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Dylann Roof’s Manifesto

June 22, 2015

I’ve written a lot (too much) about racism; I’m not going to spend any time parsing Dylann Roof’s manifesto–obviously he’s wrong and he’s bad, and so are the people who deplore his acts while endorsing his analysis.

I would just add that the KKK and the CCC and even the neo-Nazi groups like the NPI aren’t the biggest problem we face as a nation when it comes to racism–even most racists find them despicable. And they’re not being disingenuous when they disown Roof. The CCC’s Jared Taylor, for example, is a separatist, not an eliminationist; he believes that white nationalists should emulate Israeli settlers, Chasids in upstate NY, and the die-hard separatists in Rhodesia and build white-only ethnocracies.

One thing they do have in common with Roof is that they no longer presume to speak for “America,” but for cadres of right-thinking whites. They believe the Republic was poisoned at its inception by its “all men are created equal” rhetoric and finished by the Civil War and the 13th Amendment. If they aren’t as sanguinary as Roof, they hate the US with an equal passion. Here are Root’s words on patriotism, veterans, Jews, and the flag, which are sure to bring Tea Partiers and Libertarians and Democrats and Republicans together in execration:

I hate the sight of the American flag. Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke. People pretending like they have something to be proud while White people are being murdered daily in the streets. Many veterans believe we owe them something for “protecting our way of life” or “protecting our freedom”. But im not sure what way of life they are talking about. How about we protect the White race and stop fighting for the jews. I will say this though, I myself would have rather lived in 1940’s American than Nazi Germany, and no this is not ignorance speaking, it is just my opinion. So I dont blame the veterans of any wars up until after Vietnam, because at least they had an American to be proud of and fight for.

As loathsome as fringe racists like Taylor are, as despicable and dangerous as psychopathic nut jobs like Roof are, I believe that the mainstream enablers, sustainers, and normalizers of white privilege–the people who believe that separate and unequal schools and neighborhoods and opportunity structures, a militarized police force and citizenry, and an attendant prison-industrial complex are the bulwarks of their freedom–are far worse.

What matters the most isn’t what the likes of Dylann Roof wrote and said, but what so many “legitimate” politicians and pundits are NOT saying. Those are the people whose feet need to be held to the fire.

Diane Rehm, Bernie Sanders, Anti-Semitism

June 11, 2015

So as TPM reported, Diane Rehm sharply questioned Bernie Sanders about his supposed dual Israeli/American citizenship. Some listeners might have heard in this an echo of the familiar trope that goes back to the Protocols (and that last reared its head in national politics during one of Pat Buchanan’s campaigns). Rehm’s embarrassing mea culpa was that it was something she picked up on Facebook.

I’m pretty sure that both the Jews and Bernie Sanders can take care of themselves, but I have to admit that it troubles even a non-Zionist like me that the list she is referring to is most likely this one, which ran on Ken Adachi’s website, where you can also learn about the Illuminati bloodline, Agenda 21, the perils of vaccination, and the perfidy of international Jewry. I’m not saying that Diane Rehm subscribes to any of those theories, but shouldn’t someone with her platform at least know enough about the kinds of theories that travel around the Internet to be skeptical of sites like that?

Heribert Illig’s Theory of Invented Time

May 29, 2015

Arthur Goldwag:

This almost five-year-old post has gotten a lot of clicks too. Might as well re-blog it to make it easier for people to find. For what it’s worth, I actually regret my flippant tone (as I admit in one of the comments). I might not agree with Illig if I did know his work better, but the fact is I hardly know it at all. As for the word “crank,” I used it in the sense that Charles Pierce did in his book Idiot America, as a kind of backhanded honorific: “A pioneer gazing at the frontier of his own mind the way the actual pioneers looked out over the prairie….Very often, it was [the American crank] that provided the conflicts by which the consensus changed.”

Originally posted on Arthur Goldwag:

How could I have written a whole book about conspiracy theories without once encountering Heribert Illig? I just stumbled over a reference to his “phantom time hypothesis” and now I’m finding him everywhere.

A prolific crank in the grand tradition of Ignatius L. Donnelley and Immanuel Velikovsky, Illig has spent many years elaborating and defending his proposition that the years 614-911 CE were invented and inserted into histories ex post facto at the behest of Otto III. The present year is not 2010, but 1713; Charlemagne and Alfred the Great were fictional characters; the Viking raids never happened; etc.

Illig’s foundation for his theory are the presumed inconsistencies between the Gregorian and Julian calendars (which are in fact easily resolved); he criticizes historians’ over-credulous attitude toward written documents and points out inadequacies in dendrochronology and archaeological methods.

