9-11 AT NINE
The Conspiracy Industry and the Lure of Fascism
by Bill Weinberg
New York City's WBAI Radio-flagship of the progressive,
non-profit Pacifica Network, where I am a
producer-unfortunately provides a case study in the
increasing embrace of right-wing conspiracy theory by the
remnants of the American (and global) left.
The most useful propaganda device in this ongoing hostile
take-over of the rump progressive forces has been an
exploitation of the traumatic events of September 11, 2001.
Alex Jones, who trumpets anti-immigrant bromides alongside
9-11 pseudo-exposés, now rivals Noam Chomsky as an icon on
lefty websites. Where our rhetoric once invoked the
military-industrial complex and even the sacrosanct
capitalist system, today our ire is frequently targeted at
such arcane entities as the Bilderberg Club, the Bavarian
Illuminati, and stranger things.
WBAI provides a useful case study because it has followed
the same trajectory as many of basically progressive
inclination since 2001. What began as an examination of
seeming anomalies in the case of 9-11 has lured some of our
best minds down a black hole of irrationality that
ultimately leads-and this, as shall be demonstrated, is not
just hyperbole-to fascism.
Critical Inquiry versus Conspiranoia Before detailing the
dynamics of this deterioration, it is necessary to define
some terms for the discussion-and particularly to draw a
distinction between legitimate critical inquiry and what we
may term "conspiranoia"-a state of perpetual paranoia about
conspiracies in high places, in which the improbable and
even faintly impossible is treated as a fait accompli if it
supports the proffered theory. It may begin with pre-planted
explosives or missiles bringing down the Twin Towers, but it
frequently doesn't end there-because once you abandon
reason, anything goes.
Those who raise such criticisms are inevitably accused of
supporting the "official story." This is where the
distinction is critical. The question of what was degree and
nature of the Bush administration's complicity in 9-11 is a
legitimate one. It is also, alas, one the historians are
going to be arguing about for generations to come, just like
they are still arguing about the Reichstag Fire, the JFK
assassination, the Gulf of Tonkin and the sinking of the
battleship Maine. There is likely never going to be a
definitive answer to it. That doesn't mean that inquiry
isn't worthwhile. However-especially as concerns our
activist efforts against the war(s) and loss of
freedoms-there is limited utility to getting obsessed with
the minutiae of 9-11.
The output of the lugubrious mini-industry which has sprung
up around 9-11 conspiranoia has become increasingly toxic
over the passing years. The most innocent of the DVDs and
books are just poorly researched, merely exchanging the
rigid dogma of the "official story" for another rigid dogma,
no more founded in empiricism or objectivity. But, not
surprisingly, lots of creepy right-wing types have got on
board, using 9-11 as the proverbial thin end of a wedge.
The reason this is is not surprising is clear to anyone who
understands the dynamics of the populist end of the
political right-and the rise of classical fascism in Europe
in the first half of the 20th century.
It also has to be made clear in this context that
conspiracies, of course, exist. Contragate was a conspiracy;
Watergate was a conspiracy; and whoever was behind 9-11, it
was a conspiracy. Whether it was al-Qaeda, the Bush
administration, the CIA, Mossad or the Illuminati, or any
combination thereof, it was a conspiracy-obviously.
Conspiracies exist, and are worthy of examination. The
fallacy is what has been termed the "conspiracy theory of
history," the notion that conspiracies explain everything
that's wrong with society. This is a reversal of reality. It
is political economy, not conspiracy theory, that explains
what is fundamentally wrong with society-understanding power
relations and wealth inequities. The conspiracies are merely
a symptom of the prevailing political economy-just like war,
terrorism, bad propaganda and fascism.
Fascism in its classical form is predicated on the notion
that there is a hidden elite-whether it is the Jewish
bankers or, in updated versions, the Trilateral Commission,
Bliderbergs, Illuminati or shape-shifting reptilians (about
which more later)-that controls everything, and is "the"
These entities aren't "the" problem, nor do they control
everything; nor, often, do they even exist. The Trilateral
Commission does exist; you can go their website. The
Bilderbergers have no website because they don't exist in
any formal sense; they are just a group of bankers and
industrialists who periodically get together in a high-end
hotel and kick back martinis and schmooze. The Illuminati
existed two centuries ago; it doesn't exist any more. The
shape-shifting reptilians assuredly do not exist.
The obsession with conveniently hidden elites serves to let
off the hook the very real elites that are in plain sight.
