Bill Cooper: the conspiracy theorist who links afrofuturist “Hoteps” with Alex Jones

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Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitzhttps://voidpod.com/
Aaron Rabinowitz is a lecturer in philosophy at Rutgers University, and host of the Embrace The Void and Philosophers in Space podcast.

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Ready for another rabbit hole into conspiracy theory land? In my previous article about antisemitic conspiracy tropes, I referenced ‘Hoteps’ and their tumultuous relationship with the American right wing. Several readers mentioned this was their first time ever hearing about Hoteps, so I thought they deserved their own deep dive.

There are several good explainers available online, generally written from critical perspectives, so I decided to go directly to the source and analyze a four-hour conversation between the two Hotep individuals I mentioned in my previous article, Young Pharaoh and Hotep Jesus, and try to convey how they see themselves. Young Pharaoh made news in the US recently by getting disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) when it was revealed that he has promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories, which appear to be a common part of Hotep narratives.

My initial goal was just to avoid treating Hoteps as a punchline, while also avoiding credulity towards their conspiracy-riddled narratives. Hoteps vividly illustrate how individuals who feel a lack of power and respect are more susceptible to conspiracy theories, whether that felt lack of power comes from the encroachment of social justice or an absence of social justice. As I listened though, a more concrete question drew my attention: why do these guys sound like Alex Jones?! That’s where the rabbit hole started.

First, some brief background. Hotep is an Egyptian word meaning “to be satisfied” or “at peace”. Davis interprets the concept as “the result of action in accord with maat [the proper order of the universe]”. While there is some debate over the origin of the modern usage of ‘Hotep’, it likely arises as a derogatory term for a sort of regressive, pan-African worldview that blends pseudohistory, afrofuturism, conspiracy theories, and heteronormative gender roles into a path to liberation. Though it is generally used as a derogatory term, there are individuals who self-identify as Hotep. During the chat, Hotep Jesus mention both the website Hotep Nation and a Hotep convention in Vegas.

Most write-ups of Hoteps focus on their fixation on Egypt and their regressive views on gender norms as an easy way to identify Hotep related materials, but neither of these is dispositive in isolation. Of course, you can understand why critics focuses on the Egypt stuff, since it gets you pictures like this one of Young Pharaoh:

Young Pharoah - a young Black man with long hair in dreadlock braids. He is standing in a corridor with arches behind him and is wearing a black tunic with gold embroidery across the chest and black jeans. He is wearing a large gold necklace which has a gold pyramid hanging above a square gold plate with a depiction of an ancient Egyptian person on it. He is also wearing a large gold watch, large gold bracelet and large gold rings on each hand.

While amusing, it’s worth noting that the use of ancient Egyptian iconography as a way of reclaiming a sense of lost black history has been a part of afrofuturism from its conception. Here’s a picture of Sun Ra, a jazz musician and one of the originators of afrofuturism.

An image of Sun Ra. He is a black man wearing a red and yellow gown with gold detailing. The shoulders have large shoulder pads with gold detailing. On his head, Sun Ra wears an ancient Egyptian style headdress with a large gold ball on the top of it similar to that of the ancient Egyptian god, Ra. He is looking up to the sun shaped ball and has his arms across his chest.

Sun Ra, like Young pharaoh, believed himself to be an alien who was here to awaken black minds. So, when it comes to the ancient Egyptian iconography, Hoteps are drawing on a rich and respectable tradition. Unfortunately, the pseudo-historic claims that Hoteps add to the mix undercut that respectability, and their views about gender and sexuality make them regressive compared to the ideals of liberation presented in afrofuturism.

Similarly, regressive gender norms are insufficient, by themselves, to distinguish Hoteps from groups like the Black Israelites, who also advocate for conservative family values, but focus their pseudo-historical claims around the idea that black people are the true Israelites, rather than the true pharaohs. All that being said, if you get a meme that blends ancient Egyptian iconography with gendered conservatism, like the following image, it’s a decent bet you’re looking at something Hotep.

A meme with with a cartoon drawing of two black women at the top dressed in ancient Egyptian dress and jewellry. The words "Queens sit and watch" written across the image. At the bottom are photos of black women particularly focusing on their bottoms and poses which accentuate them. The women are wearing revealing clothing. The words say "while peasants entertain".

