Tag: Conspiracy theory

We Have Met the Enemy and It is Us

A critical distinction and one that we should keep in mind as the JFK anniversary approaches: The problem with conspiracy theory isn’t that it believes that the government is not to be trusted.  The trouble with conspiracy theory is its simplism; its simple faith that by holding a mirror up to the power structure its shadow opposite can be discerned–that the enemy isn’t the hegemon we know, but a hidden hegemon that can be known.

Our big trouble isn’t that outsiders (Communists, Fascists, Jewish globalist bankers) have secretly subverted our otherwise flawless system–it’s that the system itself is systemically corrupt.


Conspiracy Theories: The Republicans’ Last Refuge

Though the GOP remains the “party of business” in its policies, its outreach to economic populists and neo-secessionist states rightists has created a coalition that includes groups that are openly hostile to Wall Street and other economic elites, that see the Federal Reserve, for example, as a critical node of the Jewish conspiracy. This is an idea that goes all the way back to the Fed’s founding in 1913; it was trumpeted by conspiracy theorists like Henry Ford in the 1920s and the Republican Congressman Louis McFadden in the 1930s; it even played a role in Richard M. Nixon’s thinking, though he was more of a classic paranoid than a conspiracy theorist.

The GOP’s alliance with the Christian right has brought premillennial dispensationalists into its fold—people who believe that the world is not only coming to an end, but that the sooner civil order breaks down, the sooner Jesus will return. Dominionists like Ted Cruz’s father, who believe that the U.S. government should be run on a biblical basis, are increasingly prominent in the GOP. As believers in the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11), it’s not surprising that fundamentalists would be especially susceptible to conspiracy theories.

For more, go to The Washington Spectator.

More on conspiracy theories

Here is my third and final Rewire Me post on the neurology of hate, paranoia, and conspiracy theories. As I said on Facebook, I would like to start a campaign to eliminate the term “conspiracy theory” as a descriptive/pejorative for this kind of paranoid thinking. Conspiracies–some of them very big and very evil–do of course exist; it isn’t crazy to believe in conspiracies per se. What is crazy is to believe that one global conspiracy suffices to explain everything. That’s what Fundamentalists and Extremists do.

Conspiracy Theory and the Boston Marathon Bombing

As a “hate expert,” I am less interested in the who, what, or why of yesterday’s terror bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line (you can take this to the bank: it was a person or persons who hates the US, and who at some point, whether driven by personal demons or ideology, concluded that maximally-publicized maimings and killings would advance their cause), than about the people–also driven by personal demons and/or ideology–who are certain that they already know all there is to know.

If you’re a hammer, as the saying goes, you see nails. Naturally Pamela Geller sees Arabs and Jihad (and of course she identifies herself and Robert Spencer as the attack’s real victims–“the Twitter hyenas are rushing to blame Robert Spencer and me, as if we originated the idea that a jihadi did this,” she writes). Alex Jones sees both the hand of the US government in the attack and an occasion to boost his profile (when he was still vamping on his radio show yesterday afternoon, he connected the incident to the falling price of gold; by this morning, the consensus in Alex Jones land appears to be that this is a “planned event to justify a TSA lockdown…. the run-up to the TSA occupation of America, which has always been the goal of Obama”).

Dan Bidondi, a host of Alex Jones’s Infowars, managed to inject the phrase “false flag” into a question to Governor Deval Patrick at one of the police press conferences yesterday.

Atlantic Wire has a good rundown of “false flag” accusations and conspiracy theory.

Indignation junkies on the right are angry that the likes of Charles Pierce used his Esquire blog to point out that the date was Patriot’s Day; Jim Hoft rushed up a post headlined “Awful… Esquire Mag Blames ‘Patriots Day’ Supporters for the Boston Bomb Blasts.” For the record, this is what Pierce really posted. Pretty temperate, all things considered.

Obviously, nobody knows anything yet, but I would caution folks jumping to conclusions about foreign terrorism to remember that this is the official Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts, celebrating the Battles at Lexington and Concord, and that the actual date (April 19) was of some significance to, among other people, Tim McVeigh, because he fancied himself a waterer of the tree of liberty and the like.

Also for the record, the Waco siege ended April 19, which, not un-coincidentally, is also the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. If the date was that important to the bomber(s), I’d think they would have gotten it right, but that’s just my two cents. Of course April 15 is also Tax Day–and there are a number of militant right wing groups who style themselves tax protestors. Back in 2009, the Tea Party (not a militant group per se, though many Tea Party members have much to say about guns, tyranny, and the necessity of armed uprisings) designated April 15 as a day of protests and resistance.

Who else are people blaming? The lead post on the extreme anti-Semitic site Wake From Your Slumber this morning is headlined “Mossad Pulls off Boston Marathon Attacks.” Mossad’s handiwork, the piece goes on to explain, is discernible in the attack’s “use of deceptive tactics.” For example, the explosives used were “barely military-grade in terms of the depth of the explosives that would amass the kill counts” (who writes this stuff? they could really use an editor). Something tells me that if the bombs had been made of the highest grade C-4, that would have also pointed to Mossad, because who else has access to it and can move it around the US–and is callous enough to want to kill so many innocents?

