New York City activist

October 12, 2007

The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati

In both the antiwar movement and the 9/11 Truth movement here in New York City, I’ve often run into people talking about “the Illuminati.” In the antiwar movement, I haven’t yet run into this in any official statements by any leaders or groups, but I’ve run into it a lot in informal conversation at anti-war rallies and at informal gatherings in restaurants after meetings. In the 9/11 Truth movement, on the other hand, a few of the major leaders and groups officially promulgate an ideology which has no official name, but which I will refer to as anti-Illuminism.

Anti-Illuminism is sometimes referred to, by its opponents, as “Illuminati conspiracy theory,” a term I don’t like because of the frequent propagandistic use of the term “conspiracy theory” to lump together truly wacky conspiratorial claims, such as Henry Ford’s The International Jew and David Icke’s claims about the Queen of England being an alien lizard, together with more reasonable theories about possible government wrongdoing, thereby discrediting the more realistic theories.

So, I’ve chosen instead to resurrect the late-1700’s word “anti-Illuminism.” (For some history of that word, see the Amazon customer review of The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790 1977 by Seymour Martin Lipset; Conspiracy Nation‘s review of Architects of Fear by eorge Johnson, reviewed by Brian Francis Redman; this page of Constructing Postmodernism by Brian McHale; and The Anti-democratic Movement by Paul de Armond.)

Based on what I’ve looked at so far, I’ve not yet found any good evidence that the Illuminati still exist, let alone that they secretly control the world. Most of the “evidence” I’ve seen so far has revolved mainly around various organizations’ use of particular symbols, as if the different groups couldn’t just be stealing ideas from each other, or perhaps using the same symbols to mean different things.

I also have big problems with many of the political beliefs and aims that typically accompany – and follow naturally from – belief in “the Illuminati.”

I do agree with a few basic political observations by the anti-Illuminists. To almost any grassroots political activist of almost any stripe, it is evident that the world is dominated, or at least very disproportionately influenced, by cliques of very rich people who gather sometimes formally (e.g. at the Bilderberg conference and at off-the-record meetings of the Council on Foreign Relations) and sometimes informally (e.g. at the Bohemian Grove) and make important world-shaping decisions behind the backs of the rest of us. And of course these ultra-rich folks are going to use their influence to hold on to their power and grab even more power.

I don’t believe that they control or micromanage all of society to the extent that some people believe they do. Nor are they united in all their aims. I also think that some of the fears some people have about them are probably overblown, e.g. I’m suspicious of claims that the elite folks have a secret plan to kill off 80% of the world’s population, and I’m not inclined to believe claims about human sacrifice or secret torture chambers in places like the Bohemian Grove. (To me, the “cremation of care” ceremony is most likely just a dramatic way of saying, “we’re here to party, not to talk about anything serious.”) And I think some people focus too much on “bankers” as the root of all evil, rather than on the concentration of wealth, of other kinds too, in the hands of relatively few people.

But the ruling class folks clearly do have vastly disproportionate political clout. And there is indeed reason to be concerned that they may at some point strip away our democratic rights, if the rest of us let them. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

However, it’s quite another matter to claim that the powerful cliques of ultra-rich folks are, in turn, secretly controlled by “the Illuminati.” The latter notion, and a bunch of other ideas that typically accompany it, are what I call anti-Illuminism. It is basically a recycling of a late 1700’s near-equivalent of anti-Communism. Anti-Illuminists typically warn us against an alleged forthcoming dystopia, the “New World Order.”

To me, anti-Illuminism is utterly appalling. Anti-Illuminism is like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, and the medieval anti-Jewish blood libel, all rolled into one, except that, instead of Jews, it blames “Satanists,” “occultists,” Pagans, atheists, Freemasons, and, in many cases, people of just about any religion except the writer’s own religion, whatever that might be. (Most anti-Illuminists are either Protestant evangelical Christians or traditionalist Catholics. But some anti-Illuminists, amazingly enough, are militant atheists, and some are even occultists or New Agers.)

Some variants of anti-Illuminism do hate Jews too and advocate many of the classic Jew-hating myths, whereas other anti-Illuminists make a big to-do about Nazi occultism. In either case, anti-Illuminism and anti-Jew bigotry have a lot of common themes and have influenced each other’s development over the past two centuries.

