce weaker souls to share their own paranoid distrust. It is a matter of course that this costs lives. Particularly in the US there are plenty of close relatives, who are now left in grief because of the meaningless passing of a family member, who lost himself on the internet, declined to be vaccinated and eventually refused to let himself be saved by modern medical science.
It is one’s own choice to use anti-malaria or skin disease medication, proven ineffective, instead of anti-covid19 vaccines, which have been tested. Peace be with the meaningless casualties: I have no more respect for them than for those ten fanaticized members of IRA who died in a futile hunger strike in Ireland in 1981 for the sake of yet another crazy, dissident cause. They deserve only our vexed compassion with their families.
Anti-vaxxers have lives on their conscience.
However, despite it all it is important to emphasize the following: For the sake of freedom and out of respect for the personal judgement of individual human beings and their freedom of choice, we must allow lovers of conspiracy theories the opportunity to express themselves. If one invests the government with the power to suppress dissemination of dangerous disinformation ‘for the sake of the common good’ because it impedes the termination of a pandemic, this will permit the same rationale to be used against so-called “climate-change sceptics”; they could be charged with hindering the vital and necessary effort of society against the lethal changes in the climate.
“Freedom is the choicest gold”, as a Danish hymn has it, and we must therefore insist on our right to listen to the bigoted.