You are here

The case against conspiracy theories

Nov 27,2014 - Last updated at Nov 27,2014

In our part of the world, conspiracy theories prevail. They are prominent in our informal conversations, our press and media discourse (including, especially, social media), and our scholarly studies and history books.

Such prevalence and prominence is understandable, considering our experience with European colonisation throughout much of the previous century.

The current borders of most Arab countries were, after all, drawn in 1916 by the British and French colonialists Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, when France, Britain and some other European countries conspired against the Arab world and divided it into territories and entities that corresponded to their spheres of influence.

Today, proponents of conspiracy theories cite much compelling evidence to support their arguments about what many players in the region do overtly and covertly: America, Europe, Israel, Iran, Russia, Turkey and those Arab states that are interfering in the affairs of other Arab countries.

In light of the fragmentation and destruction of many countries in the region and the growing divisions among its peoples along ethnic and sectarian lines, all due to political rivalries and interests, many in our part of the world are firm believers in conspiracy theories and attribute the various developments that unfold to them.

In principle, one cannot, and ought not, question the overriding principles guiding analyses of events on the basis of conspiracy theory. After all, all countries in the world look after and act on the basis of their interests.

To further or protect these interests, they strategise, plan, scheme, ally themselves with others and, naturally, “conspire” to guarantee the desired outcomes.

Those that speak or write to pinpoint conspiracies in our part of the world or examine events in light of conspiracy theories, in other words, are neither foolish nor making things up. 

In fact, much of what they say is relevant.  For decades, they have been warning us, for example, against Zionist schemes to swallow all of Palestine, to expand even beyond it, and to deny Arabs and Palestinians their legitimate rights.

Past and present Israeli actions are confirming these theories 100 per cent.

The same could be said about America’s, Europe’s, Iran’s, Turkey’s or Russia’s schemes in the region. 

One has no problem with all of this. But what one objects to in relation to the discourse of conspiracy theorists is the assumption that when people scheme and conspire against us, there is little or nothing we can or should do.

This is a big problem, and this is where conspiracy theory gets it wrong and where it is harmful.

When one listens to, reads or watches an analysis of any event based on a conspiracy theory in this part of the world, the proponents of the analysis or theory present it as an end in itself, and not as a means to an end. In other words, they do not present their case in order to tell us what can and should be done about it, but only imply that the matter is a fait accompli.

The world to them is a chessboard. The players are the major colonialist/imperialist powers and the countries in the region are simply the pieces on the chessboard with no will or say, and incapable of doing anything to safeguard themselves.

It is this fatalistic, tragic view that one rejects in the logic of conspiracy theorists.

One appreciates someone telling who is behind this or that event, but one does not appreciate the assumption that one is helpless and unable to do anything to change one’s lot.

Perhaps the clearest two examples that debunk the fatalistic conspiracy theory logic are Tunisia and the Palestinian resistance.

Human beings possess a strong will and can have a big say in matters.

43 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.