I have just finished reading a fascinating article on individualist anarchism by Peter Ryley, an author many visitors to this blog will be unfamilar with. His "Individualist Anarchism in Late Victorian Britain" examines the views of activists and writers such as Henry Seymour and Albert Tarn and their rejection of socialism, anarchist communism and monopoly capitalism.
Ryley's article (in Vol 20 No.2 of Anarchist Studies, back in 2012) comes up against a significant problem when it comes to Henry Seymour. He was what we would now refer to as a conspiracy theorist. Whilst some of this was harmless (he believed the Jesuits were behind the Jack the Ripper murders, and that Francis Bacon wrote the works of William Shakespeare) his anti-Semitism is something Ryley takes seriously. The dangers of such beliefs are skillfully set out:
...in the 21st century conspiracy theories abound. Climate change denial is a near univeral belief amongst right libertarians, the 9/11 'Truth' movement has attracted even mainstream figures to its fringes, whilst much contemporary, obsessive anti-Zionism bears the distinctive stamp of older anti-Semitic discourses. These ideas may not be central, but they are distatsteful and dangerous intellectual baggage that needs jettisoning. Open discussion and historical exploration is a neccesity if ever we are to banish this poisionous legacy from radical thought.
(Peter Ryley, Individualist Anarchism in Late Victorian Britain, Anarchist Studies Vol 20, No.2, 2012, p.94)
There are one or two quibbles I could make here. In my experience 'right libertarians' do not neccesarily deny climate change. They deny whether it is man-made, and/or whether the behaviour of a small nation like the UK can have any affect compared to that of economic giants such as the US or China.
Open discussion may work with conspiracy theorists, but only so far, as anybody who has tried to debate with a truly committed believer in peculiar discourses may well discovered. With supporters and fellow travellers, rational discussion can win the day. When it comes to the true obsessive, you may get tired before they do.
Still, Peter Ryley is clearly an author to watch out for.