The conspiracy continues… ― Clive Kessler
AUG 16 ― They are at it again, I see.
The Jewish and Freemason conspiracy guys, that is.
Or so YB Ibrahim Ali MP fears and suggests.
He wants to know how the name of the opposition leader YB Anwar Ibrahim MP ― or perhaps someone else somewhere in the vast worldwide ummah who shares his unremarkable name ― can appear in a membership list and leadership table of an obscure branch of that well-known threat to Malaysian national security, “the Jewish international organization, the Freemasons” (organisasi Yahudi antarabangsa, Freemason”), “Anwar terlibat gerakan Freemason?”, Utusan, August 15.
It may be somebody else, YB Ibrahim Ali concedes, two people with the same name, two inoffensive little pelanduk or “mousedeer” who simply look alike.
But, all the same, the Anwar Ibrahim whom we all know here in Malaysia as a prominent political personality must still explain himself, and fast, says the fearless defender of national integrity, Ibrahim Ali.
After all, he insists, “the Freemasons are a secret Zionist movement aimed at promoting worldwide Jewish power and domination” (kerana Freemason [adalah] satu gerakan sulit Zionis yang bertujuan mempromosi kekuasaan Yahudi di seluruh dunia).
Founded following the Crusades, YB Ibrahim Ali further explains, “the Freemasons were established with the objective of rebuilding the church of Solomon upon the site of the Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, in addition to enabling a certain group of Jews to dominate the world – socially, economically and politically” (Ia ditubuhkan dengan matlamat untuk membina gereja Solomon di atas tapak Masjid al-Aqsa di Baitulmuqaddis selain bertujuan membolehkan kelompok Yahudi menguasai dunia baik dari sudut social, ekonomi serta politik).
Unless Anwar does so, people will leap to adverse conclusions, and will be entitled to do so, Ibrahim Ali maintains, in view of Anwar’s earlier statements supporting the security of Israel.
Yet, magnanimously and also bizarrely, Ibrahim Ali, still clings to the hope that “it” (semua itu), meaning all that he has just said on the matter, is untrue. In other words, that he has simply played upon quite unfounded fears.
“I remain hopeful that all this is untrue, namely that Anwar is not involved in a movement of that character, even though the entire world knows of the close relationship between this leader of the opposition and the Jewish leadership” (Namun, saya maih lagi menaruh harapan bahawa semua itu tidak benar, iaitu Anwar tidak terlibat dengan gerakan sedemikian walupun satu dunia mengetahui hubungan rapat ketua pembangkan dengan pemimpin-pemimpin Yahudi).
To this one can only respond by saying that YB Ibrahim Ali, and all who think and argue similarly, simply do not begin to understand what the movement of Freemasons is all about.
It was founded as a practical expression of one of the central beliefs of the Era of Enlightenment: the principled belief in the unity of humankind, and in the possibility of goodwill among people of all faiths.
Just as the masonic craftsmen of old had built physical structures such as churches and temples, the new Masons would build, so they hoped, a new human moral order based upon beneficence, the doing of good deeds among human beings of all kinds and backgrounds.
It appealed to and drew in people of all faith communities.
But because of its connections with the liberal emancipatory ideas of the Enlightenment ― including its often anti-clerical spirit ― many conservative Catholics, including a number of those who were powerful in the Vatican, opposed the Masonic movement, denouncing it for its humanism and its religiously anti-authoritarian tendencies.
As a result, its membership and the social background of Freemasonry in some places became less than universal.
The movement at times accordingly tended to appeal to and include “everybody but Catholics.”
In some places where tensions and animosity between Catholics and Protestants were strong, the movement even tended at times to become the organizational vehicle or framework for politically-minded Protestants to mobilize against Catholics.
This was the case, for example, in a number of the Australian states, and in particular within the state civil services and, in some notable cases, the police forces.
There, people of English and Irish backgrounds were rivals who manoeuvred as Masons and Catholics for position and advancement, both individual and for their group more generally.
Even so, many notable Catholics throughout history were loyal and committed Freemasons.
