(Note: I've rewritten much of this piece since it was first published.)
Let's start with Kevin Curtis, the Elvis impersonator accused of perpetrating the ricin attacks. The cops have let him go, since his home contained no evidence of ricin production. It turns out that Curtis has an enemy named J. Everett Dutschke. He may
be responsible, although he has denied the charge
The only evidence against Curtis was a letter containing a catch phrase that Curtis often used when signing his internet missives: "This is KC and I approve this message." Of course, the person who composed that message may have been someone hoping to frame Curtis.
The most interesting aspect of this bizarre case is the role played by conspiracy theory.
For a number of years now, Curtis has trumpeted his belief that he has uncovered an organ trafficking scheme at a major hospital. I'm one of the few bloggers willing to take these assertions at least semi-seriously -- although, obviously, I've seen no independent verification. There are reports that Dutschke (who has been accused of child endangerment) and Curtis worked together on a book about the organ theft ring.
Dutschke, for his part, seems to be a great fan of noted conspiracy kook Glenn Beck -- at least, that's what I glean from the man's Twitter feed
. (Also here
.) Dutschke also admires Ayn Rand's writings. There's much overlap between the world of the Ayn-droids and the world of conspiracism, as any visit to the Ron Paul boards will prove.
It seems that conspiracy theory has also played a huge role in the formation of the Tsarnaev brothers' worldview.
Your best overall guide to this aspect of the Boston bombing case is this post
by bostonboomer on Skydancing, headlined "Tamerlan Tsarnaev Was An Alex Jones Fan." That post quotes this article from Alternet
Tamerlan “took an interest in Infowars,” according to Elmirza Khozhugov, the ex-husband of Tamerlan’s sister. He was also apparently interested in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and was trying to find a copy of “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” one of the most notorious conspiracy tomes of history.
There’s no doubt that Jones will take this report as confirmation of everything he’s been preaching. The report, he will claim, was planted in the AP — the government controls the media, after all — and is a naked attempt to discredit him and definitive proof that the globalist cabal views him as a serious threat.
Jones is an entirely predictable creature -- a classic hyper-macho Texas blowhard who would rather stick needles under his own fingernails than admit he might be wrong about anything
. Salon's recent take-down has it right: At this point, the guy is just phoning it in
. He's incapable of original thought, of saying a single surprising word. Alex Jones is America's conspira-bot, programmed to emit conspira-cliches.
But there was another influence
on the Tsarnaevs. His name is Misha, and he is a red-bearded exorcist from Armenia
who has converted to Islam.
According to multiple reports, Tamerlan and Misha met between as 2007 and 2009 near the Cambridge area. "Misha was telling him what is Islam, what is good in Islam, what is bad in Islam," said Elmirza Khozhugov, the former brother-in-law of the Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, who sat in on some of the conversations. "This is the best religion and that's it." Khozhugov told the Associated Press. "Misha was important. Tamerlan was searching for something. He was searching for something out there."
It all sort of unraveled at that point. Tamerlan immersed himself in radical Islam and even quit listening to music because, he said, it's "not really supported in Islam." (Misha told him that.) The 26-year-old's radical thinking wandered into the political sphere as well, and apparently, he started getting into conspiracy theories. We're not talking Area 51 or the 9/11 Truther movement. Tamerlan got into pretty much all of the conspiracy theories, including one century-old fantasy that Jews rule the world.
, in a Daily Mail story that draws from Tamerlan's uncle Ruslan:
Ruslan said: ‘It was all the same talking, God, God, how he's talking to demons, how he's an exorcist, how he's healing people. Tamerlan was absolutely in his possession. All around people considered him just another prick.
‘Then my brother comes in from work, very late and Anzor is talking to his wife saying what is this person doing here so late?
‘Tell him to get the hell out. And she says: 'You'd better shut up, this person is teaching wise things to your son'. This is the mother. After that Tamerlan went over his place, he changed his views. It started from people like that.’
It was not immediately clear whether the FBI has spoken to Misha or was attempting to.
Tsarnaev became an ardent reader of jihadist websites and extremist propaganda, two U.S. officials said. He read Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate.
Now let's pull back and take in a wider view of conspiracism's impact on recent history.
You surely recall Jared Lee Loughner, the bizarre individual who shot Congresswoman Giffords. Although Loughner was clearly deranged, I have elsewhere suggested that his consumption of "psychotoxic" materials -- such as the film Zeitgeist
-- may have aided the derangement process. Zeitgeist
(described in this earlier post
) is an inane conspiracy documentary which clumsily ties together three separate topics: The alleged non-historicity of Jesus, the controlled demolition theory of 9/11, and financial schemes of the "international bankers."
