Why do we live in such a fucked-up world? Why are decisions so clearly out of the hands of the masses of people? And why do these decisions always run so sharply against the interests of these masses? Why do a few people control enormous amounts of wealth... while many more swim frantically to keep their heads above water... and the vast majority are ground down and chained to a life of misery, no matter what they do? And why are we lied to about all this?
People seek answers to these questions. Urgently. One of the biggest, most widespread answers out there pins all this on a shadowy group called the "Illuminati." This small but virtually all-powerful group, we are told, is bent on world domination. They have supposedly manipulated and rigged every war, every revolution, every economic or political crisis in accord with a master plan for world domination. There are 57 varieties of this explanation to be found on the Internet, differing in this or that detail and degree, but this is the basic framework you get from them all. (See sidebar for the actual history of the Illuminati.)
These "Illuminati theorists" focus a great deal on manipulation of the banking system. They do not really talk about any problems with the capitalist system apart from that. Almost all of them are either openly or just-below-the-surface anti-Semitic—that is, they focus people's hatred against what they portray as a cabal of Jewish financial families. They do not talk about the capitalist class as a whole. They string together a lot of facts, pseudo-facts, and lies that they claim to be grounded in deep research—while in reality, these are marshaled to serve a thoroughly unscientific and, indeed, anti-scientific theory. Many connect this to the biblical Book of Revelations, with its lurid visions of apocalypse and mumbo-jumbo talk of Antichrists, to say that this is Satan's plan; and there are other equally mystical and anti-rational theories advanced in other variants of the theory.
There is only one word to describe these theories: wrong. Actually, there's another word, too: poisonous. Totally poisonous. These Illuminati theorists point to the wrong problem and the wrong solution. To them, the problem is not capitalism; it is a small group of people who are supposedly controlling and perverting capitalism. To them, the solution is not revolution; it is returning to the "purity" of capitalism (a "purity" which never existed and never can exist and wouldn't be any good even if it could!). In actual fact, these theories have served as the foundations for reactionary, fascist, and racist movements for over a century.
These theories are not "a little bit right." Yes, they take advantage of people's correct sense that the answers to the questions we started this article with are hidden. But that's just the point—they "take advantage." They exploit the sense that people have of being lied to and use that to train people in reactionary, backward thinking and mislead them into acting against their own interests. They are no more neutral or harmless than a quack doctor who gives you arsenic for a highly contagious, fatal disease.
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