Left Behind and Right Wing Conspiracy Theories

Left Behind and Right Wing Conspiracy Theories February 9, 2016

Fred Clark recently posted on the connection between the Left Behind series and Right Wing conspiracy theories. The two overlap extensively, with the non-religious leaving out the Rapture, but overlap in many other particulars, such as that the United Nations is a bad thing, and so too would world peace be.

This while various news outlets were reporting that Michele Bachmann was predicting that Barack Obama will become the Antichrist after his presidency. I wonder whether anyone will remember that these individuals turned out to be false prophets, when they eventually do. And I wonder whether anyone will reconsider the end-times approach to politics, and life more generally, as a result of yet another set of predictions failing to come true, or whether they will just say that the individual false prophets were wrong, but to predict in this way is not itself wrong.

But I am even more interested in the question of which kind of conspiracy theory thinking tends to lead to the others. Does Left Behind simply add religion to conspiracy theories that are more widely subscribed to, or does religion of this particular fundamentalist sort give birth to the conspiracy theories? Do people who deny the moon landings gravitate towards Ken Ham’s lies about science, or do the latter tend to lead people to the former? Why do some just deny evolution, geology, and astronomy but stop short of asserting that the Earth is flat?

I know there is no direct straight line that uniformly runs from one to the other. But it does seem clear that being skeptical towards authorities, without recognizing one’s dependence on authorities, is at the root of a great many dubious viewpoints.

As Paul Braterman reminded us recently, we are all irrational. And so the question must not be merely “why are those others so very irrational?” but “what are my blind spots with regard to my own irrationality?” and “what can be done to minimize the popularity of irrational thinking and the damage caused by it?

 

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  • James, great post. I wonder if we should expand the analysis here to include the thinking of Christian progressives. There’s a common progressive Christian argument that goes straight to Jesus. Jesus was inclusive, ergo we should be LGBTQ-affirming. Or, Jesus healed the sick, so we should support Obamacare. Or, Jesus’ family fled to Egypt to avoid Herod’s massacre, so we should have an open immigration policy. Please don’t get me wrong, I support all of the above-mentioned policies. I’m just taking note of a line of argument.

    The problem with this line of argument is the same as the one you’re discussing here: namely, the opponents of the policies we favor get painted as anti-Christ. Granted, I don’t see progressives talking in terms of “Antichrist.” Instead, progressives sometimes paint their opponents in terms of the human opponents of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels. Commonly, the opponents of Christian progressives are described as “Pharisees.” Sometimes, they are compared to the reliigious leaders in Jesus’ day.

    As a Jewish friend of Christianity, I am sensitive to this, and at some point we can talk about the anti-Judaism woven into the argument that Christian conservatives are like Jesus’ Jewish opponents. Here, I simply mean to point out that Christian progressives and conservatives often engage in the same effort to paint each other as New Testament stock villains.

    • Thank you for this comment – I really appreciate it! Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that it is possible for people on the liberal end of the spectrum to find themselves speaking about right wing conspiracy theorists in a manner that sounds a lot like a conspiracy theory of our own!

  • Sven2547

    It’s harder and harder to find a major right-wing position that isn’t rooted in a conspiracy theory. They automatically assume everything is the result of calculated malice.

    Abortion? Eugenics conspiracy.
    Church-state separation? Anti-Christian conspiracy.
    Marriage equality? A conspiracy to destroy the American family unit.
    Climate change? Green energy conspiracy.
    Living wages? Marxist conspiracy.
    Immigration? Anti-white conspiracy.

    • James

      “Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing” – Rubio, M. Even their so-called “establishment” candidates openly advocate vile conspiracy theories, utterly lacking in even the slightest shred of supporting evidence.

      • Michael Wilson

        You don’t think Obama knows what he’s doing?

        • James

          I directly quoted Marco Rubio, complete with quotation marks and his name.

          • Michael Wilson

            Yes, I know, but where is the conspiracy?
            Lets look at the full quote,
            “Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world,”… “That’s why he passed Obamacare and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank and the deal with Iran. It is a systematic effort to change America,” http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/gop-debate-showed-marco-rubio-s-obama-problem-n513171

            Is that a secret? I think it’s common knowledge that Obama thinks America needs to get on board with the rest of the industrialized world in terms of diplomacy, health care, and economic regulation. Rubio is running this line to combat the notion that Obama is inexperienced and can’t negotiate or figure out public policy because he is also inexperienced. He wants it to be about ideology.

      • Obama does know what he’s doing, and he’s a lot more evil than Rubio makes him out to be. Then, again, so is Rubio.

    • Dove

      Dumb old di1do.

    • I’d actually like there to be a eugenics conspiracy. Too bad there isn’t.

      Church-state separation may or may not be anti-Christian, but, in any case, I don’t have a problem with it.

