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Monday, January 27, 2014

Why conspiracy theories are dangerous (even when they're right)

Some consider me a conspiracy theorist because I disbelieve the Warren Commission. Others consider me unsympathetic to the conspiracist subculture because I've come to despise the 9/11 "controlled demolition" cranks, the Roswell rubes, the Illuminati-spotters, the New World Order nutjobs and pretty much everyone who regularly listens to Alex Jones.

Here's how I look at the situation:

1. Politically, I define myself as an anti-libertarian -- on economic issues, not social issues. (One must always be clear on that last distinction. Whenever libertarians sense the unpopularity of their stance on Social Security, they immediately switch the topic to pot legalization, as a way of getting a foot in the door.)

2. Libertarians promote conspiracy theories -- valid ones, iffy ones, totally wacky ones. To prove the point, just visit a website friendly to Ron Paul.

3. Libertarians push paranoia because they want to call into question the very concept of government. They want the public to lose faith in democracy.

4. Thus, I cannot applaud when someone like Jerome Corsi writes a book about the JFK assassination, even though the book is actually pretty good. Why? Because I know that Corsi's ultimate goal is to foster a political weltanschauung that the three Kennedy brothers would have despised.

In his latest piece, Robert Reich outlines the reasons why the unbridled greed of the one-percenters has not led to revolution or reform. Although Reich does not directly address the role of the conspiracism in modern culture, the idea is in there, bubbling in the subtextual broth...
Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.

When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.

It's hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don't believe government can possibly work.
Just so. In the final analysis, Alex Jones wields his bullhorn on behalf of the oligarchy, even though he will tell you otherwise. Hell, he probably sincerely believes otherwise.

Reich's next observation brings us to a droll paradox:
You'd have to believe in a giant conspiracy to think this was all the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change.

It's possible, of course, that they intentionally cut jobs and wages so much as to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they'd never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn't even try to for change.

But it's more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don't express.
I'm just paranoid enough to suspect that idea of intentionality makes more sense than does the "giant wet blanket" scenario. As I've said on several previous occasions, I think that the conspiracy theorists are the conspiracy.
"Allowed to unfold" - yawn. Imagine if 1% of the 1% could think ahead and wield their power. Power not just over getting hold of each day's surplus product when the producers finish work, but over the direction of change in society. Over what issues get debated by the chattering classes and what ones don't. Over the school system. Over housing. Over health. Where would that leave the 0.99% who just let things "unfold"?

Indeed, if almost everyone in the 1% was predisposed and committed to letting things unfold, imagine if just 10 people in the 1% got more proactive. Would there be scope for them to impose their will, to advance themselves? Or does everything in society just happen of its own accord?

There's so much lack of understanding about exploitative society, about current history in this, er, exploitative society, that it's almost un-fucking-real.

It's the chatterers who let things unfold.
No one is reading continental philosophy here. The world is rules by Events. It is not continuous, linear,progressive or historical. The power/knowledge/capital.normality Foucauldian GRID IS the system. It is in the Order of Production with its defining attribute being IRREVERSIBILITY. Marx saw this about capital in his Grundrisse but later in Capital went for the Happy Ending of the proletariat dictatorship. Capitalism is irreversible. We can slow it but it will grind everything away along with the planet. Yes that's hopeless. But Baudrillard reading through Nietzsche in his Forget Foucault! has told us how to win if Simulated Reality doesn't swallow us first. DeLillo tells us also in Cosmopolis (not Cronenberg's film tho) and Cormac McCarthy in The Counselor tells us what's coming. The problem is capitalism and no one wants to admit it.
@seymourblogger who wrote;

"The problem is capitalism and no one wants to admit it."

That's not true. I readily & openly admit that capitalism is the problem. There are irrefutable, irreversible reasons why I call it (Capitalism) Neo-Feudalism and why I am openly anti-Capitalist.

It does not mean I am a socialist or communist or syndicalist. Socialism is not even the intellectual opposite or antithesis of Capitalism. Nor does it mean I am opposed to socialists or communists. Rather, I am pre-eminently anti-Capitalist and I think it is more important for me to work with and cooperate with anti-Capitalists. I'll worry about the details of a post-Capitalist society when that time comes, but it may very well never come, for reasons you point out.


Until you disabuse yourself of the erroneous idee fixe that authentic, thoughtful anti-capitalist conspiracists and the Fox News crowd are blood bretheren, you will never escape from your Clintonista era, false belief system.

And since that is your comfort zone at your advanced stage of life (or Reality Tunnel, as R.A. Wilson so aptly put it) so be it.

Enjoy your delusions, Joseph, and prepare for another arduous but self-arousing season of doing cyber battle with the Hillary Haters. Though you will never admit it, she's nevertheless controlled by the same Wall Street cabal as the despicable Brown Sock Puppet we currently have ensconced in the Oval Orfice.
The oligarchy needs Big Government to maintain itself, at least in gargantuan form, i.e.
gargantuan profits.

Some libertarian and some libertarian conspiracy theory is utile to assist in bringing both to heel.

Of course for those like Joe (if only unconsciously) who believe the American government can be reformed by increments to dismantle its Empire, come home and take care of proper business, without anti-imperialists forming coalitions with those whose ideology they fear...fear more than they feared their government destroying Iraq for instance....constant complaining about all manner of libertarianism fits the bill.
The vanquished Iraqis, Joe, don't thank you.
And the ghost of John Kennedy is very disappointed in YOU, Ken.
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