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Monday, April 16, 2012

Truth on the fringe



As many of you know, I've had some harsh words for conspiracy theorists. I don't like Alex Jones, I don't like David Icke, I don't like Jeff Rense. In my view, the subculture of popular paranoia misleads people into blaming the wrong parties and seeking the wrong solutions.

Whenever the average person begins to suspect that the game is rigged, our professional plot-spotters skulk out of the shadows to spread their messages of deception. "Our problems are caused by secret societies!" they tell us. "It's devil worshipers! Aliens! Muslims! People who don't go to the same church you go to!"

For as long as I can remember -- and I've been following the American fringe since the 1970s -- conspiracy buffs have pointed accusatory fingers at everything and everyone except for the real malefactors.

There are exceptions to this rule. George Knapp is one.

He's a Las Vegas newsman who occasionally does the "Coast to Coast" program usually hosted by George Noory. Much of the time, Knapp uses this slot to cover Noory-esque "high weirdness" material. But he also manages to do more responsible -- or perhaps more subversive -- programming.

Knapp's great accomplishment is that he has found a way to tell a national audience -- a mixed audience -- the truth about Wall Street. He is not a liberal addressing a liberal crowd. He's just a guy. He doesn't have a discernible partisan agenda. And he's talking to...everyone.

In this broadcast, Knapp gives us a dynamite interview with former federal regulator Bill Black. Black punctures the oft-heard lie that the crisis was caused by laws that forced Freddie and Fannie to make home loans to poor (read: black) people. In truth, no law compelled any financial institution to make bad loans. Those "liar loans" were made because lax regulations allowed the banksters to pull off massive accounting fraud.

Lack of regulation -- nothing else -- caused the crisis.

It's all well and good for someone like Black to speak at an OWS rally or on Amy Goodman's program. (He has done both.) But a program like "Coast to Coast" gives Black access to an audience that has otherwise been brainwashed not to give the truth a fair hearing.

Say what you will about George Knapp. Yes, he has covered UFOs and other oddball topics. Doesn't matter. I think he's a brave man and he deserves our heartiest congratulations.

Here's how Knapp introduces the broadcast:
It drives me crazy to see how little scrutiny Wall Street bankers get from the national media, which of course are headquartered right down the street from them. But the fact is, very little of what goes on there gets covered at all. Infrequently, at best.

If you loved the last economic meltdown -- or should I say the current economic meltdown -- the one in which millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure and millions and millions have lost their jobs, largely because Wall Street bankers were allowed to run wild with little or no oversight -- well, it probably won't be long until we get another one. Probably bigger and more devastating this time.

Whatever limp-wristed reforms and oversight measures that were implemented in the wake of the housing bubble collapse are now being watered down even more, because Wall Street is once again exerting its influence in Washington, particularly in Congress. Flat-out buying them off -- which is, of course, a tried and true method.

How can this be happening again? Didn't we learn anything from this disaster that nearly threw the entire world into a dark abyss?

Apparently, the answer is: No.
Speaking as a liberal who considers Barack Obama a sell-out, I would say that those words summarize the message I've been trying to convey for more than three years.
Comments:
I really don't know the details anywhere but my little corner of the world, but I can say with certainty that around here the big banks were treated with kid gloves back in the late '80s-early '90s. Instead of going after them for perpetrating and/or condoning fraud (which they did), the US Attorney's office went after closing attorneys, the people who have nothing to do with setting up the deals, and some smaller local banks that went under. The big guys were protected from all accountability, just as they have been this time around. Maybe other US Attorneys' offices did a better job, I don't know, but the one around here cemented my total loss of faith in the system as being in any way connected with justice.
 
Joe, once again you've prefaced praise for a truth-teller with an extraneous denunciation of "conspiracy theorists." Why marginalize millions of your inquisitive allies as "buffs" when you're really just talking about the subset of conspiracy theorists with whom you disagree? Like almost every rational person, you believe there were conspiracies behind the murders of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar. You accept that people with shared interests "conspire"--work together--to achieve their aims. So why do you further contaminate the term "conspiracy theorist" that the powerful hurl at citizen investigators? Conspiracies exist. There is nothing inherently paranoid about recognizing that fact. You're just quibbling about which conspiracy theories are true. Let's agree that all "theories" have to be tested against the facts and evidence. But let's also agree that investigative inquiry is an honorable and even necessary activity.
 