Perhaps the most famous of them was the composer Mozart, a lifelong Catholic and, in his youth, a member of the retinue and musical entourage of the powerful Archbishop of Salzburg, Archbishop Colloredo.
Mozart, as his court servant, composed a great deal of sublime church music for his Salzburg patron. One cannot but be moved, for example, by the musical character, the refined and authentic spirituality, and the inexpressible beauty of Mozart’s “Coronation Mass”, especially its Agnus Dei section.
Yet this same Mozart was also a committed and active Freemason.
He wrote some important music for Masonic occasions such as his Masonic Funeral Marches.
More notable still is his great opera The Magic Flute, which is suffused with Masonic ideas, symbolism and imagery.
Was The Magic Flute an exercise in the covert promotion of the ideas of Freemasonry?
Perhaps, if one is of a conspiratorial frame of mind.
But an instrument of covert Jewish intellectual infiltration and cultural propaganda?
The whole idea is simply preposterous.
The idea of a worldwide conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons has been decisively exploded and widely discredited throughout much of the world.
It is treated with well-merited contempt and general derision, except in certain parts of the Middle East and by certain elements here in Malaysia who, following uncritically behind, are happy to take their lead from some of the most benighted minds of the Arab world.
So how has the idea of such a conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons taken hold and, in those oddly minded parts of the world, become prevalent? How has it captured and convinced those for whom its claims are congenial and the political purpose that it projects so serviceable?
As is widely recognized and has been authoritatively established by leading historical researchers, the idea of a worldwide alliance and conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons was constructed, with a specific political objective in mind, in a late nineteenth-century work known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
This was one of the world’s first purpose-designed exercises in modern political propaganda.
It was constructed and fabricated to serve the interests of the “post-liberalization” or “anti-reformist” Russian Tsars or “emperors.”
Their stance, from the early 1880s onwards, became increasingly authoritarian and avowedly ever more absolutist, anti-Western, anti-liberal and also (since it was pro-Slavic, appealing to those with ancient “roots in the Russian soil”) anti-Jewish.
In the name and cause of a renewed Slavic “medievalism” it was a stance that was basically obscurantist, backward-looking and anti-Enlightenment.
The propagandist who confected this fantasy simply composed a collage of fashionable, officially endorsed “evils”.
He identified all the different, and quite divergent and unrelated, groups whom the Tsar’s royalist advisers perceived as influential critics or potentially powerful opponents of the Tsar’s archaizing Slavic absolutism and then “tied them all up together” in one bundle.
Hence the typification of the Tsar’s enemies. He produced a propagandist’s collective “portrait” (much like a composite modern police “identikit” image) of the nominated wrongdoers as a devious, and tightly if covertly linked, group or “conspiracy” of modernizers, Westernizers, Enlightenment liberals, and Jews ― the last-named both as elite middle-class financiers and, quite contradictorily, at the same time as communist radicals.
The whole world understands this fabrication, with the possible exception of some parts of the Middle East and those who, here in Malaysia, uncritically take their lead from the Arab world’s deeply addicted yet intellectually impoverished conspiracy theorists.
So the thinking that underlies the latest accusations, or challenge, levelled by Ibrahim Ali against Anwar Ibrahim, is simply ridiculous, confused and fanciful.
Certainly, if people want to call the leader of the opposition to account, then by all reasonable means they should do so. That is what responsible national politics requires. Nothing less.
But recourse to this kind of paranoid conspiracy-theorizing is not what is needed or appropriate.
The challenge that Ibrahim Ali has posed is not only wrong in fact and detail.
It is totally wrong, even absurdly wrong-headed and ill-founded, in the kind of reasoning on which it stands.
One may try to suggest its stupendous wrong-headedness by offering a parallel with other political “tracts” and pamphlets drawn from the same era, and born of the same attitudes and political mindset, as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In that same age a number of official British imperial ideologues, “white supremacists” and “colonial expansionists” wrote tracts denouncing Malay resistance to European encroachment and advancing domination.
