Conspiracy Phobia On The Left

From Michael Parenti’s 1996 book Dirty Truths:

Often the term “conspiracy” is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against “overheating” the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, “Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed?” In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.

At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, “Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent?” I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that “free-market reforms” are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, “more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies” (New York Times 11/25/95).

Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: “Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?” For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together – on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot – though they call it “planning” and “strategizing” – and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.

Yet there are individuals who ask with patronizing, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups.

The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world.

From there Parenti goes on to call out Noam Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn for dismissing evidence of and motives for a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.  Read more here.

, , ,

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    We’ve got to destigmatize the concept of conspiracy theories…perhaps even abandon the term. Most ‘conspiracy’ these days is a natural flow of events that hold similar benefit for all involved parties…and its only viewed as conspiracy by those disadvantaged by said events.

    The bar for a conspiracy is low enough that if all fish breathe underwater…they are involved in a plot to breathe underwater. Truth is, this is their natural behavior. To seek advantage is the natural behavior of business…its what they exist to do…and many times, without even actual collusion, they act nearly in concert, exhibiting the same behaviors…because they attend the same schools, learned the same tricks, read the same industry trends and draw the same conclusions.

    This doesn’t mean they aren’t pushing the boundaries of criminal activity and searching for ways to skirt every law that stands in the way of profit…they are…all of them…all the time. It just has nothing to do with Masonry, the Jews, Ancient Astronauts, Communism, the Homosexual Agenda etc etc etc etc. They’re just sharks…they don’t devour the weaker because they planned it over generations to serve their evil masters…they do it because they’re sharks…its what they do.

    Conspiracy phobia exists because the normal mind hungers for an orderly sensible world in which extreme events cannot occur. Average Germans believed that all was well until evidence overwhelmed them with the realization that all was very very not well. Careers were ruined in the US based on the spurious allegation of communist ties…(did you campaign for higher wages?? Communist!) and all seemed fine…until it wasn’t fine anymore. Anywhere you go, people of all countries look for easier whipping boys and simpler explanations. They don’t want anything too complex…just something that makes the emotions react in a comfortable way.

    An ugly truth is something the human mind will dance around to avoid at all costs…especially if that truth will forcibly alter their comfortable way of life. The degree to which this basic truth is depended upon by histories frauds and villains is staggering.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    We’ve got to destigmatize the concept of conspiracy theories…perhaps even abandon the term. Most ‘conspiracy’ these days is a natural flow of events that hold similar benefit for all involved parties…and its only viewed as conspiracy by those disadvantaged by said events.

    The bar for a conspiracy is low enough that if all fish breathe underwater…they are involved in a plot to breathe underwater. Truth is, this is their natural behavior. To seek advantage is the natural behavior of business…its what they exist to do…and many times, without even actual collusion, they act nearly in concert, exhibiting the same behaviors…because they attend the same schools, learned the same tricks, read the same industry trends and draw the same conclusions.

    This doesn’t mean they aren’t pushing the boundaries of criminal activity and searching for ways to skirt every law that stands in the way of profit…they are…all of them…all the time. It just has nothing to do with Masonry, the Jews, Ancient Astronauts, Communism, the Homosexual Agenda etc etc etc etc. They’re just sharks…they don’t devour the weaker because they planned it over generations to serve their evil masters…they do it because they’re sharks…its what they do.

    Conspiracy phobia exists because the normal mind hungers for an orderly sensible world in which extreme events cannot occur. Average Germans believed that all was well until evidence overwhelmed them with the realization that all was very very not well. Careers were ruined in the US based on the spurious allegation of communist ties…(did you campaign for higher wages?? Communist!) and all seemed fine…until it wasn’t fine anymore. Anywhere you go, people of all countries look for easier whipping boys and simpler explanations. They don’t want anything too complex…just something that makes the emotions react in a comfortable way.

    An ugly truth is something the human mind will dance around to avoid at all costs…especially if that truth will forcibly alter their comfortable way of life. The degree to which this basic truth is depended upon by histories frauds and villains is staggering.

  • GoodDoktorBad

    The article is excellent. Your comments also hit the mark Mr. Vox. Kudos!
    Well articulated……..

