Panel 3: The Conspiracy of the "Other": Revolution, Replacement, and Reinvention

October 23, 2021 1:00 - 2:30pm

Moderator: Dr. Paul Corey

Summary: This panel explores the history of conspiracy theories around white supremacy, nationalism and the Great Replacement from the 1920s to now. This includes an analysis of how modern George-Soros focused conspiracies borrow from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax and an examination of conspiracy theories within the Nazi party that lead to a violent purge within the party that helped consolidate power and control for Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and the SS.

Tad Tuleja, PhD

Bio: A folklorist with particular interests in ethnicity, stereotyping, conspiracy theories, and popular culture. Tuleja was educated at Yale, the University of Sussex, and the University of Texas at Austin, where his doctoral dissertation examined the mass media “othering” of Mexico in the 1920s. At American Folklore Society meetings, he has presented on subjects ranging from calendar customs and slang to competing “memory narratives” of traumatic events. As a songwriter, he received a development grant from the Puffin Foundation and have just released a debut EP entitled Waters Wide Between. At Harvard, Princeton, Colby College, and the University of Oklahoma, Tuleja taught courses on ethnicity, gender, revenge, urban legends, and military culture and has authored several scholarly articles and thirty books.

Abstract: "Utterly Submerged": Replacement Anxiety in the Tribal Twenties

When white supremacist marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” at a 2017 rally, they were voicing the fear that demographic shifts, abetted by Semitic or other “dark forces,” were eroding white dominance and would lead, if left unchecked, to “white genocide.” The current label for this anxiety, Replacement Theory, dates from Renaud Camus’s 2011 book The Great Replacement, but the fear fantasy itself stretches back decades; it flourished fiercely in the period that John Higham called the Tribal Twenties. In this paper, examining that decade’s fears of the New Immigration, Tuleja analyzes racist nativism as an existential “grievance tale” whose logic evades moral argument and that may best be understood as a psychogenic disruption.

The 1920s is often seen as the heyday of backwoods ignorance, known for the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and an epidemic of lynching. It also saw the rise of “scientific racism,” promoted by patrician intellectuals Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. In their alarmist tracts The Passing of the Great Race (1916) and The Rising Tide of Color (1920), they argued that white civilization was being swamped by floods of non-Nordic immigrants who threatened not just the “rich, well-born, and able,” but the purity of “protoplasm” itself. Drawing on Mary Douglas’s work on pollution and Timothy Melley’s concept of agency panic, Tuleja analyzes the 1920s’ obsession with “dusky waves” as a collective idee fixe, reflecting a terror of being (to use F. Scott Fitzgerald’s telling phrase) “utterly submerged.”

In the 1920s that terror fostered immigration restriction, a hysteria over miscegenation, and eventually the sterilization of the “unfit.” Tuleja suggests that avoiding a repetition of such grievance-borne tragedies requires what folklorists call an “emic” view of the replacement fantasy rather than an “etic” dismissal of it as benighted or malign.

Brendan Fay, PhD

Bio: Ph.D., Associate Professor of Library Management at Emporia State University, with broad interests in the function of information within closed societies, with a special focus on Nazi Germany. Fray’s research examines the role of conspiracy theories in helping bring the Nazis to power, consolidating rule, and radicalizing policy over the course of the Third Reich. His first book was My Classical Music in Weimar Germany: Culture and Politics before the Third Reich (2019, Bloomsbury) and he is working on a manuscript tentatively titled The Power of Conspiracy: Nazi Information Worlds Between Weimar and the Third Reich. He has been widely published in Current Musicology, Cultural History, Information & Culture: A Journal of History, and Library & Information History.

Abstract: Nazi Conspiracy Theories: The Röhm ‘Plot’ in the Nazi Imagination

The so-called Night of the Long Knives of June 1934—which saw the Nazis murder Ernst Röhm, head of the Nazi paramilitary organization the Sturmabteilung (SA) as well as some 100 other political opponents, former allies, and other “enemies of the Reich”—has long been recognized as a major stepping stone in the Nazi consolidation of power following Hitler’s rise to the Chancellorship in January 1933. Hitler and other Party leaders justified the extralegal killings on the grounds that Röhm and his plotters were secretly plotting to launch a coup or ‘second revolution’ that posed an extraordinary threat to state security, which had been averted at the last moment due to Hitler’s intervention.

Much of the historiography of this event has been preoccupied with the purge’s aftermath and consequences for the future direction of the regime, from the way in which it helped allay conservative fears of Nazi radicalism to the internal shift in power it represented away from Röhm and the SA towards Himmler and the SS. However, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to the specific contours of the Nazi conspiracy theory at the center of the Party’s official justification on the need to act decisively. This paper analyzes both the Nazis’ own conspiratorial claims and their reception among opposition newspapers, select memoirists and diarists, and other members of the German public and argues that the conspiracy theory fashioned by the Nazis was critical to generating public support for the purge and overcoming a moment of real potential crisis for the nascent Nazi state.

Sergio Schargel, MA

Bio: A Ph.D candidate in Literature at USP, Ph.D candidate in Media at UERJ, Ph.D candidate in Political Science at UFF and master candidate in Political Science at UNIRIO. He holds a master degree in Literature from PUC-Rio, as well as bachelors in Social Communication, Journalism and Social Communication, Advertising and Marketing, both from PUC-Rio. Graduated in Lusophone Language and Literatures at Estácio de Sá University. Current CAPES fellow, former CNPq fellow. Works as a MEI Communication Analyst at the Igarape Institute. His research and artistic production are focused on the relationship between literature and politics, covering themes such as political theory, political literature, post-memory, anti-Semitism and the work of Sylvia Serafim Thibau. Widely published in Nexo, Cantareira, Dignidade Re:Vista, Ribanceira, Valittera, HanzeMAG, Albuquerque, Almanaque de Ciência Política, and Entrelaces.

Abstract: “A specter (or scarecrow?) haunting for the last 100 years: reconstructions of anti-communist rhetoric in Brazil” 

Conspiracy theories are far from being a contemporary tendency. Even though the internet boosted it with new spreading capacities, it is a secular practice. These theories are nothing else, to use a term by Michel de Certeau (2018), than a "narrative war". In other words, "alternative" narratives try to give tones of truth to narratives created with dubious purposes. Among them, one of the most traditional is the scarecrow of communism. From “communists eat children” to the “Chinese brainwash through the vaccine”, the anti-communist imaginary served worldwide in several opportunities to legitimize and perpetuate authoritarianism. In a traditionally authoritarian country such as Brazil, it was no different. From Integralism, a movement inspired and financed by Italian Fascism, to Bolsonarism, passing through the Military Dictatorship and the Estado Novo: conspiracy theories about communism were continually used as a justification for coups d'etat and institutional ruptures. The purpose of this paper is to present a short genealogy of anti-communist rhetoric in Brazil, hermeneutically bending over discursive materials from Integralism and Bolsonarism, such as doctrines, programs, manifestos and speeches. Thus, it will be possible to answer on what forms the anti-communist imaginary was structured in the country, as well as its purposes, dissidences and consonances, as it was reconstructed over the last hundred years. It aims to contribute to the state of the art on conspiracy theories by analyzing these contemporary appearances in dialogue with its similar manifestations from the beginning of the 20th century. This paper also aims to point out how some of the rhetoric contemporary manifestations of anti-communism are used to justify and legitimize authoritarianism.