By Lynnea Urania Stuart
It’s the stuff of great radio. In fact it’s so great it has done more damage than Orson Well’s Mercury Theater that inflicted national panic in its version of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. It has done more damage because it has contributed to societal divisiveness through sensationalism and confirmation bias. It’s the belief that change that occurs in our lives as the result of discovery must result from a grand conspiracy centering upon a central cabal. It has led to mass suspicion of fellow citizens. It has also fueled presumed justification for discrimination, ostracism, and attempted extermination of transpeople.
POPULARIZING A CONSPIRACY OF ILLUMINATI
Some say conspiracy humanly begins in “The Illuminati,” allegedly a conspiratorial cabal determined to dominate the world. Adam Weishaupt organized the original Illuminati in Bavaria May 1, 1776. But the Bavarian government learned of Weishaupt’s nefarious doings and destroyed the organization. Freemasons, a society from which Weishaupt recruited, also suffered suspicion.
Of course, that wouldn’t be the full end of Illuminati because others have held to some basic tenets that Weishaupt did. “Illuminati” is actually the proper expression when speaking of them collectively, being the Latin nominative and genitive plural form. The nominative singular is “Illuminatus” if an individual is male or “Illuminata” if female, a name that designates a member as “illuminated”. 1
Back in the 1970’s, an individual named John Todd claimed not only to be a former member of “The Illuminati” but a member of its alleged central government, a “Council of Thirteen” that has allegedly included a representative of Rothchild, Rockefeller, and Kennedy families according to various sources. Todd claimed conversion to Christianity and had taken upon himself the “ministry” of warning believers everywhere about the dangers of this organization. He considered it so “wicked” it surpasses witchcraft and dictatorship while being the ultimate administrator of both.2
In fact Todd was featured in Chick Publications’ Evangelical comics for many years. But even as they circulated, John Todd was discredited, and evangelists themselves denounced him for his baseless sensationalism.3
A core of Evangelicals, however, weren’t about to accept that John Todd was the liar he was made out to be. The popular sensational current about “The Illuminati” continued in various publications from Lyndon LaRouche4 to YouTube videographers “exposing” various pop artists as either Illuminati members or puppets of “The Illuminati.”5 Not a few, including Lady Gaga, accepted the hype and made the buzz part of her own advertisement through a dream of hers and Little Monsters ate it up6. Rhianna has been depicted as an “Illuminati Princess.”7
Of course there’s a difference between “The Illuminati” as popularly depicted, genuine Illuminati who started out in various societies, and certain occultists who have taken the title of Illuminati on their own. They aren’t necessarily as secretive as may be expected either. Back in 2009 when the online forum Temple Illuminatus was still young they even produced a widget that said, “I’m an Illuminati at Temple Illuminatus” without any consideration of the fact that the widget was grammatically incorrect, and hopefully they’ve changed their widget since then.8
Today various Illuminati groups proliferate in one form or another, to which virtually anyone can gain membership through an online application.9 But when pressing an Evangelical concerning which Illuminati he’s talking about, the typical response consists of heated and flustered embarrassment. “I’m talking about ’The Illuminati.’ Everyone knows what ‘The Illuminati’ is. How dare you be so wicked to think I don’t know what I’m talking about?”
CONSPIRACY FROM COAST TO COAST
Enter Art Bell and his syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM.10 The program caters to anyone with a good story regardless how untenable and ridiculous it may be. What matters is that it holds an audience. Coast to Coast advanced plenty of unproven ideas including Zecaria Sitchin’s determination that the planet Nibiru is returning to destroy civilization based upon Mesopotamian tablets he claimed to decipher.11 It promoted proponents that claimed the world would end in 2012 on the basis of the Mayan calendar.12 It helped propel NASA to send a follow-up space mission to Mars to settle mass suspicions that the “Face on Mars” represented a past or present Martian civilization, a mission that found nothing but a mountain with shadows that could be read as a face if the sun hit at a different angle. 13 It no more proved to be fashioned by humanoids than the feature of the Old Man in the Mountain on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It even promoted John Titor, who allegedly time traveled from the future to obtain microprocessors for his post-nuclear time period. He even showed pictures of his time travel vehicle that reminds us of the film Back to the Future, leaving many of us to wonder why he would waste his personal time talking to mass media about his exploits with such a critical mission at stake.14
The show has included some bonifide scientists too, because they could generate plenty of sexy facts of their own concerning the universe. Enough provable facts went on the program over the years to sustain a cultlike belief and, true to the nature of cults, many refuse to consider that some of what’s presented as “fact” eventually proves to be hoax instead. In radio, however, none of this matters. What matters is holding an audience and keeping listeners and sponsors happy and hopping.
Art Bell retired to the Philippines in 2007 and George Noory took over. The latter expanded Coast to Coast AM to include television broadcasts. He succeeded not only in advancing Coast to Coast AM to stellar heights, but also advanced various conspiracy theorists in the popular culture, including those that fuel some popular versions of Evangelical Christianity.
The Conspiratorial version of history proposes the following, at least in the context of the United States, and variations of this exist for other countries, especially in Europe:
- God established everything good in the world including classic 20th Century American Evangelical culture before the crises of the 1960’s.
- Everything that differs from that “wholesome” American Evangelical cultural tradition including traditional families is categorically evil.
- Evil cannot embody truth, therefore, whatever is counter to American Evangelical cultural tradition must be against truth itself.
- Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work at the very center of this evil.
- Dark, evil, and hidden forces are at work through secret societies.
- Secret societies control the reins of government through some form of shadow government.
- We must counter all secret societies and restore traditional American Evangelical culture.
- Attempts to restore traditional Evangelical American culture cannot be guaranteed success, therefore, opposing them demands special urgency.
This view has widely appealed to Evangelicals ever since the Vietnam War split American society. The Evangelical Dominionist we know today, responsible for the rash of anti-transgender legislation, typically holds to the Conspiratorial version of history and incorporates this view as eisogesis of the Apocalypse of John. The goodness of the American Evangelical cultural tradition isn’t just believed in. It’s presumed to be patently correct in every respect, one upon which heaven itself can look upon with full approbation. No other idea is entertained. Conspiracy theorists discount scientifically established facts if they don’t stroke their confirmation bias. However, the Conspiratorial version of history is typically colored according to each denomination that claims nobody comes to the Father but by means of Christ and nobody comes to Christ but by means of the denomination.
CONSPIRACY, RELIGION, AND TRANSPHOBIA
Various people over the years have considered transpeople to be suspect as puppets of this grand conspiracy. After all, we appear in the United States in the last half of the 20th Century about the same time as other crises do. Certain religionists and some non-religious political fanatics have opposed us including psychiatrist Paul McHugh, MD of Johns Hopkins, a self-described “Orthodox Roman Catholic” who served on the Review Board for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also claimed that the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal was not about pedophilia but about “homosexual predation on American Catholic youth.”15 He also worked to end the transition program at Johns Hopkins in the 1970’s, an action that the hospital has recently reversed.16
His work may have influenced the Vatican itself or vice versa. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the watchdog entity The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Prefect beginning with his appointment by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and as Dean in 2002. Under his leadership in 2003 they directed the superiors of religious orders worldwide that transsexuals be barred as priests, nuns, friars, nuns, and brothers in religious orders or expelled if found afterwards to be transsexual. A document reported by the liberal Catholic news agency Adista and confirmed by a Vatican official states in these directives:
“In the case that there is a serious and irreversible pathology of transsexuality, (the candidate) cannot be validly admitted into the institute or the society, while in cases of doubt, it is forbidden to allow admission since the candidate is missing a clear and full eligibility.”17
While not a few Evangelicals consider Catholicism to be part of a worldwide conspiracy (and vice versa), many Evangelicals still accept Ratzinger’s decision and rhetoric. Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.
But his successor Pope Francis expanded Benedict’s condemnation to presenting a corporate and political conspiracy in 2016 on World Youth Day:
“… We have countries that for years have done a good job of integrating migrants. They have integrated them well. In others, unfortunately, certain ghettos have formed. A whole reform has to take place, on a worldwide level, with regard to this commitment and acceptance. But that is something relative: what is absolute is a welcoming heart. That is absolute! With prayer and intercession, by doing what I can. What is relative is the way I am able to do it. Not everyone can do it the same way. The problem is worldwide! The exploitation of creation, and the exploitation of persons. We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.
