In the aftermath of the devastation in Paris it took no time at all for new conspiracy theories to emerge.
The “false flag” theory is a popular one, and has been wheeled out increasingly in response to acts of terror since it first gained popularity within the 9/11 conspiracy movement. “False flag” refers to the idea that terrorist attacks are actually covertly orchestrated by the government or axis of power which claims to be the victim of them.
The alleged motive is often to provide a pretext for going to war or curtailing civil liberties. Unlike most conspiracy theories, “false flag” events do have some limited evidential basis, but not in recent history.
“False flag” conspiracy theories have been promoted by state propaganda outlets such as Russia Today and Iran’s Press TV in order to cast suspicion on Western hegemony, but mainly they find traction online by means of a vast array of shadowy websites. Furthermore, like a lot of conspiracy theories they are tinted, if not saturated, with anti-semitism. Regularly, the idea is presented of an all omnipotent global power, accompanied by references to “Zionists” or Israel, echoing the more traditionally anti-Semitic “Jews run the world” mythology, a narrative used by fascists to justify the extermination of Jews during some parts of the 20th century.
Typing “false flag Paris” into Google yields a deluge of results claiming the events were not as reported and the real culprits were Zionists, Israel or Freemasons. Even further “out there” is the ridiculous idea that the events were a complete hoax, and no-one actually died. Some suggest that it was planned in order to provide a pretext for Nato to bomb or invade Syria or the Middle East, and victimise Muslim populations. Elsewhere, arch conspiracy theorist (and fundamentally right-wing) internet radio host Alex Jones lays claim to a softer version — that Paris was “spillover”‘ and Obama has blood on his hands for funding and “creating” ISIS so that he can use the crisis to repress freedoms in America.
Basically, these similar conspiracy theories are being adapted and fitted to serve a variety of political agendas, from anti-immigrant right-wing “libertarianism”; to left-sounding anti-American, “anti-imperialist”‘ Arab nationalism; and much in between. It is mostly versions of the latter which are found in our everyday politics. Crude, supposedly left-wing theories of imperialism characterise America and the West as the world’s ultimate nemesis, with monolithic control over world events, and thus remove all political agency from other actors, states and political movements — including the working class.
Such a schema writes out the capacity of the masses to shape our own destiny. It is not hard to see how leaps can be made from this world-view towards things like “false flag” conspiracies — both present a world order in which the only relevant agencies who shape anything are the ruling elites. As socialists, we can see the falsity and toxicity of such a world-view. We fight for the working class to independently assert itself against capitalist rulers on all sides of the world. We see that society is shaped by our class’s ability to organise and challenge capitalist power through the labour movement and through raising the consciousness of the masses towards active resistance of the exploitative class system under which we live. Conspiracy theories pollute and distort the understanding we need to change the world.