Why does Hillary Clinton use crutches

Dark forces, depraved elites - what is it about the conspiracy theories

Mr. Bartoschek, when do you even talk about a conspiracy theory?

Bartoschek: The definitions are different. In any case, it is assumed that someone has conspired to do something evil, something clandestine. And there must always be at least two conspirators involved.

In the weeks of the lockdown, the most absurd theories seemed to rise. There was talk of a new world order that will come about. That in the background there is a battle of the dark forces against the good ones. Why is this so massive now?

Bartoschek: With lockdown we are dealing with a phenomenon that affects everyone. It is about health and that the impassability that emerges is maximal. Theories that seem very archaic, such as the fight between good and evil, are then brought up again. The uncertainty is very great, and this encourages the development of conspiracy theories.

The QAnon movement is currently very extreme. It is about an alleged conspiracy of gigantic proportions. A depraved elite made up of the Democratic Party, banks, media, etc., secretly ruled the United States. It's about pedophile networks. Names such as Hillary Clinton's appear. And Donald Trump was chosen by the high-ranking military to bring this "deep state" down. What do you think?

Bartoschek: Yes, this conspiracy theory is of course neither new nor is it particularly convincing. You have a lot of set pieces of old conspiracy theoretic motifs, some of which also have an anti-Semitic appeal. The whole thing is old wine in new bottles.

How do you see an anti-Semitic connection?

Bartoschek: If one speaks of power elites, one gets to Jewish names very quickly, and in this respect the motives are very similar to those in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. So that there is a secret society that meets regularly that has to sacrifice children in order to get some strength or power. These are all motives that we also know from anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Don't conspiracy theories have a grain of truth in them?

Bartoschek: No. Often enough, they don't have a hint of the truth. It may be that there are individual observations to which something is true. But the theory that is then woven around it is not true.

But some of the theories are very well founded and argued. If you are not careful, you can easily get into such a vortex.

Bartoschek: Yes, you can get into a vortex and jump from one source to the next. But that doesn't mean that these sources are right. This is particularly dangerous with YouTube because the algorithm keeps offering you corresponding videos. You really have to be careful not to get addicted to always finding the latest revelation.

How do I get out of such a vortex again?

Bartoschek: We can't really tell how we're going to help people who get lost in something like this. An important facet is that friends and relatives do not turn away from the person, but keep in touch with them. Similar to people who get into a sect. But you should always state things clearly when they are presented to you.

How can you protect yourself?

Bartoschek: One should ask what is the source that a conspiracy theory relies on. One can assume that in a pluralistic state like Germany or Austria, every big message is used by the big media. It is unthinkable that something sensational could happen and the media is not picking up on it. The first thing I should do is always source criticism, and then always ask myself what the people around me are saying next. I should always have people who are my regulators and whom I can also ask. If I then surround myself with a representative cross-section of society, then I will be countered, and then it is important to listen carefully to the people who may not disagree with me.

What do you think are reputable sources where to look? Mimikama for example?

Bartoschek: Yes, in any case. Mimikama is known for the fact that many fakes are uncovered. The whole thing is checked, and in a non-partisan and neutral way.

While Bill Gates has mutated into an enemy image, Donald Trump, one of the most controversial politicians of our time, has become the hero of conspiracy theorists who secretly fights child pornography and breaks the power of the corrupt elite. How is it possible?

Bartoschek: Yeah, that's fascinating. Trump seems to exude a fascination and to have become a projection figure. To do this, you have to understand that part of the QAnon movement comes from a right-wing libertarian spectrum that represents Trump's electorate. That said, much of what QAnon has been promoting has been directed at the people who are Trump supporters, and from there it has taken on a life of its own and moved into wider circles.

What kind of people are they who believe in conspiracy theories? Are there certain characteristics?

Bartoschek: What we do know is that it goes across all layers. It is often people who are hurt in their self-efficacy. That means that they no longer experience themselves as those who determine their lives, but that some other forces, some coincidences, some blows of fate have played their part. The conspiracy theories give them an expectation of salvation, which one has to do to free oneself. There conspiracy theories give the possibility to step out of this self-ineffectiveness again. Psychologically, that's the motive that we know is relatively strong.

Is it even possible to convince a conspiracy theorist otherwise?

Bartoschek: It can work if someone is not yet that deep and open to refutation. But if someone has already penetrated relatively deeply, then it will be very difficult to free him from it.

What happens then?

Bartoschek: Then we have a self-radicalization. We have seen this in the German citizen segment in recent years. There we have an increase in right-wing extremist acts of violence, right-wing extremist self-radicalization. A self-arming. The whole thing is not without it, if you look at the potential danger.

You read the article in our current issue beforehand, in which editor Nora Schleich conducts an interview with a conspiracy theorist (see here >>). The talk is of child sex, child and human trafficking and that even human flesh is eaten. The whole thing supposedly happens in Hollywood. The names Clinton, Gates, Abramovic and Obama keep appearing in this context. What would you say to René H.?

Bartoschek: First I would ask him what exactly changes his belief in these conspiracy theories. I would ask him: What has changed in your life as a result, and do you actually need these conspiracy theories for that? I would not discuss individual details from the conspiracy theories because then we would sit for hours and would not get to a point because he could keep citing individual details that supposedly make any sense. So I would try to switch to this meta level. One has to see how one can get on the same basis from which we argue. And you won't be able to do that if he starts talking about human flesh and reptiles, aliens and child porn rings.

But aren't we dealing with mental illness in conspiracy theories?

Bartoschek: There are of course mental illnesses that have paranoia. For example paranoid schizophrenia. But this is completely different from the normal belief in conspiracies.

How do you protect yourself when you are particularly confronted with conspiracy theories.

Bartoschek: I don't even know. In fact, it is always a very good crutch for me to ask myself how many people would have to hold tight for a conspiracy theory and not make mistakes? If you imagine that any government organization would have to have thousands of people, all doing the right thing and not making any mistakes, then that is unthinkable.

But isn't it difficult to draw the line between conspiracy theory and the need for a critical opinion that also questions systems?

Bartoschek: You have to and are allowed to question everything, and a lot of unpleasant things happen out there. For me, the point when I start reading is that someone suspects some secret mechanism behind it. I'm always cautious about that. Of course there are things - we saw it on the Ibiza video - where politicians are willing to conspire. Of course there is. But to suspect a bigger control behind it is what I am wary of.

What would you like ours great! Give it to readers and podcast listeners?

Bartoschek: Not to ignore when conspiracy theories are spread in the immediate vicinity and to have the moral courage and say: No, it is not like that. And not for the person who believes in the conspiracy, but for those standing around who are not yet convinced. This is important. We know from studies that this also works.

Dr. Sebastian Bartoschek ...
is a psychologist and journalist. Already in his dissertation he devoted himself to conspiracy theories and is considered one of the most renowned researchers in this field. He lives in North Rhine Westphalia.