“I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!
“In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.
“But you will say to me: “What does this have to do with migrants?” It has to do with the overall situation, no?”18
Some Protestants and others likewise decry what Pope Francis calls “gender ideology.” For example, this past week, on December 23, conspiracy theorist David Icke spoke against transpeople in much the same way as the Pope on Coast to Coast AM on a night in which Jimmy Church substituted for George Noory. His message about transpeople on Coast to Coast AM made the following conspicuous claims:
- David Icke is “on board” with the idea of “not discriminating” against transpeople.
- “Transgender” isn’t about discrimination but about a campaign to confuse children.
- This campaign of confusion is part of the conspiracy that infests other areas of life as well.
- The web of conspiracy goes far beyond what can be visible.
- Illuminati and other secret societies are only intermediaries of the conspiracy which begins in the spiritual realm.19
It’s essentially the same approach as the mixed message of Pope Francis who on one hand wants to reach out to transpeople and yet condemns them under the pretext of condemning “gender ideology”. It’s a smokescreen, of course. Neither Pope Francis nor the website for David Icke stop at ideology. Both would prefer that transpeople disappear, though we’ve occupied the planet at least since the Pleistocene Epoch. But nobody who takes that kind of position can be genuinely “on board” for non-discrimination, and a closer look at that website will demonstrate how it attacks the existential aspects of transpeople.
Andrew Cheetham, who writes for that website, claimed that if medical professionals dare to question the “unscientific party line” supporting transition, then they will be ostracized from employment.20
No doubt this reaction resulted from the British National Health Service (NHS) expanding transgender care for youth, something we didn’t see before the work of Jazz Jennings broadly raised awareness about trans youth. Cheetham cites the anti-transgender campaign group Transgender Trend who decries children being referred to “gender clinics” and claims that these cases have surged to an astonishing 50 per week to the horror of what’s thought to be every parent throughout the United Kingdom.21
50 per week, if true, should arouse examination of how the NHS is actually operating on this matter. We aren’t told whether 50 per week is an average or a maximum. We don’t oppose critical review so long as it begins with and utilizes medical and psychological standards instead of religious dogma. It’s vital and continuing. It’s part of the process of science and transgender medicine is only a recently recognized practice. We also consider that the sharp rise in cases may have happened because generations of oppression have prevented youth from coming forward in the first place.
But even this isn’t the extent of criticisms from the David Icke website. The same writer quoted Peter Hitchins to say that accusations of “cruelty” against those opposing transition therapies is only a “pretext” for a deeper conspiratorial purpose: destruction of the entire traditional moral and social system, the very idea of male and female after “destruction” of traditional heterosexual marriage. He stated that this sexual revolution is like all revolutions since the French Revolution of the late 1770’s: built upon the fallacy that humans and human nature are changeable, making it out as destruction of truth itself.22
This, of course, presumes an organized conspiracy to that end is happening in the first place. However, traditional heterosexual marriage wasn’t destroyed. Neither some cabal nor anyone else ever told heterosexual couples they couldn’t marry anymore or that their marriages shouldn’t be respected. Heterosexual couples continue to marry as they always have. The only thing destroyed to any extent is the presumption that only heterosexual couples could possibly marry because churches have the exclusive right to dictate who may do so whether or not a couple has church membership.
But the claim about revolution and changeability is far more disruptive with respect to human cooperation. The idea that “humans and human nature are changeable,” is a “false idea” (fallacy) attacks the practices of Christianity in its purest form. Without human changeability, repentance isn’t possible. People can’t decide to make better lives if they can’t change.
It’s the same trait of changeability that makes transition happen. It’s no evil thing to recognize something inside that failed to change regardless of how many times you tried to pray it away, something that persisted that caused everyone else around you to think you’re strange, out of kilter, and some unacceptable creature they hate because of your “strangeness”. It makes sense to make changes that can get yourself into better sync with the world and to demand the world respect you for doing so. It’s true for the one who converts to Christianity (or any religion) and it’s true for anyone who transitions.
