John Clarke, a Labour Party councillor in Essex and a one-time Parliamentary candidate, makes an announcement:
— John Clarke (@JohnClarke1960) February 7, 2017
This followed a Tweet stating that he objects “2 Rothschild & co. against their greed, monopolistic exploitations and unchecked power”.
This is apparently Clarke’s idea of damage limitation, having shortly before manually RTed a Tweet by a neo-Nazi Twitter user who had uploaded a text image containing the following proposition:
Israel owns the Senate, the Congress and the executive branch. but … who owns Israel? The Rothschild family who has been creating almost all of the world’s money at interest for a couple hundred years. They have used usury alongside modern Israel as an imperial instrument to take over the world and all of it’s resources, including you and I… and if you have a problem with that, you’re an “anti-semite”
The image also included a Star of David and a photo of Jacob Rothschild. It was produced by Smoloko News, an American neo-Nazi and anti-Jewish conspiracy website that produces many such “meme” images, and the site’s url is included at the bottom of the the image promoted by Clarke. Clarke commended the image as “an oversimplified view of the world economy but containing a great deal of truth”, while the Twitter account that he eventually conceded “probably” anti-Semitic includes a graphic of Adolf Hitler in its avatar and describes itself by announcing “THERE WERE NO GAS CHAMBERS – HITLER WAS RIGHT 88”.
Clarke now presents himself as victim of “nutters” (here) and of “faux outrage” from “Zionists”, who “will find Antisemitisim in ANYTHING” (here). He eventually announced that he had blocked the account he had formerly advertised, acknowledging that it had posted “pro Nazi propaganda” and adding that “I regret RT’ing his/her rubbish but disagree actions were ever Antisemitic”. He also emphasised his support for Palestinian rights.
Clarke’s Tweets about being “anti-Rothschild” are worth noting as the mainstreaming of a particular conspiracy theory: that of “Rothschild Zionism”. I’m not sure where this phrase originally came from, but it is particularly associated with the rhetoric of David Icke. The term does not purport to identify a particular kind of Zionism, but rather to uncover the essential nature of Zionism. As Icke wrote in 2009:
Zionism is a political creed introduced by the House of Rothschild to advance the goals of the Illuminati families that are largely controlled by the Rothschilds. When people think of Zionism they think of Jewish people.
When they think of Israel they think of Jewish people. That’s understandable given the propaganda, but it is seriously misleading and those instant connections need to be broken if we are going to understand what’s going on here.
Zionism means Rothschild just as Israel means Rothschild. When we see the extraordinary number of Zionists in key positions around the world we are looking not at ‘manipulating Jews’, but manipulating Zionists representing the interests and demands of the Rothschilds.
…Today, Rothschild Illuminati fronts like the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Royal Institute of International Affairs, and others, still answer to the Round Table which string-pulls and coordinates from the shadows. This is why Zionists in government are invariably connected with these Rothschild-controlled organisations.
If Clarke’s obsession with “Rothschild” is not derived from this kind of conspiracy mongering, then where has it come from? It is no secret that Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild supported early Zionist settlement in Palestine and that other members of the family have maintained support for Israel ever since – but if there is some reputable work in history or political science in which “Rothschild” provides a credible explanation for the history of modern Israel and its current place in global affairs, I’m not aware of it. And neither is Clarke, who, instead of citing such a source, can only bluster and block.
And what about the alleged “greed” of the Rothschild banking dynasty? Again, there is no evidence that this is a particular characteristic of the family that stands out within the banking or financial sector – and Jacob Rothschild is actually on record as having “sympathy” with the Occupy movement that emerged in the post-2008 banking crisis. That crisis, of course, was caused by reckless lending rather than high interest rates, which is the “usury” to which Clarke’s regrettable source refers, and the banks responsible were American investment banks (particularly Lehman Brothers) rather than the Rothschild Group (despite conspiracy theories).
I doubt very much that Clarke knows anything much about the various members of the Rothschild banking dynasty, or has undertaken any study of the financial sector and the position of the Rothschild Group within it. Perhaps, in a world of faceless multinational banking corporations, it’s easier to interpret financial trends through the imagined motivations of an old-fashioned banking dynasty – and in the case of “Rothschild”, there’s a ready store of anti-Semitic conspiracy literature to draw on, going back to the early nineteenth century (as discussed by Brian Cathcart here).
In some cases, this kind of literature gets recycled with the overt anti-Jewish element downplayed: for instance, in 1991 the US televangelist Pat Robertson published a book called The New World Order, which recycled old anti-Jewish conspiracy theories by the likes of Nesta Webster and Eustace Mullins but emphasising the Illuminati and Freemasons rather than Jewish bankers. Icke, meanwhile, rants about extra-terrestrials and a “Jewish clique” rather than Jews in general. But that kind of fine distinction is functionally meaningless, given the extravagances of the theory being proposed: it is one thing to criticise Israel based on facts, but quite another to propose paranoid pseudo-explanations for human affairs that are no more than a gateway to explicit anti-Semitism. Clarke’s idiotic inability to see the obvious anti-Semitism of his source at once is a case in point.
In the 2015 General Election, Clarke stood for Labour in the consistency of Witham in Essex. He came in third, just behind the UKIP candidate and far behind the Conservative winner, Priti Patel. During the campaign, Clarke made a number of statements about Patel that she regarded as offensive, and for which he apologised after she complained to Ed Milliband. However, he now takes the view that further references to his behaviour during the campaign are evidence that he “hit a nerve” with his claims about her. He also suggests that Patel’s supporters “are behind the Antisemitic lies about me”, based on Oliver Kamm (who has usually voted Labour in elections) raising the subject.
It should be noted that Clarke bills himself as a “retired lecturer”, and his Twitter name indicates that he must be entering his 57th year. In other words, this is not some young activist who doesn’t know much apart from what they find on the internet: this is a man old enough and educated enough to know much better.
UPDATE: In fairness, I’ll note that Clarke did fire off a hostile Tweet at Icke in 2014, after Icke linked to a Daily Mail article about how activists in the Paedophile Information Exchange had associated with Labour Party figures in the 1980s through the National Council for Civil Liberties. Clarke’s view was this was a “conspiracy ‘theory'” that could be dismissed because of the very fact that it had appeared in the Daily Mail.
However, Clarke also believes that “Right wing press attack powerless victims of historic sexual abuse; often taking side of powerful men”; he made that statement in October 2015, at a time when an actual conspiracy theory about politicians and organised paedophilia was falling apart after months of sensationalising coverage.
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