The United Kingdom is divided, it’s civil war. Like a belly button with a vote, you’re either an ‘innie’ or an ‘outie’. Such is the level of feeling that the ‘unfriend’ button on Facebook is getting worn out from the number of clicks it receives per minute in the wake of irate comment wars concerning the curvature of bananas and whether our opinion should be weighed in pounds or kilograms.
It’s Brexit – the badly thought-out referendum to let ‘the people’ decide whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union, or cut all ties and drift off into a glorious twilight of isolation.
One aspect that has been fascinating is how the discourse has strongly resembled that which is so familiar to conspiracy theory watchers everywhere. In fact, have the words ‘conspiracy theory’ ever been so often used in a political debate?
Newspaper columnists and journalists have used the term liberally within the millions of words written during the heated campaign. George Osbourne invoked it along with fake moon landings and the Loch Ness Monster in relation to the tactics of the Leave campaign. David Cameron name-checked the Odd-Father of conspiracy, David Icke, in a speech in France in March, stating there was no “David Icke-style” conspiracy to keep Britain within the EU. To which Icke responded, “there bloody is!”
Of course it’s no surprise that David Icke backs a Brexit vote. Just as it’s true that not every Brexit voter is a racist, but every racist is a Brexit voter, so it goes for conspiracy believers – they want out.
Why could that be? Do they think Britain will be able to forge stronger trade relations with the rest of the world as a free agent? Do they want an end to the fishing quota? Are they worried about the strain on local services due to the free movement of people across European borders?
It’s unlikely their train of thought gets that far. Fed on an exclusive diet of InfoWars, David Icke, Henry Makow, Rense, Veterans Today, Benjamin Fulford and endless others, for them the EU has nothing but evil at the very core of its making. Of course, as with any conspiracy theory, that core is as confusing, fantastical and self-conflicting as any of the myriad other theories they swallow whole-heartedly.
For most, it comes down to a ’shadowy elite’, controlling our every move. As to who this supposed shadowy elite is, well that depends …
For some, the EU was instigated by the Nazis, the next stage in their planned conquest when the military phase ended – and the political one started: the Fourth Reich. In this narrative, we’ve all been fooled and the idealogical descendants of Adolf Hitler have ended up winning World War II in the form of a Europe governed by German economic power.
For others the origins of the EU lie in the opposite corner. It’s the Jews and their plan of financial mastery, as laid out in the (totally fabricated) ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, and their desire to breed out the ‘Western races’ and produce a pan-European man, a ‘mongrel’ as several far-right organisations put it, through the widespread inter-marriage of Europeans with Arabs and Africans.
Of course the shadowy elite can also be any number of the other usual suspects (or, invariably, a mixture) – the Bilderberg Group, the Illuminati, the Rothschilds, the Khazarian Mafia, the CIA, the Rockerfellers. A Communist influence is conjured with the name of the EUSSR, reflecting the supposed dictatorial position taken by the Union’s secretive leaders.
Or it could be a Catholic plot, with the Vatican being identified as the prime mover behind the various EU directives. After all, it is argued, the twelve stars of the EU flag is merely a representation of the Virgin Mary as depicted in the Book of Revelation (12:1).
The very idea of a flag is enough proof for some that the EU was a plot from the very beginning. It legitimises the Union as a federal state, the United States of Europe. As Alex ’False Flag’ Jones repeatedly says, it’s the first stage of the reality envisioned by a global cabal for a New World Order – one in which the entire planet will be eventually subdued under the oppressive fist of a faceless elite. This elite could be the ‘banksters’, the Illuminati, or even Icke’s lizards – take your pick, or choose them all if you want, consistency is not required in this worldview.
For ex-UKIP leadership contester (and dangerous alternative medicine quack) David Noakes, the EU was founded by Nazis but has since been taken over by Communists. The Bilderberg group decides who will be the UK’s Prime Minister in fixed elections, and then they train us to hate Muslims so we’ll go to war with them. Soon, he says, we’ll have a ‘Church of the EU’. He wants the Queen (a Nazi, he claims) to be hanged.
For MI5 whistleblower, 9/11 Truther, and self-proclaimed Messiah David Shayler, the whole EU Referendum is a charade run by a Zionist cabal that is dictated by a CIA-lead agenda – all eventually leading to a planned European ‘civil war’.
This might all seem rather far-fetched and remote from the mainstream views of the opposing camps in the Referendum. But when you come back to Earth from this flight through delusional conspiracy theory, you might be surprised to discover there’s very little wiggle room between the fantasists of the InfoWars forums and our politicians and their supporters, especially those on the side of the ‘Out’ campaign.
Tory MP Philip Hollobone, in the House of Commons, suggested the Bilderberg Group was looking to influence the outcome of the EU Referendum, but he’s far from alone in promoting such paranoid ideas. An idle glance at the comments on the Vote Leave Facebook page reveals a number of people advising voters to take their own pen so the ‘authorities’ cannot easily cheat the outcome.