It has become utterly unfashionable to say it, but the
problem ultimately is not the power of hidden elites, but
that we live under the capitalist system. This is why
conspiranoia is inevitably a useful tool of those who seek
to distract us from class analysis.
The Slippery Slope to Shape-Shifting Reptilians WBAI's
embrace of conspiracy theory started with the comparatively
innocuous 9-11 musings of the Loose Change videos, the first
to be offered as fund-drive premiums. But it is predictable
that it got increasingly sinister and wacky from there. Some
of the ensuing 9-11 conspiracy hucksters promoted by WBAI
not only didn't have their ducks in a row in terms of
research, but were creepy fascistic types. Eric Hufschmid,
producer of the Painful Deception video, has a website full
of anti-immigrant xenophobia and Holocaust revisionism. Of
course, he uses the soft-sell approach-in the 9-11 video
there isn't any xenophobia or Holocaust denial. You have to
go his website to see that he's a xenophobe and revisionist
(read: likely Nazi-nostalgist).
Next was WBAI's promotion of The Money Masters, a DVD
purporting to expose the international banking conspiracy to
undermine American sovereignty. This was pretty much
straight-up right-wing nationalism, and had, at least, a
strong fascistic undertone. The next entry was Spanish
conspiracy guru Daniel Estulin, author of The Secrets of the
Bilderberg Club, who asserted that Obama was put in power by
the Bilderbergs to impose "socialism."
Finally, in the summer 2010 fund drive, WBAI crossed the
line-promoting a real, live neo-Nazi: a former British
sportscaster by the name of David Icke, who hawks a book
entitled Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Centre
Disaster. This is his lure to draw in newbies who can then
be indoctrinated with far stranger and more unsavory things.
Icke's is soft-sell neo-Nazism, but neo-Nazism nonetheless;
you don't have to dig very deep to find it.
In the material aired on BAI, Icke spoke about the
Bilderbergs and the Illuminati. But what he actually
believes (or says he believes) lies behind the global power
nexus can be gleaned very easily by going to his website,
DavidIcke.com. In Icke's world, behind the the Bilderbergs
and the Illuminati is the Rothschild banking family and
associated powerful Jews-who are literally held to be
inhuman. They are, in fact, reptilian aliens from the Fourth
Dimension who have mysterious shape-shifting abilities and
can assume human form. (I'm not making this up-go to the
The ideology behind all of this comes straight out of the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Semitic
forgery which was a pillar of the Nazi propaganda system. It
purports to be a secret document revealing how the Jews
secretly control the world, using both capitalism and
communism as instruments to bring governments to their
knees. Icke's bizarre zeitgeist is a mere reworking of the
Protocols, which he in fact extensively cites on his
The shape-shifting-reptilians thing is admittedly Icke's own
little twist. It is a fairly common device of DIY Nazism to
assert that the Jews are actually non-human. The Christian
Identity movement, which pervades much of the rural radical
right in the US, believes that only the white race is truly
human; the other races are either sub-human or non-human.
The brown-skinned "mud people" are sub-human. The Jews are
the non-human offspring of Satan. Both must be exterminated,
although the Jews with somewhat greater urgency due to their
For the Christian Identity cultists, Jews are Satanic
offspring because everything is seen through their
idiosyncratic spin on the Bible; for Icke they are
shape-shifting reptilians, exploiting popular interest in
(and credulity about) extra-terrestrials. Both take the
Protocols as their starting point.
The Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary
Crypto-Fascism Today-at least, hopefully, on WBAI-you don't
get very far by openly calling yourself a neo-Nazi. In fact,
a standard of contemporary populist invective is to compare
our present-day oppressors with the Nazis. How do Icke and
his ilk square this?
By applying Hitler's own ideology and propaganda techniques
to Hitler himself.
In Hitler's world, everything bad was the creation of evil
Jews in high places. So of course, David Icke says Hitler
was created by the Rothschilds. In fact, he goes beyond that
to argue that Hitler was a Rothschild. And therefore Hitler,
like most of those who run the world, was in fact not human
but a shape-shifting reptilian from the Fourth Dimension.
This theory is expounded in a screed entitled "Was Hitler a
Rothschild?" In a time-honored method of such propaganda,
Icke mixes a few grains of truth amidst the sinister
wackiness. Although considerably less so today, the
Rothschilds were certainly a powerhouse of high finance in
the 19th century, and funders of the early Zionist movement.
