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From The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the odious theories of Alain Soral and cronies, the idea of the Jewish conspiracy is (all too) familiar…

But what if Jews themselves were the conspiracy theorists?

© Vadim Stepanov, Pinocchio’s Quest, 2013, Painted wood
Courtesy Litvak Contemporary

If you open the Wikipedia page for the conspiracy group QAnon to the section “Origin, themes and methods”, you’ll read: “Often, messages from Q [the movement’s leader] are cryptic and vague. […] They are written in the form of enigmatic questions, through which Q provokes the Anons [followers] to do their own research. The brevity and the ambiguity of the messages has a playful dimension, the Anons being invited to solve the puzzles […] by using the usual processes of allegorical interpretation: connecting a letter (Q) to a number (17), using one word to refer to another, etc.”

Remind you of anything? Seriously. People gathering together to discuss how to interpret a mysterious text? Making a complicated exegesis out of it, playing with words and associating them to numbers? It sounds an awful lot like a beit midrash [a traditional house of study], doesn’t it? A kind of vast online yeshiva with Kabbalistic leanings, open to all the Gematria obsessives of the world’s five continents… in short, the biggest havruta in the world!

Perhaps this will not surprise you. After all, conspiracy theories and religion share, to a certain extent, the same goals: to create meaning through stories, and to weave a sense of community among those who adhere to them.

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