There is a plethora of conspiracy theories, and they have one thing in common: they reinforce worries and fears and convey a sense of complete disempowerment. Quite a few are based on observations that are indeed legitimate causes for concern, but the presentation is often one-sided, poorly sourced or not sourced at all, and also full of old clichés (“all rich people are evil,” “all politicians are evil”). This article looks at the potential of conspiracy theories to do the opposite of what their messages actually seem to convey.
By Fred Hageneder
Conspiracy theories vs. conspiracy practices
In July 2021, The Guardian published an opinion piece by Edward Snowden in which he warns of the crucial difference between conspiracy theories and conspiracy practices. He points out that “the biggest conspiracies are overt and notorious – not theories, but practices expressed in laws and policies, technology and finance.” *(1)
These conspiracy practices, such as greenwashing, election rigging, the debt industry or the construction of a global mass surveillance system (in which Snowden was involved and became a whistleblower) are usually not kept quiet and are readily covered by the media. Interestingly, they are also almost always overshadowed by conspiracy theories that spread narratives that are demonstrably false.
Snowdon concludes that conspiracy theories are attractive to many people because they help them deal with a reality that is too difficult to manage: “We talk about conspiracy theories to avoid talking about conspiracy practices, which are often too daunting, too threatening, too total.” And this is not pejorative towards “many people,” because whole governments fall for the same technique to avoid overwhelming problems by focusing on smaller problems, distracting from the burning issues, or finding scapegoats.
The question is: do some players, especially the fossil fuel and extractive industries, profit from the spread of conspiracy theories? Does the consumption of such rumours and the resulting sense of fear, powerlessness and confusion prevent people from seeking and acting on creative ways to address social injustice and ecological collapse?
Elsewhere I have examined the role Big Oil plays in orchestrating anti-elite movements (Part 7) and how the think tanks of the Far Right produce and mass disseminate conspiracy theories for the benefit of their billionaire fossil fuel donors (Part 8).
The fact is that the consumerist industrial society has now stretched the limits of the planetary boundaries (or Earth’s carrying capacity) to its limits. The energy and “resource hunger” of the European lifestyle require two planets to continue where there is only one. Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. We must understand this and act together, all of humanity. This is why ecologists and humanists urgently call for “systemic change.”
But many of the biggest players – also known as the 1% or the 0.01% – are still profiting from humanity’s current self-destructive course and therefore stubbornly resist systemic change. It is to their advantage when incidents, trends, fake news or conspiracy theories divide people and distract them from the real tasks – especially the task to unite humanity and bring it into harmony with nature. It even benefits the 0.01% when a conspiracy theory directly attacks them, particularly if they are stupid and over the top. Any form of division, intolerance, hatred or confusion among the public keeps society from systemic change and continues to guarantee gigantic profit margins for the wealthy.
Conspiracy theories about a secret world government in the making or already in operation, which wants to disenfranchise and disempower all humans, enslave them or replace them with robots, have existed in ever new variations for decades. But with the start of the corona Lockdowns in 2020, their prevalence exploded. The stories themselves are old, only the cast has changed: Currently, Lord Voldemort’s throne is prominently occupied by Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab.
But why should the world’s most famous billionaire, Bill Gates, and Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum (WEF) represent the epicentre of all “evil”? While I am not in a position to vouch that they have no evil plans up their sleeves, most current conspiracy theories are just so uninformed, full of hasty, predictable conclusions and ignorant of history and facts. But by fuelling fear and division, conspiracy theories often work in favour of those they (seem to) accuse – remember the fossil fuel industry’s strategies of Distraction and Deflection (described in Part 2).
Rumour has it that Bill Gates is a secret supporter of eugenics and therefore intends, with the help of the genetic vaccines he co-finances and in collaboration with the WEF, to wipe out most of humanity so that the superior elites (the rich) can have the planet to themselves. May we pause for a moment and wonder what fun it would be at the top of the social pyramid when the entire construct is gone? And why commit genocide in the Western world when Russia and China don’t even use the same genetically modified substances and Africa can’t afford them? While the Western economic bloc would be reduced to a few hundred capitalists in their ivory bunkers, Russia and China would remain strong and be given final dominance over Western hypercapitalism. Really?
