I have a problem with conspiracy theorists. I find their view of the world to be completely wrapped and distorted. The reason that I am writing this post is that Egypt now seems to be rifle with conspiracy theories.
From the people who are endowing the military and police with almost omniscient and omnipresent powers, to the various forms of xenophobia twisted to imply foreign intervention in Egypt, conspiracy theories have become the norm.
Like all “good” conspiracy theories, most of the conspiracy theories currently in vogue in Egypt have some roots in reality. For instance, it would be ridiculous to deny that both the police and the military have a vested interest in the way that our current experiment with democracy will turn out. Likewise, it would be ridiculous to claim that they, the police and military, would not try to use their, not inconsiderable, weight in society to influence the outcome in their favour.
Likewise, it would be naïve to deny the fact that foreign powers have vested interests in the events that occur in Egypt. We are a geopolitically important country in a geopolitically important region. What happens in Egypt probably has a significant effect on the national interests of many countries in the world — both large and small.
However, the conspiracy theorists take this common sense view of things to its illogical conclusion. From this basic recognition of the fact that countries and internal forces will try to shape events in their favour, conspiracy theorists try to create a large and complicated mythology that shows that their pet agents — foreign states, the police, the military, or whatever currently strikes their fancy — are behind every single problem in the country.
Their thought process is extremely convoluted and, at times, extremely laughable. Let us use a few illustrative examples to make this point clearer. Let us take the obsession of certain Egyptians with the so-called “deep state” — mainly the police and the military, as far as I can tell.
I have seen many otherwise rational people go through convoluted arguments to prove that every single ill the country has experienced was caused by this so-called deep state. Islamists attack and burn Christian houses of worship and property? Easy, that is the fault of the deep state.
They ignore the inherently bigoted message of these Islamists, the fact that they had publicly called for this destruction. The fact that their channels, speeches and publications glorify these actions and encourage their followers to engage in them. The fact that their rhetoric has always been directed at dehumanising “the other” — anybody who does not follow their twisted version of reality.
They ignore all that and blame the “deep state”. How so? You may ask. A very good question. Unfortunately, the answer is far from clear. They don’t seem to have a systematic way of explaining this, but their pet theory seems to be that the “deep state” could have stopped all that but chooses not to.
A couple of problems naturally arise with this weird view of things. First, it seems to implicitly exonerate the initial perpetrators. It’s not their fault, it’s the fault of the “deep state”. Even though all their rhetoric leads naturally to this outcome, even though they publicly declare their responsibility for these events, the conspiracy theorists only find issue with the “deep state”. Second, it seems to imply that the “deep state” is omnipotent.
This is just one example. But the conspiracy theorists blame the “deep state” for virtually everything. For the outcomes of elections, for economic malaise, for acts of violence and terrorism (even when they are directed at elements of the so-called “deep state”). Their worldview is fixed, it seems to have taken on the aspects of a religion. When asked to provide evidence for these claims, most have failed, most have no excuse for their “theories” other than “the outcome benefits the deep state”. Well, the birds benefit from a bag of spilled corn in a public square, but I really doubt that they are the force that caused the spill!
While this form of conspiracy theory is common amongst “anti-establishmet” types, there is another form of conspiracy theory that is common amongst both “establishment” and “anti-establishment” types. I refer, of course, to the “foreign agenda” conspiracy.
In this conspiracy, instead of blaming the “deep state” for everything, foreigners are blamed. It takes many forms, but the basic formula is to claim that foreign powers are plotting with your political opponents to bring about the downfall of the country.
So the Islamists would claim that foreign countries are conspiring with the “deep state” to destroy Egypt — they usually add religion as an element to rouse up the rabble. While the “deep state” usually claims that foreign countries are conspiring with the Islamists to destroy Egypt.
In most cases these claims are unsubstantiated. They are usually “backed up” with tales of spies. Several animals and birds have been caught in Egypt and “accused” of spying. I kid you not. Swans, hawks, and sharks have all been accused by Egyptian media and government of being foreign agents. It appears that the US and Israel, the usual suspects when it comes to blaming someone for all this spying, have recruited Dr Dolittle in their respective espionage agencies.
Another favourite “proof” of the conspiracy theorists engaging in this game is “revealing” documents that show members of the opposition, naturally, as recipients of vast sums of money from foreign countries. These documents are rarely subjected to any form of authentication procedure, their authenticity is taken for granted. They are of course authentic, and if you don’t agree you’re an unpatriotic citizen (with possible links to foreign spy agencies!).
All these conspiracy theorists seem to have decided to give up on the use of logic, and probably wouldn’t know an Occam’s razor if it hit them in the face. Unfortunately, the majority of Egyptians seem to think that way. Eh, c’est la vie.