  • Anonymous

    The article is excellent. Your comments also hit the mark Mr. Vox. Kudos!
    Well articulated……..

  • gemmarama

    as i often have to explain to people, “i’m not a conspiracy theorist, i’m just educated…”

  • gemmarama

    as i often have to explain to people, “i’m not a conspiracy theorist, i’m just educated…”

  • myth_slayer

    “Conspiracy phobia exists because the normal mind hungers ..”
    I partially agree with you, but strongly suspect a gargantuan amount of ignorance is also to blame.
    After all, ask the typical American if they’ve ever read about, let alone heard of, the Great Train Robbery of 19th century England? An extraordinarily well-thought out crime, where the criminal mastermind got away.
    There have been any number of successful conspiracies in American history, and everyday someone or other is convicted of criminal conspiracy in the US courts — those are the clumsy ones who get caught but seldom particularly bright individuals, simply investigators with dogged persistence.
    In a recent SIGIR report (Special Inspector General – Iraq Reconstruction) there was mention of a number of conspiracy convictions — but these were the ones this relatively small audit team caught — remember, $8.7 billion, or 96% of those funds went unaccounted for!
    One US Army major, Maj. Charles E. Sublett, together with a number of family members, was convicted of criminal conspiracy to ship currency back to the USA.
    And a few, of the many, others:
    Maj. Theresa Baker — conspiracy and bribery
    Col. Curtis Whiteford — conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud
    Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler — conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and bulk cash smuggling
    Maj. James Momon, Jr. — conspiracy and bribery
    Lt. Col. Debra M. Harrison — conspiracy, briberty, money laundering, wire fraud, etc., etc.
    Maj. John Lee Cockerham, Jr. — bribery, conspiracy, money laundering
    Lt. Col. Levonda Selph — conspiracy and bribery
    …well, you get the picture. And a whole bunch more, and a colossal number of those private contractors.
    Plenty of actual conspiracy convictions to go around. And it is usually only actually the small number of the guilty who end up getting caught.
    And I thank the poster for this on Michael Parenti, perhaps the greatest thinker alive in America today!
    And that Cockburn is a tiresome tool and finally, this very year for the very first time (2010) Chomsky has FINALLY mentioned (all of two lines) in a recent talk that the offshoring of American jobs may be a problem! NO S**T!!!!

  • Anonymous

    “Conspiracy phobia exists because the normal mind hungers ..”
    I partially agree with you, but strongly suspect a gargantuan amount of ignorance is also to blame.
    After all, ask the typical American if they’ve ever read about, let alone heard of, the Great Train Robbery of 19th century England? An extraordinarily well-thought out crime, where the criminal mastermind got away.
    There have been any number of successful conspiracies in American history, and everyday someone or other is convicted of criminal conspiracy in the US courts — those are the clumsy ones who get caught but seldom particularly bright individuals, simply investigators with dogged persistence.
    In a recent SIGIR report (Special Inspector General – Iraq Reconstruction) there was mention of a number of conspiracy convictions — but these were the ones this relatively small audit team caught — remember, $8.7 billion, or 96% of those funds went unaccounted for!
    One US Army major, Maj. Charles E. Sublett, together with a number of family members, was convicted of criminal conspiracy to ship currency back to the USA.
    And a few, of the many, others:
    Maj. Theresa Baker — conspiracy and bribery
    Col. Curtis Whiteford — conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud
    Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler — conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and bulk cash smuggling
    Maj. James Momon, Jr. — conspiracy and bribery
    Lt. Col. Debra M. Harrison — conspiracy, briberty, money laundering, wire fraud, etc., etc.
    Maj. John Lee Cockerham, Jr. — bribery, conspiracy, money laundering
    Lt. Col. Levonda Selph — conspiracy and bribery
    …well, you get the picture. And a whole bunch more, and a colossal number of those private contractors.
    Plenty of actual conspiracy convictions to go around. And it is usually only actually the small number of the guilty who end up getting caught.
    And I thank the poster for this on Michael Parenti, perhaps the greatest thinker alive in America today!
    And that Cockburn is a tiresome tool and finally, this very year for the very first time (2010) Chomsky has FINALLY mentioned (all of two lines) in a recent talk that the offshoring of American jobs may be a problem! NO S**T!!!!

