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At least since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theories have become an ever increasing problem. This more so in the country that killed countless people based on the conspiracy theory about a non-existing Jewish World Conspiracy – Germany. Many contemporary German conspiracy theories are signified by three people: Xavier Naidoo, Attila Hildmann, and Michael Wendler.
Not just those three men but German conspiracy theories in general have become so widespread that in 2019, Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, felt the need to warn against conspiracy theories at a local conference at Kloster Dalheim. Many of these conspiracy fantasies are linked to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Even more disturbingly, a recent study had shown that almost half of all Germans agree with the statement, secret organisations shape political decisions in Germany. The authors of a recent book, The Fight for Truth, argue that German conspiracy theories signify a deep crisis for Germany’s democratic society. For decades, the issue of conspiracy theories has been neglected but since the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theories have become a hot topic in Germany.
Overall, two issues define German conspiracy theories: firstly, there must be some sort of group or organisation that creates conspiracy theories, e.g. anti-vaccination people know as anti-vaxxers, for example; and secondly, those who are accused of conjuring up dark forces must be seen to operate in secret while harbouring evil plans. In its widest definition, we talk of a conspiracy when two or more people develop a secret plan to achieve a certain goal.
Yet, the main characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they are “always” false. Worse, conspiracy theories are not theories in the understanding of scientific theories. Rather, they are conspiracy fantasies, conspiracy myths, and dreamed up narratives. The origins of such conspiracy theories date back to the 15th March, 44 BCE when Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in Rome. Up to 60 conspirators might have been involved.
Much more recently, German conspiracy theories began to enter the German public during the 1860th but they really gained high currency with Germany’s Nazis. Perhaps, the singly most conspiracy theory creating incident of recent times was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Even more contemporary, 9/11 provided another case for conspiracy theories.
Many of these conspiracy theories have four rather simplistic misbeliefs in common: nothing happens by accident; nothing is like it seems to be; everything is connected to everything; and there is always a dichotomy of good (us) and evil (them). Yet, the larger the assumed conspiracy, the more difficult it is to disprove the conspiracy.
Most importantly, conspiracy theorists tend to toughen their conspiracy theories by telling people that every critique or challenging of their conspiracy theory proves the existence of those dark forces they have been warning about. To assure the success of their conspiracy theories, five elements are relevant to their inventors:
- Conspiracy theories are directed against the official version of an event;
- Conspiracy theories assume that their opponents harbour evil intentions;
- Conspiracy theories connect things that are not connected to make them appear plausible;
- The state, and official agency, or some other entity is accused of hiding dark secrets; and
- Conspiracy theories exploit implausible events, un-explained facts, and contradictions.
As conspiracy theorists manipulate and distort the truth, they also claim to represent the only truth there is – their truth. Conspiracy theories always claim to be concerned with the truth. With claims to represent “the” truth, conspiracy theorists find, strangely, even more open doors among younger rather than older people. On the other hand, some claim that the level of education, gender, and even profession do not seem to have a strong impact when it comes to believing in conspiracy theories.
What is more important to understand when believing in conspiracy theories is the feeling of disenchantment, alienation, fatalism, powerlessness, helplessness, resentment, and being disadvantaged. One study found that believing in conspiracy theories is more prevalent among women, among those Donald Trump calls the poorly educated, and the more religiously inclined.
Among men, conspiracy theory believers tend to be those men who are threatened with social and economic decline. This somewhat matching those who voted for Donald Trump in the USA. It also matches those who voted for the Neo-Nazi AfD in Germany. Common to almost all conspiracy theories’ believers is what Adorno calls the authoritarian personality. This is often linked to religious and political extremism, as well as to paranoia.
The feeling of paranoia is often accompanied by a hefty dose of distrust, particularly in state institutions. Quite often, this then leads to a quest for alternative solutions and non-mainstream explanations. This is where conspiracy theories come in. They put forward semi-plausible and easy to digest crypto-rationalizations about the complexities of modern societies.
