If the recent Kanye West episode had happened in 2019, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I’ve never paid any attention to Kanye. I’m not a fan of rap music. And I don’t follow the lives of celebrities. I do have a friend that’s into Kanye, though, and I once had a discussion with her in relation to the name of one of Kanye’s albums called Yeezus. I recall cracking some joke like “who does he think he is? John Lennon?”. But my friend didn’t get the Beatles reference and we abandoned the subject in mutual incomprehension (for those who don’t know, Lennon once said the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”).
The Jesus reference occurred to me when Kanye was kicked off twitter by Elon Musk. I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that Twitter has become nothing more than a howling mob. Well, the howling mob duly called for Kanye’s blood following his appearance on Alex Jones. Musk, who has already been playing the Roman emperor by, for example, putting the question of whether to reinstate Trump’s account to a popular vote, found himself in the role of digital Pontius Pilate. Just like Pilate, he gave the mob what it desired.
So, a guy who has likened himself to Jesus and was playing the historical role of Jesus by criticising the Jews while also claiming that he loved everybody, even Nazis, got cancelled by a guy who has been explicitly playing the role of digital imperial governor. That’s weird. In Jungian terms, it’s more than that. It’s synchronistic and evidence that archetypes are at work.
The second thing that caught my eye about the Kanye thing was the form of it. Kanye made some specific claims about Jews and, even though they are of no relevance to you or me, you can see how they would be of relevance to Kanye. Kanye is in show business. From what I understand, there’s a lot of Jewish people involved in show business in America. Does Kanye have a right to talk about them?
Consider this. Kanye stated some facts which may or may not be true. Not a single person bothered to deal with those facts. Instead a howling mob accused him of being an anti-Semite and the authorities (in this case Musk) shut him down.
Does this sound familiar? Over the past 3 years we’ve seen countless people stating what they believed to be facts about corona. Were those facts dealt with and discussed? Not at all. The people who made them were labelled “anti-vaxxers” by a howling mob and cancelled by the authorities. Clearly, the form is exactly the same. What happened to Kanye is exactly what happened to Robert Malone or any of the other covid dissenters.
As Hannah Arendt noted in her brilliant discussion of the question of anti-Semitism in The Origins of Totalitarianism, the denial of facts to promulgate a predetermined narrative destroys history and through it human dignity and human action. We now live in such a world. It’s a world where facts are completely irrelevant. They are denied, deleted and altered. The people speaking them are de-platformed, cancelled and arrested. In doing so, we destroy our understanding of history.
The ridiculous irony is that what happened to Kanye in relation anti-Semitism is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. Anybody who’s bothered to read the history knows that in the years before the Jews were physically assaulted and eventually murdered, they had their jobs taken, their small businesses shut down and their livelihoods destroyed by a combination of a howling mob and vicious authorities. That our society is doing exactly the same in the name of protecting us from anti-Semitism is absurd beyond belief.
As Arendt warned, we have lost all grasp of history and in doing so we destroy the basis for meaningful human action. The people involved have no idea that they are mimicking the Nazis. They think they are good people on the right side of history. They are completely oblivious to the fact that the Nazis also thought they were good people on the right side of history.
It’s because the Jews were the central horrifying concern of the Nazis that we must be able to speak freely and factually about the full role of the Jews in that time in history. Otherwise, we cannot understand them or the Nazis and we fail to learn from history. That’s exactly what has happened to our society which has not just failed to learn from history but which appears to now be treading down the exact same path to totalitarianism that the Nazis took. Every time we shut somebody down as an anti-Semite or an anti-vaxxer or a climate denier, we drive one more nail into our coffin.
Nobody thinks it can happen, of course, especially in the old Anglo countries. We’re the countries that beat the Nazis. Therefore, we are the opposite of the Nazis. Well, a little history might sober us up on that front because once upon a time things were not so clean cut. Now more than ever, we need to understand our history. Let’s investigate that by way of the document that created the meme of the conspiracy theory, a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
We forget how chaotic things were in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was a time of rapid, exhilarating change. Geopolitically, there were 4 main players: the British Empire which included the United States as a strong ally, Russia, Germany and France. All were involved in the business of imperialism. The trouble for France and Germany was that they were right next to each other and, as Hitler later knew, they really needed to be united so they could turn continental Europe into a viable competitor to Russia and the British-American empire. Their fierce rivalry only served to weaken them and make them less viable in the game of empire.
