Conspiracy in the Dialectic of Enlightenment

With the fall of twentieth-century totalitarianisms, students of conspiracy theories developed a prognosis according to which belief in such theories would gradually lose its political importance and be fed upon only at the margins of discourse. That optimistic vision was, however, brutally checked by the early years of the twenty-first century. In reaction to important and tragic events, from the attacks of September 11, 2001 to the current refugee crisis, successive conspiracy narratives have only multiplied; according to reliable research, four million Americans believe that the world is ruled by Lizard People, reptiles from space. The White House is forced to issue a public assurance that it is not planning to invade Texas, France has introduced special courses in schools to combat the growing belief in conspiracies among pupils, and pro-Putin propaganda is working full steam to advance conspiracy narratives in the realm of public opinion, exposing alleged perfidy on the part of the West. In Poland, too, the conspiracy-centred mentality is thriving, although– in keeping with the traditional national imagination – the role of the villain is played here not by space lizards but by Jews, Russians, and Germans, to whose company Muslims have also been recently added. Two years ago, the Polish Minister of the Environment, before assuming his post, addressed a question to the Prime Minister about the possible advisability of producing chemtrails – smog left in the sky by planes, believed by adherents of conspiracy theories to contain specific chemicals that cause impotence and serve the purpose of artificial population control.