Who are the Illuminati and do they control these pop stars?
Beyonce, Madonna and Katy Perry among stars accused of being in secret society
The internet is awash with theories about the Illuminati, a mysterious group that conspiracy theorists believe is seeking a 'New World Order' that would impose a totalitarian world government. Among the alleged members of the secret society are not just politicians and religious leaders, but actors and pop stars.
Echoing the anti-communist witch-hunts and black-listings of 1950s Hollywood, one of the core beliefs of Illuminati watchers is that the entire entertainment industry has been infiltrated and that Illuminati members are using the media to brainwash the masses.
So who are the Illuminati and who has the group apparently recruited from Tinseltown?
Who are the Illuminati?
The original Illuminati group was founded in Bavaria in the 18th century by Adam Weishaupt, an anti-clerical professor who wanted to limit the interference of the Church in public life. He based his secret society on the Freemasons, with a hierarchy and mysterious rituals, and named it the Order of Illuminati to reflect the enlightened ideals of its educated members. The Illuminati was stamped out by a government crackdown on secret societies in the late 1780s, but rumours that it continued to survive as an underground organisation have persisted into the modern day.
What is the New World Order?
In post-war America, right-wing agitators claimed clandestine groups were planning a communist world government but the idea of a powerful modern Illuminati conspiring to rule the world remained a niche belief upheld by a handful of cranks until the 1990s. The spread of the internet changed all that, giving conspiracy theorists a global platform to expound their beliefs and present their evidence to a massive audience.
Theories about how the New World Order operates run from the faintly credible – in light of the Davos summit, a cabal of politicians and business leaders getting together to decide global policies doesn't seem impossible – to the outright bizarre.
Most unbelievable of all is former TV presenter David Icke's claim that the world's leaders are actually super-intelligent lizards in human guise who control our reality from the Moon. Those who remember Icke from his days on Grandstand may be surprised to know his theories about our reptilian overlords – who have included the Rothschilds, Bob Hope and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother - have amassed a faithful following on the internet.
Conspiracy theorists obsessively analyse public events for "evidence" of Illuminati influence. The symbols most associated with the Illuminati include triangles, pentagrams, goats, the all-seeing eye – such as the one that appears on US bank notes - and the number 666.
Who is supposedly a member?
As well as being king and queen of the charts, Beyonce and Jay are frequently depicted as lords of the New World Order. Beyonce's immense fame and popularity have long made her a favourite target for conspiracy theorists. Illuminati 'experts' seized upon her half-time performance at the 2013 Super Bowl as an example of her "devil-worshipping" choreography, even accusing her on-stage alter ego Sasha Fierce of being a "demonic entity".
Jay–Z, meanwhile, has been accused of hiding secret symbols such as goat imagery and devil horns in his music videos. Most damningly, the logo for his own music label, Roc-A-Fella Records, is a pyramid – one of the most well-known Illuminati logos. Jay-Z's protege Rihanna has also been put in the spotlight by Illuminati enthusiasts for frequently flashing a triangle hand sign. The playful popstar even joked about the theories in the music video for her hit song S&M, which featured a fake newspaper with a headline declaring her "Princess of the Illuminati".
Other celebrities accused of using Illuminati symbols include Lindsay Lohan (devil tattoo), Celine Dion ('devil horns' hand sign), Emma Watson (photographed circling her eye with her finger in the shape of a number six), Angelina Jolie (all-seeing eye symbol in Tomb Raider) and Will Smith (his children's fondness for esoteric tweeting is seen as evidence they have been brainwashed).
Did the Illuminati kill Prince?
The sudden death of Prince in April was mourned by the music industry and legions of fans around the world. The 57-year-old singer-songwriter, who was reportedly struggling with an addiction to opiates, was later judged to have died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a powerful painkiller.
Not so, according to some Illuminati watchers.
"The Illuminati talk won’t stop coming and what doesn’t help is that Prince himself seems to have been genuinely convinced that the organisation existed," reports one gossip website.
In 2009, Prince appeared on TV to warn of powerful mystery figures controlling the world through "chemtrails" - chemicals pumped into the air via jet planes to manipulate human behaviour.
Fiercely protective of his copyrights and his artistic freedom, he even went toe-to-toe with his own record label, Warner Brothers, in the 1990s. His quest for unparalleled independence made him plenty of enemies in the Illuminati-controlled music industry, the conspiracy theory goes.
"Isn’t it interesting that as all of this starts happening, and when he has finally gained total control of his life, he’s suddenly, unexpectedly, dead?" asks conspiracy website Your Newswire.
What do celebrities have to say about the theories?
Katy Perry told Rolling Stone that the theory was the preserve of "weird people on the internet" but admitted she was flattered to be named among the supposed members: "I guess you've kind of made it when they think you're in the Illuminati!" But she was tolerant of people who wanted to believe in the theory because: "I believe in aliens".
Madonna, on the other hand, might just be a believer – all the more interesting given that she has frequently been accused of being a member herself. Speaking to Rolling Stone, she hinted that she had secret knowledge of the group. The claim is not so shocking given that she released a single titled 'Illuminati'. She said: "People often accuse me of being a member of the Illuminati, but the thing is, I know who the real Illuminati are."