Conspiracism is disrupting the 2020 election cycle. The Q-ANON Conspiracy Theory being spread by many supporters of President Donald A. Trump is NOT harmless. It paves the road to antisemitism, Islamophobia, attacks on folks in the LGBTQ communities, and widespread anti-immigrant Xenophobia.

One group of Trump supporters claims they are receiving secret details of the various plots and plans from a covert US government “insider” known as “QAnon.” Some people suggested the evil-doers were the reincarnations of the secretive “Illuminati” group from the 1800s.

As early as 2016 some supporters of Donald J. Trump for President claimed there was a massive conspiracy against him, naming a variety of alleged sinister plotters. These claims of subversion and treason persisted during Trump’s administration The Internet is now (in 2020) flodded with scurrilous claims there is a massive conspiracy against him, naming a variety of alleged sinister plotters. These claims of subversion and treason persisted during his administration and now pollute the 2020 election cycle.

Hello! My name is Chip Berlet and I am a journalist and scholar living in the United States. I helped create the Ted Animation on the widespread conspiracy theories concerning the historic group know as the “Illuminati.”

My most popular study about conspiracy theories is titled:
Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating.

“Toxic to Democracy” takes a few seconds to load, but then you can read it online or download it here:

Are the Illuminati the covert puppet-masters behind an evil conspiracy to control the world? Do they secretly guide the banking system and the mass media?

The rumors about the Illuminati wash across the Internet in an endless cascade of speculation and competing claims. Almost all these theories are false. The historic record is fantastic enough.

The original Illuminati were a group of influential men based in Europe in the mid-1700s. Some of them were in a similar secretive group called the Freemasons that is still around today. They used secret codes to identify each other and performed strange but harmless rituals.

Yet both groups were an actual threat to the leaders of European nations who believed that religion, politics, and government should be fused together. Some nations were Catholic. Others were Protestant. The Illuminati objected to the linkage of religion and government. They wanted the separation of church and state and called for open policy debates and the election of government leaders. These were revolutionary ideas in those days when Kings and Queens from royal families ran the governments in Europe.

But some ideas are hard to suppress, and the ideas of the Illuminati and Freemasons led to a revolt that toppled the French government and inspired the revolution in the United States in 1776. In what is now the state of Bavaria in modern, Germany the government feared a similar revolt, and between 1784 and 1790 issued several proclamations banning both the Illuminati and Freemason groups.

Several books critical of the Freemasons and Illuminati were published in Europe, launching a panic that these revolutionary subversives still sought to overthrow governments. This sort of panic happens when people let their fears of the future get out of hand and start spreading conspiracy theories about treachery and subversion by evil forces.

A major conspiracism panic struck the United States in 1778 when well-known Boston preacher Jedidiah Morse gave a sermon warning of plots by Illuminati agents in the new nation. Soon other preachers warned about treasonous plots. Sermons and articles appeared in newspapers. These concerns over non-existent subversive plots finally withered away in the early 1800s.

Conspiracy claims popped up again in the 1820s in a national Anti-Masonic movement. Then in the late 1800s there was a conspiracy scare alleging that the Pope in Rome, Italy was urging Catholics in the United States to plot a revolt and seize government power. A mob near Boston even burned down a Catholic convent school.

In the 1920s similar conspiracy theories of subversion from within were spread about Jews in the United States. A fake document was circulated that was said to contain the plans of Jewish elders to secretly manipulate the government, banks, universities, and the press. These so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” have been thoroughly investigated by scholars and debunked as a fraud. Yet they still can be found today on the Internet.

Lurid claims of a subversive conspiracy were briefly raised during the US election campaign in 1960 in which a Roman Catholic, John F. Kennedy, Jr. from Massachusetts, was the candidate of the Democratic Party. Leaders from various religions as well as the Republican and Democratic parties denounced the anti-Catholic bigotry. Kennedy was elected President.

There also are plenty of conspiracy theorists on the political Left in the United States. They are just as annoying and disruptive as those on the political Right.

The pattern here is clear. Unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about secret subversion and treachery disrupt the process of building a stable society which requires factual information for voters to make informed decisions that preserve democracy itself.

The full study: “Toxic to Democracy,” takes a few seconds to load, but then you can read it online or download it here: