Written By Muertos
(Not by clock)
In this blog, I continue my investigation of the South Africa-based Internet cult known as Desteni. Specifically, in this blog I'll examine the degree to which Desteni espouses conspiracy theory ideology and uses conspiracy theories as a tool to recruit new members. In my analysis I'll examine six specific conspiracy theories as they relate to Desteni: reptilians; the "New World Order"; 9/11 Truth; HAARP; global warming denial; and anti-vaccination.
1. Reptilians ("Icketilians")
The conspiracy theory that seems to unite the majority of Desteni cult members is belief in reptilians. I spoke about this in my last blog. The basic idea is that a race of reptilian extraterrestrials secretly controls the world and has guided most of human history. I refer to these creatures as "Icketilians" because this theory was popularized by notorious British conspiracist David Icke in the 1990s, who created the theory as a science-fiction redress of the old "Jewish world conspiracy" theories from the early 20th century, with reptilian aliens standing in for Jews. These are also called "interdimensional reptoids" because supposedly they come from another dimension. Despite the fact that the entire idea is offensive and ludicrous, and there's never been a shred of evidence that these creatures actually exist, Desteni heavily promotes belief in reptilians. Here is Desteni leader Bernard Poolman ranting about "reptilian sleeper cells":
"They have placed sleepers into play to challenge any group that may in any way challenge the reptilian control and the control of the New World Order and the elite. And they will then claim to be anti-New World Order, anti-elite and anti-Zionist and all those things, but in fact they are just organic robots that act within their predesigned objective to stop any group from bringing about equality and what is best for all because that would break the control of the reptilian mind control."
Although we have here direct evidence of the cult's leader warning his followers about evil reptilians trying to control peoples' minds, Desteni does not endorse the work of David Icke wholesale. Here is Desteni spokesperson Sunette Spies espousing the cult's views on Icketilians:
"I initially studied David Icke's work, and was not satisfied with his presentation of [reptilians]. There was simply no proof. I mean, he suddenly made a big jump of assumption about Reptilians. And they were all bad....So whether the Reptilians are all bad or good, or whether they are aliens or whatever they are, I'm really not interested."
If you're familiar with the Icketilians theory, you know that one of the favorite things that believers in this conspiracy theory like to do is to watch videos on YouTube of celebrities and politicians--who are all secretly reptilians merely pretending to be human--and seize upon things such as eye movements, bulging veins or flaws in the low-quality videos as supposed "proof" that the person being observed is actually an alien. Here is an example, taken from the Desteni forums, of a conspiracy theorist doing exactly that (the embedded links are the "proof" videos the conspiracy theorist is referring to:
"These are some videos that make me think they [reptilians] exist... I cannot get past this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0cxmBuIKO0)...his neck at 2:55, 4:00... his very quick eye movement. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eaaubr3nnHI)...slits throughout... :35 is a strange area... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQVfQCpYocQ)...the woman... just the first minute of the video (">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFBcjII3QAE)..."
The response by a more seasoned Desteni member:
"It's cool that you found Desteni through your interest in reptilians, but realize that this site is not about 'theory' on the reptilians but about a solution to this reality that is best for all. Within that the reptilians have shared perspectives through the portal which I suggest you check out if you havent already. You can search for them on youtube."
The "portal" being referred to is an "interdimensional portal." This is the portal through which Desteni members such as Sunette Spies claim to channel the spirits of various people and objects, including Hitler. This idea--minus the channeling--is borrowed from David Icke. In any event, it should be obvious from these examples that belief in reptilians is a key tenet of the Desteni cult, and that new members are attracted to the organization precisely because of this conspiracy theory.
Also notice another dynamic which is universal to cults that promote conspiracy theories: the cult itself is presented as the "cure" for the evils complained of by the conspiracy theorists--in this case, Desteni's way of life is explicitly advanced as the "solution" to the reptilians. I'll return to this point later.
2. Illuminati & "New World Order"
Closely related to the Icketilians is belief in the "Illuminati" and/or the "New World Order." In terms of sheer numbers who believe in it, this may be the most popular conspiracy theory in the English-speaking world (and a fair amount of the non-English speaking world as well). The theory has almost as many variations as it has adherents, but the basic gist is that a secret cabal called the "Illuminati" is planning to enslave the planet under a totalitarian one-world government. Naturally this hasn't happened yet, but conspiracy theorists insist that every action taken by almost any government or large corporation anywhere is a piece of the puzzle, and this grim totalitarian future, the "New World Order," must be resisted by all means necessary. Huckster Alex Jones, the most popular mouthpiece of conspiracy theories currently in the United States, has made his career pushing this ridiculous theory despite the absence of a single shred of evidence that the Illuminati or the New World Order actually exist.
Needless to say, Destenians believe in this too. Once again we have pronouncements from the leader, Poolman, clearly stating that the New World Order exists. Here he is warning his followers that marijuana is a tool of the New World Order. And yes, as with reptilians, the Desteni cult is viewed as the cure--Poolman explicitly says that his "Equal Money" system will end the Illuminati and forestall the New World Order.
