I divided family will destroy itself, a divided nation will anticipate ruin prepared by its enemies.
The year is 1798, think waistcoats and powdered white hair.
It’s July 4th and a young United States of America, a celebrating her 22nd birthday.
The perfect time to have an identity crisis.
The scene is Yale College, which had already been around for nearly a century.
The school’s president.
Reverend Timothy, Dwight stands in front of a crowd of his fellow New England, Elites and delivers a sermon.
Oh, thou God, of our fathers, our own God, and the god of our children, but this speech isn’t quite the birthday celebration.
You might expect Timothy.
Dwight has some bigger things on his mind.
He’s worried for his country Justice truth.
Kindness piety and moral obligation universally have been not merely trodden underfoot but ridiculed spurned and insulted as the childish bugbears of driving idiocy.
But Bears, huh?
That’s a good old.
Timey insult to keep in the back pocket.
Anyways, Dwight sermon is titled the duty of Americans at the present crisis and the present crisis.
He’s worried about is a theory.
There’s an organization conspiring to infiltrate the US government and that organization is the Illuminati.
Yeah, for real.
For really real, the great and good ends proposed by the Illuminati as the ultimate objects of their Union.
Are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society, civil and domestic.
Wow, that sounds serious.
But obviously the idea that the Illuminati are pulling the strings behind the scenes as just a conspiracy theory, it’s not real or is it From gimlet media.
This is not past it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take a moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world. 223 years ago.
This July, 4th week, Timothy, Dwight delivered that speech warning his fellow countrymen about that shady secret society hell-bent on destroying American democracy and It’s piracies about.
The Illuminati are still around especially in pop culture, some conspiracy, theorists claim, the Beyonce and has been Jay.
Z are the reigning king and queen of this centuries-old organization, man.
Y’all haters really are corny Illuminati conspiracy.
Theories have had staying power.
But where did they come from?
How do they travel all around the world and was the Illuminati ever really real to?
All this, we’re journeying around the globe and back again and along the way, we’ll learn some uncomfortable truths about the state of our country.
So open up your third eye sheeple.
It’s the Illuminati episode.
To understand the American obsession with the Illuminati conspiracy theory.
We actually need to start with the French Revolution because when this conspiracy theory was born, shit was going down in France, that was making the rest of the world, a little nervous, and a little suspicious.
So we’re in France at 1789.
Think Louis XVI Marie, Antoinette.
Let them eat cake and the storming of the Bastille.
The Third Estate aka the French revolutions version of the 99% as in a years long and bloody revolt against existing power structures that eventually led to the overthrow of the clergy and the crown and people are like how did that happen leading intellectuals all over Europe?
All come to the conclusion that the French Revolution was the result of a big conspiracy.
Michael buta, a professor of American cultural history at the University of tubingen Germany.
And he says, a rumor started to surface and the parties involved in this conspiracy, the overthrow of all authorities government and religion are the Illuminati.
I yes, it couldn’t be the people organizing to revolt against oppressive conditions.
No, no, it must be the Illuminati.
But here’s the conundrum, the organization we think of as the Illuminati had actually been defunct for years.
At this point.
They weren’t even based in France.
They started in 1776 in Bavaria a state and modern-day Germany, which at this time was part of the Holy Roman Empire and run by a powerful Noble Dynasty.
Very similar to the society that the French were revolting against During the Revolution, so you can see why people would have made that connection.
Chen and like the French would later attempt the actual Illuminati wanted to affect large-scale.
Reforms to the Illuminati really are revolutionaries.
They want to change society.
They are progressives.
They want to move beyond the status quo, what they are.
Not however our conspirators who are planning a violent overthrow of the government back in, Bavaria in the late. 1770s, the Illuminati wanted to change the way knowledge was taught.
They wanted to replace Christianity with a religion of reason.
They believed that knowledge should be available to everyone.
And this was counter to the teaching of the church who wanted to control the flow of information.
So the Illuminati would meet in secret, think, dark, tunnels and three.
