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Jewish Journal

The popularity of Jewish conspiracy theories

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 11, 2009 | 3:46 pm

Ian Buruma, a journalist who has written extensively about Asian culture, has an interesting article about the popular of Jewish conspiracies in the Far East. Buruma writes:

A Chinese bestseller, entitled “The Currency War”, describes how Jews are planning to rule the world by manipulating the international financial system. The book is reportedly read in the highest government circles. If so, this does not bode well for the international financial system, which relies on well-informed Chinese to help it recover from the current crisis.

Such conspiracy theories are not rare in Asia. Japanese readers have shown a healthy appetite over the years for books such as “To Watch Jews Is To See the World Clearly”, “The Next Ten Years: How to Get an Inside View of the Jewish Protocols”, and “I’d Like to Apologize To the Japanese, A Jewish Elder’s Confession” (written by a Japanese author, of course, under the made-up name of Mordecai Mose). All these books are variations of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, the Russian forgery first published in 1903, which Japanese came across after defeating the Czar’s army in 1905.

The Chinese picked up many modern Western ideas from the Japanese. Perhaps this is how Jewish conspiracy theories were passed on as well. But Southeast Asians are not immune to this kind of nonsense either. The former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Bin Mohammed, has said that “the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” And a recent article in a leading Filipino business magazine explained how Jews had always controlled the countries they lived in, including the United States today.

In the case of Mahathir, a twisted kind of Muslim solidarity is probably at work. But, unlike European or Russian anti-Semitism, the Asian variety has no religious roots. No Chinese or Japanese has blamed Jews for killing their holy men or believed that their children’s blood ended up in Passover matzos. In fact, few Chinese, Japanese, Malaysians, or Filipinos have ever seen a Jew, unless they have spent time abroad.

So what explains the remarkable appeal of Jewish conspiracy theories in Asia? The answer must be partly political. Conspiracy theories thrive in relatively closed societies, where free access to news is limited and freedom of enquiry curtailed. Japan is no longer such a closed society, yet even people with a short history of democracy are prone to believe that they are victims of unseen forces. Precisely because Jews are relatively unknown, therefore mysterious, and in some way associated with the West, they become an obvious fixture of anti-Western paranoia.

(Hat tip: Yid with Lid)

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