Boris Johnson, a wolf in clown’s clothing whose desire for No. 10 is greater than any morals he may have once had, didn’t take long to raise the spectre of the Nazi conspiracy when he claimed the EU had exactly the same goal as Hitler – a unified superstate. He even got in on Donald Trump’s act, alluding to the ‘Birther’ conspiracy by emphasising Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” ancestry after the US President offered his view that the UK would fare better by remaining in the EU.
Many quickly saw the obvious comparison between Nigel Farage’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster – showing lines of desperate Syrian refugees crossing the Slovenian border – and Nazi propaganda of the 30s and 40s where lines of Jewish migrants were described as ‘parasites’.
A very short line can be drawn between the message of Farage and his fellow UKIP xenophobes and one of the strongest and most troubling of the modern EU-related conspiracy theories: the concept of Eurabia.
This has echoes of the Jewish conspiracy mentioned above, where the EU are deliberately allowing, in fact deliberately causing, the huge influx of refugees from the Middle East in order to dilute and destroy the various unique white European cultures, or as David Icke put it, to make us ‘less resistant to EU power”.
Using the terms and tropes of conspiracy theorists, with their image of tin-foil hats and ridiculous lizards, might seem like the jokey side of the Referendum, but to see where ideas like this lead just read the manifesto of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist and conspiracy theorist who, like many of his far-right brethren, firmly believed that the idea of Eurabia was real and that something should be done about it. For him that thing was the horrifying cold-blooded murder of 77 of his fellow citizens in July 2011.
And now we have the awful murder of the Labour MP, Jo Cox, by a man who appears at first glance to hold not dissimilar views. Before the mother of two young children had even breathed her last, members of the David Icke forum were describing the attack as a false flag by the Remain campaign in order to bolster their flagging poll results, a refrain soon taken up by others in the conspiracy fruit bowl, including Benjamin Fulford who casually claimed that Cox was an agent of the Rothschilds.
A number of commentators quickly recognised that the atmosphere generated by the Leave campaign (and it is mainly that side) may have contributed to the actions carried out that day. Nigel Farage, who once called the ban on handguns “ludicrous”, had also stated that the next step of a public frustrated with immigration could be violence.
Farage is a prolific propagator of EU conspiracy theories, and if his own words weren’t evidence enough, then the fact that he took time out to be interviewed by conspiracy maestro Alex Jones should settle it. Here Farage indulged himself – the EU was created by elites aiming for global governance, the war on terror is manufactured by the EU to achieve their agenda, and the fact of global warming is actually just “scaremongering” – a conspiracy.
The Brexit propaganda has spewn out thick and fast, and has been hungrily devoured by a public blissfully ignorant of the actual workings of the EU, blank slates upon which the likes of Boris, Gove and Farage can scrawl whatever disinformation they wish: Hitler would have loved the EU! We pay them £350 million a week! With that money we could build dozens of new hospitals! Turkey are going to join and we’ll be inundated by even more foreigners! The EU is undemocratic! A shadowy elite rules us from afar! We’ll be stronger on our own! We want our country back!
This is just the message being sold through a crowdfunded film, Brexit the Movie, a disingenuous, one-sided, look at the EU through conspiracy goggles, where Janet Daley can get away with saying that the EU “was devised to make sure that the great mass of the people couldn’t control government ever again.”
The film was made by Martin Durkin, the self-proclaimed ‘Michael Moore of the right’, a climate change denialist who compared environmentalists to Nazis, and claimed – against all the scientific evidence – that silicone breast implants could reduce the risk of breast cancer. He has been strongly criticised for his selective editing and for breaching Ofcom guidelines, but he’s perfectly at home glamourising conspiracy, being the producer of a whole box of TV nonsense, including programmes such as The Holy Grail and the Labyrinth, Nazi Ice Fortress and Did We Nuke Jupiter? His Brexit the Movie fits right in.
If you start paddling in the intellectual shallows of conspiracy, you’ll find all it takes is a strong current – a gust of Farage, a bluster of Boris – and you could quickly be immersed in deeper waters, wading into the distorted worlds of the likes of David Icke and Alex Jones. A few may be carried further out by stronger waves, perhaps depending on their state of mind, and might even find themselves in over their heads, clinging on to people who look a lot like Thomas Mair or Anders Breivik.
The EU is a long way from perfection and it has many problems – of course it does, it’s run by humans. But the facts, the expert opinion (yes, Mr. Gove) and the rational arguments, are nearly all overwhelmingly on the side of remaining in Europe, of having a seat at the table, of working together to try and make the world a better place for all of us.
Conspiracy theories – at whatever level – are a poison to rational thinking and a grave hinderance to informed decision making. Lies, contorted truths and deceptions, as widely spread by the Leave campaign, far right organisations, and pedlars of conspiracies of all kinds, promote division, foster hate, and lead to bad thinking and potentially dangerous outcomes. I do hope we don’t risk our future due to such blatant nonsense.