You can tell a lot about people from the company they keep. Out beyond the fringes of sane political debate, where Bilderbergers and Illuminati run the Zionist Occupation Government with the help of mind control and black helicopters, far right and far left come full circle and eventually meet somewhere round the dark side of the moon. Generally, it doesn’t do to expose the cranks to the bright light of public scrutiny; it is, after all, what they secretly crave. But sometimes it’s necessary; sometimes it must be done.
And so it is with one Nicholas Kollerstrom, 9/11 “truther” and conspiraloon, who manages to combine the earnest belief that the World Trade Center was brought down in a US Government “false flag” operation with a thriving line in writings on astrology and crop circles, and still finds time to hold down a research fellowship at University College London, one of the UK’s top universities. So far, so harmless; British academia has its share of fruitloops. A little more troubling is that Kollerstrom is a self-described Holocaust denier who pops up on websites like that of the “Committee For Open Debate On The Holocaust” with gems such as this plea for “balance” in teaching about the events of 1939-45:
Let us hope the schoolchildren visitors are properly taught about the elegant swimming-pool at Auschwitz, built by the inmates, who would sunbathe there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while watching the water-polo matches; and shown the paintings from its art class, which still exist; and told about the camp library which had some forty-five thousand volumes for inmates to choose from, plus a range of periodicals; and the six camp orchestras at Auschwitz/Birkenau, its theatrical performances, including a children’s opera, the weekly camp cinema, and even the special brothel established there. Let’s hope they are shown postcards written from Auschwitz, some of which still exist, where the postman would collect the mail twice-weekly.
The investigative blogger “Unity”, at the website Ministry of Truth, has a full rundown on Kollerstrom’s writings and, in particular, his consistent citing of anti-Semitic sources such as Simon Sheppard, who was expelled from Britain’s far-right BNP for being too right-wing (!), or the website “Judicial, Inc.”, which peddles the splendid theory that Hezbollah is an Israeli front to justify continued military activities against Arabs. (“Who is dumb enough to fire some useless rockets…?”). As an alternative to sifting through the dross of the primary sources, it is valuable stuff, and we should be grateful to Unity for getting his hands dirty in a sewer that most of us would not wish to trawl ourselves; it is thankless work.
What I find interesting about characters like Kollerstrom, though, is not so much what they believe, which is common or garden lunacy, at once remarkably nuanced and depressingly one-dimensional; rather, it is the utterly predictable way that these disparate fringe beliefs always seem to join up so seamlessly, despite their ragged edges. 9/11, 7/7, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, the Holocaust (or rather the “Holocaust”) and much more besides — all are connected in a tapestry far too densely woven for Occam’s famous razor ever to unpick, and all, needless to say, lead back to one particular group of people. (A hint: their name starts with "J.") There are many scholarly volumes, you imagine, to be written on the particular brand of credulousness that leads people to embrace such outlandish belief systems; indeed, I imagine there are plenty out there already.
It should be noted that, while he is happy to aver his denial of the so-called Holocaust, Kollerstrom denies any involvement with far-right groups; his political affiliations are to the Greens and — of course! — George Galloway’s ‘Respect’ Party. Like I said; if you head far enough to the left, you’ll eventually emerge on the far right, as anyone old enough to have played Pac-Man will tell you. One wonders if his outlandish views raised any eyebrows at the political meetings of the so-called “anti-racist” Respect Party he attended. One fears they did not.
Some limited good may come of all this. The forum at the centre of much of the conspiraloon discussion of 9/11 in Britain, nineeleven.co.uk, has now announced a blanket ban on discussion of the Holocaust on its messageboards (much to the vitriolic rage of its regular posters) — though the day when they realise that they’re all wasting their lives is, you suspect, a long way off. For their part, UCL appear to be entirely blameless in all of this; they have been alerted to the presence of a self-confessed Holocaust denier on their research staff, and action may well be under way to address the situation. But episodes like this remind us that the Truthers are out there. Keep watching the skies…