The Charade of Conspiracy Theory | The American Conservative


Bidens “National Strategy to Combat Domestic Terrorism” Report last week stated that “strengthening belief in American democracy” requires “finding ways to counter the influence and effects of dangerous conspiracy theories”. Over the past few decades, conspiracy theories have proliferated almost as quickly as government lies and cover-ups. While many allegations have been ridiculously far-fetched, the political establishment and media routinely attach the label “conspiracy theory” to any challenge to their dominance.

according to after Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law Professor and Obama’s Regulatory Czar, a conspiracy theory is “an attempt to explain an event or practice in terms of the machinations of powerful people who also managed to hide their role”. Sensible citizens should assume that the government creates trillions of pages of new secrets each year for their own good, not to hide anything from the public.

In the early 1960s, conspiracy theories were practically off-topic because 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government. This gullibility did not survive the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Seven days after Kennedy was shot dead on November 22, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson set up a commission (later known as the Warren Commission) to quell controversy over the murder. Johnson and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover urged the commissioners to quickly issue a report branding the version of the assassination “crazy loner”. House minority leader Gerald Ford, a member of the commission, revised the staff’s final report to change the location of the bullet entering Kennedy’s body, saving Hoover’s so-called “magic bullet” theory. After the Warren Commission’s findings were ridiculed as whitewashing, Johnson ordered the FBI to wiretap the report’s critics. To protect the official story, the commission sealed important records for 75 years. The truth would not emerge until everyone involved in a cover-up had withdrawn their pensions and died.

The controversy over the Warren Commission spurred the CIA to formally attack the notion of conspiracy theories. In a 1967 warning to its overseas stations and bases, the CIA stated that the fact that nearly half of Americans did not believe that Oswald was acting alone “worries” the US government, including our organization, “and the whole.” Call from the American government. “The memo instructed recipients to” use propaganda tools “and” exploit friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), and indicated that … parts of the conspiracy talk were apparently intentionally generated by communist propagandists The ultimate proof of the government’s innocence: “A large-scale conspiracy, which is often suggested, would be impossible to hide in the United States.”

However, the CIA hid a wide range of assassinations and foreign coups it carried out until the Congressional investigation kicked off in the mid-1970s. The New York Times, Which revealed the CIA memo in 1977, noted that the CIA “was bringing its propaganda machinery together to support an issue that makes Americans and the CIA much more worrying. even than to citizens of other countries. ”According to historian Lance deHaven-Smith, Author of Conspiracy theory in America, “The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and turn conspiracy belief into a target of ridicule and hostility must be recognized as one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time. ”(In 2014 the CIA published a heavily edited report admit that it was “complicit” in a “cover-up” by the JFK by withholding “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.)

The Johnson administration also tried to portray critics of its Vietnam War policies as conspiracy maniacs, at least when they did not portray them as communist henchmen. During the Senate hearings on the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1968, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara condemned “outrageous suggestions” that the US had attempted to provoke a North Vietnamese attack, and explained that it is “inconceivable that anyone even remotely familiar with our society and our system of government could suspect the existence of a conspiracy” to lead the nation to war under false pretenses. Three years later, the disclosure of the Pentagon papers destroyed the credibility of McNamara and other high-ranking officials in the Johnson administration who actually dragged America into the Vietnam War on false pretenses.

Conspiracy theories condemned became a hallmark of the Clinton administration. In 1995, President Bill Clinton claimed that people who believed the government was threatening their constitutional rights were deranged ingrates: “If you say the government is in a conspiracy to take your liberty, you are simply wrong … How dare you call yourself patriots and heroes! ”That same year the White House produced a feverish 331-page report entitled“Communication stream from Conspiracy Commerce“And attacked magazines, think tanks, and others that criticized President Clinton. In the years that followed, many of the organizations condemned in the White House report were targeted by IRS audits, including the Heritage Foundation and the American viewer Magazine and nearly a dozen individual high-profile Clinton prosecutors, including Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers. Despite Clinton’s assertions that he posed no threat to freedom, even the ACLU admitted in 1998 that the Clinton administration was “involved in clandestine surveillance, such as wiretapping, to a far greater extent than ever before … new powers to spy on all Americans.”

Some of the “conspiracy theory” allegations comically expose the naivety of the official scorers. In April 2016, Chapman University surveyed Americans and stated that “the most popular conspiracy theory in the United States is that the government is hiding information about the September 11, 2001 attacks, with just over half of Americans saying it “. That poll did not ask whether people believed the World Trade Centers were blown up by an inside job or whether President George W. Bush secretly orchestrated the attacks. Instead, people were simply asked whether “the government is hiding information about the attacks.” Only a village idiot, college professor, or editorial writer would assume the government has gone clean. Finally, three months after the Chapman University poll, the Obama administration released 28 pages of a 2003 Congressional report that revealed that Saudi government officials had directly funded some of the September 11, 2001 kidnappers in America. This revelation rocked the carefully constructed plot by the Bush administration, the 9/11 Commission, and legions of media accomplices. (The lawsuits in federal court are ongoing to compel the U.S. government to disclose more information regarding the Saudi government Role in the attacks.)

