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Conspiracy Theories

Reader comment on item: [Michael Barkun on] Old Conspiracies, New Beliefs

Submitted by Stephen Berman (United States), Jan 13, 2004 at 12:28

Conspiracy Theories really should be placed back farther than 200 years. The Popish Plot was in the late 1600's, and posited that the French and Catholics were plotting to return England to Stewart despotism.

The common theme is the (correct) observation that there may be ideological enemies living in our midst, who have the power to usurp the government and take over.

The first reference to this is probably the ancient Egyptians' (about 3,000 years ago)fear that the Jews, while not actually planning any overthrow, could join any potential enemy who might attack the country. Hence, the Jews were enemy aliens who must be stripped of their rights. No proof of any plot is needed, a potential plot is good enough. Same with the Catholics in England, when that country is threatened by France, and by English Tories who want to see the Stewarts back on the throne.

There is no simple solution to this problem, we can just hope for the rule of reason and tolerance.
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