Image Source: Bilderberg 2011.
After the death of Osama bin Laden, the internet and mainstream media were abuzz with rumours of conspiracies and fear of retribution for his killing. US authorities told the public - and especially Americans abroad - to brace for counterattacks. Jordanian experts predicted a backlash in Europe and the Middle East. On 3 May, al-Qaeda acknowledged bin Laden's death and promised reprisals, claiming that bin Laden's death, would become "a curse that hunts the Americans and their collaborators, and chases them outside and inside their country." On 6 May, the astrologer Susan Miller focused on a coming solar eclipse, ominously tweeting: "Homeland Security, pay special attention to days circling the July 1 2011 solar eclipse. Rest of us, holiday weekend, stay safe, stay home." WikiLeaks documents indicate that bin Laden's death would be followed by a nuclear attack in Europe:
Global trade and mass communication and travel during and after the Cold War created a new world society riddled with psychological tension as radically different cultures collided. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the world's bogeymen were painted with different political stripes. Communists. Spies. Guerrillas. Terrorists. In the 1970s and 1980s, cult horror combined vivid memories of battlefield carnage in Vietnam with soul-searching best captured by Catholic fears of apocalypse, exorcisms and Antichrists. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the fear of the unknown aggressor coursed through novels and films in the form of 'the stranger you know next door' stories. A neo-noir culture simmered against a backdrop of real-world drug wars, gangland violence and inner-city crime waves. By the mid-to-late 1990s, that tension resolved itself in fear of the government and conspiracy theories about high-level cover-ups alien invaders. 9/11 gave the world a new bogeyman in the form of Osama bin Laden. And now the bogeyman is gone, but the fear remains.Recently released WikiLeaks documents have revealed some troubling – but not entirely unexpected – news concerning terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s death. Evidently, Al Qaeda members detained at the Guantanamo Bay Prison have predicted that there may very well be be nuclear reprisals for the U.S.’s killing of bin Laden.
Abu al-Libi, the terrorist network’s third in command prior to his capture in 2005, told authorities that a nuclear device located somewhere in Europe would be detonated in retaliation for bin Laden’s death. Fellow detainee Sharif al-Masri added that, if Al Qaeda is able to move the bomb to the United States, it would find someone of European, Arab or Asian descent to ensure it would go off.
On 6 May, Fareed Zakaria of CNN asked why conspiracy theories thrive in this atmosphere. He mentioned that the Middle East is a hotbed of conspiracy theories, and this could be attributed to public life there being dominated by repressive régimes. But conspiracy theories are burgeoning in democratic societies too. Zakaria could not pinpoint the reason:
Conspiracy theories are indeed an odd phenomenon since they are widely present in the world’s leading democracies and the world’s leading dictatorships. They can’t be entirely related to political institutions.Zakaria then mentioned the Bilderberg Group, one of the most popular Millennial conspiracy theory magnets. I remember doing some research on the theories swirling around this annual meeting of world leaders. The so-called leaks surrounding the Bilderberg meeting at that time confidently insisted that western leaders would start a world war when the price of oil went over $130 per barrel. A 2010 Bilderberg conspiracy site claimed that the Bilderberg Group would prolong the world's financial recession for another year. Speculation on the group often veers into anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory. The weirdness goes well beyond that ugly chestnut, though, into fears that the Bilderbergers are planning to destroy the American dollar and the middle class, build supranational empires and microchip the global population. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the Group is the kernel of a future world government. This suspicion overlaps nicely with fears of groups like Freemasons and rumours that 9/11 was engineered by the Israel and the US. This year, there appears to be other nervousness about supranational states, with a creeping anxiety about World War II Nazi sleeper plans for a Fourth Reich in Europe.
There must be something deep in the human psyche that makes us believe there are patterns to events – order, purpose and meaning.
The simplest alternate explanation to a conspiracy theory is usually incompetence. When people say, “Why did these things happen?” and then point to a series of seemingly implausible events, it’s usually because the government messed up. The right arm didn’t know what the left arm was doing. Government is made of human beings. They are remarkably ordinary in their ability to make mistakes.
There is also a certain amount of life which is luck, chance, coincidence and happenstance. You can’t always divine some larger pattern from the fact that two events seem related or happened in the same month. Often it is just chance.
When one indulges in these fears of malevolent secret powers, there really is no bottom. The counter-point to this myth-making is self-respect for oneself as an individual in a global civil society (which the Technological Revolution has brought into existence, whether the democracies and despots of the world want it or not). That self-respect requires that we not use fear to blame others for the way the world is. No matter how chaotic it is, fear of shadowy powers merely are excuses that let us quietly divest ourselves of personal responsibility for the part we must play in the world around us. But for those who would prefer to imagine that the Bilderbergers are controlling us, the Group meets today. One site asserts that the Bilderberg Group's 2011 meeting will be held 9-12 June, at the Grand Hotel Kempinski in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
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