None of his books have been translated into English, though amusingly auto-translated reviews…

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Commander Edwin J. Quinby and the Great Streetcar Conspiracy

May 27, 2015

Arthur Goldwag:

This has gotten some interesting comments since I posted it, and seems, in a modest way, to be a nascent bulletin board for things Quinby. I am reposting it in the hope that it makes it easier for people to find.

Originally posted on Arthur Goldwag:

“Cranks are noble,” says Charles P. Peirce, author of Idiot America, “because cranks are independent.Their value comes when, occasionally, their lonely dissents from the commonplace affect the culture, at which point the culture moves to adopt them and their ideas come to influence the culture.”

A footnote in Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead has gotten me reading and thinking about Commander Edwin Jenyss Quinby (1895-1981). Brilliant, eccentric, and very likely a crank, Quinby was one of those rare conspiracy theorists who was right.

One of Quinby’s formative experiences, according to this on-line tribute, was seeing the visionary scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla demonstrate a remote controlled submarine in Madison Square Garden. A Marconi radio operator on a tramp steamer (and later a Commander in the Naval Reserve), Quinby would be one of the first electrical engineers hired by RCA. He went on to patent a slew of inventions…

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Seymour Hersh

May 14, 2015

Seymour Hersh’s London Review of Books piece on the killing of Osama Bin Laden has been met with wide skepticism; many have characterized it as “conspiracy theory.” Hersh, of course, was proven alarmingly correct about other things in the past that were initially denied–for example, his wild story about a massacre of innocent Vietnamese civilians at My Lai, or the horrible tortures that were carried out in an Iraqi prison by active duty personnel of the US armed forces and CIA. But he wouldn’t be the first prominent journalist to go off the rails either. Pierre Salinger gave his name to a syndrome in the months after the crash of TWA Flight 800 (he was suffering from dementia when he died just a few years later); back in the ’90s, Hersh himself fell for a notorious con man and almost used his forgeries in his book The Dark Side of Camelot.

Should Hersh be granted latitude now because he was so often right in the past, or should his present alleged credulity discredit his past bombshells? Neither, obviously, though you wouldn’t know that to read the stories on the Internet.

“Conspiracy theory,” it’s worth remembering, isn’t the belief in conspiracies per se, which often do happen.  Merely disbelieving an official story doesn’t make you a conspiracy theorist. Given the government’s track record in the past and its strong motives for engaging in disinformation today you’d be foolish to believe everything it says, and you’d be particularly foolish to put much credence in its story about the OBL killing, which I went on the record at the time, for what it’s worth, to characterize as troublesome, to say the very least. It’s only when you craft an alternative story based on rumor, lies, inference, and supposition and present it with absolute certainty as the unvarnished truth that you become a conspiracy theorist.

This is some of what I wrote about the story back then–and I was speaking completely off the top of my head, without the benefit of high-placed (or not-so-high-placed) intelligence sources:

I got a call from Russia Today TV this afternoon and they asked me what I thought was going on. I repeated what I said in this space yesterday–that I find the whole thing baffling, especially after the weekend that Obama just had. Friday he released the birth certificate, belatedly conceding that conspiracy theories do matter but finally putting that particular one to rest. Saturday he eviscerated Donald Trump while wearing a tuxedo and a smile and Sunday he announced that he’d taken out the most hated man in the world. And then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, he couldn’t stop tripping over his feet. Our Skype connection was pretty unstable; they only used a second of the interview, but you can watch their package here if you’re interested.

They aced the operation, but the subsequent messaging has been really uneven, to say the very least. I suspect that what we’re seeing is the result of a lack of consensus within the White House team on what the message actually is. One group–let’s call them the grownups–thinks that we should be bending over backwards to show our Muslim allies that we’re respectful, that we’re not gloating over or desecrating the body of a man that some regard as a religious leader. Another group–the political guys–figured that what happened wasn’t dramatic enough, that it needed the kind of artful, morally-telling touches that you’d see on TV, like Osama shielding himself with his young wife’s body before dying in a firefight, instead of simply having his head blown off when soldiers burst into the room where he was hiding. When the grownups rushed in to undo the damage that the political guys were causing, they planted the germ of cognitive dissonance that conspiracy theories grow out of.

Thomas Powers wrote something in the NYTBR piece about The Dark Side of Camelot I linked to above that stayed with me: “Hersh does not write history in the usual sense of the term, but he makes life difficult for historians by digging up just enough about distressing matters so they can’t honestly be ignored.” He goes on to say that while Hersh’s speculations about motives aren’t always to be trusted, his reporting generally is.