  • http://deliverators.typepad.com Andrew Dobbs

    What has to be noted is that there is a growing movement of people who do believe “Masonry, the Jews, Ancient Astronauts, Communism, the Homosexual Agenda” are secretly in control of all world politics, and they are increasingly influential among dissident communities. You are very right, Vox, that the powerful simply collude, often in secret, in pursuit of their own power and privilege. What is inane is the idea that this power is done for the purpose of establishing a one-world Illuminati prison state of immortals in veneration of Moloch. I spend a lot of time studying and writing about conspiracy theory (check out my piece in the latest edition of Fifth Estate, entitled “Conspiracy or Anarchy?”), and here are some ways of distinguishing between honest to god conspiracies (the Negri/Hardt idea of Empire, CIA drug running schemes, the Waco Massacre, etc.), and their fantastic counterparts (9/11 inside jobbery, the Illuminati, etc.).

    First, conspiracy theory is marked by a phenomenon I call “the perfect efficacy of fools.” This is something that Chomsky has talked about: the powerful would have to be completely mad to try something like a 9/11 controlled demolition. If they failed they would be put to death, their political allies forced into exile, etc. And the chances of a leak or failure are rather high–consider something like a faked Moon landing here. Thousands of people were involved, the Soviets had spies all over the place and were closely tracking the mission from their own space centers, any hint that tomfoolery was afoot would have been a huge propaganda victory for America’s opponents and would have led to serious criminal charges, civil unrest, etc. But despite the necessary insanity of the plotters and their incredible risk, they pull it off without the slightest hitch. There hasn’t been a single leak in either operation, they snowed almost everybody under. The fools were perfectly efficacious. To believe that the US is forcing capitalism on former Soviet bloc nations doesn’t require such a belief, neither does say the Waco Massacre–massacres of annoying cults aren’t that foolish from a state standpoint, and they weren’t perfectly efficacious as leaks of FLIR video and other evidence over the years indicate.

    Now a conspiracist could come back on something like the Moon landing or 9/11 and say that, in fact, the reason the Soviets or al Qaeda did not blow the whistle on the fraud was because they really weren’t enemies, but secretly in cahoots with the US government. This leads us to the second distinguishing set of factors for conspiracy theories as opposed to real conspiracies: they are nonfalsifiable and violate Occam’s Razor. These work together to make conspiracy theories unwieldy Rube Goldberg schemes for explaining things. Each argument against them leads to a new conspiracy, making them more complicated and increasingly less likely. There is no standard of evidence which can prove them untrue, so they are meaningless. Why didn’t the Soviets call out the US on the faked Moon landing? Because they are secretly our allies. If they are our allies why did they arm US enemies on the battlefield in Vietnam? The government wanted it to be dragged on so they could keep people distracted from some other sinister plot. Very quickly it has put one in a situation of having to believe that the Vietnam War was faked if one wants to believe the Moon landing was a hoax.

    Real conspiracies stay pretty simple–the CIA was smuggling cocaine in the 80s in order to arm the Contras, which was illegal under an act of Congress. If the CIA could show us independently audited books which proved that they never wrote checks to the cocaine producers in Central America or independently verified flight manifests that showed that the planes never went to and from the places the inside sources said they did, this would disprove the story. Nobody, not least the CIA itself, has provided any real evidence to the contrary of this story, and so there hasn’t been any need to keep adding onto it in order to keep the story together.

    Finally for now, conspiracy theories are distinguished by the fact that there are two levels of thought on the parts of plotters—the public story and their true motive. Sometimes there are even more levels—the true story, the more sinister secret motive and the ancient plot that certain people involved are a part of. In reality, most powerful people believe what they say, they buy their own hype. There is Machiavellian manipulation and lying extraordinaire, but the corporate/state plotters Parenti talks about up above are very open about their intention of keeping the US the only world superpower, of expanding markets for corporate investment, of finding resources more cheaply exploited and undermining labor, environmental and social movements in this country. They are very conscious—which the phobics Parenti dismisses ignore—but they aren’t secret, their motivations are capitalism, political power and Western ethics and war lust.

