Encompassing everything from antisemitism to belief in shapeshifting lizards, the New World Order theories are wide-ranging and historic. Emerging out of the enlightenment battle for reason, the ideas have become possibly the quintessential conspiracy theory. They are seen prominently in this very moment as American President Donald Trump proclaims himself the victim of deep-state fraud. Yet, how did these ideas come to find themselves embedded in popular culture? How can they be so widely believed?
The New World Order is a story of religious war and genocide, one that has fed into both oppressive movements and ongoing efforts to quell rationality and reason. It might very well be one of the most dangerous ideas ever conceived.
The origins of belief in the Illuminati as an all-powerful group pulling the strings of governments and populations alike goes back to the French Revolution and ruling class opposition to the overthrow of the monarchy. The success of the revolution led to widespread fears that the working class were on the verge of rebellion across Europe, with many believing it impossible that the lower orders had gained sufficient agency to act against “their betters”. The likes of the French publicist and Jesuit priest Augustin Barruel and British physicist and mathematician John Robison instead proposed that the revolution had come via the shadowy hand of the Illuminati and Freemasons.
Arising during the 16th and 17th centuries, Freemasonry has long been accused of Satanic practices by critics, often through a misunderstanding of its symbols and rituals. Secret by nature, historically insular lodges led to all manner of speculation through humanity’s own inquisitiveness and tendency to think the worst. These claims were rarely able to be combatted by the masons, wishing to adhere to their codes of silence. Given the fraternal nature of the movement, with prominent men being selected by invite, it is easy to believe that the group was working covertly to ensure they remained in positions of political power. However, Freemasonry is not a single movement, with many lodges…