In Germany for a few days before I finally head back to the states. And, damn. What a week...
The couple I'm couchsurfing with have provided endless interesting topics of conversation and insights into the current state of affairs in Germany. In Germany, more than anywhere else, I'm always surprised when I land to find how different peoples' views and perspectives are from what I imagine the average German citizen to be thinking and feeling.
In my hosts, I've found a veritable breeding ground for conspiracy theories.
A lot of my conversation with Sil- and C- this week has been around refugees and immigration in Europe, US foreign policy, and Russia. I don't think their views are widely representative of what the average citizen is feeling, but here they are:
The US Government is Strong-arming Angela Merkel to Accept More Refugees Into Germany
Cologne is not my first time hearing conspiracy theories whilst in Germany. Last year when I passed through Frankfurt, I was regaled with tales that the Syrian refugee crisis was a plot orchestrated by the US government to undermine the German economy.
When I asked Sil- and C- if they believed this, I was still surprised to see how enthusiastically they nodded yes.
They acquiesced that the entire conflict wasn't, per se, all a plot to derail Germany, but they did wholeheartedly believe that the US government has been pressuring the country to accept refugees, knowing Germany cannot handle the scale of incoming immigrants.
Sil- and C-'s general views on the subject:
They aren't against refugees entering the country and are sympathetic to their plight. But they don't believe the government is well-equipped enough, nor has it prepared enough, to accept the sheer volume of people seeking entry. C- described the situation thus: refugees have been provided food and housing, but there are no jobs for them to work, there are no activities for them to pursue. Not only are the country's public finances overwhelmed, but the large majority of immigrants are left idle and restless.
Another issue, C- noted, is that there have been no efforts or plan to integrate or initiate refugees into the fabric of the society. This leaves most floating in a state of being physically present, but having no ties to the state or connection with the culture.
But, they say, despite the government being knowingly unequipped to support additional refugees, it is pressured to do so by the US.
the US government has manipulated the Syrian crisis for the express purpose of creating chaos and destabilization in Germany, because they fear a Germany that is both economically and politically strong and stable.
Russia as the unsung hero, America as the antagonist derailing world peace.
Sil- and C- believe Putin has been unfairly and wrongly portrayed by the media and western leaders as an authoritarian ruler guilty of human rights abuses. The reason? To isolate and vilify a country that would pose a threat to US hegemony.
I asked them if, at the very least, they believe that under Putin's regime, freedoms like speech and press are suppressed, and the country's leaders are making decisions that negatively impact the average citizen.
Their response was actually pretty good: "In America black men can be shot for wearing hoodies. Is that a free country?"
Sil- and C- were very convinced that American politicians and major news outlets' anti-Russian rhetoric and 'propaganda' are a part of a continued and prolonged effort to alienate Russia from Europe. In particular, they believe the US's greatest fear is a friendly Germany and Russia, which would eliminate a need for US influence or presence in Europe.
Now I'm not saying I've been turned, but it was actually emotional watching Sil- nearly tear up asking why Russia has been unfairly alienated from Germany, when they might otherwise have been brothers.
The US is far removed, physically, from any business in Europe. For this reason, it feels a need to disrupt relations and create disunity with Russia, because a truly united and harmonious Europe would obviate the necessity for any US presence in the region at all.
The US Either Helped Orchestrate, or was Savvy to, the 9/11 Attacks as a Pretense for Military Engagement in the Middle East.
Of course, any conspiracy theory conversation held at length, will, inevitably, touch on 9/11...
Sil- and C-'s opinions here are that US intelligence undoubtedly must have, at the very least, been privy to the knowledge of an impending attack. The argument is a la Andreas van Bülow- that the attacks were too well-coordinated, and there exist too many following contradictions, for the US government not to have been involved.
They asked me if I truly believed my government was innocent in this matter. I cheated and hedged my answer. I said:
What's more telling than any answer I can give you is the fact that many Americans do question the September 11 attacks, and it is common to find someone who, at the very least, is uncertain about the version of events we've been officially read on. The question is: "Do you trust your government?" Do you trust that your government is working for you? Do you believe in the system of politics that makes this country work?....
It is the fact that these 9/11 conspiracy theories exist, within the States, that reflects the psychological rupture between many Americans and how we think about our government. People feel that they have been lied to. Misled. And they've suffered for it. And now, a decade and a half later, we have no more clarity, perhaps even more questions, about all the events that have succeeded 9/11.
... And it is in this state that our country faces an election where a former Secretary of State and two-term US Senator stands a very real chance of losing to a man who has actually called on another country to violate international law to hack private documents and 'bring the truth to light'...
Food for thought.