In a second step, this can lead to the creation of two parallel worlds that exist side-by-side: the real world and the world of conspiracy theories. When the fantasy world of conspiracy theories starts to undermine modern institutions, conspiracy theories become destructive to society.
The intensity of destructiveness comes with amount of people conspiracy theorists can conjure up. Yet, conspiracy theorists also run into a logical problem. Anti-vaxxers, for example, like to claim that there is a global conspiracy among medicine, hospitals, doctors, nurses, universities, states and governments, international organisations like the WHO, drug companies, Bill Gates, etc.
According to anti-vaxx conspiracy theories, they operate a worldwide secret network. The problem such conspiracy theories face is that the bigger the number of people involved – for example, in the case of a global Covid-19 conspiracy – the harder it is to keep it secret.
The very same applies to all conspiracy theories even those going back to a time when the Catholic Church accused – and abused – women of practising witchcraft in a gigantic conspiracy designed to undermine the power of the Catholic Church. By the 17th century, torturing and burning witches had reached epic proportions in Germany and adjacent countries. Some estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 – mostly women – were killed, often in a gruesome fashion – mostly by men.
It was a conspiracy theory that was defined by religion. Three centuries later, religious conspiracy theories mutated into racial conspiracy theories when Germany’s Nazis killed even more people. Not long before that, Germany’s defeat in World War I was pinned on an invented Jew world conspiracy. This hallucination was supported by the German general Erich Ludendorff. By that time, Jews were made to be seen as a conspiratorial race – rather than a religious group – that was seeking to undermined Germany – not just Wagner but also NSDAP-member Heidegger believed that.
Conspiracy theories were also created against the freemasons with prominent German members such as Goethe, Mozart, Frederic the Great, Lessing, Josef Hayden, Fichte, and Gustav Stresemann among them. Fifty years after the assassination of Gustav Stresemann, a real conspiracy rocked Germany when, as we know now, Germany’s secret service blew a hole into the wall of a prison in the city of Celle to, allegedly, free terrorists. The state sought to blame the bombing on left-wing terrorists to intensify police measures. In reality, the blasting was committed by the government’s very own anti-terror police unit called GSG-9.
Barely forty years later, Germany’s right-wing shifted in full conspiracy mode. It began to spin conspiracy fantasies about migration during 2015 as Chancellor Merkel took 800,000 war refugees in. Right-wing extremists organisations like Pegida – who’s boss and former petty-criminal, Lutz Bachmann, likes to dress up as Hitler – fancies conspiracy theories about the great population replacement and the deep state. Pegida as well as the AfD thrive on conspiracy theories imported from, for example, QAnon and other conspiracy-inventing networks. Much of this operates with three strategies:
- Foreign conspiracy theories are important and adjusted to the specific needs of Germany’s right-wing extremists;
- popular and often not distinctively political conspiracy theories that are invented inside Germany are reframed to fit the current trends popular in right-wing networks (e.g. the Coronavirus pandemic); and,
- right-wing conspiracy Internet-based and actual networks as well as reactionary organisations are linked to more brutal right-wing terrorists groups such as Germany’s violent Neo-Nazis (e.g. the NSU-network).
One of the key groups broadcasting Germany conspiracy theories remain Germany’s Reichsbürger. They believe that Germany is still occupied by post World War II Allied Forces. To them, the Federal Republic of Germany does not even exist. Hence, their quest to return to an Imperial Reich or Nazi-Reich. Yet, Reichsbürger believe that such a returning is blocked by migrants, foreigners, and refugees. Part of Reichsbürger fantasies are also conspiracy fantasies about freemasons and Jews. In their hallucinations, both are framed as world governing and all powerful. Yet, neither the worldwide Jewish conspiracy nor the freemasons were able to prevent Adolf Hitler’s escape in a 6,000 km fast Reichs-UFO called Hanebu II at the end of WW II.