The banks are protected because the administration needs them. You only have two choices. One is to effectively nationalise them all cos they are bust without easy money and Washington support. Or you give them a pass and pretend everything is fine.

Apparently you cant nationalise them. So we are left with plan B. Regardless of the wrongs or rights. And god knows there are a lot of wrongs.

Harry
 
Have the O-bots figured out they were duped by Wall Street into helping propel Barack into the White House so there would be no meaningful investigation?

Don't they know that his Health Care Reform dog and pony show was put on so people wouldn't demand an accounting?
 
In this broadcast, Knapp gives us a dynamite interview with former federal regulator Bill Black. Black punctures the oft-heard lie that the crisis was caused by laws that forced Freddie and Fannie to make home loans to poor (read: black) people. In truth, no law compelled any financial institution to make bad loans. Those "liar loans" were made because lax regulations allowed the banksters to pull off massive accounting fraud.

Lack of regulation -- nothing else -- caused the crisis.



It's not unthinkable to me that the laws "compelling" them to give out loans to poor people were passed specifically to give them cover. It's not like the banks have no power over politicians.


It's all well and good for someone like Black to speak at an OWS rally or on Amy Goodman's program. (He has done both.) But a program like "Coast to Coast" gives Black access to an audience that has otherwise been brainwashed not to give the truth a fair hearing.


I've never listened to "Coast to Coast" (not really into radio programs), but I doubt people into fringe media of almost any sort tend to be pro-Wall Street.
 
Trojan Joe, I've given my reasons. The conspiracy theory subculture is not the solution to our problems -- it IS the problem. All of our worst demagogues -- Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the teabaggers all come to mind -- do not hesitate to play the CT card when it is in their interest. Hell, even Gerry Posner has done it. All of fundamentalism -- Christian, Jewish, and Islamic -- is based on conspiracy theory.

You're the one who hasn't read your history. You don't understand the incredible dangers posed by conspiracism.

Umberto Eco's "The Prague Cemetery" is as good an introduction as you're likely to get, followed up by Richard Hofstedter, Johnson's "The Architects of Fear," Kaminsky's "The Hoaxers," and pretty much any truly scholarly history of the early Nazi party -- Hanser's "Putsch!" will do nicely.

The fact that you view conspiracism as an ism -- as a world-view, as something to which one is converted -- is very distressing. Those who see enemies everywhere -- enemies who are ubiquitious, ruthless and nearly omnipotent -- feel justified in acting like monsters. That is why, inevitably, conspiracy theorists feel compelled to create actual real-world conspiracies. There are plenty of examples one could cite -- the conspiracy to lynch Leo Frank illustrates the point.

The existence of these real-world conspiracies does not change the fact that conspiracism is itself an absolute danger. I do not want an audience of conspiracy buffs and would prefer for them to seek their fun elsewhere.
 
Joe, I don't view conspiracism as a worldview any more than I view a bunsen burner as a worldview. I view rational inquiry as an apolitical activity in which we both engage. We both believe there was a conspiracy to murder JFK. Are we thus both guilty of an "ism"? For yet another example, you believe that unnamed conspirators sabotaged Anthony Weiner. So do I, based largely on the evidence you presented on this very blog. Sifting through evidence in the socio-historical realm is no more of a pathological "ism" than digging for bones. As in physical scientific research, some theories prove true and some prove false. But the investigative process itself is ideologically (and psychologically) neutral. Again, you are making a blanket denunciation of researchers when you really only mean to ridicule the subset of unproven or foolish theories. (And surely you're not a spy-agency operative who has a full list of what I've read. Granted, USC is not UCLA, but my two degrees required me to do plenty of reading, including the aforementioned Hofstadter, and 30 years later, I get paid for my erudition. And whenever I get a chance, I tell my inquisitive friends to read Cannonfire.)
 
I visited a bank branch in England the other day, and there, stuck to the counter, was a notice offering "£1000 cashback!!!!!" to anyone who was willing to take out a large loan. And I counted the exclamation marks.

It's not 'political correctness' that makes the banks do this.

'Subprime' ain't no thing of the past.
 
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