THE conspiracy theories doing the rounds on social media and the Internet after the Westgate Mall siege, are revealing. Not because such theories speak to contemporary society and a belief in the irrational – but rather because they signal to readers and commentators, how Internet users are increasingly turning to urban legend, myth and fantasy as a means of avoiding the ongoing confrontation between antiquity and the future.
One piece by Shawn Halton of 21st Century Wire, contends the Westgate siege is the result of a massive coverup — a special operation involving Larry Silverstein of 911 fame. Halton goes so far as to allege the infamous “Raid on Entebbe” in Uganda during 1976, was actually a “Hollywood rescue” in which Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, not only participated in the hijacking, but stage managed the entire thing as though it were some kind of televised Big Brother drama in which the PLO and dictator Idi Amin played no part whatsoever.
The piece is backed up by an unverified, anonymous political source quoted by the venerable BBC, who claims the event was deliberately staged by Israel to cast Palestinians in an unfavorable light.
Another less absurd but equally disturbing piece by Horace G Campbell writing in Pambazuka, attempts to portray Somalia as the innocent victim and the Kenyans and West as the aggressors, in the process resorting to political theories popular on campuses during the 1970s. “There is now a major contradiction between Britain and Kenya over the future of Somalia,” he writes “In the past one hundred years, Kenya had been the base for British imperial operations in East Africa. From Nairobi, British capitalism had sought to dominate the East African region and Britain had encouraged Kenyan capitalists to break up the East African community.”
So a century after colonialism, we are expected to believe the Kenyans are the new colonists. Can one truly explain away every act of terror on the continent as simply the correct response to underdevelopment and deliberate policies of colonialism In which Africans are reduced to the status of willing puppets without human agency, subaltern victims of a grand conspiracy involving the banks and large corporations?
Campbell’s convoluted piece, riddled with caveats and private anecdotes speaks nothing of the failure of the East African community to deal with Arabisation on the continent. The dictates of capital and the vagaries of the marketplace do not explain away the recent quarrel in which Sudan separated into two halves, along an Arab versus African divide, nor does it offer any solutions to the problem in Mali, the Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt and the rest of the Maghreb for that matter.
This is not the quaint duality between the empire and its outlying regions, the faded academic center and its outmoded periphery, nor can we say that ethnicity, religion and culture is solely to blame for driving these divisions, rather, the conflict televised and reflected by the world’s media has become part and parcel of the post-modern condition, a relentless battle between those who wish to preserve antiquity, whether it be a Christian, Muslim or Jewish version of the ancient holy land and its satellites in Africa, and those who wish the world to advance and progress towards the future.
Instead of the resort to Hollywood, or the appeal to liberal class theory, and with it the usual outpouring of invective, red herrings, brickbats and ideological semaphore that litter today’s online social media, readers could do well to contemplate what a world might look like in which this conflict between the past and future were resolved.
Imagine if you will a truce between the faiths in which a passport to the Holy Land of Antiquity was available. Then imagine the opposite, a world in which the only other place to go to was the Future. Now think where the ancients with all their problems and phobias might travel, and offer debriefing instructions for those wanting to escape. Likewise, those who wish a refuge from the future, along with its robots, drones, singularities and post-gendered relations, offering them all a way out of modernity.
This is not some new Cold War by Obama, or the technological detente between the North and South waged on the Internet, but rather an elegant means of ensuring humanities ongoing survival. After the carnage of Nairobi and the depravity of Aleppo, we cannot continue with business as usual — since we who live and communicate with the Internet, could all get taken out in a gas or mortar attack and regardless of our affiliations or the age of the books we read, and all because of the emerging global war between crazed Mujahideen and the Army of Robots, as Antiquity battles our Future.