Desteni followers internalize belief in this theory. Here is one follower expressing his fear of the Illuminati and their control:
"are we doomed to fall under this illuminati mind control or will we rise up and defend truth. Afterall is done, life will continue. Am i to remain obscure and declare freedom for myself?
Is part of the illuminati control to instill a feeling of undoubtable fear, and ultimate ruin unless one belongs to it[?]"
A more experienced member replies:
"There is nowhere to run to, Peter. The control is everywhere. The only thing you can do is to start working on yourself so you won't be effected by it and by others. That's why we offer the Structural Reesonance Alignment as a working tool to align self to be effective in this world."
So far as I can tell, belief in some form of the Illuminati and the New World Order is universal within this cult. If anyone can provide me with example of a Destenian who does not believe in this conspiracy theory, please let me know.
3. 9/11 Truth
Surprisingly, although conspiracy theories alleging that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were some sort of "inside job" is the sina qua non of modern conspiracy thinking, Desteni doesn't seem to hit "9/11 Truth" as hard as you might expect. They don't seem to talk about it that much. Perhaps their belief that September 11 was an "inside job" is so axiomatic as to be accepted without discussion--which is rather alarming. Nevertheless, I did find evidence that Destenians are 9/11 Truthers. Bernard Poolman seems to be. In a forum post, Poolman recommends to his followers a book called Shell Game by Steve Alten. Shell Game is a novel that uses the 9/11 conspiracy theory as its starting premise. One wonders why Poolman would advocate that his followers read this book if he didn't believe that 9/11 was an inside job.
Here is a quote from the Desteni forums which indicates followers believe in 9/11, and also illustrates how these conspiracy theories dovetail with each other in the minds of these paranoid people:
"After the demolition of the twin tower and the new project for the building there i came back to the excellent parts of [D]avid [Ic]ke's research, because in this field I think he is on the right track."
It should go without saying that David Icke, in addition to believing in interdimensional reptoids, also believes that September 11 was an "inside job."
HAARP is a conspiracy theory whose believers think that a giant machine, built and controlled by the U.S. government, can manipulate weather patterns and cause earthquakes and natural disasters anywhere in the world at any time. HAARP takes its acronym from an actual U.S. government research project that--naturally--was not even close to what the conspiracy believers say it was, and didn't work anyway. This doesn't stop HAARP believers from pointing the finger at the U.S. government for every major natural disaster that occurs, such as this Destenian did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti:
"Yes -- I have seen some of the facts, and the Haiti earthquake does look like Haarp had something to do with it -- but you must consider the fact that you/all contribute to the existence of Haarp technology in the first place. The world currently is f*cked! Ask yourself: how and where am I currently supporting such a catastrophic result like Haarp or the haitian earthquake?"
One wonders what "facts" this person saw, because none of them actually indicate that the Haitian earthquake was anything other than what it appeared to be. The notion that governments or secret societies can cause earthquakes is total science fiction, but the Destenians seem to believe it.
5. Global Warming Denial
Few conspiracy theorists believe that anthropogenic global warming is real, despite the undeniable scientific evidence that it is. Although global warming denial can take a non-conspiratorial form, the idea that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax or some sort of scam is very easily co-opted into various other conspiratorial mindsets. Destenians, as you might expect, love this conspiracy theory too. Here is Sunette Spies again--official dogma of the Desteni cult--directly asserting that global warming is a conspiracy:
"We have discovered that global warming is not caused due to natural causes, or even chemically induced causes such as pollution, but that global warming is actually a man-made manifestation in and of this world. There are devices that are being utilized of Tesla technology that manifest a magnifying glass formation in the atmosphere of this world over certain specific allocations in this world, which is causing the effect thereof as the ice melting."
The theories of Nikola Tesla are favorites of conspiracy theorists. Tesla technology is often asserted as the mechanism behind the magical machines that conspiracy theorists believe in, such as HAARP, or some of the more extreme 9/11 Truthers who believe the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by secret beam weapons.
Here is another Destenian parroting global warming denial conspiracy theories:
"I know that "CO2 related global warming" is a scam being used for many agendas, and relates to the carbon taxes being planned for humans. To get this information I had to research and connect dots and sort through the conspiracy... yet does this behavior contribute to the power of the conspiracy itself and does it engender other conspiracies to exist?"
Gee, what do you think this Destenian believes about whether global warming denial engenders other supposed conspiracies? Conspiracy theories are like potato chips. You can't eat just one. Usually you end up swallowing the whole bag.