      The decline of the American family caused same-sex marriage, not visa versa.

      Climate change is real, but excessive concern about it is caused by people failing to think like economists.

      Living wages is one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard. Usually, it’s from the same guys arguing for full employment. Laughable.

      And, in some cases, immigration really is an anti-white conspiracy. Why doesn’t Germany accept Ukrainian migrants?

      • Sven2547

        Wow. Modern conservatives really are sociopaths, huh.

        • How so? We’re not supportive of national suicide?

          • Sven2547

            What’s “national suicide” about marriage equality or people making a living wage?

          • Ever heard of how the President’s re-employment agreement led to a two-year stagnation of industrial production in America, July 1933-July 1935? Living wages the way guys like you want them are a disastrous idea.

            I really don’t care about same-sex marriage. Again, it’s a product of social decay, not its cause.

          • Sven2547

            America experienced an economic boom in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s when paying a living wage was much more widespread. Also there was a depression in the 1930s. You might have heard of it?

            I fail to see how civil rights are “a product of social decay”.

          • I.e., when real wages were lower then they are today.

            And that boom was a product of these:

            http://ocho.uwaterloo.ca/~pfieguth/Personal/EnergyLimits/Figures/oil_per_capita.jpg

            http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=Vgm

            Yes, there was a depression in the 1930s, but America was rapidly recovering from it from April to July 1933. At that rate, America would certainly have experienced a full recovery to trend by the end of 1935, and probably by the end of 1934. Then the President’s re-employment agreement came into effect, the recovery was halted, and the economy entered a two-year period of stagnation.

            Your loss if you fail to see.

          • Sven2547

            You think the economic prosperity in EVERY economic sector from the ’40s through the ’60s, and the growth os a robust middle class, is merely because we were drilling for more oil? Wow.

            It’s because workers were paid a living wage. A guy working 40 hours a week could support his wife and kids, pay a mortgage, and buy nice things, feeding money back into the economy.

          • “You think the economic prosperity in EVERY economic sector from the ’40s
            through the ’60s, and the growth os a robust middle class, is merely
            because we were drilling for more oil?”

            -Why not? Ever heard of the automobile? The container ship? The factory? All these benefit from greater oil production. The growth of the American middle class would not have been possible without increased per capita energy consumption.

            “A guy working 40 hours a week could support his wife and kids, pay a
            mortgage, and buy nice things, feeding money back into the economy.”

            -Cause. Effect. You do not understand these things. Use your brain. And remember the President’s re-employment agreement.

            And real wages are higher today than they were in the 1950s and 1960s.

          • Sven2547

            Why not?

            Because there’s more to economic prosperity than cheap energy. Because the American economy is very diverse.

            Cause. Effect. You do not understand these things. Use your brain.

            Do you really think that is a response to my point? At all?

            And remember the President’s re-employment agreement.

            What about it? Roosevelt wasn’t President during the post-war boom I’m talking about.

            And real wages are higher today than they were in the 1950s and 1960s.

            lol nope

          • “Because there’s more to economic prosperity than cheap energy. Because the American economy is very diverse.”

            -One can at least see how an increase in energy inputs could cause a rise in real GDP per capita. There is no way a higher minimum wage can do so. The President’s re-employment agreement caused an abortion of the 1933 recovery from the Great Depression. The enactment of the first minimum wage in 1938 caused devastation for Puerto Rican firms.

            Yes, the American economy is very diverse. And most of it relies on a great deal of energy to get anything done.

            “Do you really think that is a response to my point? At all?”

            -Yes.

            The minimum wage had tiers and was not as broad in its application as it is today until the 1960s and 1970s. That’s why it’s hard to determine its impact on employment at the time. Yes, the CPI-adjusted maximum minimum wage was higher in the 1960s than today. But real wages as a whole weren’t. Today, less than 10% of workers work minimum wage. They just aren’t that relevant to much of anything. That would change if Bernie got his way.

          • Sven2547

            There is no way a higher minimum wage can do so.

            You mean aside from the obvious? Over and over again we see minimum wage increases DO improve economic prosperity. You’re clinging to just one example from the 1930s while ignoring the numerous examples to the contrary!

          • ” ignoring the numerous examples to the contrary”

            -Name three.

          • Sven2547

            -Name three.

            San Francisco, Santa Fe, and SEATAC. That was easy.

            Money-in-pockets boosts consumer demand. Consumer demand drives sales. Sales drive profits. Profits drive prosperity. It is a very simple concept responsible for growing the American middle class up until the Reagan era, when Republicans started drinking the kool-aid of supply-side “trickle-down” economics. The middle class has been shrinking since.

            http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/studies-look-at-what-happened-when-cities-raised-minimum-wage/

          • “San Francisco, Santa Fe, and SEATAC. That was easy”

            -Years, please, and proof that any actual growth coincided with these hikes.