Think about it. To say this is a “fallacy” demands something else: that once we mark somebody as “unacceptable” because they seem strange, that person can never be anything but the incorrigible reprobate we presume that person to be. It literally feeds into the belief that “nobody is going to heaven except me and thee” however a conspiracy theorist happens to define that “me and thee.”
This belief and treatment of fellow humans as “unchangeable” and “irreconcilable” is what stoked the purges of the French Revolution where rivers of blood flowed from guillotines. That belief helped Hitler fuel tumultuous purges like Germany’s Night of the Long Knives23 and Krystallnacht.24 It’s what sent undesirables to Nazi death camps and Stalin’s gulags. Both the Nazi and Communist parties have made ample use of conspiracy theories to enflame their populations and LGBT peoples have long been the victims, not the perpetrators of these revolutions. So have people of various ethnicities like Jews and Gypsies as well as people with disabilities.
A SOCIETAL PATHOLOGY OF PARANOIA
The dogmatic presumption that everything seemingly new must represent some evil conspiracy does more than resist growth and development. It’s a societal pathology of paranoia based upon xenophobia. Transpeople are only a sideshow in this overall xenophobia. Conspiracy theorists push for societal regimentation, a return to a stasis as if it were an oasis in an ocean of evil flowing from hell to hell while the people of their choosing take the reins of power with an iron fist necessary to set a society back to that stasis.
Strangely enough, the Christian nations ended up becoming the most regimented and pugnacious people on the planet and most strayed from the early ideal the believers in Y’shua espoused. Regimentation demands clear boundaries and efficient pigeonholing. When those boundaries lose those clear definitions, crisis may loom. The boundaries between traditions and realities discovered in modernity may overlap and even seem alarmingly skewed. But these intrusions don’t equal conspiracy. Real conspiracy, however, could arise on the insistence of presumption that, if one’s neighbor accepts change, the same represents evil and therefore must be a conspirator.
It’s a vicious displacement generating red herrings. The red herring that declares a long disempowered transgender demographic to be part of a mass conspiracy against morality enables another set of social brokers to rise in influence and wealth: the ones who perpetuate that red herring. That’s the nature of the business and sooner or later those who religiously subscribe to these theories could be led to commit anything at all, even wholesale pogroms not unlike what took place on Krystallnacht.
But Occam’s Razor has good application here: the test that determines the simplest explanation most likely to be the correct one. Transpeople seek respect because we’ve been oppressed for centuries, often falsely in the name of God. Our histories have been suppressed in attempted erasure to rob us of our heritage. Our chances at livelihoods have been viciously curtailed. Whether young or old, these facts remain. They’re true and simple. But conspiracy theories remain not only convoluted but unproven and unprovable, relying as “evidence” of conspiracy the fact that societies change with time as a natural course of events. There’s a name for that natural course that makes conspiracy theorists squirm and want to scream. It’s called, “evolution”.
Featured Image: A pixilated detail of the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, long and erroneously touted as the emblem of “The Illuminati.” The symbol of Illuminati, however, has traditionally been an owl. (from the author’s image archive). It overlaps a detail of The Scream, painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893 (from the author’s image archive).
- Joseph Castro. “What Is the Illuminati?” Live Science (September 30, 2013, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.livescience.com/40048-what-is-the-illuminati.html.
- John Todd. “The Illuminati and Witchcraft” Scribd (from a tape recorded lecture in Elkton MD, 1978, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.scribd.com/document/33023806/The-Illuminati-and-Witchcraft-by-John-Todd
- (n.a.) John Todd Overview” Monsterwax (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.monsterwax.com/todd.html
- Steven Hager. “Inside the Wilderness of Mirrors” (Blog, May 29, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://stevenhager420.wordpress.com/tag/lyndon-larouche/.
