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“For some people, whenever an event happens, they will be quick to inject anti-Semitism,” said Mark Pitcavage, co-director of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League “[Rosen] is not the focus of the theories but because he is Jewish and has been thrust into the spotlight, conspiracy theories will of course use him.”
Michael Barkun, a professor emeritus of Political Science at Syracuse University specializing in political extremism points to three characteristics key to the conspiracy theorist’s mindset: nothing happens by accident, everything is connected and nothing is as it seems.
“If that’s your view of the world, then appearances can’t be trusted. There has to be some hidden reality and linkings that have to be exposed,” said Barkun, author of “A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalypitic Visions in Contemporary America.”
Pitcavage said conspiracy theories often pop up around a specific event, particularly a traumatic or widely publicized one.
“These are usually events so awful and traumatic that it’s hard for a number of people to accept a simple explanation for what happens,” Pitcavage said.
Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are of course, nothing new. But the rise of the blogosphere has made it so that old ideas die harder. “The Internet is the perfect place to incubate conspiracy theories. Old ones like the Protocol of the Elders of Zion, new ones like the Zionists and the CIA engineered 9/11,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center explained.
The ease with which information can be accessed on the Internet means that fringe views don’t remain on the sidelines of debate, and explosive arguments, once viral, can seem representative of a larger number of people than they are in reality. This didn’t used to be the case.
“If you go back to the 1970s and 80s, you certainly have people that have bias against institutions but they tend to be insulated into little subcultures that had little ability to reach larger audiences,” Barkun said.