Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


‘Reality Presidency’ and New Diplomacy

The recent public execution of ‘political correctness’ in the U.S. and other Western countries had an unintended consequence: it has removed the curtain of pretense and hypocrisy. This, needless to say, is one of the key factors that could help solve some of the most critical political, economic, and faith-based issues of our time.

However, this positive outcome might not be immediately experienced or appreciated since assertive ignorance and crude communication dominate the public space.

The President-elect’s supporters had this to offer for post-election consensus building: ‘Donald Trump is the President; deal with it!’ And his Transitional Team and selected Cabinet had nothing substantive to add. So, we must deal with this world-changing reality.

And this makes the unpacking of these two concepts critical: ‘conspiracy theory’ and its less known arch enemy “conspiracy realism.” Both are relevant to understanding and functioning with the new diplomacy.

The Theorists’ Dilemma

Everything in life is not organized by clandestine cabals, secret societies, or sinister groups driven to achieve political, economic or religious objectives. Nor does everything always have a wicked, illegal, or immoral motive. And yes, there are people who always look at authority with relentless antipathy and distrust; people who are obsessed in finding the evil geniuses behind everything in ways that borderline, if not indicate, mental disorder. The notorious killer cult leader, Charles Manson is an example.

Many of the issues in politics and economics are multidimensional and complex. As such, it is difficult for the average person to wrap his mind around them, especially during times of heightened uncertainties due to wars, economic downturns and such but it is easy to seek meaning through professional conspiracy theorists. These influence-wielding individuals like Alex Jones of InfoWars have packaged explanations to everything.

The seekers and providers never change their minds or admit being wrong when new facts emerge backed up by evidence. To them facts are nothing more than convenient covers which they offer on their fake news websites.

Undermined Reality

The perennial question that puzzled great minds throughout the ages “Is man innately good or innately evil?” has never been more relevant. Most of us may have strong opinions on this matter. As a Muslim, I believe that the human being is hard-wired with divine nobility and a moral conscience and is granted the free-will to disgrace him/herself to the lowest level.

Is man not capable of conspiring to immorally and illegally claim power beyond his rights and thus impose his will on others or commit sexual violence to please his lust? In that case, who is haplessly naïve- the one who believes that man never conspires to control and exploit or the one who thinks he does?

Before the WikiLeaks government and corporate exploitation and misconduct, Snowden’s exposure of an intrusive ‘Big Brother,’ or any such claim would have been easily dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Throughout history man has lusted for exclusive advantage in order to control, manipulate or exploit. Yet, most people are still robotically inculcated into disassociating themselves with anything that suggests conspiracy; they are likely to resort to knee-jerk reaction in defense of the status quo- whatever that may be. However, those in power are often the main beneficiaries.

Politics of the Label

Not all conspiracy claims are driven by far-left or far-right nutty mobs that have an inventory of conspiratorial misgivings and fantasies.

Unless one is locked into a state of absolute conformity to one’s own biases or denial, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the cleansing of Native Americans, slavery, colonialism, geopolitics, al-Qaida, ISIS, Al-Shabaab and other such mortal enterprises would not have been possible without some form of conspiracy. And this should compel us to have a frank and sensible discourse on this ever-present human controversy.

Nowadays, any credible challenge to the official narrative of any serious issue, policy, or action is met with resistance from devout conformists or is disavowed by professionals who should be called the conspiracy police. This intellect-policing force needs not to present facts or establish any pattern of analytical discrepancies. All they need to do is to unleash cold-blooded ad hominem.

On the Receiving End

There are some who vehemently deny the notion that there is a synchronized effort to collectively demonize Muslims and other minority groups. However, the growing number of mainly far-right politicians cunningly use “dog whistle politics” to give subtle marching orders. It is the job of the political operatives, and well-funded media institutions with colorful personalities to incite religious intolerance and to whip people into crippling hysteria, therefore dependency.

In the U.S. and some parts of Europe, anti-Muslim partners foster uniformed propaganda led by hate-mongering ‘hipsters.’ Their motto is: “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” They insist that their motive is neither racist nor anti-Islamic. However, their thinly disguised racism falls apart as soon as one replaces “Muslims” with Jews, or “terrorists” with financial scammers. Was the latter not the malicious pretext that led to the holocaust?

Today Muslims are so demonized that individuals and mosques could be implicated arbitrarily and be condemned in the court of public opinion. And since neither the media nor law-enforcement is pressed to present evidence or establish clear trends before accusing any Muslim person or institution, whatever they present is often considered “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Institutional Racism

In the spirit of conspiracy realism and the new diplomacy, let me spread these cards on the table. There are mainly two phenomena that support the notion that Muslims are in the political and economic crosshairs: First, geographical areas in which terrorists operate are almost always resource rich or are geopolitically important. Second, though terrorism presents a real indiscriminating threat, all countries that succumb to political pressures to make counter-terrorism their principle domestic and foreign policy find that it almost always leads to more insecurity. Are these random acts of nature or human intervention?

Against this backdrop, the President-elect and his selected Cabinet raise a red flag especially with regard to their naïve world view and reliance on ‘security experts’ who are blinded by their hated of Islam and Muslims. To what extent are they going to abuse the authority vested in them is open for debate.

The known factor is that governments strategically keep society fearful, senseless, and disoriented in order to create the need for dependency and/or pass controversial policies or laws. This is not something that only dictators such as el-Sisi of Egypt would do. Certain intelligence and law enforcement agencies within democratic states such the U.S. have historically fabricated and staged fearful dramas in order to achieve specific political objectives.

Like many Muslims across the U.S. and Europe, when some Somali-American activists complained of being discriminatively targeted in the Twin Cities, they were swiftly dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists.’ However, recently a staff whistleblower exposed that the TSA was indeed discriminating and “treating Somalis as a community of suspects.

Positive Change Is Coming

Much of humanity, especially those who are digitally connected, is in a state of trauma due to wars, economic uncertainty and excessive negativity.

Watching the Aleppo holocaust in real time and the empty political rhetoric of those who could end that horrific misery but would not act has exposed humanity’s corroding collective conscience. Mindful or not, most of humanity—those who are connected to the rest of the world—are suffering from collective trauma on different levels. Still we should not allow that to push us into a state of hopelessness where all we can sense are bloody spooks operating in darkness. The last thing humanity needs is reckless leaders who can make situations more volatile.

Collective Responsibility of Objective Scrutiny

Anyone who accepts the premise that all political initiatives are the works of one interest group or another should acknowledge that his counterpart is engaging in a self-serving conspiracy; even if the counterpart were to deny this.

A healthy dose of skepticism is good so long as one maintains a balance. Runaway skepticism leads to a dangerous state of mind- uncompromising cynicism. It is in that psychological state of profound fatalism where conspiracy theories and theorists thrive.

There is a difference between skepticism and cynicism. The former is the obligation and moral duty of every professional journalist, law enforcement personnel, and public official. The latter, however, will, no doubt often distrust and be pessimistic.

In the course of the next four years, institutional attempts to derail or repress genuine discourse and debate on fault-line issues that could add fuel to a global burning fire is very likely. Here is where the non-conglomerate media could assume a heroic role. Their loyalty should be to the public and not to corporate interests nor those in power.

Let us face it, it is not by sheer coincidence that man often performs his very best on the stage and under a spotlight, and his/her most reprehensible actions occur under the cover of darkness or behind the veils of secrecy. Keep the lights bright.