Conspiracy Theories and Anti-Semitism

By Lily Bourne

The Illuminati, 9/11, and the AIDS epidemic; all of them have had extreme cultural effects on America, and have amassed many conspiracy theories surrounding them. But what is the common thread behind all of these conspiracies, and many others not mentioned? Jewish people. 

Jewish people have been the scapegoat for the world’s fears for thousands of years, dating back to early Christianity. In early history, Jews were accused of using Christian babies’ blood for their matzah – referred to as blood libels –  and attempting to control the world. 

As cultures modernized, so  did these harmful stories. In 1997, a Palestinian official accused Israel of infecting Palestinian children with HIV in an attempt to kill them. This was not a particularly surprising accusation. Israelis were also accused of spreading mad cow disease through British chocolates, orchestrating the Chechen school attack in 2004, kidnapping children after a tsunami, and killing Arab children to get their organs, among other things. It is also very important to understand that these accusations are coming from high-level officials, even in the United States, not just random people on the internet. 

The most well-known, and possibly most dangerous, anti-semitic stereotype stems from a real Jewish man named Mayer Amschel Rothschild. He, along with his sons, constructed a banking house in Frankfurt, Germany. By giving loans to the French and British governments, the Rothschilds accumulated mass amounts of money quickly. This was met immediately with anti-semitism, which has run rampant to this day. Often now, conspiracy theorists reference the Illuminati, or a group of elite people (Jews) running global financial institutions behind the scenes. These theories, while on the surface do not seem too harmful, allow essentially anything to be blamed on Jewish people, since in theory, they are running everything.

Another major component of anti-semitism traced through conspiracy theories is the fact that it is very hard to fight against these sentiments. As an example, Kanye West recently tweeted out that he was going to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE”, as part of his social media outburst, as well as stating that “we’ve got to stop dissing the Nazis all of the time”. Clearly, many were offended by these comments, but herein lies the problem. Any attempt to deplatform Kanye or to remove the offensive statements would just fuel the conspiracies more, serving as examples of the Jews “controlling everything”. Thus, the conspiracy fulfills itself, and cannot be disproven, especially not to followers deep into anti-semetic rabbit holes. 

Now, this is not to say that all conspiracy theories are anti-semetic, just that many often unfold this way. What seems like a harmless almost-joke is oftentimes easily traced back to Rothschild or the blood libels of early Christianity. Social media apps like Twitter allow users to quickly fall down the rabbit hole of anti-semitism with gateway conspiracies like 9/11 being orchestrated, the assassination of John F. Kennedy , and the Illuminati quickly leading to dangerous ideas of the Mossad (kind of like Israel’s CIA) being behind everything, Jewish people faking the Holocaust, and even worse. As consumers of media, it is important to understand the context of these popular conspiracy theories, and to look out for certain dog whistles – messaging, almost like code, which has a deeper meaning for certain political or ideological groups – that can reveal anti-semitism within otherwise harmless theories.