Conspiracy theorists love to talk about something called the “New World Order,” leaving the rest of us to wonder what this actually means and why it’s a bad thing. After all, it’s not like the CURRENT world order is without its problems. Basically, it’s the idea that one or more secretive organizations are getting together to create a single world government. Based on my own limited knowledge, this seems rather unlikely. I mean, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were each one country when I was a kid. Add in the fact that many New World Order buffs think communists are secretly in control when it was the fall of European communism that resulted in these nations splitting up. I guess a believer would say they’re just trying to mislead us and make us complacent. Many of them also think the government sometimes screws up on purpose to hide their more sinister secrets. If these secrets are so carefully guarded, how do these conspiracy theorists know about them? Do they have information-gathering channels that the rest of us aren’t privy to?
The New World Order conspiracy is largely tied in with extreme right-wing politics and fundamentalist Christianity, although there are apparently some left-wingers who accept varieties of it as well. Part of it has to do with End Times eschatology, as the book of Revelation points to a single leader controlling the entire world. This is probably because, at the time it was written, the Roman Emperor DID control most of the known world. Futurists, however, think this will happen in the future, so they fear a single world government is a sign of the end. Seems like they should favor it if it means Jesus is coming back soon, but that whole school of thought gets pretty confusing. This fear has led to opposition to the United Nations, despite the fact that it isn’t a governing body. Try telling that to the authors of the Left Behind books, though.
It’s not entirely clear where the term “New World Order” originated, but one of its earliest known uses was as the title of a 1920 book by Frederick Hicks. H.G. Wells also used it as a book title in 1940. The phrase became particularly popular with members of the John Birch Society, a right-wing fringe group founded in 1958.
The namesake of the society was a Baptist missionary and military intelligence officer who was killed by Chinese Communists in 1945. The society considers him to be the first martyr of the Cold War. One of the founders of the John Birch Society was Fred Koch, father of the modern-day Koch Brothers, whose own political views apparently skew more Libertarian. While the society’s main thing was that they were anti-communist, although there seems to have been a significant dose of antisemitism involved as well. They spoke of “bankers” trying to control the world, and we all know what that’s code for when invoked by conspiracy-mongers. Some of their more notable positions included opposing civil rights (which they saw as driven by communists promoting a race war) and claiming that President Eisenhower was a communist plant. Barry Goldwater purposely distanced himself from the society, albeit in a way that he could still get their votes. It looks like they played a similar role in the Republican Party as the Tea Party does today. The society is much less publicized these days, but it’s still around, and was one of the sponsors of the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
New World Order conspiracies are still going strong among certain elements of the population, and it doesn’t really help matters that George H.W. Bush used the phrase in a speech in 1990.
I’ve occasionally seen it tied in with other conspiracy theories, including the one about the September 11th attacks being an inside job (coincidentally enough, that Bush Sr. speech was delivered on 11 September 1990) and the stuff about aliens.