Knocks in a password to gain entry kind of secret.
There were one of many secret societies at the time.
Groups like Freemasons Knights of Templar and rosicrucians, they were away for like-minded, people Hungry For Change to come together.
But the Bavarian government caught wind of these groups.
And in 1785, they banned secret societies.
Some members were imprisoned, others driven from their homes.
And that was the end of the Illuminati.
So that is the history of the Illuminati, which is pretty unspectacular.
The actual Illuminati was only around for nine years, but even though they functionally dissolved their notoriety stuck around, perhaps because the spirit behind their ideas was Catching Fire and other parts of Europe.
And this brings us back to the French Revolution.
When the Illuminati becomes the perfect scapegoat for something.
They had no role in overthrowing Louis and Marie.
Like we mentioned earlier, leading intellectuals struggled to wrap their heads around, this dramatic toppling of power structures and they were convinced that something else must be behind in.
It’s one of the earliest conspiracy theories.
So this conspiracy theory about the French Revolution in Europe proves, very, very powerful and it Kind of the blueprint for all subsequent conspiracy theories.
After spreading through Europe, Illuminati conspiracy theories, set sail across the Atlantic and landed on American Shores.
This was at a pivotal moment in our young nation’s history.
The run-up to the election of 1800.
America was still a baby nation and things were not going so great.
The end of the 18th century has been a lot.
Like the last few years in America, the country isn’t doing well.
That’s Adam shortener a professor of History religion.
And the American Revolution.
He hosts an audible series called faith and the founding fathers.
And he says, at this time, there was a lot of unrest throughout the country.
You have a country that the constitution has been passed.
But not everyone has accepted the federal government and there are political problems.
Up until this point the country’s been operating pretty much under one political party.
This is the party of the president.
At the time, John Adams Adams is VP is Thomas Jefferson For You.
Hamilton heads that’s daveed Diggs.
And if you’ve seen Hamilton, you know, Jefferson is not a happy camper in this government, whereas Adams believes in a strong central government.
Jefferson is more of a states, rights kind of guy.
Jefferson’s got his own political party, the Democratic Republicans, and he decides to challenge, John Adams in the election of 1800.
The Federalists do not want to lose, they mount several attacks against Jefferson number one.
He’s a Francophile.
Of Americans were quite xenophobic in this moment and Jefferson had lived in Paris for part of the Revolution as minister to France and number two, that Jefferson wasn’t a good enough.
Christian will get into why in a minute, but both of these things inspired Whispers, that Jefferson was an agent of the Illuminati which brings us back to.
Reverend Timothy Dwight on the fourth of July 1798 proposed by the Illuminati are the Row of religion government and human society.
Dwight was a big-time Federalist, an and he was legitimately concerned about the Illuminati.
And Jordan are says he focused that concern on Jefferson and his Democratic Republicans.
He does not think that Democratic Republicans in 1798 are good Americans.
He thinks the Democratic Republicans are your religious their infidels.
They’re people who can’t be trusted with.
The government, they will lead the entire nation to immorality and to destruction, Dwight and many of the Federalists were staunchly religious and they didn’t like that.
Thomas Jefferson wasn’t Jefferson believed in God, but not in the resurrection and didn’t buy and to Conventional Christian dogma.
This posed a big threat to the powers that be at the time.
IE Federalists like Timothy Dwight.
And so they were scared and paranoid.
And they reached for that convenient Boogeyman once linked to the opposition of Christianity.
The Illuminati shadowy religion list forces determined to topple existing power structures.
And in this case up and America’s fledgling democracy.
It is a political speech.
He is talking about politics.
He doesn’t come right out and say, so you got to get out there and vote Federalist, but he does say, if you’re not voting for the religious candidate, if You’re not voting for the party of moral government.
IE Against The Illuminati’s who are out there secretly poisoning America, then you’re not really a Christian this fear about the a moral are religious Direction.
Jefferson could take the country in was at the heart of these attacks and they went beyond sermons.
