Photo: Carlos Roso

We all love a good conspiracy: from scandals to cover-ups and the everyday collusion of our politicians to bring about a desired outcome.

Conspiracy theories have been supercharged by social media and the rise of populism. They now appear almost daily.

And for those who would conspire to purposely deceive for personal or financial gain, a well-constructed conspiracy is a valuable commodity.

Believing them, however, can result in severe and even catastrophic consequences. And as we have seen, they can have a destructive effect on our fragile democracy.

The problem is that some conspiracy theories are not just theories; some are true. But determining which ones are true, or have an element of truth, is problematic for many. To be sure, common sense doesn’t always prevail.

Mindful also that conspiracy theories that seem improbable today might be proven true in the future. Hence, all conspiracies, even the far-fetched ones, should be treated as unproven rather than untrue.

For example, in 1888, when the Austrian geographer Eduard Brückner first presented his findings at a public gathering at the University of Dorpat (now the University of Tartu in Estonia), that deforestation was changing our climate, people were more than a bit sceptical. 

Moreover, conspiracy theorists view conspiracies as history’s principal motivating force. They seek out spurious connections between apparently disparate historical events and actors, then stitch them together into an overarching plot.

With that in mind, I was prompted to write a little about the conspiracy theory argued by Cory Morningstar in her 2019 book The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg.

Cory Morningstar: the investigative journalist and conspiracy theorist

Cory Morningstar is a Canadian investigative journalist who focuses on exposing disingenuous humanitarian groups and fake crises created principally for financial gain.

Her latest book is a collection of articles about the advent of “green imperialism” as a fourth industrial revolution, that is, the global transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and the exploitation of our youth to advance its cause, for example, teens Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin.

The book is written in the mould of a JFK (President John F. Kennedy) conspiracy theory, but instead of who killed JFK, Morningstar takes aim at the conglomerate of green actors and organisations that covertly hijacked the grassroots climate change movement purely for reasons of profit.

As Morningstar writes: “What is never discussed in regards to the so-called “clean energy revolution” is that its existence is wholly dependent on “green” imperialism — the latter term being synonymous with blood.” 

Historically, colonialism, and thus the oppression and exploitation of peoples and their lands, are driven by imperialism, the fundamental form of oppression, which usually results in tyranny and bloodshed.

The inference that the “clean energy revolution” could be viewed in this way is arguably overdone but can be appreciated in the context of an era dominated by populism, conspiracy theories, and a global capitalist economic system supposedly in the throes of collapse.

Money-grubbing green capitalists: the orchestrators

Let’s face it, green capitalism is big business. Trillions of dollars are up for grabs. Renewable energy, which will eventually power everything, is exponential, irrespective of the format used to generate it.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil, for instance, predicted that the world would be running on solar power by 2030. And a worldwide climate change strike by schoolchildren not only acts as a beacon for the green movement but an in-your-face global advertisement for its products and services. 

I would also argue that the mainstreaming of sustainability underpinning green capitalism provides businesses with a business case to advocate an environmental efficacy that augments green capital but does little to tackle the existential crisis of climate change. What good are products and services designed to solve the problem if you end up solving it?

Greta Thunberg: the patsy

I think we can all agree the claim that Greta Thunberg’s climate change crusade was duplicitously manufactured by an enterprising left is an indictment that appears manufactured in itself.

On the other hand, we can also agree that “yes”, the left is also capitalist! After all, capitalism is not some periodic pastime. It’s our way of life. We eat and breathe capitalism.

Which, conspiracy has it, was also manufactured along with neoliberalism (see Nancy MacLean’s 2017 book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America).

But does this indictment have substance? What evidence does Morningstar present that this whole campaign was “manufactured” by a bunch of green capitalist elites for the sole purpose of profit? 

In a real sense, this is a conspiracy upon a conspiracy because Morningstar also stands to profit from book sales — that Greta, along with an inspired left-leaning public, was duped by some very savvy entrepreneurs like Ingmar Rentzhog, Bill Gates, and Al Gore.

Ingmar Rentzhog: the instigator

It was August 20, 2018, and the day of Greta Thunberg’s inaugural strike. 

She was initially promoted by a Tweet from Ingmar Rentzhog, the Swedish PR guru and founder of the communications consultancy firm Laika, and the green social network cum-tech-start-up “We Don’t Have Time”. 

According to Morningstar, Rentzhog has links to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Organisation Leaders and the European Climate Policy Taskforce and several other organisations. Not such a big deal because we live in the age of interconnectivity.

So, purportedly, while on his way to work, Rentzhog found it particularly inspiring to see a lone 15-year-old schoolgirl activist striking for climate change action in front of Sweden’s Parliament House.

Although Greta Thunberg is often pictured as a lone figure defiantly holding her placard in front of Sweden’s Parliament House, others accompanied her at least part of the time.

Rentzhog posted a line from her flyers in which she lambasted us grown-ups: “We kids usually don’t do what you tell us to do. We do as you do. And since you grown-ups don’t give a shit about my future, I won’t either.” 

The first and second lines are accurate. The third, well, the third is, suffice to say, incorrect. But that doesn’t apply across the board, especially when there’s money to be made.

Rentzhog’s Tweet, accompanied by a photo of Greta holding a placard that read skolstrejk för klimatet (“school strike for climate”), certainly struck a chord with the social media establishment and soon went viral.

The plot

Thunberg quickly became the poster girl for the green movement and went on to inspire a national and a global movement, and eventually, The Greta Thunberg Foundation. 