I could go on, but there isn’t much point. Most of the people I quoted are professional demagogues and haters…. They are like actors who can cry on command, or pop stars who deliver the same spontaneously exuberant performance night after night. They don’t have to work themselves up into a lather when something like this happens; they know exactly what to say and they say it–and pretty soon the echo chamber of the Internet and the 24/7 news channels disseminates it around the world.

More interesting to me, as someone who has struggled to understand the underlying psychology of conspiracy theory, are the ways that civilians rush to make sense of the inexplicable. A couple of months ago, a woman in my neighborhood was killed as she walked out of a bakery where she’d just bought some cookies. The driver of an SUV had passed out and driven up on the sidewalk, possibly because he’d gone into insulin shock. The comments on the neighborhood blog were rife with speculation and anger: the police don’t investigate pedestrian fatalities (true); the drivers of the vehicles that kill them are almost never prosecuted (true); diabetics should be aware of their condition before they get behind the wheel (true); someone should be punished (maybe). No one blamed the victim that time, but when another woman was killed by a left-turning truck as she rode her bicycle through a green light, many posters took the time to note–in a public forum that the victim’s family members were likely to read–that they have frequently biked that route themselves and are always careful at that exact corner, because drivers are always turning without looking.

All of it is true, none of it is crazy or hateful–but to me it’s revealing that so many people feel the need to broadcast those thoughts out loud. What they are saying, in effect, is that the world is still rational and meaningful, even if terrible things happen from time to time. There is always an explanation; there are never victims, only martyrs or fools, and someone is always to blame. It’s a spontaneous act of theodicy, as if they all want to let God off the hook–and/or to reassure themselves that they are too smart to ever be a victim themselves.

I’m not criticizing the tendency; I’m just noting it. Alex Jones wouldn’t have the megaphone or the resonance that he has if there wasn’t a little bit of him in all of us.

Sandy Hook Truthers

Salon (click here and here) and Gawker have been covering the rise of the Sandy Hook Truth movement, which has already built up a considerable head of steam. Not coincidentally, many of its pioneers cut their teeth making 911 Truth videos; their learning curve is less steep this time around, and their memes are propagating more quickly.

The story they tell points to shadowy forces (Illuminati, Mossad/Rothschild/Obama agents, gun control advocates) who conspired to kill (or pretended to kill) a bunch of school children, using Mind Control, psychotropic medicines, and trained assassins. They embedded clues to their intentions in Batman movies and The Hunger Games books (whose author lives in Newtown), but botched the roll out of their disinformation campaign so egregiously that anyone with access to a modem can pick it to pieces. The “parents” of the “victims” are terrible actors–and the producers of the extravaganza carelessly allowed one of those “victims” to pose with the president. The additional gunmen (the Jack Rubys whose job it was to kill the patsy/witnesses) got themselves caught on video, etc.

Second Amendment extremists are tuned into this, of course, but they overlap with a much larger universe–the neo-Birchers, Ron Paulites, and self-described anarchists that make up Alex Jones’ audience, the hard racist right, and the usual run of Protocols of the Elders of Zion anti-Semites (Veterans Today explains how the killings were Israeli revenge for Obama’s insufficient support). At least one mainstream broadcaster, Ben Swann of Fox19 in Cincinatti, has linked Newtown to the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, as “false flags.”

The people who made the video at the top of this post (which has been watched by some 5 million people) are motivated by politics to a certain extent, but by sheer gamesmanship as well, from the sound of what they told Gawker:

“[I]t all started when me and my friends used to research 9/11 in high school,” the auteur behind the video told me over email. (He declined to give me a name or personal information, “due to the sensitivity of the channel and my concern for my security,” and signed his emails T.O.T.V., after his YouTube channel’s title “ThinkOutsidetTheTV.”) “That’s what really got me started when it came to researching government cover ups […] Once I learned about all the false flag attacks in history that have been proven to be true, I knew it was only a matter of time before another came a long”…..”When Sandy Hook first happened i just had a feeling like it was all too perfect,” T.O.T.V. continued. “I just had this feeling deep down that these people and the whole town had this artificial vibe about them.” The perceived “artificiality” of the grieving parents is a cornerstone piece of “evidence” produced by Sandy Hook Truther: SandyHookHoax.com, the premiere Sandy Hook Truther site on the web, has an entire section called “All Actors,” under an enormous header reading “NO TEARS,” devoted to videos of families deemed insufficiently grief-stricken.

Newtown is not something to grieve or fear but a puzzle to solve. Its victims aren’t victims at all. Everything that sheds doubt on the theory is disinformation; everything else is proof.

To quote my own CULTS, CONSPIRACIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES: “Though conspiracists invariably describe themselves as hard-boiled types, skeptical, unillusioned, and cynical to the core, there is much that is reassuring and optimistic in their worldview. Conspiracists believe in prophecy; they have a congenital distaste for shadings, nuances, and uncertainties. However Mannichaean their world might be, however Gnostic in its manifold deceptions and depravities, ultimately it is a profoundly meaningful place. Not only do its events admit of neat explanations; salvation remains a distinct possibility. The day of reckoning will come, they believe, when they can convince enough ‘sheeple’ to see through the enemy’s ‘big lies.’ Truth and justice will have their day.”