There is one very famous Gazette of the United States.
Runs a headline.
Which reads will you vote for John Adams and a Christian government or Jefferson?
And no God.
Exclamation point Exclamation point, Exclamation point.
Plus, do you think it was only the Federalists lobbing Illuminati attacks?
There was at least one person on Jefferson side, attempting to flip this around.
His name, was John Ogden.
He penned an article in the Anti-Federalists newspaper, the Philadelphia Aurora that claimed the real Illuminati were the New England.
Clergy guys like Yale Zone.
Timothy Dwight, what Ogden says, you know, the the Clergy of New England, they go.
They talked to the elected representatives and they collude together to create things like State churches and days of fasting and prayer.
And the idea that they’re supposed to set morality for everybody else.
Well, never know to what degree all this Illuminati, slinging affected the results of the election, but we do know that the Federalists lost Adams, played the sore loser.
He didn’t even show up to the inauguration, man.
I swear I’ve heard that story before, but that was far from the last time, we’d hear about the Illuminati and America.
It’s in our pop culture.
And even in our politics.
It most recently came up during President Joe Biden’s.
Nation a theory circulated Facebook that the family bible, he used during his swearing-in was actually linked to the Illuminati and that he was taking some kind of sinister oath.
So conspiracy theories and politics are obviously not just an 1800 thing and you might be feeling like they’ve gotten uncomfortably close in recent years and we’ll get into that right after the break.
Welcome back before the break.
We learned that the Illuminati really did exist.
Just not for very long and that paranoia about them played a role in the election of Thomas Jefferson.
Okay, but today, America is a little older, a little wiser older and conspiracy theories are still alive and well, in our politics.
What does this tell us about the current political landscape and about the country, in general first, you gotta know who is drawn to conspiracy theories in the first place.
Theories are for losers.
Because in politics like sports, it’s the losers who tend to Playing the most when they lose.
That’s Joe using ski, he’s a professor of political science at the University of Miami and he co-wrote a book tracking conspiracy, beliefs across history called American conspiracy theories, and he says it’s losing, not just things like elections or competitions but losing power.
Think about the election of 1800 the threat of losing to Jefferson and the democratic-republicans was enough to stoke, paranoia among the ruling Federalists.
And while the truth was more like a series of societal changes and unpopular political choices led to their declining popularity, something like the Illuminati are out to get us offers a way simpler.
Excuse, winners, think everything’s hunky-dory, but when your side loses course, it was rigged against you.
If that language sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard ex-president Donald Trump and many other prominent Republicans throw the term rigged around quite a lot lately and that’s a big tip off that they’re peddling.
A conspiracy theory, namely something you’ve probably heard of the big lie.
The big lie is the false claim that Trump didn’t actually lose the election to Joe Biden, but that it was stolen from him.
That election officials, organized voter fraud and hid votes, and a conspiracy.
With others who wanted to take power from Trump and the Republicans.
For the record.
This is all totally unsubstantiated.
There is no evidence to suggest any widespread fraud or organized conspiracy in the 2020 election, but it’s a narrative that’s really taken.
National poll, found that nearly a third of Americans believe in the big lie.
It’s much easier for losers to say.
Hey, we were cheated.
Then it is to say.
Maybe we didn’t have a good candidate.
Maybe our ideas aren’t that great.
Maybe we didn’t work hard enough, who wants to say that?
Who wants to do that?
Kind of self-reflection nobody.
So it’s much easier to say.
We were cheated.
And I have to admit, I’ve watched things like the big lie q and on and pizza gate unfold and wondered what is going on with the Republican party and conspiracy theories.
But this isn’t a phenomenon that falls along party lines used in ski says, it’s kind of an American politics thing.
People have argued that it’s conservatives and Republicans who are most likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
I don’t find much evidence for that.
Instead what seems to be the case is that people will believe in conspiracy theories that accused groups.
They don’t belong to.
So if you’re a republican, you believe, Democrats are up to no good.
