PEARL

CONSPIRACY THEORIES, CONSPIRACY MYTHS, ENEMY IMAGES

A warning sign of a society that finds itself in a serious spiritual bind is the rapid spread of all possible and impossible conspiracy theories. Hardly any subject, no matter how grotesque, is exempt from an epidemic of misinformation. Current developments, but also in some cases scientific findings that are centuries old, are ignored by a whole host of people within weeks and ‘alternative facts’ are accepted, be it the ‘fake’ moon landing, the collapse of the World Trade Centre (9/11), chemtrails from airplanes, denial of the overheating of the earth, including the effects of greenhouse gases, COVID-19 myths, right up to the claim that the earth is flat and that the politicians who govern us are in reality reptilians in disguise, and much more – really nothing is absurd enough not to attract myriad supporters. How does such a thing come about, and what are the possible spiritual roots of this novel phenomenon?

In 1993 a computer science student named Achim Held was at a party in Kiel, a northern port city in Germany, when, on meeting a guest from the city of Bielefeld, which he and others at the party were unaware of, he decided to spoof a satire on the conspiracy theory scene, which even back then already existed on a smaller scale. The IT student started the rumour that Bielefeld, a city dating back to the 9th Century and with more than 340,000 residents, a university, a cathedral, a medieval port and home to a multinational food company, did not actually exist, but that all indications of its existence were only part and work of a large-scale Bielefeld conspiracy, and the existence of the city was feigned to the population in order to conceal something completely different. After spotting that a motorway sign for Bielefeld had been crossed out because of roadworks, he light-heartedly posted the message ‘Bielefeld? There's no such thing’ on the Usenet system, and it became a long-running joke in Germany once it spread virally with the subsequent internet boom. Usenet was a messaging system predating the internet forums which soon mushroomed and fuelled many conspiracy theories.

The unknown masterminds behind the Bielefeld conspiracy were usually only mysteriously referred to as ‘THEY’ (always in capital letters). Suspected as being behind ‘THEM’, for example, were the CIA, Mossad or aliens who disguised their spaceship as a university. One version even suspected the entrance to Atlantis at the location of the fake city.

Furthermore, it was purported that all the photographs from Bielefeld were actually taken in other cities and some of them were assembled into a fictional cityscape. The journey times of trains, which needed surprisingly little time to stop at the alleged Bielefeld station, were also cited as evidence. Cars with Bielefeld licence plate designation were also only being sent on a journey across the country for camouflage purposes.

However, this theory, born out of a drunken state, took on a life of its own and drew large circles worldwide. Very, very many people actually took it seriously and at face value, such that in 2019 the Bielefeld marketing department decided to offer a €1 million reward to anyone in Germany who could conclusively prove the city's non-existence. And since no one was able to do so, the city was able to save the prize money and decided in the same year to close the topic and see the existence of

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