“Conspiracy theory” is often a flag of convenience for the media. In 2018 the New York Times claimed that Trump’s use of the term “deep state” and related rhetoric “fueled fears that it is undermining public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of ​​objective truth, and sowing widespread distrust of the government and the news media.” However, after allegations by anonymous government officials fueled Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, New York Times Columnist James Stewart cheered, “There is a deep state, there is a bureaucracy in our country that is committed to respecting the Constitution, respecting the rule of law … you work for the American people.” New York Times Editorial author Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well,” and hailed it as “a gathering of patriotic officials.” Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington.

The media elite can almost make headlines for “conspiracy theory”. One week after election day 2020, the New York Times At the top of the front page a banner headline: “Election officials find no fraud nationwide”. How did that Times knows? Their reporters effectively phoned each state and asked, “Have you all seen scams?” Election officials replied “No”, proving that anyone who later questioned Biden’s victory was promoting an unfounded conspiracy. While top liberal politicians denounced electronic voting companies as unaccountable and dishonest in 2019, all doubts about such companies after this headline in the Times. The Times helped drown out media cacophony that drowned out anyone complaining about ballot removal, illegal bulk mailing of postal ballots, or widespread failure to verify voter identity.

Indeed, “conspiracy theory” allegations helped Biden win the 2020 presidential election. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently noted, Trump would likely have won the election if Americans believed the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese government laboratory because voters were looking for a leader who Could be tough on China. But the declaration of laboratory origin was quickly labeled as pro-Trump heresy. The Washington Post condemned Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) for pointing out the virus came from the laboratory in what is allegedly a “conspiracy theory that has already been debunked.” Twenty-seven prominent scientists signed a letter by doing Lancet: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories that suggest that COVID-19 has no natural origin … Conspiracy theories create nothing but fear, rumors and prejudices that threaten our global cooperation in the fight against this virus .” The lancet just revealed that last week one of the signatories and the person who organized the letter signing campaign an organization that has received US government grants for its work in the laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. President Biden has instructed US intelligence agencies to look again for the origin of COVID-19.

Will seeThe onspiracy theory counts provide a card to the FBI and other federal agencies that provides a “free from prison” card to the FBI and other federal agencies in relation to the January 6th clash at the Capitol? After Fox News’ Tucker Carlson made allegations that FBI informants or agents might have started the riot, Washington Post quickly denounced his “wild, unsubstantiated theory” while the Huffington Post denounced his “ridiculous conspiracy theory”. “It doesn’t matter how many times the FBI has instigated terrorist attacks or political violence in the past 60 years (including the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last November). Instead, decent people must do nothing to jeopardize the official narrative of January 6th as a terrible private terrorist event on par with the War of 1812, Pearl Harbor, and the 9/11 attacks.

“Conspiracy Theory” is a spell that eradicates all previous federal abuses. Many liberals who refer to the sentence also ritually quote a 1965 book by the former communist Richard Hofstadter, The paranoid style in American politics. Hofstadter portrayed distrust of government as a proxy for mental illness, a paradigm that the character of the critics more important than the behavior of government agencies. For Hofstadter it was a natural truth that the government was trustworthy because American politics have “a kind of professional code … which embodies the practical wisdom of generations of politicians”.

Much of the establishment’s anger over “conspiracy theories” has been driven by the idea that rulers are entitled to intellectual passive obedience. The same Lese majesty The mindset has been widely adopted to mess up American history. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., President John F. Kennedy’s court historian and a distinguished liberal intellectual, stated in a 2004 article in playboy“Historians today conclude that the colonists were driven to revolt in 1776 because of the false belief that they were facing a British conspiracy to destroy their freedom.” Was the British enactment of martial law, the seizure of firearms, military blockades, the suspension of habeas corpus and censorship just a deranged fantasy of Thomas Jefferson? The idea that the British would never conspire to destroy freedom would play badly in Dublin. Why should anyone trust academics who were blind to British threats in the 1770s to properly assess the contemporary dangers to freedom?

How works the Biden administration want to fight “conspiracy theories”? Biden’s terrorism report called for “building confidence in the government” by “accelerating work to cope with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse”. Will Biden’s team rely on the “solution” proposed by Cass Sunstein: “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups” by government agents and informants in order to “undermine” them from within? A 1976 Senate report on the FBI’s COINTELPRO program required assurances that a federal authority may never again “allow a secret war to be waged against the citizens whom it regards as a threat to the existing order”. In fact, the FBI and other agencies have continued to covertly fight “threats” and legions of informants are likely to be busy “cognitively smuggling” these days.

Conspiracy Theory ”will remain a popular sneer among the political media elite. There is no substitute for Americans developing better BS radars for state claims as well as wild-eyed private nonsense. In the meantime, there is always the remedy a Washington Post Health items Advertised at the end of last year: “Try out guided imagery. Visualizing positive results can help counter the intense emotions that could make you more susceptible to harmful conspiracy theories. “

James Bovard is the author of Lost rights, Attention deficit democracy, and Public policy hooligan. He is also a USA today Columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard.

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