| Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
It is a popular meme in German-speaking countries and has broken beyond the confines of the internet.
Despite (or because of) its absurdity, it has achieved popularity by being a classic model of a conspiracy theory, as well as giving a rather unloved city an undeserved kicking.
Bielefeld is a city in the north-western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia with a population of 330,000. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous German state, incorporating the industrial Ruhr area, but Bielefeld is something of an island, isolated from other towns and cities. Bielefeld is also the biggest city in the region of Eastern Westphalia, or as it is known in German Ost-Westfalen, a patently absurd name.
Heavily bombed in World War II, the city was rebuilt, with anodyne modern buildings replacing the destroyed historic buildings. The industry in the city, once identified with the linen trade, has diversified to such an extent that it is hard to connect the city with any product or company.
Simply because it doesn't stand out in any way, despite being a sizeable city, Bielefeld became the target for the spoof. Allegedly at the time the hoax was created, there were no members identifying as being from Bielefeld in the Usenet group that came up with this. Soon thereafter a member of said group noticed the name "Bielefeld" being crossed out on an Autobahn sign due to roadwork and one thing led to another.
The Bielefeld conspiracy originated as a joke in a Usenet post. It posits the existence of a shadowy organisation, referred to only as "THEY", that wants to propagate the existence of the city.
Why they should want to do this is unclear. Fortunately, the existence of the conspiracy is rather more important than any actual rational reason for it. Possible reasons for the conspiracy include:
- The CIA brought JFK to the place where Bielefeld is supposed to be. This prevents him from revealing the truth about the moon landings.
- Mossad owns the area. By using undocumented ley lines, they plan to discover lost tunnels to America and Australia.
- The area is being prepared for alien landings.
In short, an exaggerated mix of the usual suspects. If the theory were to be invented today, no doubt it would be to hide the existence of a FEMA concentration camp in Germany.
"But I've been there"
This is a common assertion to try to refute the Bielefeld conspiracy. However, like any good conspiracy theory, such simple arguments do not hold water. Simple refutations generally involve such points as:
- Bielefeld railway station is a major interchange in the region. It is also on the edge of the city, and travellers see nothing more than a few buildings. Most people who have "been" to Bielefeld have only changed trains there, which is hardly evidence of the city.
- The stadium of the football club Arminia Bielefeld is also out of town. It is possible to travel to "Bielefeld", see a football match and go home without actually seeing the city. Arminia Bielefeld is actually perceived as a clever move on behalf of the conspiracy to make the existence of the city seem plausible.
- A few years ago, there were roadworks on the Autobahn to Bielefeld, involving diversions. After going through the diversions, there is no good reason to suppose that you actually have arrived in Bielefeld.
Another tactic of sceptics is to point out evidence such as the city's website. However, the carefully cropped and otherwise anonymous photos could actually belong to any city. Similar, but more unkind, comments could be applied to the University of Bielefeld.
Telephone numbers and postcodes for Bielefeld are proof that the Telekom and Post are part of the conspiracy.
Well, it's just for lulz really. Bielefeld council and tourist service have got pretty bored with the "you don't exist" letters and emails, suggesting that the joke is past its best.
That said, as an amusing educational device, it has some merit. Its absurd proposition and painful logic is no different to any other conspiracy theories you might care to mention. Indeed, it serves as a template for any number of similar conspiracies.
- The Bielefeld conspiracy was invented by Achim Held. His description of the conspiracy is available in German. This page contains a summary of the contents, with additional information as necessary.