Some real conspiracies

The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by many Roman senators
To reject conspiracy theories as a matter of principle is to be mentally incompetent, or dishonest: they happen - as Julius Caesar discovered the hard way.

In the UK, we are experiencing the revelations of a series of conspiracies, from the "Hillsborough Disaster" in 1989, when 96 died and 766 were injured, in which the news media, police, government agencies and politicians conspired to shift the blame onto the public; the police framing a minister of the crown; corruption of both the police and news media by the staff of a tycoon; and the starting of an illegal war, on false premises and with catastrophic consequences. No doubt you can think of a few others - I certainly can.

David Icke, the "conspiracy nut" was interviewed on television (This Week) recently and a guest panellist - a politician, naturally - said she did not believe in conspiracies, then immediately agreed with that description for Hillsborough. And there's the rub: all educated people accept that conspiracy is a normal form of management - both private and governmental. That's the way of the world and has always been so. But to admit it is to invite derision.

"Science" has joined in the fun, kicking reality, with Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion, by J. Eric Oliver andThomas J. Wood, in the American Journal of Political Science. The title alone tells you their stance.

"Rather, the likelihood of supporting conspiracy theories is strongly predicted by a willingness to believe in other unseen, intentional forces and an attraction to Manichean narratives."

Personally, I find the Manichaean narrative to be no less likely than the Christian, or the Tanakh, or any other involving gods, angels, magic/miracles and spirits. And yes, in dispelling various archaeological and historical frauds, I have found some people to be chronically credulous; the FBI will confirm, having investigated various Ponzi Schemes with victims who had been victims of prior fraud. Nevertheless, conspiracies do happen: ask Dilma Rousseff, current president of Brazil.

I do, of course, have an interest in this, as my evidence-based history describes a fraud which could fairly be described as conspiratorial: in the eighth century (most likely), The Holy Roman Empire - founded in imitation of the Roman Empire, in which the emperor is pontiff (Pontifex Maximus) and divine - changed Chrest to Christ in the sacred texts and invented a mythological, textual tradition for itself, posing as history.

I've described how this was achieved, through founding (Carolingian) monasteries, in which scriptoria produced both rewritten Roman histories (starting with those of Josephus) and inventing whole, new genres (such as anti-heresies and hagiographies), as well as both new histories and the fictional authors (e.g. Eusebius of Caesarea) to go with them.

I Claudius Episode 7 Reign Of Terror

Imperial Rome and its court was replete with conspiracies and often, with their result: assassination, coup d'etat and extra-judicial killings. They even remade history, using damnatio memoriae. We should not be surprised how later, people who set about building an imitation Roman Empire would copy their methods.

Alex Proud just wrote Perhaps the world's conspiracy theorists have been right all along for the Daily Telegraph and I think he's right: "These days conspiracy theories don’t look so crazy and conspiracy theorists don’t look like crackpots. In fact, today’s conspiracy theory is tomorrow’s news headlines. It’s tempting, I suppose, to say we live in a golden age of conspiracy theories, although it’s only really golden for the architects of the conspiracies. From the Iraq war to Fifa to the banking crisis, the truth is not only out there, but it’s more outlandish than anything we could have made up."

The truth is often like that, stranger than fiction.

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