The fact that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become the largest donor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is another matter that arouses worldwide suspicion – and rightly so. True, as a specialised agency of the UN, the WHO should never have become so dependent. But should we, therefore, lose all confidence in the UN as a whole? The UN – which is also known in the rumour mill as a haven of “evil” (see Part 8) – is a huge entity, and one should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Many people also confuse the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with the UN, but the WTO is not part of the UN system at all. (And its headquarters, like that of the stumbling WHO, is in Geneva, while the UN is based in New York.)
And then there was “Event 201.” Yes, in autumn 2019, just before Covid-19 appeared on the world stage, a meeting organised by the Gates Foundation, the WEF and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security focused with strange certainty on how the world economy would fare in a global corona pandemic. However, it was hardly a secret conspiracy to be revealed; all the documentation is freely available on the organiser’s website. *(2) Nor was it the first event of its kind.
It is a fact that “the increasing poisoning of the earth […] also increases the likelihood of pandemics.” *(3) Global contamination of the ecosphere takes a heavy toll on human health too: one in six deaths worldwide is now attributed to pollution *(4) and the immune system of all humans (like that of all living organisms) is under severe stress. It is therefore justified that various health organisations are concerned about the future of humanity.
And of course, the business world wants to be prepared too (however, Event 201 shamelessly prioritised financial over any medical considerations). But generally, nothing is wrong with preparing for emergencies and crises. Every country repeatedly conducts various crisis drills. Do you accuse your local fire brigade of arson just because the firefighters were mysteriously prepared when they came to do their job?
At least the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation openly declares its donations. *(5) This is the opposite of the Koch brothers’ elaborate Far Right network (see Parts 6 and 7) and their dark money maze. The world would actually be helped if conspiracy buffs spent their energy researching where the de-democratisation of our over-globalised world is really being planned. Compared to the Koch brothers, Gates seems more like the sunny boy put on stage to distract from the real dark brotherhoods.
But Bill Gates is not exactly a ray of sunshine either. He is the driving force behind “One Agriculture” (Gates Ag One), *(6) a mega-project to drive millions of small farmers in Southeast Asia and Africa into dependence on fossil fuel-based agriculture and (expensive) patented seeds and petrochemicals from Monsanto and other petrochemical giants. Although his “Green Revolution” has already failed catastrophically in India *(7) and in Africa *(8), Bill Gates is undeterred in pursuing this path of “new agrarian imperialism,” as activist Vandana Shiva calls it. (Shiva 2018)
Gates’ One Agriculture push ignores the research findings of all UN agencies and other studies, but he has invested heavily in biopiracy by Monsanto and others. *(9) Stealing seeds from domestic farmers, patenting them and selling them back to farmers is what he calls “innovation.” Moreover, globalised genome mapping requires software, and this is where Microsoft comes in. And just like patenting seeds criminalises farmers by making seed collection illegal, another step into the age of digitalisation is taking place: the gradual abolition (demonetisation) of cash will help the right-wing libertarian billionaires (the 1%) destroy local economies and make people even poorer. Demonetisation is another Bill Gates-backed programme. *(10)
AG One is based on an older Gates project, “One Agriculture One Science,” which essentially means that “one research and one knowledge” should be imposed on everyone. Vandana Shiva points out that this is an imperialist attack on biological, intellectual and economic diversity. It would further erode the ecological foundations of agriculture and leave global food security at the mercy of large corporations and globalised “free” markets (a system that, as the Ukraine war has shown, no longer works at all). It is an agenda aimed at robbing the world’s seeds, undermining biodiversity and international laws, and imposing mass surveillance.
Bill Gates is also funding the new “smarter education” system (telelearning, no more classrooms and social interaction for children). *(11) And “Big History” where children are to be taught a certain (capitalist) view of the world. *(12) “One Science” for the equalisation of all subjects.
