One widespread conspiracy meme is built around the idea that Muslims are surreptitiously taking control of America. Similar in concept to the well-known Red Scare of the Cold War, this meme has spread especially well after the events of 9/11.
One website that supports this meme is Atlas Shrugs, a conservative blog written by Pamela Gellar, which posted a 20-point plan for Muslim invasion, apparently recovered by an “intrepid Swiss journalist” (Gellar). Atlas Shrugs is a standalone blog with no visible connections to a larger organization, and focuses mainly on Islam. The plan was supposedly written in the early 1980’s by Muslim conspirators intent on the Islamic takeover of America. One reason conspiracy memes are so effective at spreading is that there is usually a grain of truth in it, and this is no exception. Blackmore (1999) states that “Memes spread themselves around indiscriminately without regard to whether they are useful, neutral, or positively harmful to us” (pg. 7). Many of the points of the plan are extremely hard to disprove–for example, the point that says conspirators “Applaud Muslims as loyal citizens of the U.S. by spotlighting their voting record as the highest percentage of all minority and ethic groups in America” (Gellar).
Ambiguity seems to be a hallmark of this conspiracy meme; a lot of the supposed evidence for a Muslim invasion seems to coincide with relatively normal practices. For example, Right Side News, a conservative news site and blog with dozens of authors, has a lengthy article proposing that a Saudi prince’s $300 million investment in Twitter is connected to the conspiracy. Goetzel (2011)’s definition of a conspiracy includes the idea that “Claims of conspiracy cannot be reflexively dismissed, but they are difficult to test because lack of evidence can be interpreted as proof of how cleverly the conspirators have hidden it” (Goetzel). When events are viewed through the lens of a conspiracy, almost anything can seem plausibly related.
Speaking of the larger conspiracy, another clue to why this meme spreads so well is a related idea I’ll call the Muslim President meme. As the name suggests, this is the popular conspiracy theory that President Obama is secretly a Muslim. Various sites attempt to connect the President with Islam, but an article on the conservative Christian blog Now The End Begins, with seven main contributors, attempts to collect many claims in one place. There is no information on the owners or main contributors of this site, but many different authors post on it. The obvious appeal of this conspiracy theory in relation to the Muslim Invasion theory is that the conspiracy, like any good schemes, exists in the highest echelons of government.
What is interesting about these sites is that they do not seem to be the work of a larger organized group. None are linked with any larger organization. It seems this particular meme is effective enough to propagate through limited webs of individuals without a larger distribution network.
Blackmore, Susan J. The Meme Machine. Oxford [England: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.
Goetzel, Ted. “The Conspiracy Meme.” Skeptical Inquirer 2011: n. pag. Print.