    Conspiracy theories on the other hand suggest that they want to install a single world state or set up a North American Union, that they are in the throes of pagan worship and black magic, that they are extraterrestrial reptiles or making sure the Masons keep control of the world. They are running a program set down by the Learned Elders of Zion or the Illuminati or some other mythical organization. They fake terrorism in order to fight terrorism, they kill the president in order to expand executive power, they use chemtrails to keep us all docile. There are some serious personality splits among our leaders, and as I’ve said, they do practice serious deception, but conspiracy theories carry this on to illogical extremes. The machinations of power work much better when the participants believe the bullshit they are selling.

    These are just a few distinguishing factors, keep an eye out for my byline and you may get some more analysis on the topic here and there.

  • http://deliverators.typepad.com Andrew Dobbs

    What has to be noted is that there is a growing movement of people who do believe “Masonry, the Jews, Ancient Astronauts, Communism, the Homosexual Agenda” are secretly in control of all world politics, and they are increasingly influential among dissident communities. You are very right, Vox, that the powerful simply collude, often in secret, in pursuit of their own power and privilege. What is inane is the idea that this power is done for the purpose of establishing a one-world Illuminati prison state of immortals in veneration of Moloch. I spend a lot of time studying and writing about conspiracy theory (check out my piece in the latest edition of Fifth Estate, entitled “Conspiracy or Anarchy?”), and here are some ways of distinguishing between honest to god conspiracies (the Negri/Hardt idea of Empire, CIA drug running schemes, the Waco Massacre, etc.), and their fantastic counterparts (9/11 inside jobbery, the Illuminati, etc.).

    First, conspiracy theory is marked by a phenomenon I call “the perfect efficacy of fools.” This is something that Chomsky has talked about: the powerful would have to be completely mad to try something like a 9/11 controlled demolition. If they failed they would be put to death, their political allies forced into exile, etc. And the chances of a leak or failure are rather high–consider something like a faked Moon landing here. Thousands of people were involved, the Soviets had spies all over the place and were closely tracking the mission from their own space centers, any hint that tomfoolery was afoot would have been a huge propaganda victory for America’s opponents and would have led to serious criminal charges, civil unrest, etc. But despite the necessary insanity of the plotters and their incredible risk, they pull it off without the slightest hitch. There hasn’t been a single leak in either operation, they snowed almost everybody under. The fools were perfectly efficacious. To believe that the US is forcing capitalism on former Soviet bloc nations doesn’t require such a belief, neither does say the Waco Massacre–massacres of annoying cults aren’t that foolish from a state standpoint, and they weren’t perfectly efficacious as leaks of FLIR video and other evidence over the years indicate.

    Now a conspiracist could come back on something like the Moon landing or 9/11 and say that, in fact, the reason the Soviets or al Qaeda did not blow the whistle on the fraud was because they really weren’t enemies, but secretly in cahoots with the US government. This leads us to the second distinguishing set of factors for conspiracy theories as opposed to real conspiracies: they are nonfalsifiable and violate Occam’s Razor. These work together to make conspiracy theories unwieldy Rube Goldberg schemes for explaining things. Each argument against them leads to a new conspiracy, making them more complicated and increasingly less likely. There is no standard of evidence which can prove them untrue, so they are meaningless. Why didn’t the Soviets call out the US on the faked Moon landing? Because they are secretly our allies. If they are our allies why did they arm US enemies on the battlefield in Vietnam? The government wanted it to be dragged on so they could keep people distracted from some other sinister plot. Very quickly it has put one in a situation of having to believe that the Vietnam War was faked if one wants to believe the Moon landing was a hoax.

    Real conspiracies stay pretty simple–the CIA was smuggling cocaine in the 80s in order to arm the Contras, which was illegal under an act of Congress. If the CIA could show us independently audited books which proved that they never wrote checks to the cocaine producers in Central America or independently verified flight manifests that showed that the planes never went to and from the places the inside sources said they did, this would disprove the story. Nobody, not least the CIA itself, has provided any real evidence to the contrary of this story, and so there hasn’t been any need to keep adding onto it in order to keep the story together.