            “Money-in-pockets boosts consumer demand. Consumer demand drives sales. Sales drive profits. Profits drive prosperity.”

            -Wrong way around. Money-in-pockets raises prices. Rising prices lower real wages. Lower real wages drive profits. Profits drive employment. Prosperity’s caused by technology and institutions, which are exogenous to this.

            Are you suggesting Ethiopia’s poverty is caused by an insufficiently high minimum wage? LOL.

            “It is a very simple concept responsible for growing the American middle
            class up until the Reagan era, when Republicans started drinking the
            kool-aid of supply-side “trickle-down” economics. The middle class has
            been shrinking since.”

            -So when Andreas Papandreou came into power in Greece, the economy must have boomed and the middle class have soared, with Greek economic growth being much higher than American and Greek unemployment collapsing. Right? Right? Right? Right?

            And have you ever wondered why Canada and Mexico have had the same real wage stagnation since the early 1980s? Most of the actual real wage decline took place before Reagan. Blaming demons contrary to all evidence and logic is so comforting, isn’t it?

          • Michael Wilson

            Sven, a guy working 40 hours a week could support a familly in 40’s and 60’s luxury now, it’s only that we have so much more availible now. My job sucks but it is bliss compared to the life of a 60’s factory worker.

          • arcseconds

            I really don’t care about same-sex marriage

            You really don’t care about people.

          • Sure, I do. Why else would I be as firm in my condemnation of Obama and Erdogan for their revival of the Islamic State as I actually am?

          • arcseconds

            If you don’t care about marriage equality, you don’t care about freedom, fairness, and happiness for people.

            Being vaguely positive about it (instead of vaguely negative) is a very low bar of empathy or even a pro-attitude to abstract values like fairness to clear, and you fail to clear it.

            You also don’t care about refugees.

            And you don’t care about the poor, evidently, because you’re perfectly willing to let them live in penury.

            And you’re also on record as not caring about sick people. They can just die as far as you’re concerned. Hopefully you’ve changed your mind, but I’ve seen no evidence of this.

            So these people you actually do care about? Who are they?

          • “If you don’t care about marriage equality, you don’t care about freedom, fairness, and happiness for people.”

            -Right. Keep telling yourself that.

            “You also don’t care about refugees.”

            -My plan for the refugees presently in Turkey and unwilling to return to Syria was always to resettle them in southern Bulgaria, where they could do the least harm. I support kicking most of the refugees currently in Turkey out of Turkey and into Syria because I despite the Turkish state and people (Turkey=ISIS, but democratic).

            “And you don’t care about the poor, evidently, because you’re perfectly willing to let them live in penury.”

            -Though I don’t support open borders I have never said a bad word about the economic opening of China.

            “And you’re also on record as not caring about sick people.”

            -When they’re unproductive and incurable, yes. I see no point in subsidizing the useless. Whether sick people deserve treatment provided by the government depends on the circumstances.

            I care about all the non-villainous people of the world, arcseconds, future as well as present. However, my bar for “non-villainous” may be a bit high for you. For example, I consider the Turkish people (excluding ethnic minorities) to basically be all villains, and I totally support nuking them off the face of the Earth. If Turkey wasn’t a democracy, I would give them the same treatment Nazi Germany actually got, but slightly milder (no bombing of Dresden, for instance). As for illegal immigrants in the U.S., unlike my stance towards the Turks, I don’t actively hope for their destruction, only for their permanent expulsion and for the end of Mexico’s three lost decades. But I also don’t mind a shoot-to-kill policy if they return.

            I’m not totally against government aid in the right circumstances: look at my post on famine in British India, for instance (I plan for a follow-up on the weekends):

            https://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/on-late-19th-century-famines-under-british-rule/

          • arcseconds

            Genocide, now?

            Sick people are villainous?

            Thanks for making it clear that your views are basically those of Hitler.

            Only economically productive heterosexual people of desirable races need apply, the rest can be resettled away from you, allowed to die, or genocidally eliminated.

          • arcseconds, I don’t think you’re even trying to understand my views. You know I dislike Hitler as much as anyone, which is why I think the Germans deserved much of what they got in WWII.

          • arcseconds

            What is there to understand?

            You don’t care about LGBT people and view their achieving equal legal rights as heterosexual couples a symptom of a disease:

            I really don’t care about same-sex marriage. Again, it’s a product of social decay, not its cause.

            You don’t care about the incurably ill:

            When they’re unproductive and incurable, yes. I see no point in subsidizing the useless.

            You’re scared of Syrians and your ‘humane’ solution is to settle them in a country far away from you:

            My plan for the refugees presently in Turkey and unwilling to return to Syria was always to resettle them in southern Bulgaria, where they could do the least harm.

            Also, you don’t give a damn about Bulgarians, clearly: you’re prepared to saddle them with millions of people you consider dangerous, without a thought to whether this is fair or safe for them.