As I said though, what really got me going, listening to these guys talk, was how frequently they sounded indistinguishable from the anti-globalist, Qanon-esque conspiracy theorising of Alex Jones and other conservative militia types who frequently trade in white anxiety towards people of color. It felt like there had to be some sort of connection, and it turns out they do in fact share a common ancestor, and not in the evolutionary sense that they both reject. A common conspiracy theory ancestor. Before I reveal the missing link, here is a list of claims made by Young Pharaoh during this four-hour interview, divided into three categories:

  1. Noteworthy empirical claims
  2. Claims Alex Jones would likely also endorse
  3. Antisemitism (that Alex Jones would likely also endorse)

Noteworthy empirical claims:

  • Buddha was a black Egyptian.
  • Muhamad was white.
  • White people murdered the indigenous black Irish.
  • Lay lines, astrology, angels, souls, past lives, Gnosis, and ancestral spirits are all real.
  • Everything is conscious, as seen in experiments done on water showing it has memory.
  • The Adam’s Apple restructures atoms through audible friction
  • Talking lowers your vibratory frequency and English has the lowest vibratory frequency of any language. That’s why it’s better to use telepathy, which is as real as electronics.
  • Trump was right to suggest that we beam sunlight into people to cure Covid.
  • Fossil fuels aren’t made of fossils because bones don’t become liquid.
  • Evolution is false and human races are actually different species.
  • Black people have reptilian DNA and white people have a Chimpanzee DNA. As a result, black people can be dropped off anywhere in the world and survive peacefully, while white people always turn into conquerers, because of their violent chimp DNA.
  • Aliens genetically engineered white people from Dravidian albinos when they came to earth 6000 years ago, which is why there is no history of white people older than 6000 years. The aliens couldn’t genetically engineer black people because melanin in their DNA makes them immune to genetic manipulation.
  • Black people are descendants of aliens.
  • Races shouldn’t go to the same colleges and generally should be segregated because they’re different species.

Claims Alex Jones would likely also endorse:

  • Meritocracy is good and competitive victimhood is bad.
  • The government pays their bills with cocaine.
  • We have to liberate people from globalism.
  • MK ultra, chemtrails, YouTube technocrats, the military industrial complex, and elite pedophiles are all serious problems
  • COVID-19 is a bioweapon that’s part of a plan to upload all of human consciousness into digital prisons.
  • If it wasn’t for trump, we’d all be in a FEMA camp.
  • Black people are controlled by the entertainment industry and don’t want to read.
  • Black Lives Matter is Marxist trash meant to infiltrate and destroy American capitalism.
  • The Nation of Islam is a tool of oppression.
  • Biden and Hillary are KKK members.
  • Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was a KKK member, a Satanist and a eugenicist (that last one is true).
  • Obama is not a US citizen, he is an Islamic terrorist.
  • America was under Martial law and we know that because the seal was off the podium.
  • The Covid vaccine is designed to kill you, and they’re going to make it mandatory.
  • Delicately couched claims of needing to fight back against existential threats, for example: “You are physically going to have to resist. I’m not advocating violence but there are people trying to kill you. Bill Gates is one of them. He’s in the top five.” Young Pharaoh also says if he ever sees Bill Gates, he’s “popping that bottle”, though he refuses to say explicitly what that means.

Antisemitism (that Alex Jones would likely also endorse):

  • BLM was secretly founded by Jews and funded by George Soros as an LGBTQ marxist psi-ops, just like how Jews hijacked the civil rights movement. The ultimate goal of these Jewish puppet masters is to collapse America so we become a communist Chinese colony controlled by computers. (timestamp 1:27)
  • Louis Farrakhan prevented Khalid Muhammad from stepping up after Malcolm X was killed, because Muhammad made an antisemitic speech where he called Jews “bloodsuckers of the black community”. Young Pharaoh says, rhetorically, “you know what happens when you say something about the Jews”. (timestamp 3:32) NOTE: This all took place prior to CPAC disinviting Young Pharaoh because of other antisemitic remarks he has made. Farrakhan has also been accused of antisemitism.
  • Citing Behold a Pale Horse by Milton William Cooper (timestamp 0:15)

This list might look like a chaotic mess, but the conspiracy Rosetta stone is the very last bullet point. While listing the shunned books that were crucial to his awakening, Young Pharaoh refers to Behold a Pale Horse as a “top level book”. You can also hear that Hotep Jesus is keenly aware of Cooper’s work. So, why is this book the key?

Bill Cooper

Bill Cooper was an American conspiracy theorist and radio broadcaster who popularised the term “sheeple” and gained notoriety in the early 90’s for his book Behold a Pale Horse, which is essentially a compilation of prevalent anti-government and anti-globalist conspiracy theories. The book includes claims about aliens, Illuminati, and mass depopulation through engineered bioweapons like HIV/AIDS, which Cooper claimed was created to destroy blacks and other marginalised communities while the government withheld a cure. Cooper is likely the source for a majority of the claims I listed above.