But, betraying his hand rather too quickly, Icke in the
second paragraph refers to the Rothschilds as one of
Europe's "black occult bloodlines," "working in league with
the Illuminati House of Hesse." Then he really cuts to the
chase: they are "one of the top Illuminati bloodlines on the
planet, and they are shape-shifting reptilians."
Icke seizes on the popular rumor in Germany that Hitler's
grandmother was impregnated by a Rothschild baron for whom
she worked as a maid. Icke cites a book by a US intelligence
analyst, Walter Langer, who looked into this theory after
the war and in 1972 published his findings under the title
The Mind of Adolf Hitler. If you go to the library and read
the book for yourself, you'll find that Langer ultimately
decided the rumor was insubstantial.
Icke, however, has no doubts. "[T]here was no way that
someone like Hitler would come to power in those vital
circumstances for the Illuminati, unless he was of the
reptilian bloodline," he writes, adding that "the same
bloodline has held the positions of royal, aristocratic,
financial, political, military, and media power in the world
for literally thousands of years. This is the bloodline that
has produced ALL 42 of the Presidents of the United States
since and including George Washington in 1789... The World
War Two leaders, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, were of
the bloodline and also Freemasons and Satanists. They were
manipulated into office, and their country's war effort
funded, by the Rothschild's and the other Illuminati
Icke asserts: "These people are NOT Jews, they are a
non-human bloodline with a reptilian genetic code who hide
behind the Jewish people and use them as a screen and a
means to an end." He seems to think this disclaimer lets him
off the hook for anti-Semitism.
In a page on his website boosting the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion, Icke even deigns to write: "I speak for Jews
who oppose this secret plan which was concocted by Cabalist
bankers and rabbis centuries ago and revised periodically.
These self-appointed Jewish leaders have put all Jews in
jeopardy. They are establishing their world tyranny by
stealth-manipulating current events, re-engineering society
and controlling perception."
But his tone quickly changes to that of a barely veiled
threat: "All Jews will be blamed for the disproportionate
role many Jews play unless more speak up and are counted."
Elsewhere on his website, Icke has a photo of a billboard
that was placed on a roadside in Iowa by a local Tea Party
chapter (improbable allies for BAI listeners) that reads
"RADICAL LEADERS PREY ON THE FEARFUL & NAIVE" below
portraits of Hitler, Lenin and Obama. The portraits are
labeled, respectively, "National Socialism," "Marxist
Socialism" and "Democrat Socialism." Icke writes: "Is the
Obama-Hitler billboard correct? ...The billboard suggests
that Obama is a radical socialist leader similar to Hitler
and Lenin. This is, in fact, a true comparison, which is
probably why it was papered over so quickly. Obama, Hitler,
and Lenin were all initially financed by Rothschild money.
If we look at the historical record, we can clearly see that
all three leaders were originally puppets of the House of
This is particularly telling. Icke, for all his wackiness,
is on a spectrum with the Tea Party movement, which is being
mainstreamed with terrifying rapidity. And whether Icke
himself is deeply delusional or a mere charlatan, it is
clear that many of the Tea-Baggers genuinely think they are
anti-fascist-even as they embrace such fascistic elements as
paranoid anti-communism, vague but shrill populism, and (too
often) open racism.
Leftists Take the Poisonous Bait This relates to why WBAI
and the Pacifica network, which should be a foremost bulwark
of resistance against the rise of fascism in this country,
are promoting fascism.
The left is complicit in eroding its own vigilance against
fascism by using the word "fascism" as a mere baseball bat
to beat our enemies with, often with little regard for its
actual meaning. Many elements of the reigning system are
frighteningly fascistic (aggressive wars, repeal of basic
rights, the privileged position of corporate power); many
elements of the increasingly conspiranoid opposition culture
on the grassroots are also fascistic, despite its relentless
anti-fascist rhetoric. This opposition culture consistently
misses the boat on the populist lure of fascism, especially
in its incipient phases.
Hitler and Mussolini talked a good populist game during
their rise to power. Before they each cut their deal with
big capital, they even talked a vaguely anti-capitalist
line. Hitler posed himself as standing up for the "Little
Man" and German sovereignty against the Jewish banking
conspiracy-especially in the period from the Beerhall Putsch
through the rise of the Brown Shirts, the more populist
element of the Nazi apparatus. Then in 1934-the year after
Hitler achieved power-the Brown Shirt leaders were betrayed
and unceremoniously killed in the Night of the Long Knives.
