Why do conspiracy theories and general charlatanism so often receive their strongest support from the world’s dictators? Sure, dictators are almost always oddballs themselves, but that cannot be all there is to it. In fact, it is worth asking whether quackery is a necessary feature of authoritarian rule.
.. to force the central bank to pursue his bizarre monetary policy, Erdoğan has installed his utterly unqualified son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, as the country’s Minister of Finance and Treasury.
.. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, I am particularly sensitive to the impact of perverse scientific theories on a society. Joseph Stalin rejected Mendelian genetics (the fundamental laws of heredity) and even Darwin’s theory of evolution in favor of the bogus theories of Trofim Lysenko, the Soviet biologist who believed that human traits were acquired, not inherited. With Stalin’s backing, Lysenko – whose spurious agricultural research doomed perhaps millions of people to starvation – sent Soviet biology down a two-decade-long rabbit hole of lunacy.
.. Nikita Khrushchev may have overturned Stalinism, but he was no less a prisoner of theoretical perversity. He not only supported the Lysenko theories, but also believed ideologically hardened engineers and geologists who insisted that the rules of communism could defy the laws of nature. They told him that Soviet atomic bombs could be used to reverse the course of major rivers, allowing water to be redirected toward agriculture, rather than being “wasted” by flowing into the Arctic Sea.
.. Hitler’s embrace of demented racial “science” delivered the world into darkness and led, almost inexorably, to the Holocaust. The perversion of reason was so normalized under Nazi rule that Josef Mengele’s grotesque human experiments could be discussed at scientific conferences just like any other medical research.
Erdoğan, who has long been convinced that external forces are relentlessly plotting against his regime, is no exception.
In Erdoğan’s eyes, these malevolent forces usually act through the financial markets. So far, he has refrained from claiming outright that these markets act at the behest of “world Jewry” (the architects, many Turkish Islamists believe, of the 1908 Young Turk revolution and the secular republic that arose after World War I). But his core supporters hear the dog whistle behind his condemnations of the forces of finance – forces that now seem to be demanding higher interest rates.
.. perhaps no current leader is more susceptible to misbegotten science and half-baked conspiracy theories than the US president and wannabe authoritarian, Donald Trump
.. On more than 20 occasions, Trump has tweeted about a potential link between vaccines and autism.
.. Trump also denies any link between human activity and climate change, again bucking the overwhelming scientific consensus.
And he insists, over the protests of countless economists, that trade deficits are a sign of US economic weakness.
.. Perhaps a shared paranoid style is what draws Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has continually argued that the world is conspiring to deprive Russia of the great-power status it deserves.
.. Those who refuse to recognize the world as it is – whether they are viewing it from Turkey, the US, Venezuela, or a host of other countries – eventually lose the position that their denial of reality was supposed to protect.