By: francesca scott
May 12 2022
As ongoing crises like the climate emergency, global fascism and the pandemic continue unabated, people are desperate to find order in the chaos. A slurry of wild conspiracy theories abound, and any kernel of truth becomes entangled in a mesh of overlapping stories. Questionable dealings pervade politics, the consequence being a waning trust in governing systems. Indeed, the legitimate issues in what some consider ever-growing plutocratic governance based on inequality are worthy of criticism. The pandemic was rife with opportunities for those looking to exploit, with PPE cronyism being reported on in the U.K. and COVID-19 corruption evident worldwide. The blatant use of off-shore finance havens is par for the course among the most wealthy. The fact that the world's richest men had the most profitable year to date – when the global economy halted and people lost their jobs, homes, and loved ones – is galling. This mistrust fosters a space where truth, fiction, and paranoia surge, where New World Order (NWO), Great Reset, and QAnon ideations appear as explanations. These answers are harmful, antisemitic, and draw attention away from that which does deserve scrutiny.
The term “New World Order” surfaced in the aftermath of World War I from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's idealistic hopes of reorganizing international politics by creating the League of Nations. Later, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to a burgeoning international community that would deliver the world from the evils of the Nazi regime during his infamous "On the Beaches" speech. The term has been used by numerous heads of state and politicians since, most recently with U.S. President Joe Biden commenting on the new geopolitical landscape following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
During the 1990s, conspiracy theorists co-opted the term, making it synonymous with a range of other sinister ideas, including the Illuminati and, most recently, the Great Reset. The NWO is one of the most prominent and central conspiracy theories, concerning itself with the classic trope of hidden knowledge of the supreme kind: a powerful group of elites acting as puppet masters of global events. This totalitarian shadow government is responsible for the gradual implementation of homogenous globalization, eradicating the sovereignty of countries, cultures, and individuals. According to these conspiracy theorists, members of this one-world government include Jewish banking magnates such as the Rothschilds, George Soros, and other members of the wealthy elite, and they regularly partake in satanism, pedophilia, and a host of other depraved acts. Antisemitic tropes of child sacrifice link back to Bible stories of blood-libel and deicide.
Soros in particular is a popular target for right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson, who would have you believe Soros is responsible for the fall of western civilization. Widely known for his philanthropy, having donated over $32 billion to liberal causes, he played a crucial part in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. This liberal philanthropy has led to false claims that Soros funds Black Lives Matter, the Honduran migrant caravan, and a range of instances of civil unrest. He has been cited by numerous people responsible for acts of domestic terrorism as motivation. The targetting of liberal Jewish elites underscores the characteristic antisemitism that pervades New World Order-type theories.
This antisemitic folklore of the far-right has gained traction in recent years, with the Great Reset conspiracy theory acting as a modern-day refresher on New World Order-type conspiracism. 2021s online World Economic Forum (WEF), a glittering ensemble of the world's wealthiest liberal entrepreneurs, business magnates, and celebrities founded and led by Klaus Schwab and usually held in Davos, Switzerland, planted the seeds of the Great Reset. Schwab, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and billionaire economist, joined Soros at the NWO table. The WEF's Great Reset initiative was intended to address society's most pressing issues, including the impending climate emergency and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The central tenets include a wealth tax, promotion of sustainable infrastructure, and investments in future technologies. The WEF's Great Reset has been criticized from the left as a self-serving attempt by the billionaire elite to protect their interests through a rebrand of capitalism. Inequality activists responded with global protests: billionaires offering up glossily branded solutions to global problems while 99 percent of the population is suffering the worst of the consequences is hard to swallow.
This mistrust of the wealthy fosters a space where truth, fiction, and paranoia surge, where New World Order, Great Reset, and QAnon ideations appear as explanations.
Conspiracy theorists took the Great Reset as another attempt to roll out the New World Order conspiracy, utilizing indoctrination, fear tactics, and increased surveillance as a power grab by liberal elites to restore the masses to their rightful position: Feudal serfdom, or, “you’ll own nothing and be happy.”
The line that connects NWO and the Great Reset is held together by Agenda 21, a 23-year-old acknowledgment by the United Nations of the world's environmental and sustainability concerns. Several states across the U.S. have gone to efforts to block the proposals in Agenda 21. In 2012, Alabama senators passed a law preventing "recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to 'Agenda 21,'". Agenda 21 is unenforceable, underfunded, and carries no penalties, relying on individual communities to create visions of sustainability frameworks. Not quite the New World Order blueprint some would have imagined. For conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers, environmentalism being used as a cover to enforce an all-powerful government is a well-trodden path to blocking sustainability initiatives.
It's not hard to see that these theories work in tandem through tenuous links based on hidden agendas. Each conspiracy relies on the other, fuelled by fear. A lack of constructive approach toward addressing inequality creates an impotent, rage-filled feedback loop.
If, indeed, so desperately concerned by impending serfdom, why are conspiracy theorists not directing their ire at Jeff Bezos and Amazon's labor practices? If the power held by an elite class is so disturbing, why not focus outrage on the evidence of such practices? What of Rupert Murdoch's media empire that has reshaped conversations in Australia, the U.K and the U.S? If as much effort was put into critiquing the agendas of those who are riding the wave of inequality, rather than upholding age-old antisemitic ghost stories, then perhaps the conspiracists would be able to claim legitimate critique of power.
An anarchic paranoia and fervent anti-authoritarianism characteristic of conspiracy theorists make collective action difficult to execute. In order for global issues like inequality and climate change to be addressed, conspiracism around such issues needs to be tackled as well.