Malay “treachery”, it was then seen as and labelled, not noble anti-colonial resistance or proud, resourceful, determined Malay self-defence.
These tracts saw Malay “treachery” as an ingrained, or historically informed, feature of Malay national character, born of a supposedly common Malay background in “piracy”.
Contemporary Malays, in this politically-driven ideological view, together with their style of mounting political opposition and ultimately their innermost character, were all products of the fact that they were basically “pirates at heart”. Of a formative history of piracy.
Now, to invoke The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ― a fraudulent, viciously defamatory and roundly discredited tract both of obscurantism and political reaction ― to explain events today as the work of an alleged “worldwide Jewish and Freemasons’ conspiracy” is the equivalent of saying something like:
As we know from some key nineteenth-century tracts, Malays were basically, and at heart have always been, pirates; they remain so today, as it is in their nature to be that way, that is their historic character; therefore, wherever we encounter piracy in the contemporary world, such as off the coast of the Horn of Africa, it is really, beneath the surface, the work of Malays since they are the world’s best known and most notable pirates.
In fact, not just piracy on the high seas, be it noted, but all other kinds of piracy too, including patent violations, illegal music downloads, and IT “cloning”.
After all, all this is just different kinds of piracy, and piracy is all ultimately the work of the Malays. That kind of thing is in their history and character, so they are the ones who are responsible. They must be. There is no other way to explain it.
Now that is simply crazy.
Absurdly crazy and, from the point of view of rational and historically informed argument, irresponsibly crazy.
Would anybody of moderately good sense here in this country accept that quite “loony” argument, give it any credence or even a cursory hearing?
I think not.
And rightly so too.
Yet it is just as crazy to argue in the same way from that great fabrication, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to contemporary politics and world affairs.
Each is as bad as the other.
But one of them will be generally recognized as absurd, while the other, thanks to familiarity and habitual retailing, has come to seem plausible and be treated as acceptable, even respectable.
Many people in parts of the Middle East and also here in Malaysia do not see how silly, even self-contradictory, the propagandist’s argument in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion really is.
They do not see it because they find these conspiratorial scripts, scenarios and fantasies in some way personally reassuring, culturally congenial, and politically serviceable to them.
That is why, though reviled and dismissed elsewhere, the fraudulent Protocols as well as their famous reincarnation and the retelling of their silly story in the inflammatory writings of Henry Ford remain in print as Malaysian publications, and are still widely sold and read with approval in those locally produced editions, here in Malaysia.
The fact that the kind of thinking and paranoid politics that were foisted upon a crumbling autocratic empire and a troubled world in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still has a “grip” or “traction” and real currency here ― as in Ibrahim Ali’s latest challenge to Anwar Ibrahim -– is worrying, or should be, to all sensible and reasonable Malaysians.
The prevalence and, in certain powerful quarters, the tolerance and indulgence of this kind of addled thinking simply dishonours a Malaysia that sees itself, and wants to be recognized internationally, as an exemplar of religious and political “moderation”, of good sense.
Yes, there is a conspiracy afoot here in Malaysia.
It is one that is alive in the minds of politicians who issue challenges like Ibrahim Ali’s, in the paranoid imagination of those in the Malay press who give approving publicity to those challenges, and in the attitude of all those who are happy to see Malaysia as the world centre for keeping the incendiary writings of Henry Ford in print and public prominence.
It is a conspiracy made not by the inherently and irredeemably wicked (as the reviled and ridiculous Protocols sought to suggest) but by the intellectually lazy and the unnecessarily stupid.
By those who, though their self-indulgent support for stupidly paranoid fantasies, choose to make themselves stupid, and who take the naïve along with them for the ride.
When asked which is worse, evil or stupidity, the great writer Anatole France once memorably replied, “Stupidity is far more dangerous than evil. Evil takes a break from time to time, but stupidity never rests.”
With those who give continuing credence to the discredited ideas of the Protocols, stupidity is always “on the job”.
* Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at The University of New South Wales, Sydney.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.