Evil. Corruption. Conspiracy. Plots to control the minds of millions. Secrets that have diffused through countless generations and may culminate in anything from the rise of untold evil to the establishment of a New World Order. And its source? Beyoncé. Yes, you read that correctly: do not adjust your newspapers. According to conspiracy theorists the world over, these momentous movements will be spearheaded by such culprits as the ‘Single Ladies’ songstress.
This is not to say that Ms Knowles is the only suspect. Recently, it has become an obsession to link figures from the world of entertainment (and, by extension, the industry managers and corporations who represent them) to cults and sects. Everyone from Jay-Z to Lady Gaga has been implicated in one form or another. Most frequently-cited are links to the Illuminati, a secret society which, in contemporary public discourse, has been accused of promoting devil-worship, masonic symbolism and the occult. But who exactly are the Illuminati? And do accusations surrounding them have any factual basis?
Facts time. The Illuminati (from the plural of the Latin ‘Illuminatus’, meaning ‘enlightenment’) are, historically, a secret society of the Enlightenment Era founded in Bavaria in 1776. Modelled on the brotherhood of the Freemasons, the society sought to advance knowledge and reform society through the power of reason. In the modern era the Illuminati are widely represented as a conspiratorial organisation who seek to mastermind events and control world affairs in order to establish a New World Order — they are variously claimed to be a contemporary version of the original society and direct descendants of them. However, their identity has become largely twisted in modern public discourse, with the Illuminati often confused with Satanism and Freemasonry (the latter comparison being particularly bizarre in light of the Freemasons’ reputation as a charitable brotherhood).
Why are today’s singers and artists the subject of such speculation? It is a given that figures in the entertainment industry are heavily scrutinised in terms of their appearance and actions, and thus it is perhaps not surprising that people have decided on stars’ Illuminati memberships through overly close observance and analysis. The fact that many symbols – including pyramids and singular eyes – are associated with the society and the wider occult allows much room for wild interpretation.
The most widely-accused artist is Lady GaGa, well-known for her striking artistic style, who has been described as an “Illuminati puppet”, bent on mass mind-control. Her videos are purportedly filled with subversive symbolism. Notably, the video for ‘Alejandro’ (with a dark visual style and a peppering of religious references) is, according to Canadian blogger The Vigilant Citizen (one of the world’s most prolific commentators on the subject) her way of “flash[ing] in her fans’ faces the symbols of their own oppression”.
Many claims, however, appear far-fetched; for instance, the same blogger has also posited that the seemingly innocuous “Bum bum be-dum” riff of Rihanna’s ‘Disturbia’ can be interpreted as a sinister command: “You good-for-nothing, idiotic person, let yourself become dumb, stop thinking and let yourself be hypnotised and possessed.” Cheery.
Jay-Z’s ‘Run This Town’ has been interpreted as the heralding of the coming of the New World Order, and the hand symbol used to represent his ‘Roc-A-Fella’ label (also used by Kanye West and other artists on the label and consisting of two hands held so as to form a diamond) has been interpreted as further evidence of the occult. Sinister interpretations have also been applied to his wife Beyoncé – including everything from wearing a ring depicting a goat’s head (construed as a representation of the Satanic symbol Baphomet) to choosing to perform on the Pyramid stage at this year’s Glastonbury with triangles projected behind her. The list goes on and on.
How have the celebrities responded? Have many bowed to the pressure of grand public Inquisition and admitted their affinity with Satan? Not quite. Most have asserted that such claims are absurd and often offensive. Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson (of Dream Girls fame) lost several members of her family in 2008. Despite widespread media coverage confirming that they were murdered, various sources insisted that the deaths were actually the result of Hudson sacrificing her family as part of initiation into a secret society – with the aim of furthering her own success.
Responding to such accusations, the Grammy-winner explained to fans on online video streaming site UStream: “I’m so glad someone brought this Illuminati mess up… That is the most ignorant thing I have ever heard in my life. And it’s offensive because basically what? The people that are here today don’t deserve to be where they are? What, we didn’t work for it?” Similar claims were also made following the unexpected death of Kanye West’s mother.
The debate looks set to continue and this article only scratches the surface of conspiracies surrounding public figures. Though claims are largely based on speculation and rubbished as false by those accused, it is perhaps inevitable that today’s closely-scrutinised celebrities will be met with numerous allegations, many of them far-fetched and unverifiable. As explained in an interview with New York radio station Power 105.1, Jay-Z explained “when people get a lot of money, they start getting those rumours, like Tom Cruise, Willie Smith. That’s ridiculous.”
Ridiculous or not, such claims do leave me wondering: as hinted in her single ‘Run the World’, would an all-singing, all-dancing world controlled by Beyoncé really be so bad?