I believe that we are in very significant generational (and perhaps ethnocultural) divide among people. Do persons today put more trust or credence in academic books by credentialed experts holding a Ph.D. from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago, Stanford, etc., or by flashy videos they view on the Internet put together by amateur whomevers? Sadly I believe it is the later. This is not a new dilemma. Court historians such as Richard Hofstadter long ago bemoaned The Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, and The Paranoid Style in American Politics, as excuses to attack populist dissatisfaction and distrust of elite rule and domination of American culture.
But today’s situation is different and more widespread. What has prompted this observation is how so many of my high school students (particularly black females) now firmly believe in the existence of a modern-day Illuminati conspiracy which has taken over the entertainment industry (particularly involving recording artists such as Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Rihanna, etc., who in classic Faustian terms have sold their souls to the devil for fame, fortune, sex, and power). They believe that these evil satanic Illuminati (primarily composed of the top tier of Rap artists and their elite controllers) were responsible for the deaths of pop icon Michael Jackson, rapper Tupac Shakur, and a seemingly endless parade of victims. Nothing will dissuade them from these dogmatic beliefs they saw in videos on the World Wide Web. Videos, not books, form the new post-literate reality.
For forty years I have been fascinated with how such Illuminati scare stories have cropped up in American history since the beginning of the republic, and have been repeatedly used to manipulate the masses.
In recent decades there has been a thriving cottage industry concerning the Illuminati in American popular culture.
I have attempted to relate to my students that once upon a time a secret society named the Order of the Illuminati was indeed founded on May 1, 1776, by a former professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, Bavaria named Adam Weishaupt. This clandestine organization existed for a number of years and had an elite membership of significant and influential persons throughout Europe who acted covertly in furtherance of the goals and objectives of this group. Using primary source documents, careful and diligent scholars have documented who those specific members were and what the goals entailed. But the organization went out of formal existence. No successful scholar has been able to authentically document the continuation of the organization by overt or covert means to the present day.
But what about Nesta Webster, some persons will say?
Webster was an amateur historian of occult/political secret societies in the early part of the 20th century. Her published works were reviewed in many prominent newspapers and magazines, both favorable and unfavorable.
She came from a very privileged British background and was married to a high ranking police official.
She wrote numerous works, both fiction and non-fiction.
Her richly detailed and seemingly authoritative books, reflecting the widespread shock and reaction to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, were influential in elite governmental circles both in Great Britain and America, particularly those of military intelligence.
She believed that Western European Christian civilization was under attack by a 2,000 year old conspiracy. Over the course of these centuries these enemies have taken many forms, both above ground and underground. These enemies were behind the both the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. They were behind Continental Freemasonry (the Grand Orient) and the Illuminati.
Webster believed that behind these enemies for those two thousand years (and the source of their ultimate strength and power) were the Jews.
Nesta Webster was a Fascist.
This is not an ad hominem smear or slur against her. In the 1920s she joined the British Fascists Ltd., and served on its Grand Council. She wrote pamphlets and lectured for this organization.
In the late 1930s she continued to write articles whitewashing the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler, defending the Nazis’ policies directed against the Jews. Even after Hitler had invaded Poland in 1939 and Great Britain had declared war, Webster defended him as a man of peace.
For forty years I have been greatly interested in the historical subject matters upon which Nesta Webster wrote.
My assessment is that powerful and influential conspiracies have existed throughout history. They still exist and are trying to shape and mold public opinion and institute elite oligarchical rule throughout the world. That is the essential modus operandi and substance of State rule from the time of ancient Sumer.
Many of these conspiracies have indeed been occult or pseudo-religious in nature but I do not believe that the central, decisive, over-arching power brokers or impetus behind these efforts has been the Jews, the so-called Synagogue of Satan, in their many guises or manifestations, real or imagined.
With this particular conclusion, put forth by innumerable disparate authors such as Nesta Webster, William Guy Carr, Myron Fagan, Pat Robertson, Eustace Mullins, Tony Brown, or Rabbi Marvin S. Antelman, I heartedly disagree because there is a paucity of objective evidence and documentation for this anti-Semitic belief which is indistinguishable from prejudicial, preconceived skewing of the research.
And now this latest anti-Illuminati Hip-hop hysteria is enthralling a new generation of gullible kids.
8:28 pm on February 11, 2012 Email Charles Burris