This happened just as Hitler was consolidating his deal with
the big German capitalists, the Krupps and the Farbens, who
would later avail themselves of slave labor in the
Early fascism nearly always plays to populism and purports
to be protecting the little guy against the machinations of
all-powerful elites. The error the fascists make-or, more
cynically, the lie that they tell-is that "the" problem
isn't class stratification but those occulted elites pulling
the strings behind the scenes, who can be neatly extricated
from the system. And who better to extricate them than the
heroic truth-teller who is exposing them? This is both the
fundamental fallacy behind fascism, and the psycho-political
instrument by which it achieves power.
Failure to grasp this is a grave error, and it is
practically universal on the contemporary left. Even Chris
Hedges, who should really know better, incorrectly employs
the word "corporatism"-used especially by Mussolini to
describe his system-to refer to fascism's deal with the
bankers and industrialists. That deal was certainly a
defining element of classical fascism, but that isn't what
the word "corporatism" referred to. It referred to another
defining element of fascism: the "incorporation" of populist
institutions such as trade unions into the apparatus of the
ruling party. This element is invisible to nearly all on the
left who today warn of impending fascism.
Most of those who invoke Mussolini's famous "fascism is
corporatism" quote ironically do so to refer to the opposite
of what they really mean. The corporatist (centralist,
clientelist) elements of the US system, instated in the New
Deal era, have today been largely dismantled in favor of a
corporate (free-trade or "neoliberal") state-that is, one
dominated by the big corporations. Classical fascism had
both corporatist and corporate elements, using corporatism
to control populist currents, and divert popular rage from
the ruling class and onto scapegoats (Jews and communists);
too many on the left today make the error of only seeing one
end of the fascist equation.
Blind to the populist element of fascism, we become
vulnerable to its propaganda. Amazingly, among those to
exhibit this error in recent days is none other than
longtime leftist icon Fidel Castro. Since stepping down from
power, Havana's elder statesman has been writing a lot for
his blog, "Reflections by Comrade Fidel," which is posted on
the website of the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. His Aug.
19 entry was entitled "The World Government"-traditionally a
canard of the political right, which sees the globalist
conspiracy as one of the left. The entry consists in its
majority of an extended excerpt from Daniel Estulin's The
Secrets of the Bilderberg Club. There isn't the slightest
initmation that Fidel is quoting Estulin in any sense other
Most ironically of all, the Estulin quote includes a
citation to far-right cult-master (and convicted credit-card
fraud felon) Lyndon LaRouche, in which he portrays the
"Aquarian Conspiracy" of the "counterculture" as an
insidious tool for social control. Those who can remember
back to the 1980s will recall that LaRouche was a big
booster of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star
Wars") program, which was instrumental in driving Cuba's
Soviet patrons to collapse. In true fascist style, LaRouche
weds paranoia about sinister banking conspiracies with a
So why is Fidel Castro embracing a writer who, in turn,
embraces Lyndon LaRouche? It may be cruel to speculate that
it has to do with his advancing years, but Fidel did have
the humility to step down from power when he felt he was no
longer up to it. Maybe his handlers should clue him in that
he should stop doing his blog.
But there is, of course, a bigger political point here.
The conspiracy theory of history has right-wing roots, and
remains inherently a phenomenon of the right. Its origins
are in the writings of the reactionary 18th-century Jesuit
Abbé Barruel, who blamed the French Revolution on the
medieval Order of Templars. His emulators blamed Freemasons
and the Illuminati for the assault on Europe's old order.
This became the template nearly a century later for the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This document first emerged
along with the pogroms, in which Jewish villages were
attacked and burned as Jews were scapegoated for the rising
of revolutionary currents in the Russia of the czars. It was
later adopted by Hitler, and justified his Final Solution.
Conspiranoid thinking was seen in America in the
anti-communist hysteria of the Cold War, heyday of the John
Birch Society; and then in the "New World Order" scare of
the '90s, heyday of the militia movement. Since 9-11, the
conspiracy milieu has been in a state of hypertrophy,
becoming a virtual industry.
Conspiracy theory is what fascism gives the "Little Man"
instead of a fundamental change in the system and an
overturning of oppressive power relations. Especially with
the Tea Party and allied movements perfectly poised to
exploit the ongoing economic agony in America and bring
about a genuinely fascistic situation in this country, it is
imperative that we don't fall for it.
Bill Weinberg is editor of World War 4 Report and, for the
moment, co-producer of the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade on
WBAI-FM in New York City, an anarchist-themed talk-show
featuring the best in world music.