The final example involves anti-vaccination rhetoric. Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists--"anti-vaxxers," for short--believe that vaccines are a sham created by drug companies and governments, usually either to make money for drug companies, or, in more extreme versions, to deliberately cause diseases either to kill people or to render them easier to control. Anti-vaxxer rhetoric is extremely dangerous because it directly results in the deaths of innocent people, usually children. It's tragic and simple: parents fall for conspiracy theories about vaccines, then refuse to get their children vaccinated, and the children die of diseases that could be easily prevented. For example, a recent measles outbreak in Minneapolis
has been tied to irrational fears about measles vaccines causing autism--a fear that is totally without scientific basis. The sad effects of anti-vaxx rhetoric are a prime examples of how conspiracy theories can hurt people.
It shouldn't surprise you that Destenians buy into anti-vaxx theories. In this brief quote you'll see not only evidence of anti-vaxx belief, but also New World Order and anti-Semitic "Jewish world conspiracy" theories:
"So.... the "elite" seem to be going through with population reduction and this is just the first step I am sure. I read an article dealing with the swine bullsh*t and it was said that this whole scheme originated out of new york city -- David Rockefeller was mentioned as orchestrator, and obviously the JEWS had to be in on it too (Orthodox, jewish elite, own/run NYC). The public schools are now going to hold mandatory vaccanations..... my sister 'fortunately', is aware of the propaganda and will not allow jabbing... my brother, on the other hand, is of sheeple-type, and willing-lie shall comp-lie.
The word "sheeple" is a conspiracy theorist buzzword, used to refer to those who do not believe in conspiracy theories and are supposedly duped by the powers-that-be. The anti-Semitic aspects of Desteni's belief systems, clearly on display here, will be the subject of a future blog.
Why Does Desteni Use Conspiracy Theories?
These examples amply demonstrate that Desteni uses conspiracy theories very heavily in order to recruit and retain its members. This is not the only technique that the cult employs, but it's clearly an important one; the virtually universal belief in conspiracy theories by Desteni members, from cult leader Bernard Poolman down to the rank-and-file who post on the forums, shows that conspiracy theories are one of the cornerstones of this organization's belief system.
The question is worth asking: why would a cult rely on conspiracy theories to recruit and retain followers? I believe there are three main reasons.
First, conspiracy theories are very attractive to Internet-savvy young people who are interested in non-mainstream ideas. Years ago it used to be that conspiracy theorists were fringe geeks who traded newsletters by mail in a very loose-knit underground. With the Internet, belief in conspiracy theories has absolutely exploded, and the prevalence in these themes of distrust of government, media and other mainstream social institutions is tailor-made for disaffected and disillusioned young people--the key demographic of many cults.
Second, conspiracy theories attract people who think a certain way. All of these theories are profoundly illogical. In order to believe in nuttery like 9/11 Truth, HAARP or Icketilians, you must necessarily disregard common sense and logical thinking, and accept uncritically pieces of "evidence" that look and sound authoritative but are factually and rationally incorrect. These processes that conspiracy theories thrive in the absence of--critical thinking, rational inquiry, and insistence upon reliable evidence--are the exact same thought processes that would be required to recognize the characteristics of a destructive and manipulative cult. In short, conspiracy theories attract people who, by virtue of the way they think, are much more likely to fall for cults in the first place.
Third, as I stated earlier, cults that promote conspiracy theories universally advance themselves and their ideology as the "cure" or "solution" to the evils of these conspiratorial plots. If you're outraged that the Illluminati is cooking the books on global warming, tearing down the World Trade Center or putting bad things in vaccines, well, you can fix all that by joining the cult and advancing its ideology. Desteni's leader Bernard Poolman shamelessly and repeatedly emphasizes that Desteni is the answer to everything and will specifically end these conspiracies once and for all.
A Potential Objection to My Evidence
A potential criticism of this blog may be that some of the evidence I present for Desteni's involvement with conspiracy theories comes from their web forum. Someone could claim that characterizing Desteni's more or less "official" ideology by reference to what members say on their forum is unfair, or "guilt by association." In Desteni's case this criticism would be incorrect. The Desteni web forums are very heavily policed, and on the forum you can in fact find an explicit warning about expressing any form of opinion:
"WHAT HAPPENS IF I USE THIS FORUM TO EXPRESS MY OPINIONS?
YOU WILL BE BANNED! We have made it very clear that this forum is not there for people to express and validate their opinions. The Desteni forum is there for people who would like to discuss the DESTENI MATERIAL and share their Self-Honesty Processes within the DESTENI MATERIAL."
If Desteni insists, therefore, that any opinions on their forum are verboten, and their forum contains numerous and repeated references to conspiracy theories, it stands to reason that the Destenians believe the conspiracy viewpoints expressed there are not opinions, but facts. Furthermore, the sheer volume of conspiracy material on Desteni's blogs indicates that this is not a benign gathering of people who come together for some other reason, and some of them happen to believe in conspiracy theories independently of their Desteni connections. I believe I have amply demonstrated that, far from being incidental, conspiracy thinking lies at the very heart of Desteni's belief system.
I will deal with other aspects of Destenian ideology in future blogs.
Thanks for reading.