“...if they wanted to kill the Jews they wouldn’t have taken them all the way across Europe and put them in a camp and paid for their food and everything.”
This comment was recorded at a meeting of the conspiracy theory group, Keep Talking. They thought they were meeting in secret, but thanks to a joint-project of the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust and the Community Security Trust, we’re able to expose their activities in a new report released today.
The report takes the video captured at Keep Talking meetings over three years and looks deeper into environments where conspiracy theory spread. We find that Keep Talking this small but organised group attracts conspiracy theorists from the UK and abroad and that members are given a platform in public. Worryingly, the report also provides an acute warning that no side of the political spectrum is immune to conspiracy theory thinking.
Keep Talking was co-founded by disgraced academic and Holocaust denier Nicholas Kollerstrom and it meets to discuss conspiracies ranging from Jewish responsibility for 9/11 to US government ‘mind control’.
Many Keep Talking meetings have centred on an alleged Jewish conspiracy of one sort or another: either explicitly, as in the case of Holocaust denial, or implicitly, as in the case of theories outlining Jewish influence as underlying reasons for terror and murder. The video footage worryingly reveals troubling links between racist and non-racist conspiracy theories, and shows how antisemitic conspiracy theories are central in uniting people whose world views otherwise seem to contradict each other. Speakers have included former Labour party activists as well as members of the far-right.
At these meetings, conspiratorial antisemitic ideas allow both those on the left and right to converge under the guise of seeking supposedly hidden truths. But these ideas don’t stay in online forums and fringe meeting groups. This disorientating rejection of the basic notions “truth” and “facts” bleeds into social media, online fake news, propaganda websites and mainstream politics. That is why this report is so important.
It is tempting to dismiss conspiracy theorists as harmless eccentrics, gathering in dingy pubs and online forums to discuss peculiar, but ultimately ineffective, ideas. However, the tendency to mock and to minimise the threat posed by conspiracy beliefs gives them the space to spread, despite the fact that this dangerous mode of propaganda can be used to scapegoat and to justify attacks on particular groups.
In an age in which conspiracy theories continue to flourish, it is only by understanding both the allure and the threats posed by this widespread and persistent form of false belief that we can begin to tackle it in a meaningful way.