That this was a period of major instability can be seen in the fact that France, Russia and then Germany all followed an identical pattern of political crisis.
In 1871, France lost the Franco-Prussian War. There promptly followed an attempted revolution called the Paris Commune which tried to install communism in the country. 20,000 people were killed in the fighting. France would not have a well-functioning government again til after WW2.
In 1904, Russia suffered a humiliating military defeat against the Japanese. There immediately followed the first Russian revolution in 1905 which was patched over until the real Revolution in 1917, but even that didn’t solve the underlying problem and the country ended up lapsing back into a different type of tyranny.
In 1918, the Germans suffered defeat in WW1. There immediately followed the German Revolution which attempted to install communism. Weimar Germany followed but couldn’t solve the underlying tensions and the country lapsed into tyranny as Hitler seized power.
All three countries eventually became totalitarian (the French under Nazi control) but nobody knew that would or could happen because, using Hannah Arendt’s definition, totalitarianism was something new. States had been perfectly capable of terrorising each other down through history. But now we saw states terrorising their own citizens. That terror had a direct prelude in anti-Semitism which was arguably worse in France than in Germany. During the Dreyfus affair there were mobs in the street chanting “death to the Jews”. Eventually, the terror would be turned on non-Jews too.
For most of history, order has been snatched from the jaws of chaos and disorder which always threatened from without. The ruler’s job was to lay out simple, memorable laws and visible exoteric structures by which to guide the flock along the narrow path which kept society from danger.
With the complexity of the modern world, chaos and disorder has threatened from within. The whole 19th century and early 20th century was filled with endless rebellion and uprising as the people went into battle against the exoteric structures of society which they were no longer willing to abide by. This wasn’t surprising as those structures were no longer suitable and clearly needed reform. The question was what sort of reform and who got to decide. Would it be the communists, the capitalists, the fascists or any of the countless other ideologies all of which had theoretically good and bad points and could have seemed like viable options to a person at that time.
One of the ways we deal with the inherent complexity of the world is to fall back on stories and this is where The Protocols of the Elders of Zion comes into the picture. The book had an audience in all the major countries that were going through upheaval at the time including Britain and the United States.
I’m not sure if The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was the first book of conspiracy but it certainly is what we can call the archetypal conspiracy theory. It begins and ends in the narrator’s voice who tells us that the secret document they are about to reveal to us came into their possession through mysterious channels and had originally been stolen at the end of a meeting of Jewish Freemasons. The material reveals a secret plot on the part of the Jews to take over the world. In the epilogue, the narrator expresses the hope that all is not lost and that the publication of the book may lead people to see the light before it’s too late.
The key to understanding such a text is to realise why it made sense to the people at the time. For starters, the idea of taking over the world was not made up. That’s actually what was happening behind the scenes through imperialism. There really was a race to try and take over the world and it wasn’t hard to imagine that if some other country took over the world first it would not be a good thing for your country.
Many people back then would also have either been a member of a secret society or known someone who was. Secret societies were public knowledge. The Rothschild family (who The Protocols is clearly referring to) were known to donate money to the freemasons, to take just one example. It was also the golden age of interest in the occult and thus symbolism on the cover of the book would not have been out of place. The book’s references to religion made sense in a world where most people still went to church and where the church itself was battling for relevance including by getting itself involved in political and social movements.
There is nothing in the book, even from our vantage point more than a hundred years later, that is implausible. The book makes no specific claims that can be tested and refuted. It’s full of semi-truisms; vague statements that are interconnected into a story that is easy to understand and impossible to prove or disprove.
Another important cultural aspect to bear in mind about the 19th and early 20th centuries and one that is now somewhat foreign to us in our postmodern world, was the idea that there could and should be explanations that would cover everything. This was the case in physics and, because every other discipline had physics envy, the idea spread to domains such as sociology, psychology and politics. We forget that many intellectuals got behind Hitler and the Nazis but intellectuals had been getting behind all kinds of grand theories well before that. Thus, the implied idea behind The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that there should be one explanation that elucidates all the ills of the world would have seemed perfectly plausible at the time, including to intelligent and educated people.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was originally published in Russia in 1903. It’s a call to Russian Christians to save the country before it was too late. I have already mentioned the state of turmoil Russia was in at that time. It’s ironic, given what would eventually happen, that the Tsar had been more concerned about the rise of the bourgeoisie than about the communists and that’s exactly what the book is concerned with: international capital. Like most industrial nations at the time, the instability of the financial markets was a real problem as it caused wild swings from boom to bust that wrought economic carnage.