Needless to say, the consociation of interconnected green organisations jumped on for the ride. Why wouldn’t they?

But according to Morningstar, it’s not that simple. She claims that the climate change movement is being used under false pretences — as the primary vehicle to kickstart a capitalist economy that’s been suffering a severe case of atrophy. She writes:

“Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organisations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism”.

That’s the crux of the conspiracy. That Greta Thunberg has been unwittingly used as the poster girl-child for a sinister network of disingenuous green actors and organisations assembled to facilitate the flow of money and violence whose business is “corporatism, colonialism and militarism”.

Really!

Morningstar is essentially saying that any organisation with a capitalist inclination that chimes into the Greta Thunberg phenomenon is suspect of not acting in the best interests of our planet and its people. Which is far from a revelation.

Morningstar further writes: “We don’t have time to stop imperialist wars — wars being the greatest contributor to climate change and environmental degradation by far — but we must do so.” 

Exactly what Morningstar means here is not clear. Wars can certainly occur from a dispute over natural resources and or land degradation. And climate change can be both the cause and the consequence, which is often a result of human hubris and greed. 

Wars for financial gain or to keep a flagging capitalist economic system afloat is something more devious, as Morningstar appears to imply.

However, the human instinct to fight for survival or what is right is also innate and comes in concert with a civilised society and sharing a planet with billions of other people.

As Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan wrote in her book War: How Conflict Shaped Us, war is an “indelible part of human society, somehow woven in like an original sin from the time our ancestors first started organising themselves into social groups”. 

And the reality of capitalism is as manifest as the reality of war. As such, we can readily substitute “war” with “capitalism”, as they’re pretty much interchangeable.

To borrow MacMillan’s sentence above: [capitalism] is an “indelible part of human society, somehow woven in like an original sin from the time our ancestors first started organising themselves into social groups”. 

Marxism: background to the plot

And capitalism, whether it relates to personal prestige or financial gain, is often at the heart of conspiracy theories and the oppression of the people.

Karl Marx, the revolutionary moral and political philosopher, proclaimed that democracy, in its true form, could not survive the evils of capitalism. 

And the Marxist manifesto of the classic class struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed provides the fundamental framework around which the manufacture of contemporary conspiracy narratives are woven. 

Cory Morningstar adopts the same narrative: a subjugated public is exploited by capitalist oppressors, and Greta Thunberg is purposely manufactured to facilitate the process.

To add some background context, in Marx’s 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, he observed that men, in the social production of their existence, were destined to be entangled in a hierarchy of relations that were beyond their control. 

These relations were defined as the capitalists (oppressors) and the proletariat (or workers). The entirety of which constitutes “the economic structure of society” on which the “legal and political superstructure” is built.

But Marx was also an optimist. Marxist theory subscribes to a new kind of democratic society that arises through the organised actions of an international working class that will emancipate the entire population, freeing people to act without being bound by the labour market.

In short: Marxists were sure that capitalism would reach a tipping point and destroy itself. Thereby creating the ideal conditions for a socialist revolution — man’s innate evils of hubris and greed would eventually bring him undone.

The capitalist ideal would thus fail, which some commentators believe we are on the verge of. 

The covert endeavours of the orchestrators of the global capitalist system that are heavily invested in it continuing as is, form the basis of Morningstar’s plot. 

And it’s not such a hard plot to sell as people are drawn to dark conspiracy theories, often in preference to the simple truth.

Capitalism: the usual suspect

Needless to say, capitalism, or the acolytes that blindly subscribe to it, is the usual suspect for landing us in this predicament.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of capitalism in its current form. I mean, can Mother Nature survive another resurgence in global capitalism? 

Capitalism is self-perpetuating, but all around us are the signs of our planet’s finiteness. That said, there is always the opportunity to improve on capitalism’s shortcomings.

Ironically, the culmination of capitalism’s failings — “the climate crisis” — will be the determining factor as to what political system is truly sustainable.

The conspiracy

As for Morningstar’s conspiracy theory, that people are compelled to work within the bounds of the capitalist system they are subject to — or unscrupulously outside those bounds — and the hierarchy of hegemony that sustains it, for better or for worse, is neither a conspiracy nor a revelation.

Thus, if Greta Thunberg is the patsy for a network of wicked green capitalists and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, so are the Pope and the Dalia Lama.

In my view, Greta Thunberg is an inspiration and should be applauded for calling out our political Luddites for their insipid response to climate change. She is a real-life exemplar of what grit and positive action can achieve, irrespective of age and or gender.

Was Greta Thunberg manufactured?

Conspiracy thinking is fueled by improbable interpretations of causal connections between people and events that appear to be unlikely connected on the face of it. From this perspective, Morningstar’s assertions are plausible and assiduously constructed but, as yet, only alleged.

On the assertion that Greta Thunberg was manufactured, and is being used by a group of profiteering sycophants, in my opinion, is less plausible. 

So, overall, although we have little faith in the integrity of our current political system, along with the hoarders of massive individual and corporate wealth and their burgeoning empires, Morningstar’s conspiracy theory, in terms of subjective belief, is plausible but unproven.

All that said, it is a forensic piece of investigative journalism and a good read, whether the future proves it factual or, indeed, mere fantasy.

Dr Stephen Dark has a PhD in Climate Change Policy and Science, and has lectured at Bond University in the Faculty of Society & Design teaching Sustainable Development and Sustainability Economics. He is a member of the Urban Development Institute of Australia and the author of the book Contemplating Climate Change: Mental Models and Human Reasoning.

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