Fact Check: 'Top WEF Official' Did NOT Say That 'Dangerous Conspiracy Theorists Must Be Eliminated'

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: 'Top WEF Official' Did NOT Say That 'Dangerous Conspiracy Theorists Must Be Eliminated' No Such Quote

Did a top World Economic Forum official call for the "elimination" of conspiracy theorists? No, that's not true: The man described as a "top WEF official" in the article making the claim doesn't work for them and doesn't have any authority to decide things on behalf of the Forum; more importantly, that person never said "dangerous conspiracy theorists must be eliminated" in the interview cited as the main source.

The claim originated from an article (archived here) published by the People's Voice on July 25, 2023, under the headline:

Top WEF Official: 'Dangerous Conspiracy Theorists Must Be Eliminated.'

Here is what it looked like at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 3.19.12 PM.png

(Source: The People's Voice screenshot taken on Thu Jul 27 19:19:12 2023 UTC)

The headline does not match the content of the article -- that quote never appears again in the published material:

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 3.04.23 PM.png

(Source: The People's Voice screenshot taken on Thu Jul 27 19:04:23 2023 UTC)

Contrary to the headline, the very first opening paragraph discussed access to the internet, not "elimination" as claimed:

A top World Economic Forum (WEF) official has called for so-called 'conspiracy theorists' to be banned from accessing the internet due to their 'dangerous' belief that a global cabal of elites control the world.

The next paragraph describing Yuval Noah Harari as "Klaus Schwab's right hand man" implied that Harari was the "top WEF official" mentioned in the title. However, Harari is not responsible for any decisions made by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as an organization -- he is an author and history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who gave several public talks at WEF events in 2018 and 2020. His name is nowhere to be found on the list of people constituting the board of trustees, managing board or executive committee -- the bodies that govern the Forum.

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 11.06.33 AM.png

(Source: Weforum.org screenshot taken on Thu Jul 27 15:06:33 2023 UTC)

The article cited Harari's words from the Lex Fridman podcast uploaded on YouTube on July 17, 2023. That episode, however, was not centered around the WEF.

Here is how host Lex Fridman, a Russian-born American scientist researching artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, summarized the essence of the discussion with his guest in the opening remarks:

The following is a conversation with Noah Harari, the historian, philosopher and author of several highly acclaimed, highly influential books, including 'Sapiens,' 'Homo Deus' and '21 Lessons for the 21st Century.' He is also an outspoken critic of Benjamin Netanyahu and the current right-wing government in Israel. So while much of this conversation is about the history and future of human civilization, we also discuss the political turmoil of present-day Israel, providing a different perspective from that of my recent conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu.

As searches of the transcript of the conversation show, neither Fridman nor Harari ever used the verb "eliminate" or referred to the World Economic Forum during the episode:

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 11.35.45 AM.png

(Source: Lexfridman.com screenshot taken on Jul 27 15:35:45 2023 UTC)

Screen Shot 2023-07-27 at 12.02.28 PM.png

(Source: Lexfridman.com screenshot taken on Jul 27 16:02:28 2023 UTC)

Harari does discuss conspiracy theories in the middle of the conversation at the 1:45:32 mark. He begins by explaining the reasons why people get attracted to such narratives:

... the global cabal theory, it has many variations, but basically, there is a small group of people, a small cabal that secretly controls everything that is happening in the world. All the wars, all the revolutions, all the epidemics, everything that is happening is controlled by this very small group of people, who are of course evil and have bad intentions. And this is a very well-known story. It's not new. It's been there for thousands of years.

It's very attractive because, first of all, it's simple. You don't need to understand everything that happens in the world, you just need to understand one thing. The war in Ukraine, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, 5G technology, COVID-19; it's simple. There is this global cabal. They do all of it. And also, it enables you to shift all the responsibility to all the bad things that are happening in the world to this small cabal. 'It's the Jews, it's the Free Masons. It's not us.'

And also, it creates this fantasy, utopian fantasy. 'If we only get rid of the small cabal, we've solved all the problems of the world. Salvation.' The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the war in Ukraine, the epidemics, poverty, everything is solved just by knocking out this small cabal.

At the 1:46:53 mark, the historian continues:

Nazism was exactly this. Nazism began as a conspiracy theory. We don't call Nazism a conspiracy theory because, 'Oh, it's a big thing. It's an ideology.' But if you look at it, it's a conspiracy theory. The basic Nazi idea was that Jews control the world. Get rid of the Jews, you've solved all the world's problems.
Harari points out at the 1:48:33 mark that conspiratorial thinking is not a valid, reality-based explanation of complex problems and that "they are never right."
Harari used the word "banned" only in the part discussing AI, not conspiracy theories. He never suggested that the followers of such narratives should lose access to the internet. Instead, he said the following at the 1:53:57 mark:
... if you now direct the fire against certain people, so instead of all humans cooperating against our real common threats, whether it's the rise of AI, whether it's global warming, you are only causing us to fight each other. And I think that the key question that people who spread these ideas ... is do you want to spend your life spreading hate towards people, or do you want to work on more constructive projects?

The People's Voice has published multiple false stories in the past. It describes itself as a resource "comprised of various web pages operated by Fact Checked Limited," but it has nothing to do with fact-checking.

As of this writing, its website contained a liability disclaimer that says:

FACT CHECKED LIMITED AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE SUITABILITY, RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, TIMELINESS, AND ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS CONTAINED ON THE SITE FOR ANY PURPOSE. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, ALL SUCH INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS ARE PROVIDED 'AS IS' WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the World Economic Forum can be found here. Lead Stories debunks of claims involving Harari are here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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