This was a problem with internationalism. Industrial economies implied internationalism from the beginning because they needed markets and access to raw materials. They needed to grow. This growth was facilitated by the capitalists and financiers who mediated international trade. In response, there arose the workers movement aimed at counteracting the power of the capitalists and financiers. These workers movements were also international. The Communist Manifesto ends by calling on the “workers of the world” to unite. And that’s what they did. The International Workingmen’s Association was founded in London in 1864.
As a counterbalance to the internationalist tendencies of the capitalists and the communists, there was a nationalist reactionary movement in most countries.
We’re so used to the intertwining of business and politics now that we forget that once upon a time there was a vision for the nation state that didn’t involve blatant corruption and greed. That vision is best embodied in the US Constitution and also the French revolution; equality before the law and the rights of the individual protected by the state. This vision was already breaking down in the 19th century and it was capitalism that was doing the most damage.
The Panama scandal in France was a great example. Many of the rising middle class lost their shirts and it turned out that half the parliament had been bought out to keep the scam going. A very similar thing happened in Australia at the same time with a property bust in Melbourne that most members of the Victorian state parliament were in on. Many tried to flee to Britain to escape justice afterwards. Both of these make the recent FTX scam look like kid’s stuff. Imagine a GFC like economic crisis caused by the parliamentarians of your country and you can imagine what these scandals were like.
It was partly as a response to the disillusionment caused by blatant corruption that there arose what we would now think of as nationalist movements. These revolved around the ideals of the nation state but also drew on what remained of the old aristocracy, church and the army which, however anachronous, provided some connection with the past.
The thing to bear in mind is that all of these elements were present in every country to differing degrees. Each country had its workers who were excited by international communism, its rising bourgeoisie, its aristocracy, its nationalist sentiments and more. The battle between all these was actively raging and it was not obvious who would win.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was clearly addressed to a nationalist audience. But its message, its form, was easily translated into each country because the nationalists in each country had the same underlying motivations. Thus, when the book was distributed outside of Russia in 1919, it found a readership in every industrial country.
Given the content of the book, it would surprise few to know that Hitler had read The Protocols. He mentions in Mein Kampf how The Protocols had been written off as a forgery by the Frankurter Zeitung which just goes to show that the book had received mainstream attention. Where the story does take a surprise turn, at least for modern readers, is that the book became popular in America and was enthusiastically supported by none other than Henry Ford who said of the book that it “fitted the facts”.
Ford didn’t stop there. He owned a publishing house at the time and he had an entire series of pamphlets printed that took the central ideas of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and translated them for a contemporary American audience. Later, these were collated into a book called The International Jew. Among the chapters are diatribes blaming the Jews for the degradation of American baseball, for jazz music, for bootlegging and pretty much everything else that the author didn’t like about the state of American society at the time.
The International Jew: The World’s Problem was subsequently translated into many languages and none other than Hitler owned a copy. Hitler was an admirer of Ford. He had a picture of Ford up in his office. The world’s best-known capitalist at the time and the world’s best-known fascist were both in agreement that the conspiracy theory of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an accurate description of reality. History makes strange bedfellows.
One of the other more famous proponents of the book in the US was a guy called Charles Coughlin. Coughlin was a catholic priest who was the original televangelist, although his medium was the cutting edge technology of radio. At its peak of popularity, Coughlin’s radio show was said to reach 30 million people per week, an unbelievable one-third of the population of the United States listened to it. Coughlin was an early supporter of Roosevelt’s New Deal and his main preaching work was done in and around the industrial plants of the mid-west which is exactly where the hardship of the depression was being felt the strongest.
Although his popularity had begun to wane by then, Coughlin was still a respected voice when in the mid-late 30s he began to talk about the ideas from The Protocols and also to express his admiration of Hitler and Mussolini. He was first and foremost a nationalist and had begun to criticise Roosevelt for what he perceived to be the President’s growing internationalism. His criticism got to be such a problem that the Roosevelt administration organised to have Coughlin’s radio show canned and then his newsletter banned from distribution by the Postmaster General.
