A Twitter-storm is now the new headline factory, which is no surprise since silliness often hits the top of CNN and the New York Times based on trending hashtags. While the Malheur rebellion was hitting its twilight, and the police standoff ended in a fatal shooting, B.O.B. was stealing some of the spotlight with his geological ideas.
For those who have not seen the flurry of articles and late-night monologues about this: B.O.B. believes the earth is flat. We don’t mean this as a Friedmanesque analogy about 21st century corporate globalization, but literally that it is a disc. The Flat Earth Society has existed for over a century continuing to play on contemporary conspiracy theories to argue that the Earth is not a globe as all of contemporary science proves. Instead, they make strange arguments about the angling of the horizon and fundamentalist readings of the Bible to argue against what has been the consensus for hundreds of years. In this view the Arctic Ocean and North Pole reside at the center of this spinning disc, Antarctica is a 150-foot ice wall that holds the oceans in from falling off the edge, and the Sun is about 3,000 miles above Earth.
Those who do ascribe to Flat Earth Theory are not your regular Alex Jones type crackpots, or even those who believe world leaders to be secret Reptilian Humanoids from the lower fourth-dimension. No, this is the fringe of the fringe, and it would be hard to believe that their numbers are larger than a few hundred in the whole world. Now, they have a few celebrity cohorts.
This began several weeks ago with former reality-star Tila Tequila going to Twitter to post that the earth was, in fact, flat. “I WILL STOP MY #FLATEARTH TALK IF SOMEONE CAN SEND ME A GOD DAMN PHOTO OF THE HORIZON WITH A CURVATURE! OTHERWISE IT IS FLAT!,” read one of these.
B.O.B., the rapper also going by Bobby Ray, then took this idea and ran with it, quoting silly talking points from Flat Earthers about the edge of the horizon, the angle of the sun, and the angles of vision. Both Tila and B.O.B. went on to basically insult the world’s intelligence and call non-believers sheep, which is why it has been easy to focus on the level of stupidity at pla. The unfortunate part is that neither Tila nor B.O.B. are simply parroting innocent eccentricities.
After being made fun of by famed physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, B.O.B. released a new track called Flatline. Beyond being barely produced and sung, the song basically strung together various inane conspiracy theories. Here he insinuates that NASA is a government control plot and pays Tyson for his participation. Later B.O.B. tweeted him asking if he was a Freemason. In Flatline, he goes on to discuss cloning, which he says is being done to black celebrities, and that science is a cult of liars. At midpoint during the song he drops the following line:
Before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving.
Stalin was way worse than Hitler.
That’s why POTUS gotta wear a Kippa
There is really only one thing that David Irving is famous for today: Holocaust Denial.
Irving began as a semi-respected historian of the Second World War, especially of Nazi Germany. Though he was certainly allied with neo-fascist political programs while in college, he went on to publish major works on the Third Reich that were on cutting edge in terms of legitimate scholarship. It was true that his work was problematic and sympathetic to Nazism even from the earliest publications, and he eventually began saying that the Holocaust was not on the direct order of Hitler. After the Canadian trial of Ernst Zundel, who was being tried for “inciting racial hatred” for publishing the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?, Irving was swayed by the debunked testimony of Fred Leuchter. He has associated with far-right and neo-Nazi groups, both in speaking for them in talks that blame Jews for their own persecution and for openly stating his own racial nationalist ideas. Today, he is the most famous Holocaust Denier in the world as he is one of the only deniers who had a historical pedigree ahead of the denial. He gained further notoriety after suing Deborah Lipstadt in the early 1990s after her book, the seminal work on holocaust denial, Denying the Holocaust, claimed that he was, in fact, a racist and a liar. He then went through an embarrassing trial where he was forced to try and defend his claims about the Holocaust as a planned program for Jewish extermination, which he could not do. He eventually lost both his claims and the counter-suit that Lipstadt leveled against him. Later he was imprisoned in Austria for denying the Holocaust, where it is actually a serious crime.
What B.O.B. seems to be referencing here is a common claim on the far-right that Hitler’s numbers in terms of extermination and oppression were inflated, and in fact it was the Soviets who were the bigger criminals. Part of this comes from the inclusion of German casualties to Soviet troops in WWII, as well as the numbers from political repression and incompetence in Stalin’s Russia. The purpose of this comparison is to dethrone ethnic nationalism as an immediately recognized genocidal force and to instead list Nazi Germany as just one of the many violent regimes that have blanketed human history. B.O.B. goes on to label the Jews specifically by mentioning the Kippa, saying that world leaders have to have Jewish allegiances.
This is not a coded message about Holocaust Denial, but an open reference to anyone that researched his message. This took several days, and Salon was essentially the first source to go deep into his comments to analyze their background. B.O.B. has referenced things like “false flag” U.S. attacks, bringing up the Alex Jones type conspiracy theories about 9/11.
