Josh is the main author of Northern Currents. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow me on Twitter at @josh_nc.
It’s no secret that conspiracy theories have skyrocketed in popularity over the last 20 months. We all probably know more than a few people who have gone off the deep end promoting theories of a “New World Order” that is supposedly being imposed upon the otherwise oblivious herds of sheeple.
Global News recently reported that “two in five Canadians (40 percent) considered it “definitely” or “probably true” that “certain significant events have been the result of the activity of a small group that secretly manipulates world events.”
It’s as if covid-conspiracists think that none of us have ever heard of these conspiracies before, as if we all didn’t watch the same things on YouTube back in 2010. It’s all exactly the same. “Do your research!” and “Lookup Blackrock!” they exclaim at you, rather parrot-like, while your eyes roll to the back of your head.
This turn toward alternate, outlandish explanations of current events is simply an attempt to make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic, no doubt. It is infinitely easier to interpret what is going on when it is assumed that someone or some group of people are in control of the entire situation – even if they have nefarious intentions. It is much harder to accept that maybe, no one really is in control. The pandemic requires a collective effort to beat this virus. It is also true that many of these theories align with Conservativism all too neatly.
What strikes me the most about the claims made by this coalition of covid-conspiracists, including anti-vaccine adherents, is just how close some of them are to understanding what is really going on. Some of them are actually on the brink of grasping broader left-wing ideas of class dynamics in society.
Capitalism itself is not a conspiracy, obviously. But under our global capitalist system, there are two prominent classes of people: those that make a living from owning capital (for example land, money, or a business) and those that rent their time in the form of wage labour or a salary.
Conspiracy theorists rightly point out that certain corporations and people have too much wealth and power. They love to play connect the dots: this billionaire owns this company, and this company has ownership of these companies, who are jointly owned by these other billionaires over there. They love to make connections between certain individuals who will hold seats on the board of directors of multiple companies, or that companies will have an ownership stake in multiple other companies.
All these things are true, this is a feature of capitalism. What they miss though, is the collective class interest of these networks of powerful individuals.
Conspiracists will attribute all major world events to a select handful of the wealthy elite. We all know the usual individuals incorporated into these theories: George Soros, the Rockefellers, Hillary Clinton and others, and they can turn anti-semitic really quickly. They miss the point that these individuals are a small – but still powerful – subset of the larger capital-owning class that share the same broad interests.
They see the connections but miss the bigger picture.
This capital-owning class consists of multiple stakeholders: companies, individuals, families, banks and even governments. All of these compete against each other and form coalitions when it proves to be mutually beneficial. What they do share in common is their class interest in neo-liberal policies of:
- Lower minimum wages and minimal worker protections
- Elimination of borders for corporations
- Deregulation, privatization, lower corporate taxes
- Hyper-exploitation of under-developed countries’ resources and people
- Multinational free-trade agreements
Covid-conspiracists will often talk about this “New World Order” as being imposed on us while we are all distracted by Covid-19. Sorry, this is incorrect. The New World Order is already here; we have been living in it the whole time.
This already existing New World Order accelerated its brutal levels of inequality during the 1980s with so-called trickle-down economic policies. It was devised under Ronald Reagan in the USA, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and Brian Mulroney here in Canada, with the help of the wealthy and powerful capital-owners of society.
Is not the fact that we now have billionaires claiming that they will end world hunger with their own private fortunes enough evidence that we live in a New World Order? If our global capitalist system has such massive concentrations of wealth already, surely this meets the criteria?
To any serious Leftist reading this, this won’t come as a shock to you. I have simply described a simplified Marxist class analysis of capitalism, and a potential inroad for conveying these ideas. As stated earlier, Covid-conspiracists see the connections but miss the bigger picture of class society.