Nonsense like that is even more hyped up through a German conspiracy theories claiming that Angela Merkel is Hitler’s daughter. In the dying days of Hitler’s Nazi-Reich, so this conspiracy fantasies goes, Auschwitz doctor Carl Clauberg extracted Hitler’s sperm to implant it into Gretl Braun. Gretl Braun is the sister of Hitler’s lover Eva Braun. Gretl gives birth to a daughter. The baby was born on 20th April 1954 – Hitler’s birthday. The girl is called Angela after Hitler’s favourite nice Angela Maria “Geli” Raubal. The conspiracy fantasies says that Angela grew up in foster care, later becoming Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.
Mad conspiracy fantasies like these link rather neatly to conspiracy fantasies about rain-theft and earthquake-machines. These, according to Germany’s conspiracy fantasists, are part of HAARP – the high frequency active auroral research programme based in southern Alaska. HAARP can influence the weather and can cause natural catastrophes, Yet, it can also manipulate our consciousness. Proof that all this is real comes from the hallucination of chemtrails. Of course, those dark forces who do all this also run a secret world government.
Pretty much the same goal is sought by those who use the Coronavirus pandemic to establish a new world order. These conspiracy theorists believe that, behind the scene, operates a global network of evil-doors who shape the agenda. Almost self-evidently, they seek a global surveillance state in which we all – will be slaves to the will of the global evil-doers.
Beyond that, conspiracy theorists also believe that the Coronavirus pandemic is being used to divert attention away from the lethal rays coming from the G5 network that will kill us all. These rays are pushed out to damage our health, so the hallucination goes. Being part of a conspiracy theories for the “great reset”, the Coronavirus pandemic works as a transformation accelerator for a soon to be arriving social, technological, and economic dystopia.
Much of this supplies the ideology for Germany’s anti-vaccination hygiene rallies. These conspiracy theories also supports those who fight against the impending virus- and health dictatorship. Many German conspiracy fantasists believe that behind all this is Bill Gates who is about to hijack Germany. Bill Gates will also implant Germans with microchips to control Germans and to establish a global dictatorship. To reach this goal, Gates already controls the WHO.
These hallucinatory conspiracy fantasies have become so influential, that the World Health Organization was forced to act against conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus pandemic. Undeterred, German conspiracy theorists take to the streets to protest against the impending corona dictatorship. To many anti-vaxxers, the request to wear a mask has become the symbol of Germany’s impending dictatorship. As a consequence, the rejection of wearing a mask has mutated into a symbol of a protest against the dictatorship soon to be installed by Germany’s chancellor and soon dictator Merkel.
Anti-vaxxers believe that they still have a few avenues left on which to broadcast their conspiracy theories and fight Merkel’s looming Corona dictatorship. German conspiracy fantasists can still use online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, TikTok, etc. Like in many other countries, these are used to broadcast conspiracy fantasies about the Coronavirus pandemic. German conspiracy theorists believe that YouTube in particular, is a prime medium to reach Germans and to convert them into believers that a Corona dictatorship is at our doorsteps.
Of course, much of this is underwritten by an even increasing distrust in Germany’s mainstream media. On that, the simple accusation of being “mainstream” is often enough to deter people from accessing information from Germany’s established media – in particular, Germany’s still substantial public broadcasting media. Yet, public trust in German media has constantly declined. Meanwhile, online media are gaining in influence as they have become increasingly sensational, polarising, superficial, and emotional.
Next to Germany’s established media, German conspiracy theorists rely on a growing section of so-called alternative media. The frontrunner being the conspiratorial and disinformation spreading KenFM, the obscure NuoViso/Nuoflix.de enticing people to reject vaccination and, instead, trust the self-healing powers of nature. Finally, there is Kompakt – the AfD’s very own conspiracy fantasy and propaganda machine.
Some of these outfits present themselves rather professionally while broadcasting conspiracy fantasies, half-truths, unsubstantiated speculations, exaggerations, disinformation, and even antisemitic statements. The goal of these platforms is to further radicalise anti-vaxxers while moving them into the coral of right-wing extremism and German Neo-Nazism. Andreas Anton and Alan Schink argue in their superb book The Fight for the Truth – Conspiracy Theories between Fake and Fiction that conspiracy theories are a serious threat to Germany’s democracy.