Cooper’s work provides a touchstone for an absurd number of communities: sovereign citizens, militias, 9/11 truthers, Qanon, the Intellectual Dark Web, lizard people, and, of course, 90/00’s hip hop. Fans of the Wu-Tang clan likely saw that punchline coming, as the clan makes multiple reference to Cooper’s work. The debate album of the Wu-Tang affiliated group Killarmy, Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars, is named after the first chapter of Behold a Pale Horse!

Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars refers to a hoax document that purported to be a plan to use economic and social engineering to turn everyone into slaves without needing to use overt force. It was itself based on another hoax document, as the guys over on Knowledge Fight explained (while I’m recommending further listening on this subject, the Behind the Bastards episodes on Cooper are also excellent). To quote Wu-Tang member Old Dirty Bastard “everybody gets fucked. William Cooper tells you who’s fucking you… when you’re someone like me, that’s valuable information”.

If you’re now thinking “this sure sounds a lot like The Protocols of Zion, the famous hoax conspiracy document purporting to lay out a secret Jewish plan for global domination” well guess what? Cooper reprinted The Protocols of Zion as another chapter of Behold a Pale Horse. Cooper claimed that the protocols were about the Illuminati, not the Jews, but his reprinting of the protocols single handedly brought them back from cultural obscurity, and put them in the hands of individuals who very much believed that they were actually about Jews. Comments made by Cooper on his radio show suggest he did take seriously the idea that Jews had bought and control “the media”.

In this way, Cooper represents a key nexus for explaining the reverse Godwin problem I’ve mentioned before: that conspiracy theorising consistently trends towards antisemitism. Even today, despite heavy debunking, Behold a Pale Horse remains highly pirated and frequently read, both in conspiracy communities and in prisons, where Young Pharaoh first discovered it. You can also find prominent anti-globalist conspiracy theorists still promoting versions of Cooper’s depopulation theories, often using similar methods of misreading or misrepresenting government documents. Here’s one such conspiracy theorist, who freely attended CPAC:

Screenshot of two tweets from twitter user @ConceptualJames who uses the profile name "James Lindsay, Donald Trump of intellectuals". Tweet one, from Jan 13 2021 says "If you didn't know, "the plan" involves reducing the world population to under 2B, perhaps by the end of the decade. That's about 3/4 people who are excess population". Tweet two says "The asses-holding class doesn't really need people anymore, they think, and see them as "the virus", so since they don't meaningfully participate in the real economy, which is all trading, they don't really know what to do with us. Time for a Great Reset."

So, now we have a clear explanation for why Alex Jones and the Hoteps sound so similar, and why they also have remarkable overlaps with a range of other conspiracy touched communities. Interestingly, Cooper hated Alex Jones, who he described as a “bold-faced, stinking, rotten, little coward liar” that pulled his conspiracies out of thin air rather than dedicated research. Cooper saw Jones as a performance artist, turning Cooper’s life’s work into a media game to sell products. Cooper took his views seriously enough to die in a gunfight with authorities when they inevitably served him with an arrest warrant, while Alex Jones continues to predict the end is nigh and that’s why you need to stock up on supplements.

I will admit that the oppression narratives of the Hoteps strike me differently than those of Alex Jones, because communities of color are more likely to face genuine marginalisation and hardship, compared to their white conspiracist counterparts. According to Young Pharaoh, he has been shot, appears to have been involved in gang violence and possibly dealing drugs, and spent over three years in jail. He and Hotep Jesus discuss the “joke” that Hoteps are born in prison cells, and Young Pharaoh claims that’s the first time in a black person’s life when they can actually sit and think because they’re not worried about the government trying to kill them. If you’re at all sympathetic to problems around systemic racism, prison pipelines and the social death of marginalised groups, these claims of neoliberal oppression can sound fairly plausible.

The problem is drawing the line when those concerns cross over into conspiracy theories. We’re in the middle of trying to convince the world to accept Covid vaccines, and Cooper-style conspiracy theories present a real risk for vaccine hesitancy within black communities, especially when backed up by historic events of medical malfeasance like the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments.

Given the connections I’ve presented, I think it’s plausible that Cooper’s theories are also playing a role in high vaccine hesitancy amongst Republican men. It’s good that Hoteps, as an explicitly antisemitic ideology are having trouble getting platformed, but if the American right is serious about addressing the problem of antisemitism, it needs to recognise how much of the party identity remains steeped in Cooperism.

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