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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Conspiracy theory poll

Some people have called me a conspiracy theorist. Some conspiracy theorists consider me an arch enemy (mostly because I'm sick of their incessant fucking lies about Building Fucking Seven).

Given that background, I took a deep interest in this poll. It seems that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe in conspiracy theories.
PPP’s latest round of conspiracy-theory related questions finds that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe various government-related conspiracy theories, similar to results we found on our first round of conspiracy polling last April. Overall, 36% of Americans and 62% of Republicans believe that the Obama Administration is secretly trying to take everyone’s guns away; just 14% of Democrats believe the same. One in four Americans say that President Obama is secretly trying to figure out a way to stay in office beyond 2017 – including almost half of Republicans (44%). And 26% of Americans think that Muslims are covertly implementing Sharia Law in American court systems, while 55% don’t think so and another 19% aren’t sure. There’s a huge partisan breakdown on this one as well – 42% of Republicans fear Sharia Law making its way into America’s courts while just 12% of Democrats agree.

13% believe that the U.S. government engages in so-called “false flag” operations, where the government plans and executes terrorist or mass shooting events and blames those actions on others, 70% disagree. Republicans (21%) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (9%) to believe this theory. 19% say there is a secret society such as Skull and Bones that produces America’s political and financial leaders to serve the wealthy elite. And 17% of voters said they think a group of world bankers are slowly eliminating paper currency to force most banking online – only to cut the power grid so regular citizens can’t access money and are forced into worldwide slavery. Nearly one in three Republicans (27%) believe the electronic currency theory while just 10% of Democrats agree.

We asked voters whether they thought the government has engaged in the assassination of entertainers such as John Lennon and Tupac Shakur and political leaders such as Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. whose message they didn’t like. Voters were nearly twice as likely to think the government killed political leaders to silence them (23% yes, 61% no) than entertainers (12% yes, 72% no.)
Long ago, I used to be involved (to a small degree) with the community of Warren Commission skeptics. As readers know, I have come to believe that the CIA's crazed counter-intelligence chieftain, James Jesus Angleton, was the ultimate mastermind of the president's murder. (If you scour the dark and lawless regions of the internet, you may be able to snatch a free copy of John Newman's Oswald and the CIA. Newman is a former intelligence analyst and a very careful parser of the recently released documentation. The epilogue to the second edition (2008) makes a scholarly case against Angleton.)

During the second Clinton administration, I felt compelled to stop reading that literature because the people within that community refused to confront a basic problem. Like the alien bursting out of John Hurt's chest, something horrible had emerged. In the mid-1990s, a "conspiracy culture" took hold of the American populace.

The growth of that culture frightened the hell out of me then, and the fear has only deepened in the years since. Over the past twenty years, "paranoia chic" has had a disastrous impact on our national dialogue.

We saw the toxic effects of conspiracism during the era of the Whitewater debacle and the plethora of fake accusations against the Clintons. Oklahoma City showed us what conspiracism can lead to. Fox News has an "all conspiracy, all the time" policy -- except, of course, when the topic turns to the JFK assassination. We see conspiracism all over the Breitbart websites. Conspiracism drives the birthers, the mis-named "truthers," the Gellerite Islamophobes, the Tea Party.

I've seen many Tea Party sites which refer to Angleton's bizarre theories in glowing terms. His spirit lives on in the hearts of the fools who engineered the current government shutdown.

Angleton himself was the god of paranoia. When people ask me if JFK was killed by a conspiracy, I say: "No. He was killed by a conspiracy theorist."

Right now, the one person who embodies the spirit of conspiracism is Alex Jones. He is supposed to be a dissident. Bullshit. True dissidents are kept poor; Jones has prospered. At heart, he is a libertarian -- that is, he wants the Wall Streeters who raped the economy to have even more freedom to rape as they please.

Jones espouses the sort of "dissent" which the monied and the powerful encourage.

You know damn well that if Jones had lived during the 1960s, he would be filling the pages of American Opinion with conspiracy theories demonizing JFK. I have no doubt that Jones would have accepted JJA's invitation to do lunch at La Nicoise. After a little schmoozing -- "Alex, have you ever met Bill Sullivan? Ah, and here's Philippe -- or 'Lamia,' as they used to call him..." -- the bullhorn-wielding Texan might have morphed into another Edward Epstein-esque "mouth of Sauron."