- com. “Top 10 Celebrities That are Supposedly in the Illuiminati” YouTube (July 7, 2017, accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TcPEzWgg0
- (n.a.) “Lady Gaga Shares Illuminati Dream” Rap-Up (June 24, 2010, accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.rap-up.com/2010/06/24/lady-gaga-shares-illuminati-dream/
- (n.a.) “7 Celebrities Supposedly in the Illuminati” BeliefNet (n.d., accessed December 26, 2017) http://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/galleries/7-celebrities-supposedly-in-the-illuminati.aspx?p=7
- Lux Phoenix Amare Blake. “Part of Why I am Illuminati” Temple Illuminatus (October 26, 2016, accessed ) https://www.templeilluminatus.com/profiles/blogs/part-of-why-i-am-illuminati . Though the widget does not appear in this article, the use of “Illuminati” is questionable, since its form can only be justified in the genitive.
- Best demonstrated with a search: https://www.google.com/search?q=Online+Application+for+Illuminati&source=lnms&tbm=vid&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj4t8r22a3YAhXqj1QKHZslDPcQ_AUICygC&biw=1920&bih=974
- (n.a.) “Art Bell” Coast to Coast (Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/pages/art-bell
- “Zecaria Sitchin” https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/sitchin-zecharia/6026
- “Ian Xel Lungold 2012 Maya Prophecy End Times Predictions, Secrets the Mayan Calendar Unveiled” YouTube (Coast to Coast video uploaded June 22, 2013, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQoxspalmg8&list=PLYluK2rqkrfXivUOLZqS2fVfwrXoi29FQ&index=8 .
- “’The Face on Mars’ Turns Forty” (July 25, 2016, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.coasttocoastam.com/article/the-face-on-mars-turns-forty
- Nick Morris. “John Titor – Art Bell Coast to Coast AM 3/12/2002 Time Travel” (August 31, 2017, Website accessed December 26, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNUGkIlHGog
- Brynn Tannehill. “Debunking the New Atlantis Article On Sexuality And Gender” Huffington Post (March 24, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/debunking-the-new-atlantis-article_us_58d5242ee4b0f633072b36a4.
- Amy Ellis Nutt. “Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins” Washington Post (April 5, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/long-shadow-cast-by-psychiatrist-on-transgender-issues-finally-recedes-at-johns-hopkins/2017/04/05/e851e56e-0d85-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html?utm_term=.29ab0ee47caa.
- Lynnea Urania Stuart. “Francis’ Mixed Message” Transpire (August 11, 2016, accessed December 27, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/francis-mixed-message/. The denunciation itself can also be found from Winfield, Nicole. “Vatican Denounces Transsexuals” Free Republic, Associated Press (January 31, 2003, accessed August 9, 2016). http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/833752/post
- “Dialogo del Santo Padre con i Vescovi della Polonia (Krakow, 27 Iuglio 2016), 02.08.2016” (Papal Bulletin, Vatican Press [English translation within the bulletin] August 2, 2016, accessed August 9, 2016) http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/08/02/0568/01265.html#en .
- David Icke https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/icke-david/6147 Show on 12/23/2017
- Andrew Cheetham. “Pediatrician: How Transgender Ideology is Producing Large-Scale Child Abuse” (Website, dated July 20, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/420223/pediatrician-transgender-ideology-producing-large-scale-child-abuse
- Andrew Cheetham. “NHS pressured our kids to change sex: Transgender backlash as desperate parents accuse overzealous therapists of ‘blindly accepting’ children’s claims to have been born in wrong body” (Website, dated October 29, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/434409/nhs-pressured-kids-change-sex-transgender-backlash-desperate-parents-accuse-overzealous-therapists-blindly-accepting-childrens-claims-born-wrong-body
- Andrew Cheetham. “Peter Hitchens: The transgender zealots are destroying truth itself” (Website, dated November 19, 2017, accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.davidicke.com/article/439152/peter-hitchens-transgender-zealots-destroying-truth.
- N. Trueman. “The Night of the Long Knives” History Learning Site (March 9, 2015, accessed December 17, 2017) http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/the-night-of-the-long-knives/.
- (n.a.) “Kristallnacht” Holocaust Encyclopedia (accessed December 27, 2017) https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201