[disinfo ed.'s note: this original essay was first published by disinformation on November 29, 2001.]
An Introduction to the World of Conspiracy Theories for the Mainstream American
While I was writing Paranoia, many of my friends wondered why I was interested in conspiracy theories. They are fringe territory in American culture. Strangely, while “conspiracy theories” are for “crazy people,” many of my friends also believe that various conspiracy theories are true. While I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I have always been fascinated by them–introduced to alternative histories by a friend living in Santa Fe; Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus trilogy; and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Conspiracy theories contain a certain power, and those who treat them as a casual belief, hobby or lifestyle collectively function a bit like a secret society themselves, with various degrees of initiation into the deeper mysteries. After some exploration my imagination, “Okay, what if all of this were true? And what if an average Joe, a non-believer, suddenly got proof that the biggest conspiracy theory of all were true?”
In researching Paranoia, I learned a lot not only about conspiracy theories, but also the culture surrounding them, a culture that has seeped into the mainstream culture in the past few decades, including the paranoid ’60s and the conspiracy theory-rich ’90s, which probably had more conspiracies per capita than any previous decade. Interestingly, this has led to “conspiracy theories,” which mainstream people think are craziness, and individual conspiracy theories, which many mainstream people believe are true. And while I still do not believe conspiracy theories (although a good amount are plausible), I found a new respect for conspiracy theorists. These are people with their eyes wide open. They may see too much or imagine seeing things at times, but they are vigilant about civil liberties and challenge complacent Americans to question their media-framed beliefs about government and the world. The result in Paranoia is an attempt to introduce this culture, illustrate the seductive power that conspiracy theories have, and frame the debate over whether they are credible or crazinessall packaged within a taught thriller with plenty of revelations, twists and surprises. In this article, we will examine these same issues fairly.
Both conspiracies and conspiracy theories have always existed in history. Benjamin Disraeli, the Prime Minister of England, said to Parliament in 1856:
It is useless to deny, because it is impossible to conceal, that a great part of Europe–the whole of Italy and France and a great portion of Germany, to say nothing of other countries–is covered with a network of secret societies . . . They do not want constitutional government . . . They want to change the tenure of land, to drive out the present owners of the soil and to put an end to ecclesiastical establishments.
President Woodrow Wilson wrote in 1913:
Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.
At all times in human history, people have gathered in secret societies and conspired to commit crimes and acts of evil, going back to Adam and Eve, who decided to eat the apple and keep it from God. The American Revolution was the result of conspiracy to rebel against the British Crown. Watergate, Iran-Contra, abortion clinic bombings, the Lincoln assassination and major terrorists attacks in the past few years were all the product of conspiracies. Conspiracies are so common, in fact, that there should be wacko theorists making Web sites that reveal “rare coincidences that just plain happen.” Meanwhile, at all times in human history, other people have theorized that secret societies and conspiracies were the root cause of calamities and other current events. The most ambitious linked different theories into a Plan passed down from one generation of secret society members to the next–a Plan that will be culminated in their control of the world.
Today, in the communication age, people have much greater access to information, particularly via the Internet, the world’s greatest public access channel. Therefore it is much easier to discover, share and promote conspiracy theories and expand them to include more current events. Like everything else in our society, conspiracy theories have become hyper-accelerated–every time a major figure dies, or a major event happens, conspiracy theorists are there to point out the connections and explain what happened in sinister terms. Although the Internet is free speech at its best, what we have gained in quantity, perhaps we have lost in quality–anybody with anything to say can build a web site and say it, and it carries some credibility precisely because it is published.
The result is noise. One could argue that with so much noise, with so many theories, conspiracy theory itself loses more credibility even while real conspiracies may actually be happening. Conspiracy theories have become so accelerated that the theorists are the boy who cried wolf. Investigative journalists, once considered something of conspiracy theorists themselves, are continuously taking themselves more seriously and conspiracy theories less seriously, and now deride them in print. Stories about alleged connections between the CIA and the crack epidemic are met with open hostility and ridicule by the media (although the Director of the CIA took them seriously enough to hold a televised town meeting with LA residents). Plots to take over the government are met with laughter.
When we think of conspiracy theorists, we picture a ranting bearded man in a camo jacket spending his weekends firing machine guns at cardboard cut-outs. And yet most people are conspiracy theorists to an extent. If we compare conspiracy theories to religion, similar because both deal with belief in the unknowable, we see a spectrum of conspiracy theorists from the very strange to your friend who believes JFK was assassinated by more than one shooter. It’s funny, but many people I talk to, one of the first things I tell them is that I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but as we start talking about various theories I consider on the wild side, I see them nodding in agreement. It’s even funnier that if I were to share the same theories in a crowd, people would glance at each other and laugh skeptically. I can only conclude that conspiracy theories are both stigmatized and widely accepted. I’ve watched scary movies by myself and with somebody else, and we get scared; but if I watch them with a group of people, we usually end up laughing and poking fun at the movie.
