Sunday, January 01, 2012

Where I stand on conspiracism

Not long ago, Crooks and Liars published a good piece on those now-notorious Ron Paul newsletters. Even though Paul profited from those publications, he now disavows all knowledge of their content. C&L author David Neiwert correctly notes that Ron Paul's proposed new order of libertarian "freedom" would translate into the removal of governmental protections that stop the affluent few from enslaving the impoverished many.

Everyone is talking about the racist content of those old newsletters, which I suppose is a natural response: Slavery and genocide are the foundational sins of this country. But I prefer to focus on the paranoia.

Conspiracism has become this nation's second-most popular religion. When you question that religion, its adherents always counter: "So, you're saying that conspiracies don't exist?" No. I'm saying that what passes for argument in the conspiracy theorist subculture is often risible.

To illustrate the point, let's have a look at this page from one of those long-ago newsletters. Judging from the internal evidence, these words were published in late 1991. The subject is the Trilateral Commission.
The real goal of the Trilateral Commission is to merge the U.S., Japan and Europe into one centralized Megastate.
Wow. Quite a sweeping statement. Since this article follows a quasi-scholarly format, one would expect the author to back up this bold assertion with, say, a quote from a Trilateralist publication. Something like this: "Hey-diddly-ho, my fellow Trilateroonies! You know what would be a really good idea? One centralized Megastate!"

Instead, the author (who was not Ron Paul -- honest Injun, not him, blame someone else, anyone but Ron Paul) gives us the following proof for this Megastate thing:
Their 1977 report "Toward a Renovated International System" argues that "premise of a separation between the political and realm" should be made "obsolete" (Trilateral Task Force Report, 1977). Such a global corporate state would be a monster and a death blow to our liberty.
Wait a consarned minute here, Mr. Not-Ron-Paul! You have not established that the Trilateral Commission wants a global state. You have offered a gerrymandered quote which speaks to something else. I'm not sure what the author of our quote-within-a-quote means when he talks about the separation of the political and economic. (Some of us feel that such a separation was always an artificial construct -- hence the traditional term "political economy.") But one thing is certain: The quote-within-a-quote tells us nothing about any plans to create a Dreadful One World Gummint.

And yet, for that generation of conspiracy believers, the existence of Trilateralist plans to create a D1WG became an article of faith.

I'm not against research into possible conspiracies. I'm against poor argumentation. I'm against anyone who applies insanely low standards of evidence to important questions. I'm against people who draw 5X worth of inference from 1X worth of data. I'm against writers who make statements when they should ask questions. I'm against researchers who put conclusions at the beginning of an investigation instead of saving them for the end. I don't mind speculation -- even outlandish speculation -- but I mistrust those who fudge the distinction between the posited and the proven.

The world being what it is, I can't blame anyone who feels paranoid. But let's have paranoia with standards.

Side note: So who did write those newsletters? Lew Rockwell has been mentioned. But I would note that in this same time period, Ron Paul had on his staff a conspiracy-oriented lecturer named Craig Hulet, who operated under the name K.C. DePass. Under that name, he got a lot of play on KPFK, which is part of the left-wing Pacifica radio network. I heard his rap. Near as I could tell, he was no racist -- but he was kind of off-the-wall. He taught me that the sneakier libertarians know how to clamber over the walls and scamper around LeftyLand.

Wonder what he's up to these days?
I'm torn about 'conspiracies'....

On the one hand, they give me some comfort that someone else is at the wheel.

On the other, I note the universal human failure to keep their mouths shut.

So I have that going for me.

Benjamin Franklin
ANDY: You will NEVER be published here, no matter what you say. Even if you donate money, I will not accept it. I will never read your words the moment after I see that a message is from you.


Are we clear? Are we finally, finally clear, asshole?
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