    Finally for now, conspiracy theories are distinguished by the fact that there are two levels of thought on the parts of plotters—the public story and their true motive. Sometimes there are even more levels—the true story, the more sinister secret motive and the ancient plot that certain people involved are a part of. In reality, most powerful people believe what they say, they buy their own hype. There is Machiavellian manipulation and lying extraordinaire, but the corporate/state plotters Parenti talks about up above are very open about their intention of keeping the US the only world superpower, of expanding markets for corporate investment, of finding resources more cheaply exploited and undermining labor, environmental and social movements in this country. They are very conscious—which the phobics Parenti dismisses ignore—but they aren’t secret, their motivations are capitalism, political power and Western ethics and war lust.

    Conspiracy theories on the other hand suggest that they want to install a single world state or set up a North American Union, that they are in the throes of pagan worship and black magic, that they are extraterrestrial reptiles or making sure the Masons keep control of the world. They are running a program set down by the Learned Elders of Zion or the Illuminati or some other mythical organization. They fake terrorism in order to fight terrorism, they kill the president in order to expand executive power, they use chemtrails to keep us all docile. There are some serious personality splits among our leaders, and as I’ve said, they do practice serious deception, but conspiracy theories carry this on to illogical extremes. The machinations of power work much better when the participants believe the bullshit they are selling.

    These are just a few distinguishing factors, keep an eye out for my byline and you may get some more analysis on the topic here and there.

  • Conspiracy Museum

    Excellent comments! A lot of food for thought here. I would like to get your opinion on a project i’m thinking of starting. I’m in a museum studies class at a major U.S. university. One of our final projects is to conceive an idea for a viable museum(and it would have a decent chance of actually getting funding). I think the time is right for a museum of conspiracies. Good idea, bad? My goal would be to break people out of their routine ways of thinking. Please email me with your comments/advice: conspiracymuseum AT gmail dot com. Thanks so much!

  • Conspiracy Museum

    Excellent comments! A lot of food for thought here. I would like to get your opinion on a project i’m thinking of starting. I’m in a museum studies class at a major U.S. university. One of our final projects is to conceive an idea for a viable museum(and it would have a decent chance of actually getting funding). I think the time is right for a museum of conspiracies. Good idea, bad? My goal would be to break people out of their routine ways of thinking. Please email me with your comments/advice: conspiracymuseum AT gmail dot com. Thanks so much!

  • Conspiracy Museum

    Excellent comments! A lot of food for thought here. I would like to get your opinion on a project i’m thinking of starting. I’m in a museum studies class at a major U.S. university. One of our final projects is to conceive an idea for a viable museum(and it would have a decent chance of actually getting funding). I think the time is right for a museum of conspiracies. Good idea, bad? My goal would be to break people out of their routine ways of thinking. Please email me with your comments/advice: conspiracymuseum AT gmail dot com. Thanks so much!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    excellent examples of very legitimate uses for the word conspiracy…there are plenty of examples of very real conspiracy that don’t cross the line into mythmaking!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    excellent examples of very legitimate uses for the word conspiracy…there are plenty of examples of very real conspiracy that don’t cross the line into mythmaking!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    that would be a fun exhibit…maybe classic pics of Templar history, the Kennedy assassination, pages from the now famous but heavily debunked “Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion”…sort touch on all the big classics…hell…I’d pay to an exhibit like that just fir the sheer fun of it!

    for lighter fare…the Apollo moon mission, or the question of who penned Shakespeares classics?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    that would be a fun exhibit…maybe classic pics of Templar history, the Kennedy assassination, pages from the now famous but heavily debunked “Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion”…sort touch on all the big classics…hell…I’d pay to an exhibit like that just fir the sheer fun of it!

    for lighter fare…the Apollo moon mission, or the question of who penned Shakespeares classics?

    • oman28

      And an entire room devoted to David Icke.

  • Anonymous

    And an entire room devoted to David Icke.

  • Pingback: Robert Trivers Discusses Deception With Noam Chomsky | Disinformation