Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Left-right convergence and conspiracy thought

David Aaronovitch on "Dr" Nicholas Kollerstrom, the Holocaust denier and astrologist we looked at the other week. Final paragraphs:
[Kollerstrom represents] a unique political movement, made possible by the internet and existing as an informal fusion between far-left and far-right forces; forces which regard themselves as anti-imperialist, anti-war (or, rather, since they have a regard for “resistance” fighters in Hamas, Hizbollah and the Taliban, “anti-Western”) and anti-Zionist.

It is where Gilad Atzmon (the anti-Jewish Jew), the folk of the “pro-Palestinian” Deir Yassin Remembered who sympathise with the old Nazi Ernst Zundel, meet the Socialist Worker’s Party, hook up with Dieudonne Mbala, link to old US lefties like Ralph Schoenman, hobnob with believers in the blood libel such Israel Shamir. The right-wingers at anti-war.com share columns with the supposed lefties at Counterpunch, and are referenced by pro-Milosevic Serbs, Russian nationalists and conspiracy loons.

They are, in electoral or mass terms, insignificant. Whether they poison the minds of too many silly Kollerstroms is another question. I think they do.
I'm holding with "astrologist", by the way, as opposed to "astrologer" or "astronomer", as the "ist" conjures up the cranky, ideological nature of that psuedo-science.

Also, thanks to Councillor Sue for doing some research and finding that he has not been a Green Party member for many years, if indeed he ever was. (He does say he "belonged to things like the Green Party".)


transpontine said...

There is something going on here, but I think we need to be a little cautious about lumping in lots of different phenomena as some kind of 'red brown front'. Much as as I dislike the SWP they are not holocaust revisionists - though they seem not to mind being in the same room as them which is bad enough. There is certainly an overlap with some new age strands - David Icke, Nexus magazine (on sale in many health food shops) all pushing jewish conspiracy nonsense. Not sure though that we can simply draw a line, as Aaronivitch seems to, from 'irrational' beliefs like astrology and alchemy to fascism. There are plenty of people who hold equally irrational religious and spiritual views who are unequivocally anti-fascist.

bob said...

You are indeed right: they should not all be lumped together.

Aaronovitch takes teh following point from Damian Thompson: there is a kind of nonsense mindset, in which someone who buys into, say, homoeopathy or crop circles, finds it easy to make the necessary leap to 9/11 conspiracy theory and — though Thompson doesn’t specifically say so — to Holocaust denial. [...]
[Kollerstrom] convinces himself that he is one of a small band of seers who, almost alone, understand the real underlying patterns of the world.

This does not mean that irrationalism leads inevitably to fascism. There are lots of irrationalists who I respect politically, including some I've met in the anti-fascist movement!

But I have seen lots of friends and acquaintences whose extreme skepticism towards standard authorities and experts (not in itself unhealthy) leads to extreme credulity towards alternative authorities and experts or alternative forms of wisdom and knowledge.

When combined with an essentially paranoid worldview, and a form of vulgar materialism that sees power concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, then the stage is set for conspiracy theories that are fascist in origin and in effect: ZOG, the New World Order, the Protocols of the Elders, etc.

This paranoid mindset and vulgar materialism are very prevalant on the left (including the anarchist left) today - for reasons too complicated to go into here! - this sort of fascistic thinking has taken hold on the left.

Hence Aaronovitch's second point, that there is also a contemporary political dimension to this, and one that should worry us.

I think you are right that Aaronovitch overplays the red brown front: there are both "harder" and "softer" (more dangerous and more innocent) versions of the "anti-war"/"anti-imperialist" far left-far right convergence.

The SWP are not Holocaust deniers. But why do they find it so easy to hang out with them?

tnc said...

"But I have seen lots of friends and acquaintences whose extreme skepticism towards standard authorities and experts (not in itself unhealthy) leads to extreme credulity towards alternative authorities and experts or alternative forms of wisdom and knowledge."

Indeed, Bob. And well put.

Here's my 2 cents. Some of my friends in California--who are not especially political in the sense that are not activists or involved with any organizations--buy into this sort of b.s. Especially my musician/artist friends.

I don't know whether it is simply more cool or "down" to believe in conspiracy theories rather than engaging in sober analysis but a lot of these people buy into all sorts of "alternative" nonsense whether regarding health, history, politics, etc.

To the larger point of a red-brown alliance political alliance, in the U.S. this alliance is not articulated by either extreme, except in rare cases. Usually it comes down to a shared critique of American political power and capitalism, even if the prescriptions for change vary widely.

For example, both radical left and radical right are:

1. Anti-capitalist (globalization in the rhetoric of the left, globalism for the right).

2. Anti-American (U.S. as imperialist power, under the control of ZOG, etc.).

3. Against liberal democracy and representative government.

4. Anti-Zionist (in many cases anti-Semitic).

I could add more...

Of course we need to be careful not to paint with too broad of a brush. But many of us who have spent decades on the left--myself included--have avoided these sort of discussions. Since I "left the left" I am more free in my criticism.