Those who revere Kennedy's memory (and who remain un-snookered by the revisionists who have tried to rewrite that man's history) cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Alex Jones. We cannot abide the company of Roger Ailes, the Breitbarters, the teabaggers and the Koch brothers. It galls me beyond words that those who have tried to understand what happened in Dealey Plaza in November of 1963 are now classified alongside the crazed, reactionary wretches who have always despised everything JFK believed.

Such is the great dichotomy of "conspiracy culture."

I wish to hell that the people who write books about the JFK assassination would address this problem. How do we talk truthfully about Dealey Plaza without aiding the bastards who have ruined this country?
Well, the government certainly seems to go out of its way to make people paranoid and believe in such theories. That's how it was for me back in the first couple of years after 9/11. Of course, early on there were many legitimate questions to be asked about the governments mostly improbably official narrative. Then came the "truthers" and similar ilk to muddy the waters and turn the whole notion of seriously investigating what happened into a three ring circus. Some suspect the intelligence agencies had a hand in that, and I am inclined to agree. Still, there is no denying what you state here, and we lost any chance of a real 9/11 investigation because of the conspiracy culture you talk about.

Having said that, there is no question the government has contemplated false flags, and even engaged in them (Gulf of Tonkin incident as false flag is pretty well proven......did you know Jim Morrison's father was in command of those navy ships involved in that incident....just some interesting trivia). Which is why I think people like Alex Jones actually are put into place to muddy the waters. But maybe I'm just paranoid.
Careful, there's a baby in that bathwater you are defenestrating.

It really should go without saying-- it's indisputable that many things are not what they seem on the surface at all, where the truth is hidden carefully in a bodyguard of lies, as Churchill once said about wartime.

These lies are the official mythos which is fiercely defended, and truth-tellers against the lies are savaged, slandered, and occasionally slain when it's considered necessary or expedient.

It's what the denouement of the '60s showed, when wild-eyed charges from the seemingly crazed left turned out to be substantially correct. The Church Committee pried out 'the crown jewels' of the Agency from Bill Colby, and it was a litany of criminal conspiracy horribles.

In our time, we've seen the proof of the LIBOR rigging conspiracy at the top levels of international banking (prompting apologies to previously derided conspiracy theorists), involving trillions of dollars. The plutocratic right has engaged in decades of social engineering maneuvers in their ALEC project to steer state legislation, and to move jurisprudence back to 'legal principles' discarded 150 years ago through the Federalist Society.

Crazy talk? Sounds crazy, sure-- but it was all true.

Given the threat to the power status quo that the truth represents, I'd say the counter move was simply to 'flood the zone,' and muddy the waters/poison the well with CT proliferation (cf: the JFK matter), so that SO many theories are out there, many to maybe most of them risible, as to prompt the average citizen to discard them all.

That would be unwise.

I tend to defend the term "conspiracy theory" in general, since I have seen too many successful conspiracies over the last 50 years. You know the list: JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, George Wallace, John Lennon, and more besides. What did these people have in common? They threatened the status quo, and they threatened the false narrative that had been produced for us to believe.

Our "national dialogue" is mostly bullshit, in my opinion. After the magic bullet theory and after Oswald was successfully assassinated in the parking garage of the Dallas police station while surrounded by dozens of cops as the tv cameras rolled, after Jack Ruby mysteriously died soon thereafter before he could tell the story he wanted to tell, and after Reagan was nearly assassinated a few weeks after he took the oath of office by a man who belonged to the same family as one of H.W. Bush's close personal friends, I don't consider "conspiracy theory" a derogatory term or an insult; it's just the way the world works now.
Yes, Alex Jones is a clown and possibly a disinfo agent. That doesn't mean all conspiracy theories are false or that anyone who believes them are closet Republicans or dope-smoking libertarians.
Is is beyond dispute that people with shared interests "conspire"--i.e., work together. "Conspiracy theory" ought to be a neutral term for a hypothesis about a particular group's activities and objectives. As you point out, Joe, the term has been co-opted--by those touting false theories and by the media that tosses all conspiracy theories into the same leaky boat. Perhaps we could find an alternate terminology, the way liberals have rebranded themselves as "progressives." We could talk about "political theorists," "group-activity theorists," "big-picture theorists," whatever. It's all the same animal.
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