On Antisemitism, Critical Thinking, And Conspiracy Theories

Caitlin Johnstone
7 min readOct 28, 2018

Today a gunman attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while shouting the words “All Jews must die”. The suspect, Robert Bowers, reportedly had a history of making antisemitic posts on social media, and was taken into custody alive with multiple gunshot wounds. As of this writing, eleven people were killed in the attack.

I don’t have anything interesting or insightful to say about America’s mass shootings, other than to repeat the point I always make that the effects of modern war propaganda on American psychology are wildly under-appreciated and ignored by scientific research. I believe the subject of US gun control is a bit outside my sovereign boundaries as an Australian writer as it only affects Americans, so I don’t really have anything to contribute in the primary debate surrounding the attack. It’s a debate for Americans to have with one another, so I tend to avoid it.

What I do have to offer is a brief description of my experience with conspiracy theories about Judaism and Jewish people as a fringe blogger who writes a lot about conspiracies, and the impression those encounters have left me with.

To be clear, when I talk about antisemites I mean the actual bigots who promote hatred of Jewish people, paranoia about Jewishness, or any type of violence against or mistreatment of Jews as a race. I do not mean people who voice legitimate criticisms of Israel and its government, I do not mean people who criticize the way Zionism is used as a tool of manipulation to advance geopolitical agendas, I do not mean people who question the justification for the creation of Israel in the first place, I do not mean people who defend Palestinians, and I do not mean people who voice valid, factual criticisms of George Soros or any other billionaire who happens to be Jewish.

I make this distinction because when I try to talk about antisemitism publicly I get critics of Israel confusing the two groups, saying they only ever encounter people who absurdly call you an antisemite for condemning the slaughter of unarmed Palestinians by sniper fire, not people who actually promote the hatred of Jews. And that may indeed be true for them in their case, but as someone who writes a lot about oligarchy, the media, and war in the Middle East I most definitely find myself brushing up against the pernicious mind virus of antisemitism on a regular basis.

It typically happens one of two ways:

1) I’ll be there minding my own business happily attacking CNN or decrying war propaganda against Syria or whatever, and then BAM! Some random asshole splats one of those Jewish caricature memes on the lovely post I spent lots of time and energy creating. It’s always jarring and feels creepy and invasive in the same way as receiving an unsolicited dick pic.

2) They sort of sidle up alongside me on social media, making vague, side-mouthed insinuations which become increasingly specific over time, and before I know it they’re telling me I need to “name the Jew” and talk about “the JQ”.

I fucking hate antisemites. Hate them, hate them, hate them. Not only are they vile racists whose particular brand of hatred should be easily recognized as uniquely toxic by anyone who’s ever skimmed a history book, but they heap other layers of personal obnoxiousness on top of that as well. They’ll accuse you of being a “coward” if you reject their pet medieval superstitions, but they themselves speak only in coded language and oblique, side-mouthed innuendo because they are too cowardly to come right out and state their points in plain language. They’re arrogant, they’re condescending, and they’re impervious to reason, and they always expect you to treat their vapid, slug-brained perspectives with the same respect you’d treat someone who is making real arguments using actual facts.

More annoyingly, they derail some of the most important conversations that critical thinkers and skeptics of establishment narratives need to be having in the new media environment. The foundations of oligarchy and imperialism have nothing whatsoever to do with Jews or Jewishness but with the way the dynamics of money and power interact with human behavioral tendencies, which I discuss at length in the article hyperlinked here. One need only to look at the way Jeff Bezos, who is not Jewish, rose to the top of the plutocratic class and began instantly buying up media and forming alliances with intelligence and defense agencies to see how the dynamics of oligarchy play out with no difficulty when Jewishness is completely removed from the equation. One need only look at the prominence and influence of bloodthirsty psychopath John Bolton, who is not Jewish, to see the how dynamics of neoconservative warmongering play out with no difficulty when Jewishness is completely removed from the equation.

Conspiracies happen all the time in the upper echelons of power, and it’s important to examine and talk about the aspects of this reality that are visible to the general public. But the fact that there’s a group of idiots moving throughout conspiracy circles who insist those conspiracies have something to do with Jewish people having some sort of predisposition toward nefarious behavior or global domination gums up the gears of that dialogue, and is used to discredit perfectly legitimate skepticism toward establishment-endorsed narratives about the world and how it works.

Money rewards the sociopath’s ability to step on anyone and do whatever it takes to get ahead, and large amounts of money can be used to buy up political influence. In a dynamic wherein money both rewards sociopathy and translates directly to political power, we naturally wind up ruled by sociopaths who have no problem keeping everyone poor to ensure the dominance of the plutocratic class and creating chaos throughout the world for power and profit. One of the many reasons antisemitic conspiracy theories gain traction is because those who are devout acolytes of the cult of capitalism will often be resistant to the idea that it is in this way responsible for the worst problems on earth, so to avoid cognitive dissonance they cook up theories about a greedy race of subhumans who suck up power and money because they are intrinsically evil. It allows them to blame Jews for the problems of money and power dynamics. Because Jews as a culture have tended to be generally decent at finance (a trend that probably emerged exactly because of their persecution), they make convenient scapegoats.

In the same way, patriots and nationalists who like to think of their country as sovereign and independent will be resistant to the idea that the lines between nations are increasingly irrelevant at the highest levels of power. The notion that their country is just one branch of a giant, globe-spanning empire of which Israel is also another branch will be far too challenging for their worldview, so they cook up theories about their nation being ruled by a Jewish state via lobbying, media influence and conspiracies. In reality, the globe-spanning empire which includes Israel and the US is not ultimately controlled by any nation or government, but by a class of nationless corporate and financial powers with no loyalty to anyone but themselves. Functionally Israel is nothing more than the Middle Eastern military branch of the empire, and it is so deeply involved in military conflicts because the Middle East is such a strategically crucial region to control. Zionism is just one of the propaganda narratives used to help manufacture support for that branch, and lobbying and media psyops are just the glue which holds the empire together.

There are many other reasons that make it cognitively and egoically comfortable to blame the world’s problems on a historically persecuted minority. All of them are toxic, and, as we were once again reminded today, all of them are dangerous. Hatred of Jews is the result of bad thinking, bad research, emotional stupidity and lazy inner work, and it should be condemned on all fronts. As long as important conversations about conspiracies are being bogged down by these dopey narratives, our hive mind’s ability to shine the light of truth on the world together will be experiencing that much inertia. Let’s get smarter and reject this ignorant nonsense.


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