Conspiracy theories and theorists
Conspiracy theories and their authors become a cause for concern when they begin to hallucinate and can no longer distinguish between their own flights of imagination and the world around them. When they hijack a whole nation or community into another world, then they ought to be held accountable
These are very troubled times. Such times are a bonanza for conspiracy theorists because they know how best to simplify extremely complex situations while simultaneously grossly exaggerating the evil ingenuity of the plotters, and thus create thorough confusion. If such confusion can generate panic, then the conspiracy theorist has earned his living through real hard work. The art then is to top it off with an ending that results in the defeat of the evildoers. Such stuff is the bread and butter of writers of mystery stories and thrillers. Their works help shed everyday boredom, even if only for the moment.
Conspiracy theories and their authors become a cause for concern when they begin to hallucinate and can no longer distinguish between their own flights of imagination and the world around them. If such delirious moments only carry them into a world of make-believe, then the harm is limited. However, when they hijack a whole nation or community into another world, then they ought to be held accountable. When such characters appear in popular talk shows or, much worse, begin exploiting TV channels to present programmes full of war games and prophecies against a demonised group of plotters threatening the existence of a nation — nay, a universal community such as that of the Muslims — then I believe such persons should be held accountable for taking people on a ride with their yarns.
By now the readers must have guessed that I have no other person in mind other than Mr Zaid Hamid. Initially I was reluctant to comment on the farce he pedals in his talks and his TV programmes. The reason is that one can end up giving more importance to individuals than is due. On the other hand, the danger is that the angst and fears that run deep in Pakistani society will push our society even deeper into a pathological state of mind or national outlook. The daily bomb blasts by remote control or by suicide bombers, the galloping rate of unemployment and politicians who specialise in making a mockery of democracy and responsible governments have taken a huge toll on the spirits of the Pakistani people. Last year when I visited Lahore I took a long walk beginning from Anarkali up to Lohari Gate and then eastwards till I came to Mochi Gate. Then I walked down to Gawalmandi, from there I went down Nisbet Road till I came to Lakshmi Chowk. I can tell you that for the first time in my life I felt that Lahore was in mourning. People could not take any longer all the betrayal of hopes for a Pakistan without want and hunger.
Mr Zaid Hamid’s grand conspiracy has a happy ending, however. The Muslim world and the Islamic Ummah in general and Pakistan in particular are the victims of a Zionist-Brahminical-CIA-Mossad-RAW-MI5-MI6, and all the rest, plot, according to this celebrated defence and security analyst. Our only true friend is China. The latter of course is still wedded to Marxism-Leninism and thus to atheism, but that does not matter. Just as there are good and bad Taliban, there can be good and bad atheists. Is that not logical? Once upon a time, I remember, the Chinese with their special eye shape and high cheekbones, we were told, were the people that Islam would fight, also accordingly to some prophecies. That was of course when Pakistan and China had not become friends, whose friendship was later described as higher than the Himalayas. So, there is a season for prophecies — some come in while others go out.
Mr Zaid Hamid tells us not to worry. Pakistan is a nuclear power and the defeat of Hind (India) has been prophesied 1,400 years ago. It will not only be the end of India but Israel and the US and all other evil powers, including Russia. Pakistan and China and some true Muslims will triumph in the final father of all battles — the mother of all battles is dead since a long time, I believe. Hopefully then we will convert all the Chinese, otherwise what is the point?
What will happen to all the nuclear weapons that the enemies of Islam possess? Their total is in the thousands! Well, they will become un-useable or explode in their own countries so the Islamic forces will not be responsible for the genocide of billions of members of the human race. In any case, such details, which disturb the elegance of a simple but sensational conspiracy theory, have to be ignored. The green flag will fly atop the Delhi Fort as it should have had we not created Pakistan and denied ourselves that opportunity 63 years earlier.
Is there any chance that such prophecy may not hold or rather that no such prophecy has existed in the past and it has been manufactured by Mr Zaid Hamid to support his grand theory, which has already declared a Muslim victory? I think such questions should suffice to explain to interested readers to distinguish between conspiracies and conspiracy theories.
Attributing so much power to the Zionists or Mossad also makes no sense. The way Mossad has messed up its crime in Dubai when a hit squad was sent to assassinate a Hamas leader only shows that such an agency cannot sometimes manage even simple operations. RAW is even less likely to pull off an attack on Pakistan with impunity. Recently the Taliban killed a number of CIA operatives in Afghanistan. If Mossad-Raw-CIA were to join ranks, would they perform better or is it likely that in the absence of a common chain of command they can mess up things even more? I do not know. But I do know that neither Mr Zaid Hamid nor his theory allow for an error, and in any case whatever initial advantage these evil agencies and powers may have, our victory is a foregone conclusion. That is exactly a conspiracy theory.
Another thing to keep in mind is the following: conspiracies by their very nature are secretive and oftentimes catch their targets off-guard. ‘Et tu, Bruté?’ (Even you, Brutus?), exclaimed Julius Caesar, as his best friend joined other plotters and stabbed him to death. Of course his (Julius Caesar’s) wife, Calpurnia, had been seeing such a nightmare many times, Shakespeare informed his readers. So, maybe one can see visions about such happenings. In any case, conspiracy theories that have already exposed the culprits and punished them and defeated them are just flights of the imagination, or, could be deep dives into a bottomless void inside the belly of the earth.
Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) and the South Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore. He is also a Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University. He has published extensively on South Asian politics. At ISAS, he is currently working on a book, Is Pakistan a Garrison State? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Daily Times