This today at Reason:
Both Venezuelan state-owned radio and television properties zeroed in on a secret U.S. “weapon of earthquakes” as the cause of the earthquake that struck Haiti last week causing a death toll [that] could exceed 200,000 according to some sources. On the website of Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) are published statements of the university professor, Vladimir Acosta, a regular contributor to the media controlled by the government of Hugo Chávez, accusing the U.S. of wanting to make Haiti a protectorate under the guise of the natural disaster.
This startled me for two reasons:
- How could anyone believe that the U.S. government would so glibly kill 200,000 people for so minimal a strategic advantage?
- How could anyone imagine that the U.S. government possesses such precise power over geological forces?
But after my initial shock, and on thinking about it again, I see some lessons here:
- Since World War II—and unprecedented in human history—we have lived in and among nation states with ever more secretive and technologically sophisticated bureaucracies supporting them. It’s why, for example, we like James Bond movies. There’s a competitive (and invisible-to-the-public) system beneath the system of government—and it has shadowy operators and groovy gadgets.
- As technology takes on ever more the appearances of magic and omnipotence, people who feel alienated and out of control of their lives will increasingly see no accidents in any accident. In other words, not even natural disasters will go unaccompanied by conspiracy theories. The omnipresent bureaucratic state and global corporations, replacing God and the devil, will be psychologically projected upon for every bad thing. They will function as the evil fathers doing evil things to the helpless children of the world. And, of course, this will too often get stitched up with anti-Semitism (wealthy Jewish world government conspirators fantasized as the ultimate string-pullers behind the actions of Western governments).
In short, the psychological projections of earlier centuries are transforming themselves, and taking on new forms of omnipotence, but not going away. The shadowy Jew with medieval magical powers becomes the shadowy Jew with 21st century technological powers.
Satan and God must be relieved to be off the hook. The problems of theodicy (why bad things happen in the world if God exists) are rapidly being displaced from the invisible forces of hell and heaven to the invisible forces of big governments, big corporations, and the imagined Illuminati power-players who plot behind them all. At a time like this, we need to think more about the power of demonological projection and conspiracy in the human psyche, and how technology, the national security state, and impervious global corporations feed these human psychological inclinations.
Here, for example, is the Drudge Report, back in May of 2009, using an anti-Semitic trope—the image of the over-large and shadowy Jew—as a backdrop for the Pope’s visit to Israel:
And below are two anti-Semitic propaganda images from World War II. The first is of a shadowy Jew, behind curtains, clearly plotting subterfuge against Catholic Vichy France and Nazi Germany:
And here is a fascist cartoon characterization of Oslo in 1941, suggesting that behind the shoulders of global leaders—such as Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin—is always a lurking and outsized world dominating Jew:
Source for World War II images: Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination (Sam Keen 1986, pp. 20, 35).
And now it appears that not even earthquakes will ever again be immune from the realm of someone’s psychological projection of a vast and sinister conspiracy.