I was back in the college again today for a couple of hours teaching Functional Skills English. We looked at some old papers, talked about why you need formal English and I entertained the class with a deliberately terrible application letter. It was quite a productive session.
The group was small but very chatty and somehow the subject came round to the “Illuminati” – doesn’t it always? One of the boys made a slightly risque comment about Beyonce and I jokingly said – “oh my God, have you heard that weird internet rumour about her baby being the Antichrist?”Of course all the students had heard about this one and had plenty to say about the subject – our students always have plenty to say!
In case you think I’ve totally lost my marbles, check this out:
The pastor of Beulah Hill Baptist Church claims that the sign was the work of vandals, but this neatly illustrates one of the crazier (but incredibly viral) rumours going round the internet at the moment. The idea that the baby is the Antichrist – wait for it – rests on the fact that Beyonce and husband Jay-Z are members of a secret society called the Illuminati, a peculiar Masonic coalition of celebrities and politicians dedicated towards the foundation of a one world government.
Here is one take on the Illuminati – note the narration by lizard loving ex footballer David Icke:
And then we have the version that focuses more on celebrities, specifically Jay-Z:
The roll-call of potential Illuminati members is endless: from the world of politics we have both Bushes; Clinton and Blair. From business we have Rupert Murdoch. And from the entertainment industry we have Jay-Z, Rhianna, Beyonce, Kanye West, Lady Gaga and British pop act Jessie J.
Here’s rather a sweet video of Jessie explaining how annoying she finds all the Illuminati stuff:
The comments below the video clip are a treat in themselves; we have every conspiracy theory nutcase piling into poor Jessie and accusing her of every crime it’s possible to mention. It reminds me of discussions I have had with my students for several years now. I was completely baffled by the Illuminati stuff when I first heard it – how could these young people believe such far fetched nonsense? I’ve thought about it a lot and have come up with the following explanation.
Basically the Illuminati theories are theories of power. The young people I was chatting to today may not have read Marx or Foucault or Gramsci but they understand power and the basic truth that some people in society seem to be able to play by different rules from the rest of us.
OK, Fred the Shred had to hand back his Knighthood and that other bloke from RBS got his bonus taken away, but on the whole the rules that apply to most of us do not apply to the super-rich, to politicians or celebrities. They have the ability to buy their way out of trouble via the services of top class lawyers, accountants and financial advisers – they do not have to do time or pay tax. Kids in the inner city give the proceeds of their minimum wage jobs to entertainers like Kanye or Rhianna, while politicians take our votes and then say there’s no money left for public services.
It all comes back to the Occupy slogan: We are the 99 per cent
Conspiracy theories – like the Illuminati theories – represent an attempt to come to terms with the crashing inequalities of our modern world. They are a way for young people to try and understand why their life chances are so poor despite the fact that so many people in London, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Sydney – you name it – are so rich. The Illuminati myth would not flourish in a society where there were opportunities for everyone; the Illuminati myth would not flourish in a society where the values of neo-liberalism had not taken over.
Oh dear I am in a bit of a ranty mood tonight.