If you’re a Democrat, you believe the Republicans are up to no good.
And as power shifts back and forth in our country, we also find that the Salient conspiracy theories often switch back and forth to looking back over recent history.
You can see evidence of this.
Think about liberals holding onto the steel dossier with its promise of golden showers or just the idea that Trump was a Russian asset.
Then there was 9/11 when the September 11th attacks.
There was a conspiracy theory that it was an inside job manufactured by George w– Bush and his Republican Administration.
So they would have an excuse to invade Iraq and pass the Patriot Act.
The theory gained, so much attention, even Bush himself, had to address it in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, we must speak the truth about Terror.
Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the Attacks of September the 11th.
Malicious lies that attempt to shift.
Shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves away from the guilty.
So we’ve seen widespread conspiracy theories emerge, across the political Spectrum.
It’s a way for the out-group to find blame to be clear.
I don’t equate 9/11 was an inside job with Trump’s big lie.
It’s one thing for a conspiracy theory to take hold over a group of people.
It’s another thing for sitting members of Congress to refuse to accept that the incoming president is actually the president.
Aunt but I’m not going to lie, conspiracy.
Theories, make me nervous because it feels like the number of people who believe in them are on the rise, but feels like they’re shaping our politics more than they ever have.
And if a democracy is meant to function best, when it’s electorate as informed, it certainly feels like all these conspiracy theories are messing with that.
But use in ski says, while it may feel that way the data says otherwise.
I have yet to find convincing evidence that conspiracy theory beliefs are increasing.
It’s often claimed in the media that these beliefs are going up up up up.
But I find no evidence of that.
I have pulled on conspiracy theories repeatedly for a decade.
I don’t find any evidence that these beliefs have increased either during the internet era, in the social media era, or from prior to that.
To be honest, I don’t really know what to do with that information and one way it’s comforting, just because I’ve seen a whirring number of bad Facebook memes.
And unhinged Twitter, threads doesn’t necessarily mean, conspiracy theories as a whole are on the rise.
Good, but on the other hand, I’m like, so this means they’ve been around this whole time.
I went from being like, oh no, we’re fucked, too.
Now, we’re fucked.
But in the same old way, we always were.
It’s an odd time to be celebrating America, the great National narrative that we like to tell on the fourth, you know, the founding fathers were perfect Geniuses.
Our democracy is Flawless.
We’re number one, USA, USA USA.
I was never one to believe in American exceptionalism and the first place, but understanding that conspiracy theories are woven into our politics.
That historically, it really seems were prone to draw from a place of fear and paranoia.
I don’t really see what’s so exceptional about that conspiracy.
Theories have been a part of our country since its founding.
And they’ve probably shaped us more than we’d like to admit.
So, maybe there’s an opportunity here to own up to that and to see our country as it actually is.
Not just as advertised.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
We go to a small town in Minnesota that took Extreme Measures to get clean water.
And it just struck me and I said, well, I suppose we could succeed and apply for foreign aid as a foreign country.
This episode was produced by Kinsey Clark and Sarah Craig.
The associate producers.
Jake Maya are low and Julie Carly are in turn, is Laura Newcombe.
The supervising producer is Erica, Morrison editing by Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart Ponte fact-checking, by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Bobby.
Been Britain, played Timothy Dwight and are Recreations.
Original music by sacks kicks.
Willie Green, J bless and Bobby Lord.
Our theme song.
Is Toko Liana by Coco.
Ooh, with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive producer as DSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte a, the executive producer for gimlet is Abbie.
Thanks to Sarah McCammon Lydia Pole Green, Dan Behar and Clara.
Sankey Emily wiedemann list Styles and the Beale cholan pot.
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We’ll see you next week.
So when Beyonce sang at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago and she made the Illuminati pyramid during her show and then the lights went out during the second half.
Many people claimed online that this was because she had basically signaled something to her Illuminati sisters and brothers.
And since they were all in League with the devil now Supernatural things were happening.