By Abukar Arman
The recent public execution of ‘political correctness’ in the U.S. and other Western countries had an unintended consequence: it has removed the curtain of pretense and hypocrisy. This, needless to say, is one of the key factors that could help solve some of the most critical political, economic, and faith-based issues of our time.
However, this positive outcome might not be immediately experienced or appreciated since assertive ignorance and crude communication dominate the public space. President-elect’s supporters had this to offer for post-election consensus building: ‘Donald Trump is the President; deal with!’ And his Transitional Team and selected Cabinet had nothing substantive to add. So, we must deal with this world-changing reality.
And this makes the unpacking of these two concepts critical: ‘conspiracy theory’ and its less known archenemy ‘conspiracy realism’. Both are relevant to understand and to function with the new diplomacy.
The Theorists’ Dilemma
Everything in life is not organized by clandestine cabals, secret societies, or sinister groups driven to achieve political, economic or religious objectives. And everything does not always have a wicked, illegal, or immoral motive. And yes there are people who always look at authorities with a relentless antipathy and distrust; people who are obsessed in finding the evil geniuses behind everything in ways that borderlines, if not indicates, mental disorder. The notorious killer cult leader, Charles Manson is an example.
Much of the issues in politics and economics are multidimensional and complex. As such, it is too difficult for the average people to wrap their minds around them. Especially during the seasons of heightened uncertainties due to wars, economic downfall and such, it is easy to seek meaning through professional conspiracy theorists. These influence-wielding individuals such as Alex Jones of InfoWars often have packaged explanations to everything.
They—seekers and providers—never change their minds or admit being wrong when new facts emerge and new evidences are unveiled. To them facts are nothing more than convenient covers- hence their offshoot or the creeping effect of fake news websites.
The perennial question that puzzled great minds throughout the ages (Is man innately good or innately evil?) has never been more relevant. Most of us may have strong opinions on this matter. As a Muslim, I believe that the human being is hard-wired with divine nobility—moral conscience—and is granted the free-will to disgrace him/herself to the lowest of the lows.
Is man not capable of connivingly conspire to immorally and illegally claim power beyond his rights and thus impose his will on others or commit sexual violence to please his lust? In that case, who is haplessly naïve- the one who believes that man never conspires to control and exploit or the one who thinks he does?
Before the WikiLeaks on government and corporate exploitation and misconduct, Snowden’s expose of intrusive ‘Big Brother’, any such claim would’ve been easily dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Throughout history man has lusted for exclusive advantage in order to control, manipulate or exploit. Yet, most people are still robotically inculcated to disassociate themselves with anything that suggests conspiracy; they are likely to resort to knee-jerk reaction in defense of status quo- whatever that may be. Those in power are often the main beneficiaries.
Politics of the Label
Not all conspiracy claims are driven by far-left or far-right nutty mobs that have an inventory of conspiratorial misgivings and fantasies.
Unless one is locked into state of absolute conformity to one’s own biases or denial, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the cleansing of Native Americans, slavery, colonialism, geopolitics, al-Qaida, ISIS, Shabaab and other such mortal enterprises would not have been possible without some form of conspiracy. And this should compel us to have a frank and sensible discourse on this ever-present human controversy.
Nowadays, any credible challenge to the official narrative of any serious issue, policy, or action is met with resistance from devout conformists or is shot-down by professionals who should be called the conspiracy police. This intellect-policing force needs not to present facts or establish any pattern of analytical discrepancies. All they need is to unleash cold-blooded ad hominem.
On the Receiving End
There are some who vehemently deny the notion that there is a synchronized effort to collectively demonize Muslims and other minority groups. The growing number of mainly far-right politicians who cunningly use “dog whistle politics” to give subtle marching orders. The political operatives, and well-funded media institutions with colorful personalities whose jobs are to incite religious intolerance and to whip people into crippling hysteria, therefore dependency.
In the U.S. and some parts of Europe, anti-Muslim partners foster uniformed propaganda led by hate-mongering ‘hipsters’. Their motto is: “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are.” They insist that their motive is neither racist nor anti-Islamic. However, their thinly disguised racism falls apart as soon as one replaces “Muslims” with Jews, and “terrorists” with financial scammers. Was the latter not the malicious pretext that led to the holocaust?
In the current trend, Muslims are so demonized that individuals and mosques could be implicated arbitrarily and be condemned in the court of public opinion. And since neither media nor the law-enforcement is pressed to present evidence or establish clear trend before accusing any Muslim person or institution, whatever they present is often considered “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
In the spirit of conspiracy realism and trying out the new diplomacy, let me spread these cards on the table. There are mainly two phenomena that support the notion that Muslims are in political and economic crosshairs: First, geographical areas in which terrorists operate are almost always resource rich or are geopolitically important. Second, though terrorism presents real indiscriminate threat, all countries that succumb to political pressures to make counter-terrorism their principle domestic and foreign policies almost always grow more insecure. Are these random acts of nature or human intervention?
Against that backdrop, the President-elect and his selected Cabinet raise a red flag; especially with regard to their naïve world view and reliance on ‘security experts’ who are blinded by their hate of Islam and Muslims. To what extent are they going to abuse the authority vested in them is open for debate.
The known factor is that governments strategically keep society fearful, senseless, and disoriented in order to create sense of dependency or pass controversial policies or decrees? This is not something that only dictators such as el-Sisi of Egypt would do. Certain intelligence and law enforcement agencies within democratic states such the U.S. have historically fabricated and staged fearful dramas in order to achieve specific political objectives.
Like many Muslims across U.S. and Europe, when some Somali-American activists complained of being discriminatively targeted in the Twin Cities, they were swiftly dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’, until recently when a staff whistleblower exposed that TSA was indeed discriminating and “treating Somalis as a community of suspects.
Positive Change Is Coming
Much of humanity, especially those who are digitally connected, is in state of trauma due to wars, economic uncertainty and excessive negativity.
Watching the Aleppo holocaust in real time and the empty political rhetoric of those who could end that horrific misery but would not act has exposed humanity’s corroding collective conscience. Mindful or not, most of humanity—those who are connected to the rest of the world—are suffering from collective trauma of different levels. Still we should not allow that to push us into a state of hopelessness where all we can sense are bloody spooks moving in the blinding darkness. The last thing humanity needs is reckless leaders to make situations more volatile.
Collective Responsibility of Objective Scrutiny
Anyone who accepts the premise that all political initiatives are the works of one interest group or another can comfortably accept the suspicion that his counterpart is engaging in a self-serving conspiracy; even if the counterpart were to deny.
A healthy dose of skepticism is good so long as one maintains a balance and not goes off the rails with it. Runaway skepticism leads to a dangerous state of mind- uncompromising cynicism. It is in that psychological state of profound fatalism where conspiracy theories and theorists thrive.
There is a difference between skepticism and cynicism. The former is the obligation and moral duty of every professional journalist, law enforcement, and public official whereas the latter is an endless emotional wave of doubt, distrust, and pessimism.
In the course of the next four years, institutional attempts to derail or repress genuine discourse and debate on fault-line issues that could add fuel to a global burning fire is very likely. Here is where the non-conglomerate media could assume heroic roles. They should be loyal to the public and not the corporate interest or those in power.
Let us face it, it is not by sheer coincidence that man often performs his very best on stages and under spotlights, and his most vile in darkness or behind veils of secrecy. Keep the lights bright.