Conspiracies, Cults and Circularity


I regard Gilad Atzmon as one of Israel’s most effective critics. But I criticized his speculation that the killing of seven people by a Muslim terrorist in France in March this year, was an Israeli ‘false flag’ operation (1). Note that his guess was tentative. He didn’t say Israeli involvement was likely.

But why would anyone even suspect that the Jewish state organised the murder of French-African soldiers and Jewish children? When Guardian writer Fiachra Gibbons misattributed the Toulouse murders, there was some slight basis to his assumption. Only one party, in French history, has killed a). black soldiers, and b). Jewish children: the Nazis. So Gibbons jumped to the conclusion that neo-Nazis were responsible (2).

In accord with the Guardian‘s liberal politics, he saw an opportunity to blame the murders on far-right anti-immigration rhetoric. The newspaper ended up with egg on its face when the killer turned out to be French-Algerian.

Atzmon’s idea was more tentative; it had no basis in fact whatsoever.

In the first place, there is no history of the state of Israel murdering people inside Western countries.

Secondly, unlike the Guardian, he made his mistake after the fatal shooting of Mohamed Merah by the police, commenting lamely that the suspect may have visited Israel. This evidence falls some way short of overwhelming.

Finally, homicidal Islamic extremists exist; Israel has no need to invent them.

To deduce, from the fact that Islamophobia benefits Israel, the idea that the Israeli government has organised a large and varied series of attacks, successfully making them all look like Islamic terrorist acts, which in turn provoked Islamophobia among idiots, is a complicated example of the logical fallacy known as ‘cui bono?‘.

After I posted an article mildly criticizing Atzmon’s comment linking Merah and Mossad as ‘pointless and tasteless‘ (3), commenters on continued to defend the view that alleged terrorists are really Israeli agents.

Following a bit more discussion, in which I was repeatedly called a ‘hasbara troll‘ for my ‘cognitive dissonance‘ in the face of the ‘overwhelming evidence‘ that terrorist attacks are really false flag operations, and accused of having a ‘Jewish power mentality‘ for using formal logic, I began to ask myself whether it’s inevitable that defenders of the Atzmon perspective believe this nonsense. Whether they are subject to a process where fanatics are selected, and doubters driven away. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. Stalin’s communist parties got loonier and loonier during the twenties and thirties. Modern examples of self-reinforcing cults include Scientology and the 9/11 truth movement.


To be fair, many of the responses to my arguments on are not as daft as the ones I cited above. But most of them suffer from the same circular logic.

Believers can’t understand why their position is circular, because it’s circular. Julian Assange needs our support, but he is called a ‘gatekeeper‘ by conspiracy theorists because he hasn’t published evidence proving that Israel is the root of all evil. Rather than using Wikileaks to test their theory, they blame it for failing to confirm it. Circular theories undermine solidarity, just as they did in the thirties.

It’s like when a Bible literalist hears the case for Darwin’s theory of evolution. He reminds himself that the Devil has the best arguments. For him, the fact that evolution sounds plausible, is evidence of its falsehood. Someone trapped in a religion like that cannot get out of it, since no possible argument could refute it, even in principle. It’s the same with the notion that Israel is behind Islamic terrorism. If you question this idea, the faithful think it’s because you are a ‘controlled asset‘. So why do I bother?

Atzmon writes about ‘anti-Zionist Zionists‘ undermining Palestine solidarity. Some of his readers mistranslate that into talk of ‘infiltrators’. Dismissing falsification as ‘controlled opposition‘ is bad enough, but some followers of the creed have an unjustifiably high opinion of their own ability to detect spies, and this delusion could be as harmful to the cause as the crypto-Zionists themselves.