The modern conspiracy theory is usually traced back to Augustin Barruel, a former Jesuit who argued in the 1790s that the French Revolution was the result of a clandestine intrigue dating back centuries, carried out by secret societies: Freemasons, Templars, Bavarian Illuminati, and so on. Barruel later expanded his theory to include the Jews, giving birth to the “Judeo-Masonic myth”. This has been wheeled out to explain every upheaval in Western history, from the events of 1848 to the Russian Revolution, to the outcome of the First World War. As adapted by Russia’s Tsarist secret police, and then the Nazis, the myth was used to justify some of the most brutal episodes in European history.
In his 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, the historian Richard Hofstadter argued that right-wing US fringe movements were particularly susceptible to such thinking. The bogeymen changed, from the Illuminati to Catholics to communists (or, he might have said, liberal paedophiles). But each time, the “style” was the same, blaming complex social ills on “a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic yet subtle machinery set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life”. And such an enemy, of course, demands not “political give-and-take, but an all-out crusade”. (The Week, 22 August 2020)
My comment: Conspiracy theories are the resort of those psychologically messed up people who are incapable of quietly discussing or debating policies on which they disagree. If you are dumb, uneducated and inarticulate, your resort is to drag the other guy down in the dirt. “Sucking the blood of little children?” Pathetic. Grow up!