Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A proven conspiracy!

I learned about David Aaronovitch from Robin Ramsey's "A View From the Bridge" column in Lobster. Since Aaronivitch is British, I don't know much about the guy, except that he has pissed off so many people that he once had his own antiblog. Basically, he's a formerly left-leaning columnist (he once defined himself as a "Eurocommunist") who later found that scribbling for the right pays better. That's a commonly-encountered phenomenon, innit?

Naturally, he supported the Iraq debacle. He also believes in the "Assad diddit" theory of the sarin attacks in Syria.

He has been associated with a film called No Excuse for Terror which "criticizes how the anti-Israel views of the far-left and far-right have permeated the mainstream media and political discourse." Of course. Why, you can't even look at CBS, NBC, ABC, the NYT, the WP, Time and NPR without being clobbered with "the anti-Israel views of the far-left and far-right." Everyone knows that.

Aaronovitch wrote a book called Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. I haven't read it, but the contents should be easy enough to guess: Some valid snipings at Dan Brown and his comrades-in-kookiness are mixed in with unfair and ill-considered critiques of the JFK assassination researchers. We've all seen this kind of book before.

I doubt that Aaronivitch has done any actual research -- that is to say, I doubt that he has marched into archives to uncover any truly new information on anything. Moreover, I doubt that he is capable of saying anything unpredictable. Guys like this have a template and they stick to it.

Robin Ramsay reviews the book here.

Here's the fun part: Aaronovitch needed positive reviews for his volume on Amazon, so he cajoled friends of his to post raves -- even though they had not actually read the book. (The story is told in fuller detail by Craig Murray, here.)

Gee. Isn't that sort of thing a conspiracy? A conspiracy to promote a book which castigates the very idea of a genuine conspiracy?

I don't know if that display of hypocrisy makes you laugh, but I got a pretty good chuckle out of it.

Incidentally, Robin Ramsay's review of this book is worth quoting:
So what we have is a series of chapters in which Aaronovitch gives us his opinions of some high profile conspiracy theories: the aforementioned, plus 9/11, Princess Diana, David Kelly, Hilda Murrell, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, etc., in all of which the conspiracy theorists get it wrong in his opinion. As it happens I agree with his assessments in most of these. But that isn't the point. Aaronovitch wants these examples he has chosen to represent the wider world: these theories are wrong and thus all such theories are wrong. But since he doesn't know the subject matter in the big areas (assassinations, 9/11) well enough, his opinions on these are really of no interest.
A few other suggestions:

1. All conspiracy theories not involving the intelligence services (CIA, MI6, etc) are usually wrong or unimportant. Example: Aaronivitch's little conspiracy to push his book. Sure, this one is real, and it's funny -- but it's not really important, except insofar as it reveals character.

2. Fox News and other right-wing propaganda outlets push all sorts of conspiracy theories, as long as those theories do not involve the CIA, MI6 or Mossad. In the world of right-wing media, any conspiracy theory is acceptable, as long as said theory makes the left (or "the gummint") look bad.

3. The more inane a conspiracy theory is, the more likely it is to receive widespread publicity on the internet, and perhaps on cable teevee. Why are the silliest theories the most likely to be spread far and wide? Precisely because they bring discredit to anyone trying to do serious research into the things that CIA, MI6 and Mossad are actually getting up to.

That's why everyone in the country has heard about birtherism and so few know about the evidence suggesting that Obama had a relationship with American intelligence in the 1980s.

Is it really just a coincidence that the Roswell hoax got huge play at the very time when the Iran-Contra scandal had inspired a new generation to take a hard look at Spooksville?
Not all important or correct conspiracy theories must involve spooks.

The relatively recent NHS price-fixing scandal, for example. Prosecution abandoned by the Serious Fraud Office on the grounds of legal technicalities, but still an important and true conspiracy.
How solid is the evidence that Obama had intel connections starting in the '80's?
I know his mother is rumored to have been an asset. Anything substantial?
9/11 doesn't make much sense until you look carefully at Saudi intelligence (funding) and Pakistani ISI (sponsorship of many different violent extremist groups over decades, operational planning, etc.).

Similarly, the cover-up phase of JFK had to involve assets-in-place in national media (CIA), diversion of FBI programs, and direction of Dallas police. This points strongly towards US government capabilities and away from the Mafia.

Whenever the media all points in one direction after a massive event, and determinedly ignores basic journalism, it raises questions about assets-in-place. If the CIA started doing this in the early Fifties, it's absurd to assume they've stopped because it's not a nice thing to do.

But the CIA/NSA/Naval Intelligence do not operate in a vacuum. In addition to MI5/MI6, there's the Russians, the French, the Israelis, and many other actors. Sometimes they co-operate together, but more often compete and undermine each other, all of them editing and re-writing "reality" as they do so.
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