The Bavarian Illuminati were a secretive group of religiously nonmainstream folks, including atheists, deists, and occultists. Back in the mid-to-late 1770’s, religiously nonmainstream folks had to be secretive, because, in many parts of Europe, they still faced persecution, despite the overall trend toward “Enlightenment.” For more information, see The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The Illuminati by Conrad Goeringer, a writer whom I’m inclined to trust, and who is also cited by many anti-Illuminists online. See also A Bavarian Illuminati primer by Trevor W. McKeown and the Anti-Masonry FAQ on the website of the Masonic Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.

Most historians do not believe that the Illuminati still exist as an organization. Anti-Illuminists believe that the Illuminati not only still exist but secretly control the world, toward nefarious ends, and that they regularly perform human sacrifices and other disgusting rituals.

The real Bavarian Illuminati, and various continental Masonic groups after them, stood for principles which many people today, including myself, accept as foundational to modern civilization, such as the separation of church and state.

A successful anti-Illuminist movement, therefore, would be a throwback to the West’s era of bloody religious intolerance. Although Alex Jones downplays this aspect of anti-Illuminism, the vast majority of the anti-Illuminist writers I’ve seen on the web do preach fierce religious bigotry of one kind or another. No wonder the We Are Change message board is littered with sectarian religious preaching, which the board administrators don’t seem to mind at all and in some cases even endorse (e.g. a claim that the 9/11 attacks were a “Wiccan” human sacrifice). And no wonder some of the We Are Change folks thought they could discredit Les Jamieson by pointing to his adherence to the Urantia religion.

Such religious bigotry can be extremely deleterious to the 9/11 Truth movement. For example, the anti-Catholic sectarian preaching on the We Are Change message board has the potential to alienate a great many of New York’s cops and firefighters. (For more about this, see my earlier essay The 9/11 Truth movement needs a more visible, better organized left wing!)

Furthermore, although Alex Jones defends the U.S. Constitution (and has done a good job of exposing many violations of constitutional rights), many other anti-Illuminist writers implicitly attack the Constitution. As they endlessly point out, at least some of the U.S. founding fathers were Freemasons. The Great Seal of the U.S. is often vilified as an “occult” symbol, not to mention the 50 pentagrams on the American flag. And the U.S. Constitution does not mention God. Such gripes suggest a desire to return to medieval-style Christian theocracy – or perhaps Reformation-era Genevan-style theocracy, if one happens to be Protestant. Occasionally this desire is explicitly stated.

The vast majority of anti-Illuminist websites are very much a part of the religious right wing. As such, they hate feminists, who are alleged to be part of the dreaded “New World Order.” Ditto for gays. Both feminism and the gay rights movement are alleged to be elite conspiracies rather than the grassroots movements that they in fact are, at least for the most part (though they, like many other grassroots movements, have been to some extent coopted by the mass media and corporate interests).

Anti-Illuminism is, in my opinion, one of the U.S.A.’s more popular near-equivalents of Nazi ideology. Certainly it is much more popular, here in the U.S.A., than neo-Nazism itself.

There hasn’t yet been an anti-Illuminist equivalent of the Nazi holocaust. However, in 1980 to 1995, there was the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare, in which hundreds of probably-innocent people were accused and even convicted (on very flimsy grounds) of the most horrendous crimes against children, and thousands of elderly parents were abandoned by their adult children thanks to the “recovered memory” therapy fad (which, many psychologists and psychotherapists now believe, led to the creation of false memories). Highly improbable “SRA” accusations still flare up now and then, and are endorsed wholeheartedly by the anti-Illuminist crowd.

During most of the 20th century, as far as I am aware, anti-Illuminism was confined to small fringe political groups such as the followers of Lyndon Larouche. But it now seems to be growing, and it seems to have taken root within more popular political movements such as the anti-war movement.

Anti-Illuminism seems to pervade the 9/11 Truth movement, at least here in New York. We Are Change is dedicated to the anti-Illuminist ideology of Alex Jones. And it is easy to see how We Are Change incubated in New York 9/11 Truth, whose goals and outreach are more single-mindedly focused on 9/11 issues, but whose group culture seems to be informally pervaded by anti-Illuminism. Even TruthMove, a left-leaning group which is sharply critical of the right wing tendencies of We Are Change, and which has griped endlessly about the anti-Jew bigotry they’ve found in some of the literature on the table at Sunday night meetings of New York 9/11 Truth, nevertheless seems to have endorsed some Satanic panic. (See Bush Gives Horned Hand Sign During 9/11 Moment of Silence. Zooming in on Bush’s hand in the photo, it’s NOT even a horned hand sign! But the topic number in the URL was just 6 short of 666…. Oh, well….)