There is one other bit of US history at the time that is worth relating. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, which subsequently triggered the German Revolution of 1918-19 where, for a while, it wasn’t clear that Germany wouldn’t also become a communist nation, the US had what became known as the First Red Scare. There were some significant acts of violence at this time including the bombing of Wall Street by anarchists in 1920 that killed 38 people and wounded many more.
The government of Woodrow Wilson responded by, shall we say, “stretching” the constitution in order to jail and deport people suspected of communist or anarchist sympathies. This was the beginning of a long period of increased power placed in the hands of the US executive ostensibly aimed at ensuring “national security” and which still echoes down to the current day every time some politician or government apparatchik talks of keeping us “safe”.
It was during the first Red Scare that a version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published where all references to Jews were swapped out and Bolsheviks put in their place. Instead of an international conspiracy run by Jews being the cause of all the troubles of the world, it was an international conspiracy of communists. From this we can see that the form of the conspiracy theory was the important thing and that you could take that form and adopt it to whichever group you thought needed to be dealt with.
Out of this ideological melting pot, the one thing almost everybody agreed on at this time was that the answer to all problems lay in government action. In Russia, there was the establishment of the Duma and other reforms that Nicholas II instituted but which, ultimately, couldn’t stop the Revolution. As the Roaring 20s boom gave way to the inevitable Great Depression bust, US President Roosevelt took drastic action which changed the role of government in the US with interventionist policy becoming the norm. Hitler used the same economic distress and political chaos to win himself power in Germany. In Lenin, Hitler and Roosevelt you had three charismatic leaders that led the communist, (ostensibly) nationalist and capitalist ideologies respectively. They got there by actively suppressing the competing ideologies in their home country.
These countries then went to war against each other. In the modern world, we tend to assume that it was the ideology itself which determined the result of the war as if this was a Darwinian battle where only the best ideology survived.
Perhaps there is some truth in that. Nevertheless, it’s also true that what was also going on beneath the surface was imperialism. Maybe imperialism always requires an ideology as cover but, as I mentioned in the last post, this was also the era of Total War. Ideology was no longer just sacrificing to the Roman gods every now and then. The anarchists, communists, nationalists and all the others really believed in their ideology and were not aware they were in service to imperialism.
As Hannah Arendt noted, even the Nazis were being cynical in their use of nationalism. Their main concern was imperialism and they simply hopped on the nationalist bandwagon as it suited their purposes. The position of the US is more subtle. Clearly there were people behind the scenes who were thinking imperially but it seems that the US got into the war more by accident. It doesn’t matter much now because what was important was that the US became an empire when it won the war. It also had an ideology. It ended up fitting the same imperialist pattern.
We’ve all been happy to play along during the long period of economic stability that the US empire has given us in the post war years. But, just as it was economic crises that tilted Russia and Germany (and also France) into totalitarian mode, the current economic woes of the empire are tipping us in the same direction.
The covid event was a paradigm example of state terror against not just the citizens of the US but all the rest of us imperial subjects. What was unique was that the terror barely came directly from the organs of state (well, except for Joe Biden wishing the unvaccinated a winter of death) but from the shady networks that characterise the modern “elite”. Again, the FTX scandal is relevant here because it turns out FTX was funding corona propaganda and we now are finding out that the “elites” were actively rigging twitter and other social media in favour of “the narrative”, something that was blindingly obvious but is now being officially confirmed.
The totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia was carried out by the state directly. When the jackbooted thugs kicked down your door in the middle of the night, you knew who they were and where they came from. So, it’s another bit of evidence for the Unconscious Empire that the terror now seems to come out of nowhere. More specifically, the terror is identical with ideology. The terror is the ideology. There are no real gulags or concentration camps, no exoteric markers of totalitarianism. It’s all esoteric now. The battle for empire is now a battle for the mind itself.
All posts in this series:-
Philosopher Kings vs Networks
The Unconscious Empire
The Unconscious Empire Pt 2: The Hitler Complex
The Unconscious Empire Pt 3: A Prison for your Mind
The Unconscious Empire Pt 4: Becoming the Other
The Unconscious Empire Final: Benevolent Totalitarianism