When we let conspiracy theory masquerade as news, we fall prey to much more than deception.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Seven years ago, I was walking on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem with a Catholic priest, an American who served a Palestinian parish in the area. We got to talking about the ongoing political crisis among the Palestinians. The priest said the most confounding thing about Palestinian politics was the power of rumor and conspiracy theory over the people.
"Last week after Mass, my parishioners were telling me that Arafat is really a Jew," the priest said. "This is what they'd heard, and they believed it completely."
Yasser Arafat a Jew? Really, they believe that?
Yes, said the priest -- and next week, he said, they'll have heard the complete opposite and will believe that just as fervently. The priest reflected sadly that the susceptibility of the Palestinians -- Christians and Muslims both -- to rumor made it appallingly easy for corrupt politicians to exploit the common people. I thought about that story recently as I peered into a window of an Istanbul bookstore and saw on display a title purporting to explain how the leader of Turkey's ruling Islamist party is really a "son of Moses" -- that is, a Jew. As preposterous as that sounds -- as preposterous as that is -- there are plenty of people in Turkey prepared to believe it.
Given Turkey's current political struggle between Islamists on one side and military-backed secularists and nationalists on the other, rumors that take on the weight of fact can tip the balance of power.
Read the entire article on the Dallas Morning News website (new window will open).