To me, the recent growth of anti-Illuminism seems like an extremely dangerous trend.

And it seems to me that an anti-Illuminist victory would only help the ruling class to consolidate its power even more, as did Nazism in Germany. After all, most (though not all) anti-Illuminists also oppose progressive income taxes and estate taxes. Thus they oppose the only reasonable means of countering the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. And, of course, religious bigotry doesn’t exactly help make the world a better place. Thus, it serves the interests of the ruling class for the 9/11 Truth and anti-war movements to be dominated by anti-Illuminism.

(P.S., 10/17/2007: I just now noticed a link to this page on the following page at 911blogger: Corruption of the 9/11 Truth and Justice Movement. The author, doughnut, refers to anti-Illuminism as the “New World Order Movement.” My site is mentioned and linked in a comment posted by Victronix. This in turn has now been noted by Nico Haupt.)

P.S., 11/25/2007: New York 9/11 Truth has turned out not to be as dominated by anti-Illuminism as I had feared. Quite a few of the inner core members have welcomed my perspective.


  1. […] commonplace among activists in both the antiwar and 9/11 Truth movements here in New York. (See The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati.) Another example is the conspiratorial anti-Jew bigotry advocated by a small but vocal minority of […]

    Pingback by Chip Berlet and “Conspiracism” « New York City activist — October 14, 2007 @ 1:46 am | Reply

  2. […] (See also my earlier essay The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati.) […]

    Pingback by More about anti-Illuminism « New York City activist — October 17, 2007 @ 6:18 am | Reply

  3. I would suggest that to some extent these theories reflect an inability to grasp the diffuse nature of capitalist power. This is especially obvious in the now quite respectable ‘dog versus tail’ controversy, i.e., whether ‘Israel controls the USA’ or ‘the USA controls Israel’. The question assumes that national élites stand above the world market’s own rather impulsive dynamics, but they don’t. The market really does produce these effects, without being subtly steered from above. See the work on Nitzan & Bitchler on the relationships between US and Israeli economies:
    and see Naomi Klein, on the Israeli and US ‘homeland security’ industries especially:
    Obviously this is not the whole story, but it is a good illustration of how ignorance breeds superstition.

    Comment by Rowan Berkeley — October 19, 2007 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  4. […] (See my posts The 9/11 Truth movement needs a more visible, better organized left wing! and The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati.) And Brian Salter’s demonization of Urantia, in particular, caught my eye, because, here in […]

    Pingback by Agent-baiting, guilt by association, and religious bigotry « New York City activist — October 27, 2007 @ 7:46 pm | Reply

  5. P.S. regarding TruthMove:

    Last night in the TruthMove forum, “TruthMod” posted a complaint about my remarks about TruthMove here, taking them personally (“pathetic jab at TM”) and saying it was “stupid” for me think he appeared to be endorsing the typical anti-Illuminist worries about “horned hands.” Other than to insult my observation, he didn’t actually clarify his views. Others on the board defended my blog and advised him to cool it. I made the offer that if he would be willing post a clear and non-insulting statement that he does NOT endorse the “Illuminati” conspiracy theory, I would be happy to link to it from here, in a P.S. to the above blog entry. But he chose to delete his complaint thread instead.

    Anyhow, my point here is that that “TruthMod” might not actually endorse anti-Illuminism or Satanic panic, but I don’t have enough information to state what his views actually are, or to explain why he chose to call attention to Bush’s alleged “horned hand” gesture.

    Comment by Diane — November 7, 2007 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  6. (This comment is an edited pingback.)

    […] I see this kind of panic-mongering as extremely dangerous, akin to Nazism. […]

    Pingback by Screw Loose Change - reply to some recent posts « New York City activist — December 19, 2007 @ 4:13 am | Reply

  7. (This comment is an edited pingback.)

    The post linked below contains a link to Jared Israel’s commentary on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    – Diane

    Pingback by To Jared Israel: comments on your “Emperor’s Clothes” site « New York City activist — March 20, 2008 @ 1:33 am | Reply

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