I never thought I would encounter a conspiracy meme more infuriating than the 9/11 controlled demolition nonsense, but Sandy Hook "trutherism"
is the single most vile exercise in collective unreason ever to hit the internet. There is no truth in trutherism. This may be the first time an idea -- not a film, book, image or essay but an idea
-- has made me come close to vomiting.
And yet I must take a stand against many of the "rational" responses to Sandy Hook Psuedotrutherism now being published. These responses locate this movement within the grand scheme of America's culture of mistrust. Example
Yet for some people, conspiracy theories can serve an important purpose, says Pasley, who has taught and studied such claims off and on since 1997.
“Conspiracy theories do have a function,” he says. “They are an explanation of the inexplicable, a sort of explanation that neatly puts into a box events that are extremely disturbing or tragic.”
They may be a way of "neutralizing" tragic events in the minds of theorists, Pasley adds.
And so on. Naturally, you'll see the mandatory references to Richard Hofstadter
. The bottom line: Conspiratorial beliefs arise spontaneously and are the products of aberrant mass psychology.
As Sherlock once said: "Bleat, Watson -- pure bleat!" This kind of pop-psychological blather is so familiar you can write it yourself; you don't need to consult "experts." Frankly, when it comes to the history of American conspiracy theory, one of the few experts I really trust is me. (I read Hofstadter before some of these "experts" were born, thank you very much.)
I'm going to propose a more radical possibility, one that goes beyond the utterly predictable grade-school sociology offered by the bloviators who get quoted in pieces like these. There really is a conspiracy -- and the conspiracy theorists are part of it.
If that idea sounds outlandish, consider the most infamous conspiracy document of all: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion
. The pop sociologists quoted in all of these recent stories would have you think that paranoid artifacts inevitably blanket the culture as part of a natural process, the way frost covers the lawn after a cold night. But the Protocols disprove that notion.
The Protocols did not write themselves. You must understand that simple point, because it is key. The Protocols did not write themselves.
They were a hoax -- the culmination of a series of anti-Semitic hoaxes which you can read about in Umberto Eco's lightly fictionalized The Prague Cemetery
. Similarly, none of those other hoaxes "just happened;" they were all the work of men who had low motives to spread lies.
Identifying the originator of the Protocols hoax is one of the greatest literary puzzles of all time. Norman Cohn's highly esteemed Warrant for Genocide
, which took the quest as far as it could then go, did not name a suspect. More recently, we have the theory -- which I find persuasive, although some have disputed it -- that the hoaxer was one Mathieu Golovinski, who later became the father of Soviet sports medicine. This theory first appeared in an as-yet untranslated (except by me) article in l'Espress
, published on November 18, 1999. To the best of my knowledge, the first English-language work to speak of Golovinski was, oddly enough, a graphic novel by the great Will Eisner
Now is not the place to go into the full story of Golovinski. Suffice it to say that the man belonged to a class of literary bomb-throwers called the "publicistes
." I've struggled, unsuccessfully, to come up with a translation of that term which conveys the full meaning it held at the time. In short and in sum, these guys were underground journalists, operating in both Russia and in the expatriate Russian communities throughout Europe, who worked with the secret services and with various political factions. Their intent was to stir up fear and paranoia -- to defame and to deceive.
If you've read Eco, you'll know how they operated. In certain ways, Fox News and the Alex Jonesians may be considered modern day analogs to les publicistes
, although I doubt that either Roger Ailes or AJ would stoop so low as to create a fraudulent document out of whole cloth.
The Protocols were composed as part of a conspiracy.
The exact relationship between Golovinski and Peter Ratchkovski (Russia's chief spook at the time) is not easy to trace, but we can definitively state that Golovinski was no "lone nut." He was paid. He worked for others. Those others had a political agenda.
Much the same could be said of the other great conspiracy hoaxes: Report From Iron Mountain
, Silent Weapons
, etc. In the internet age, we have the copious productions of Gregory Douglas and Henry Makow. These works did not and do not make themselves. They do not arise naturally or spontaneously. They are not the product of abstract cultural forces. They are the products of devious minds intent on deception.
The literature of Holocaust revisionism -- which posits massive Cold War collusion between the superpowers -- was created by people who were not simply mistaken, not self-deceived: They knew what happened in the camps, and chose to lie about it.
To me, Sandy Hook "trutherism" is a phenomenon of an exactly similar nature. In my opinion, the videos "exposing" the Sandy Hook massacre are simply the latest variant of the Protocols.
At this time, nobody knows the actual names of the fiends who created the Sandy Hook videos
. Well, I'll tell you who they are: They're all Mathieu Golovinski.
The disingenuous rascals behind these productions
know full well that they are lying. They have a political agenda, one not so terribly distinct from that which motivated the publicistes
of a hundred years ago. They hope to energize the right by spreading fear and deception.
Thus, Sandy Hook Trutherism, odious as it is, should not be viewed as a reason to disparage all
talk of conspiracy. Quite the contrary.
There really is a conspiracy. The right-wing conspiracy theorists are the conspirators.
You won't hear a statement like that from the pop psychologists or from the intellectually lazy gits at the Skeptical Inquirer who spew easy soundbites for reporters. But those of us who have studied the way the fringe right operates -- those of us who really have actually read Hofstadter
(as opposed to merely keeping his book
on the shelf and pointing to the spine from time to time) along with many similar works by other authors (Thayer, Kominsky, Trauber, Webb, Johnson, etc.) -- know the true nature of the beast.
I'll have much more to say about all of this soon.
Right now, let me offer a word of warning to Sandy Hook theorists: I suspect that some of you will make an attempt to "turn" me -- just as, not many years ago, the 9/11 "CD" jackals tried to take over this blog. You will never succeed. We are enemies forever, and that is final.
Most of my readers have no interest in the history of the hunt for the author of the Protocols, so I'll spare you a post on that subject. (Besides, I lost much of my
collection of research materials.) But perhaps I should point out that the Golovinski identification -- which was first offered by a Russian specialist named Lepekhine -- has been challenged by an Italian professor named Cesare G. De Michelis.
A few years ago, I tried to read De Michelis' book, The Non-Existent Manuscript
. To be frank, the man's writing style is so convoluted as to be impenetrable. I gathered, however, that De Michelis summarily dismisses Du Chayla's seminal account of his meetings with Nilus
. The professor offers no sensible reason for disparaging a work which all previous (non-Nazi) historians have considered invaluable. At the same time, the professor seems to take seriously the possibility that the Protocols might be based on something that actual Jews might have said at an actual secret gathering. Since both of these positions are redolent of the kind of crap one expects to hear from fascist propagandists -- and since I have zero toleration for academics who can't write -- I see no reason to take Professor De Michelis seriously. (However, see here
; Taguieff is
worth taking seriously.)