Antisemitic conspiracy theories are dangerous
Conspiracy theories are a cornerstone of the internet, with people loving to speculate over things like the moon landing and the Illuminati. However, many of these theories are antisemitic. As the events in Colleyville, Texas shows, antisemitic conspiracy theories can have deadly consequences.
A couple of weeks ago, Malik Faisal Akram held four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville. He held them for about four hours before they were released and he was killed by law enforcement.
This was clearly an act of terror and antisemitism against the Jewish community. Violence against the Jewish community is not uncommon unfortunately as antisemitism is incredibly normalized in the United States.
Weirdly enough, Akram’s violence against this synagogue wasn’t just out of a vague hatred against Jewish people. He had a goal, according to investigators, to have Aafia Siddiqui, a federal prisoner held in Texas, to be released.
Siddiqui was convicted in 2010 of attempting to murder American officials and soldiers in Afghanistan. Siddiqui herself has been known for believing and perpetuating antisemitic conspiracies which may have been the inspiration for Akram.
The fact that Akram went to a synagogue to have Siddiqui released, instead of going to the prison she is held at or a government headquarters, implies Akram was influenced by bigoted conspiracy theories. Akram chose to go to a place with people who have nothing to do with her being in prison.
The idea that Jewish people have the power to do things like in this situation is not new and is not exclusive to this one instance. The idea of Jewish people having this kind of influence stems from an old antisemitic conspiracy theory.
It stems from a book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which was published in the early 1900s. It claims that Jewish people have a conspiracy to run the world, and the leaders of this conspiracy are the Elders of Zion. The publication claims that those who are Jewish control the media, economy and in general, the world.
This conspiracy theory persists but in more subtle ways with House Republican Majorie Taylor Greene implying in a 2018 Facebook post that the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family who are often mentioned in antisemitic conspiracy theories, used space lasers to start forest fires in California.
This instance was still obviously antisemitic but often people perpetuate this conspiracy theory in ways that most people don’t notice. Sometimes people may not even know that they are perpetuating it.
When people talk about how they believe the Illuminati, a secret powerful order, controls the world, the Illuminati idea has been historically used to accuse Jewish people of controlling the world. When people refer to “elites” running the world vaguely, that often stems from the antisemitic Illuminati theory.
Another example is when people talk about lizard people running the government. This also stems from an antisemitic conspiracy perpetuated by conspiracy theorist David Icke who wrote books about alien reptilians drinking blood to maintain power, which stems from the ideas of Jewish people drinking the blood of children.
Again, this may all sound ridiculous but a lot of people believe this stuff. In fact, a 2013 poll found that four percent of Americans believe lizard people control the government.
People who believe or at least humor these ideas may be unknowingly contributing to antisemitism, normalizing these ideas of Jewish people controlling the world.
When these ideas are normalized this encourages people like Akram to buy into these conspiracies and go after Jews to achieve his goals that have nothing to do with them. It’s also likely that he may have been inspired by Siddiqui’s perpetuation of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
As shown from what happened in Colleyville, these conspiracy theories can have deadly consequences. Thankfully, no one ended up being harmed but that may not be the case the next time a violent person buys into a dangerous theory.
An important thing you can do is to recognize these antisemitic dog whistles and to call them out when you see them. Many people may not realize they’re perpetuating these bigoted ideas but if they stop, antisemitic conspiracy theories can stop being normalized and hopefully lessen violence against the Jewish community.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]