Gates, however, is not the first to preach a singular, almost “monotheistic” view of reality. Western science has been burdened with this kind of arrogance since René Descartes and the “Age of Enlightenment.” But, as Vandana Shiva sums up, Bill Gates is the first person in history to spend billions of dollars to impose his views on the rest of humanity. Undoubtedly, for a single individual, Gates has a disproportionate influence on economic, agricultural and health policies worldwide *(13) and plays an enormous “role in destroying self-organisation in nature and society to construct monopolies through domination, conquest, invasion and dictatorship through the tools he owns and controls.” (Shiva, p.83)
And since almost everything goes back to Big Oil, the fingers of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are also deep in black gold: at least $1.4 billion has been invested by the Gates Foundation in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies (though it has begun to divest from fossil fuels in recent years). *(14) How does this fit with a charity that invests so heavily in health, with its huge holdings in the World Health Organisation and pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, when fossil fuel emissions are the main cause of air pollution and respiratory diseases (among many others)?
Pfizer and Big Oil
Not only do billionaires such as Bill Gates invest in fossil fuels and in health. Big pharma corporations, for example, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, are also frequently found on the donors’ lists to the climate change-denying think tanks of the Far Right media network. Most of all, Pfizer is particularly loyal to the Heartland Institute, the ground zero of the climate change denial machine (see Part 7). Why on Earth would a pharmaceutical company dedicated to public health invest heavily in fossil fuels and climate change denial? *(15)
It has been estimated that air pollution causes 8.8m deaths across the world, every year. (Smoking causes an additional 7m premature deaths annually.) *(16) Half of the 8 million is due to insufficient ventilation with indoor heating and cooking, but the other half is the effect of fossil emissions from traffic and industry.
That means that the number of deaths from fossil air pollution alone is more than double the official WHO figure for deaths with Covid-19 in 2020 – and that annually. *(17) Worldwide, air pollution causes 120 extra deaths in every 100,000 people per year, with deaths in parts of Europe at an even higher rate of up to 200 in 100,000 (compare that with corona ‘incidence’ rates).
Fossil fuel emissions don’t just produce CO2 but also particulates and toxins that infiltrate airways and cause serious respiratory problems. *(18) Pfizer happens to manufacture drugs to treat respiratory diseases. They will keep selling as long as climate inaction keeps Big Oil alive. The Heartland Institute (like other Far Right libertarian think tanks) also fights against smoking bans. And Pfizer happens to produce drugs to help stop tobacco/nicotine addiction.
Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Pharma are a triangle.
Some of the same lawyers even represent both Big Tobacco and Big Oil. *(19) Perhaps pharmaceutical corporations seemed to lag behind in the past, but Covid-19 has changed that. In 2021, Pfizer made nearly $37bn (£27bn) in sales from its Covid-19 vaccine. *(20) That is more than the profit of BP ($12.8bn = £9.4bn) and Shell ($19.3bn) together. *(21) Add to this the €10.3bn made in pre-tax profits (in the first three quarters of 2021) by Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech, and we’re in the lofty profit regions of Exxon, the largest fossil giant in the world. *(22)
Admittedly, the last comparison ignores that the Pfizer figure is sales, not profits. But as everybody knows by now, their profit margin is astronomical. It costs Pfizer just 76p to manufacture a Covid-19 shot but despite the secrecy clause *(23) in the Pfizer contracts with governments, it was leaked that the product was being sold for £22 a dose to the UK government. Pfizer has charged the UK’s National Health System (NHS) an estimated £2.8bn above production cost. No one less than a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accused the firm of “war profiteering.” Others have accused Pfizer of “vaccine apartheid” because of the company’s reluctance to share its patented formula with poorer countries. We should have been warned: already in 2009, Pfizer was caught out on a mega drug scam for which it was sentenced to the biggest criminal fine in US history. *(24)
But how did Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum make it to the top of the conspiracy theories? More on this in Part 10, my last chapter on the Deception strategies of the 1% – and the only way out we seem to have left.
The fight to take back our planet
Part 1: The fossil fuel industry’s mind-bending strategies
Part 2: The fossil fuel industry’s mind-bending strategies (continued)
Part 3: An urgent warning about “Net Zero 2050”
Part 4: Dirty Oil: It’s not just about carbon!
Part 5: Fossil giants, free trade, and war
Part 6: How the Far Right network rules (not just) the climate debate
Part 7: The shocking extent of the Far Right influence network
Part 8: Climate crisis, corona and conspiracy theories
Part 9: How conspiracy theories only serve one master
Part 10: The “Great Reset” and totalitarianism vs the real green revolution
Literature: Vandana Shiva & Kartikey Shiva 2018. Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom. Women Unlimited, New Delhi 2018.