Some evidence indicates that Seung-Hui Cho, the Virignia Tech shooter, imbibed regularly from the fountains of political paranoia. Was he attracted to that kind of material because he had already gone mad, or did exposure to that stuff help drive
Nancy Lanza, the mother (and first victim) of Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza, was a "doomsday prepper,"
which we may fairly label a conspiracist subculture. (Have you ever met or heard of a prepper who did not
believe in conspiracies?)
The mother of Newtown school massacre gunman Adam Lanza was a survivalist who was stockpiling food because she thought the world economy was on the verge of collapse.
Nancy Lanza began hoarding food and water because she feared that the onging financial crisis was going to bring about the end of civilized society.
And, of course, we have the examples of Tim McVeigh and Anders Brevik, two paranoia addicts doing battle with hallucinations of the Illuminati.
Conspiracy theory has become inextricably intertwined with American fundamentalist religion. To prove the point, one need only cite Pat Robertson's infamous The New World Order
, which approvingly quotes noted "old school" anti-Semitic writers such as Nesta Webster and Eustace Mullens. When the internet first became popular in the mid-1990s, most "Christian" websites were only one or two links away from The Protocols
. Many American clergy preach the politics of fear as routinely as they preach Jesus. This is also true in black churches -- Americans learned all about that
when they met Reverend Wright -- and in some conservative Jewish organizations. And needless to say, conspiracism is very popular within certain Muslim sects.
These days, the Republican party's whole act
is built around conspiracism. Just turn on Fox News and watch for an hour or so. You're sure to encounter at least one conspiracy theory -- in fact, you'll probably hear about dozens.
There's one hell of a lot of paranoia bubbling through the veins of our body politic. Above, I used the word "psychotoxin" to describe the documentary called Zeitgeist
. This strikes me as a valuable term, and I hope it comes into general usage. I really do believe that some books, films and radio diatribes have the ability to push weak people into madness.
Some people may call me a hypocrite, because I also maintain that actual conspiracies exist. For example, I've never disguised my conviction that JFK was murdered by a faction of the intelligence community -- a faction led by James Jesus Angleton.
You want another example of a conspiracy theory I find credible? Take a closer look at the above-mentioned magazine for jihadists, Inspire
. Some people hold that the CIA itself produces this journal as a way of "fishing" for potential terrorists. I'm quite open to that idea, although I've seen no proof; similar tactics have worked in the past. (Inspire
certainly boasts top-notch design: See here
Hell, I'm even willing to give Kevin Curtis' claims a fair hearing.
Incidentally, it's worth noting that the JFK assassination is one conspiracy theory that the Fox Newsers continually pooh-pooh. In our topsy-turvy culture, those few conspiracy theories backed by decent evidence are the ones least likely to be pushed by the media empire I call Conspiracy Inc.
Conspiracism has become an industry. When the product serves the interests of the powerful, that industry receives funding and thrives. Glenn Beck and Alex Jones do nothing to challenge -- and everything to uphold -- the established order. Being libertarians, they push the message that elected government officials are always evil, and that unelected corporate power must never be tethered. Working class people who look to Jones or Beck for answers will always be told to love their oppressors and to hate anyone who tries to make the average person's life better. The consumers who buy the wares produced by Conspiracy Inc. consider themselves the hippest of the hip, even though they are the most easily manipulated people in the world.
Conspiracy Inc. is itself a conspiracy. That's my
The danger to our nation does not come from any individual conspiracy theory. Some theories have a basis in fact -- and even those which do not are not dangerous in and of themselves. Each argument must be judged individually, on the evidence.
What I have learned to fear is the conspiratorialist mindset
. Like Big Tobacco, Conspiracy Inc. must continually create new addicts. If you've ever met anyone ensnared by this addiction, you already know the identifying characteristics:
* The quasi-sexual thrill derived from interpreting all phenomena in the most paranoid possible fashion.
* The instant presupposition of malice and bad faith on the part of anyone offering a counter-argument.
* An alienation from normal society, coupled with an inability to discuss mundane topics or to read non-paranoid books.
* A phobic reaction to the very concept of self-criticism.
* A manic loquaciousness, coupled with a desperate desire to prevent anyone else from completing a thought.
* Either/or thinking, coupled with a distaste for nuance.
* A chronic inability to comprehend the meaning of the word evidence
* Above all, those addicted to the products of Conspiracy Inc. are characterized by arrogance
. They have the unbridled self-confidence of the clueless.
Do these people pose a menace? Yes. Potentially.