The world gets stranger, or perhaps it is just the United States that get stranger. The New York Times reports that a much planned and publicized military exercise in the southern states has become a source for speculation by conspiracy theorists. Surely no-one believes such stuff? It would be tempting to think that it is the stuff of a tiny minority, until I remembered an encounter on a street corner in Seattle four years ago.
The posters were bizarre: Barack Obama depicted with a Hitler moustache with a British flag as a backdrop, above the image in bold letters, “End British Occupation”. Taking a photograph of the poster, I was approached by a genial young man who asked if I were from the NSA.
“No”, I said, “from Ireland. Which British occupation are you protesting against?”
“The British occupation of the United States through the power of the City of London – it is the centre of world power. It is like the days of the East India Company and the opium wars. Do you understand how strong private interests can be?”
“I have a degree in politics and history from the London School of Economics – I do know my history. If you are objecting to the power of financial institutions, then why don’t you say so?”
“Because the power is centred in Britain and because Obama is collaborating with them”.
“If your objection is to the power of the IMF and the World Bank and the other bodies, then name them”.
“But people understand when we name the British”.
“But it’s the institutions that have the power – ask anyone in Ireland. Working people are paying for a deal to bail out the banks that has been imposed by the institutions”.
“Yes – and the Irish people have responded well in voting for Sinn Fein”.
“Well, it was nice talking to you”, I said, shook his hand and walked on.
The logic of his politics was unfathomable – Sinn Fein were clear in naming the IMF and ECB as the powers overseeing the current situation in Ireland; Sinn Fein certainly objected to British occupation, but of the Six Counties, not of the United States of America; and no-one in Sinn Fein would have depicted Barack Obama with a Hitler moustache.
Asking a woman in a shop in a nearby street if she knew anything of the political activists who had posters of Obama with a moustache, she shook her head, “the crazies”.
“Are they left or right wing?”
“Right-wing – they follow a guy called Lyndon LaRouche”.
Googling LaRouche, his views seemed an amalgam of conspiracy theory, prejudice and the plain fantastic.
Catching up with the good lady, she had asked me who I had been talking to. “A man who thought I was from the NSA because I had taken a photograph of his posters and who believed that the British controlled the world”.
“Well, it would serve you right if the NSA had taken your photograph. I told you not to talk to strangers”.
Indeed, I thought none could have been be much stranger than the LaRouche crowd, but it seems they are getting worse.