If some of Hersh’s LBR piece sounds like something you’d read at Infowars, a lot of it, to quote one of its lines about the enigma of the disposition of OBL’s corpse, sounds more like what you get after “the classic unravelling of a poorly constructed cover story – it solves an immediate problem but, given the slightest inspection, there is no back-up support.” I suspect that many of the mysteries that will forever surround Kennedy’s assassination could have been dispelled by documents that were made to disappear for a variety of reasons. Though I don’t believe that Hersh got all the details right and suspect that he got some of them wrong, I think he did get this one right when it comes to matters related to Iraq, Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and more: “High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.” Given all that, how could a piece like “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” not sound like conspiracy theory?

Rand Paul Rex

April 10, 2015

All in all, it’s been a pretty bad week for Rand Paul. The liberal media, anyway, has been making a lot of noise about his shadier political associations and long-standing penchant for conspiratorial theorizing, not to mention his relationship with Alex Jones. He’s faced a lot of questions about flip-flopping and backsliding too, which made him act a little peevish and mansplainy with some female reporters.

Maybe he can ooze out from under Alex Jones and the Southern Avenger — the mainstream media seems incapable of appreciating just how far right and racist some of these people really are. Look how long Pat Buchanan stayed in the mainstream. Paul Senior got something of a free ride too, even if he did get called out a few times about those racist newsletters.

But the thing about the Pauls’ brand of right wing populism is that its enemies aren’t just minorities, immigrants, and the poor — they are elites, too, which is to say, the very rich, powerful, ultra-connected people who get invited to Bilderberg meetings, speculate on international currencies, trade oil futures, choose the leaderships of developing countries, and in general, underwrite and lead the Republican Party, which Rand now aspires to do (not to mention the free world). Paul wants to get credit for hating the Republicans but he also wants to outdo them at their own game — and become their acknowledged leader. He is the ultimate cognitive dissonance candidate.

And notice that I’m not saying anything about the police, law and order, incarceration, recreational drugs, the military, and all the other issues where Paul once defied Republican orthodoxy.

Faced with questions about some of those exact things, he purportedly stormed out of an interview with The Guardian.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that this wasn’t the tantrum the headlines made it out to be; he was over-scheduled. But you’ll also see that he is brittle and defensive, and has a manner that falls a few yards short of commanding or even comfortable in his own skin. He looks a lot like a son who is desperate to please his overbearing father, but who might also have some Oedipal ambivalence about what that entails. He’s in a real bind — he can’t make any headway at all unless he throws his father under a bus and offers himself up to the Koches and Sheldon Adelson.

It seemed to me that the only time Al Gore looked relaxed and at peace with himself during the 2000 campaign was when he finally made his concession speech. He had both won the presidency and lost it, and so in a way he was having his cake and eating it too — fulfilling his father’s dream while also failing —  and at the same time, escaping the prison of expectations that his life had been up to that moment. No wonder he went on to get a divorce and make a billion dollars — it was like he was finally free to be whatever he wanted to be.

I wondered if Romney’s robotic weirdness in 2012 (and Romney at his worst is much more formidable than Rand Paul at his best) wasn’t a manifestation of that same kind of filial ambivalence too.

Is Ted Cruz a “Natural Born Citizen?”

March 24, 2015

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Is the Canadian-born Ted Cruz, whose mother was American but whose father was Cuban, eligible to run for president?

By any reasonable standard he is, EXCEPT the one that the Birthers have applied to Obama. By their reasoning, Cruz is even less eligible than Obama, since Obama was born on American soil.

The definition of “natural born citizen” that the Birthers apply to exclude Obama (“born in the country, of parents who are citizens”), comes from the Swiss legal thinker Emerich Vatel’s book Law of Nations, circa 1758. Though it has the virtue of excluding Obama even if his American birth certificate is authentic, it also excludes a bunch of previous presidents, including Chester Arthur, whose father was British, Woodrow Wilson, whose mother was English, and Herbert Hoover, whose mother was Canadian–not to mention Ted Cruz.

The Founders didn’t define “natural born citizen”; we simply don’t know what they meant. A number of different agencies and courts have adjudicated the issue, but until the Supreme Court does (or the Constitution is amended), Cruz’s eligibility must be considered problematic, if we actually care about things like this, as the Birthers say they do.

It will be interesting to see what Cruz’s announcement stirs up.

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