B.O.B. might seem like an outlier even to the conspiracy theory crowd, but, as Tila Tequila has shown previously, the connection to open anti-Semitism is much more ingrained. In 2013 she inspired a massive controversy by posting a picture of herself in a modified Hitler costume. Many people thought this was an ill-tempered attempt at provocation, but it was quickly put in context as she posted multiple blogs on her website showing admiration for Hitler and doubting the “official story” of the Holocaust. If you were to then go through her forums and comments section, this connection became even more explicit. Over and over again she said that contemporary Jews were in fact not Jews at all, but Khazars. This is a less known conspiracy theory to the broad tinfoil hat crowd, and one that comes from the most violent annals of white nationalism. Often present in Christian Identity churches, which also believe that people of color are not fully human and without souls, they believe that the ancient Israelites of the Bible were actually the European white race. Jews were in fact a demonic tribe of people, sometimes considered to be a tribal band known as the Khazars. They converted to the Babylonian Temple religion, a perverted version of the Old Testament, and its devious plans are fully revealed in the Babylonian Talmud. In this theory, their main function is to leech on dominant national populations, trying to destroy the white race by inspiring race mixing. This may sound too extreme for Tila Tequila to believe, and it is most likely from reading her mixed posts that she probably only read parts of a few blogs and articles before deciding Jews were evil, but this is certainly at the heart of her ranting. Anyone that disagrees with her she calls a “dirty Jew” and a “Kike.” She repeatedly says that Jews lie to get the State of Israel, that they tarnished great men like Hitler, and that they are in control of the media and the investment banks. She was even thrown off of Celebrity Big Brother in mid-2015 after her comments surfaced, especially that she was the reincarnation of Hitler.
Hitler was a good man and it takes some f*****g balls for someone to say this out loud in this day and age, especially for a public figure like myself…Here is a man who was not a coward, stood up for his country in a desperate time of need… and yet not only did he try his best to help his country and people get out of what was a time of depression, economic collapse, high unemploymeny(sic). He lost the war and was painted out to be a monster after his death. This is what breaks my heart. (From her blog)
When speaking about the Jews in WWII specifically she was pretty candid.
What do you think war is about? People DIE in wars that is why I am against wars… I understand the Jewish people went through some s**t too, but hey guess what?? SO DID THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO SUFFERED IN EVERY SINGLE WAR THAT TOOK PLACE! You were NOT the only ones! So please, if the rest of us can forgive and forget maybe it’s time you do also!!!
The question that comes up from many media outlets right now is how two folks of color, B.O.B. and Tila Tequila, would be parroting extreme genocidal racists who would likely want to see them in camps just as much as Jewish people. This is complex, but anti-Semitism itself has been ever present inside conspiracy theories that are still common in some communities of color. Often deeply held inside black nationalist groups like the Nation of Islam, the Black Hebrew Israelites, and the Nuwabian Nation, Jews are vilified and seen as a primary agent in the colonial slave trade. Anti-Semitism has historically been a main focus of conspiracy theories, from the identification of Freemasons as controlling the secret government to the trans-national Illuminati that is repackaged for every ideological specific development. In How to Overthrow the Illuminati, which was a popular pamphlet discussing conspiracy theories in African American communities, anti-Semitism is able to unite working class people against their own interest in the same way that general racism can unite the white working class against their class unity.
Anti-Semitism united poor workers with small business owners, despite their opposed interests. The poor workers were angry about their treatment under capitalism, but saw Jews as a bigger enemy than their exploiting factory bosses. The small business owners worked to become the big-time exploiters of the poor workers, and felt Jews stood in the way of their goals. These two classes were fundamentally opposed to each other, but temporarily joined together in a populist movement, because of their mutual, misguided anti-Semitism. Populist movements join poor people with the petit-bourgeoisie, against imagined elite enemies. They speak in the name of the “common man,” but they’re guided by middle class elements, and screw over poor and working participants in the end. Contemporary examples of populism include the Tea Party, some parts of Occupy Wall Street, and the Nation of Islam. Illuminati theories are often populist in character. Many populist theories draw on anti-Semitism to identify an evil elite that runs the world.
Anti-Semitism is so ingrained in the history of conspiracy theory that any new conspiracy theory that has any continuity to the past will lead back to the blaming of Jews. This is present in the notion that it was Israelis who committed 9/11 as well as the David Icke presented idea that there are certain “bloodlines” that control banks and who benefit from global violence. This brings us right back to B.O.B., who uses the lyric “there’s no superior bloodline” in Flatline’s chorus, which, in this context, seems like a clearly coded reference to Jews and their supposedly “secret bloodline” that allows them to control global affairs.
B.O.B. is continuing to mention online that there are cloning centers that he himself has witnessed and that he is “going up against the greatest liars in history.” He will likely be dismissed as a crank, which he is, yet his return to very traditional anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is a frightening reminder that this caricature of Jews is on the tip of people’s tongues. When David Irving was questioned about B.O.B.’s reference to him in his song, he said, “[B.o.B] does not quite go along with what the media (and shortly, Hollywood) says about me, quite right.” As Salon pointed out, Hollywood in this context is likely a snide reference to Jews. It took all of two days before B.O.B. was added to the Wikipedia list of Holocaust Deniers.
Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to the recent Flat Earth claims by discussing the failure of American education, especially when it comes to the physical sciences. He kept it pretty light with an appearance on the Daily Show, basically making fun of B.O.B. for his statements. This is part and parcel of a media representation that has largely missed the depth that his comments.
This actually presents a challenge to anti-racists in that it requires a certain understanding of the history of anti-Semitism, its role in conspiracy theory and economic populism, and how we can continue to highlight how it goes unchallenged in many political spaces. As we hit Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is a critical time to remember what has come before and what unchallenged hatred and scapegoating can result in.