            You hate Turks:

            . For example, I consider the Turkish people (excluding ethnic minorities) to basically be all villains,

            and you want to kill them all:

            and I totally support nuking them off the face of the Earth.

            What other conclusion can there be other than that you’re a homophobic, racist, ablist, genocidal monster?

            Sure you might care about some people, but so what? Hitler loved himself some picturesque Aryan nuclear families. Everyone else can be happily fucked over to improve the small list of people on the invite list.

            (and at minimum you’re callous towards the poor and black people, as though we needed any further evidence of the limitations of your in-group)

            You not liking Hitler means nothing. Monsters frequently hate each other: look at Hitler and Stalin.

          • “You don’t care about LGBT people”

            -So same-sex marriage is 100% of what matters to LGBT people? That’s homophobic.

            “You’re scared of Syrians”

            -Only when they settle in countries that are poor at integrating them and will probably give them the right to vote.

            “you’re prepared to saddle them with millions of people you consider
            dangerous, without a thought to whether this is fair or safe for them.”

            -The reason I picked Bulgaria is because it’s closest to Turkey, because it has the lowest price level in Europe, because it’s not going to have people that are going to do anything stupid to the migrants like granting them the right to vote, and because Bulgaria is probably the country with the lowest average IQ in the E.U., thus leading to higher cultural similarities between the migrants and the natives than would be the case for any other E.U. country. Also, no economic migrant would want to stay in Bulgaria, so it would encourage better selection of genuine refugees. Probably less than a million would come. So, yes, I think settling a bunch of Syrian migrants into southern Bulgaria would be fair and safe for the native population. The biggest problem with this is that it would lead to religious tension, but that probably won’t be that big a problem.

            “you’re callous towards the poor and black people”

            -Quotes?

      • Sven2547

        And, in some cases, immigration really is an anti-white conspiracy. Why doesn’t Germany accept Ukrainian migrants?

        Are you actually suggesting that this is racial?

        • Yup.

          • Sven2547

            What’s the motivation for filtering immigrants by race, in this strange conspiracy theory you have?

          • I’m not a mind-reader. And it’s difficult to establish ultimate motivations for anything if they aren’t obvious. In this case, they aren’t obvious.

          • Sven2547

            I’m not a mind-reader

            Says the guy baselessly claiming that German immigration policy is motivated by race. You are already claiming to know what they’re thinking.

          • Do you have a better explanation? If not, I stick with mine.

          • Sven2547

            “The reason they are rejected is very obvious,” said Marta Jaroszewicz, the migration project coordinator at the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw. “Ukraine is a huge country. Only part of the territory is insecure, so they can relocate internally.”

            http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/world/europe/ukrainian-migrants-fleeing-conflict-get-a-cool-reception-in-europe.html

            I googled around: the only people who are claiming some kind of anti-white conspiracy are white-supremacist websites.

          • “Ukraine is a huge country”

            -And the combined population of Syria and Iraq isn’t?

            “Only part of the territory is insecure, so they can relocate internally.”

            -Same applies to Syria and Iraq.

          • Sven2547

            “Ukraine is a huge country”

            -And the combined population of Syria and Iraq isn’t?

            Geographically large, you dolt. Physically large in size. Plenty of places to go.

            “Only part of the territory is insecure, so they can relocate internally.”

            -Same applies to Syria and Iraq.

            What part of Syria is “secure”?! The whole country is undergoing a nasty civil war.

          • All Tartus province, for one. Most of Suwayda and Latakia provinces have never been threatened. A good portion of Hasakah province, Northern Raqqa province and parts of north Aleppo province. If you’re of the militant Islamist persuasion (like NATO is), there’s always Idlib province (although that’s under threat by Russian jets). There’s lots of safe spaces in Syria, even for those not inclined to support Assad. And, aside from that, Turkey and Jordan are plenty safe enough.

  • Michael Wilson

    I recall watching “zeitgeist” at a friends house and joking about when the illuminati will pop up. “Oh yeah” he answered “they’re behind it”

    The illuminati is depending on who you ask, fascist, jewish, capitalist, or socialist. Some stories are so compelling everyone wants to latch their conspiracy on it. Politically I find conspiracies hit all ideologies especially the more untested or just plain wrong, the conspiracy explains why the truth hasn’t won yet, whether your anarchist, socialist or some extreame libertarian.

  • “I wonder whether anyone will remember that these individuals turned out to be false prophets”

    -They were true prophets in spirit: in his second term, Obama revived the Caliphate to break the back of the Axis of Resistance. And you all laughed at Republican figures who talked about how Obama would revive the Caliphate. Look at Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Yemen now!

    Of course, I still can’t see anyone better than Obama in 2008-12 with a serious chance of running for President, which is a sad indictment of the state of our politics.