Why do conspiracy theories have so much appeal in the American mainstream? We see them in novels, movies, web sites and in every other medium. More than half of Americans believe that the JFK assassination was the result of a conspiracy. Richard Belzer believes in almost all conspiracy theories. Bill Cosby said that AIDS was “started by human beings to get after certain people they didn’t like.” At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles in the Clinton era televised on C-SPAN on November 15, 1996, community residents roasted the Director of the CIA about the Agency’s alleged connections to the crack epidemic:
MIKE RUPPERT: Hi, I am a former Los Angeles police narcotics detective, and I worked South Central Los Angeles. And I will tell you, Director Deutsch, emphatically and without equivocation, that the Agency has deal drugs throughout this country for a long time.
DCI JOHN DEUTSCH: If you have information about CIA illegal activity in drugs, you should immediately bring that information to wherever you want, but let me suggest three places: the Los Angeles Police Department–
DCI JOHN DEUTSCH: It is your choice: the Los Angeles Police Department, the Inspector General, or an office of one of your Congresspersons . . .
(some people are still shouting)
MIKE RUPPERT: That’s what I did eighteen years ago, and I got shot at for it.
Perhaps one reason for the popularity of conspiracy theories is that they stimulate the brain to make new connections, and this mental activity raises consciousness. The titillation experienced is similar to hearing gossip, urban legends and ghost stories. We want to believe. How many people believed the Blair Witch Project was real, even after the media carefully explained that it was just a movie? How many people read The Weekly World News and believe in Bigfoot or that a cemetery or a B-17 bomber was found on the moon? From there, it is not too far-fetched to believe that the lunar landing was faked, that something funny is going on with the Freemasons–which has so many presidents and bigwigs as members, or that there are sinister overtones to the ultrasecret meetings of the Bildergers, Trilateral Commission and other groups that bring together the world’s elite. When people hear about the eye-in-the-pyramid on the back of the dollar bill, their eyes go wide in a special kind of disbelief, the kind that says, “Wow. Tell me more.” Conspiracy theories, it is strange to think, might be a way for adults to rediscovery mystery, to become children again who see bogeymen in the closet or under the bed.
Because of the stimulation that conspiracy theories deliver, they can be addictive. They can really cast a spell, and one level of belief leads to another. If you buy into one theory, that makes it easy to believe the next, until you’re up late breathlessly reading web sites that appear to offer solid evidence, such as photos of concentration camps, that the United States government will be overthrown by unseen forces. Some become information addicts, and they’re never satisfiedthe conspiracy has to get bigger and bigger. After the World Trade Center attack, Web site traffic at www.GrandConspiracy.com, the official web site for the novel Paranoia, jumped 1000%. Big events get the gears turning. Imagine having a giant puzzle and after months you’re given another piece to try to fit into the whole.
Other reasons conspiracy theories are popular is that people don’t trust the government anymore, because there is usually just enough evidence to make most conspiracy theories sound true, to rebel against economic trends such as “globalization,” and because the world just keeps getting more complicated, making people paranoid. In Paranoia, Palmer explains to Chad that in the modern age of technology, global community and terrorism, the natural state for humans is Paranoia:
You get an e-mail from a friend’s address that gives your computer a virus, then automatically opens up your address book and sends the virus to your friends . . . You answer a fake marketing call and get tricked out of your credit card number. A guy knocks on your door saying there’s been an accident and after you let him in he kills you . . . You punch your calling card number into a public pay phone and somebody with a pair of binoculars picks it up and sells it and your phone bill shows thousands of dollars in calls to China. You register at an Internet site and it sells your private information all over the world . . . Your company wants to do a drug test. Your company monitors what Internet sites you visit, taps your phone and reads your e-mails. A woman at your company accuses you of sexual harassment and gets you automatically fired . . . The IRS audits you. Your wife loads a program into your computer that records everything you type into it to make sure you’re not having cybersex. Somebody steals your identity . . . You find out your wife is cheating on you, or maybe she’s just talking about missing being single. You get a phone call and the caller hangs up. You hear a noise downstairs. You hear a click on the line . . .Well, guess what, Chad. There really is a bogeyman under your bed. There really is a man under your car at the mail waiting to slash your Achilles tendon with a razor. And it’s not happening to somebody else. It’s happening to you.
There’s certainly much to be paranoid about in an age of hyper-accelerated technology, culture, globalization, change and marketing. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), most conspiracy theories are like cold fusion–they look like they work and produce a Eureka moment but the reality usually does not match appearances. Ray Brown, a Bowling Green University professor, writes, “There is just enough sanity in some of these conspiracy theories to make them almost believable. By and large, however, they are creations of very rich imaginations because we simply can’t accept life as it is.” Usually, the essence of conspiracy theory is that an event happened; there are connections between the person involved in the event and other people with their own agendas; and it could be theorized that all of these people were linked to make the event happen for a specific reason. To use the World Trade Center attack as an example:
1. The World Trade Center is attacked.
2. George W. Bush is an oilman and many of his friends are oilmen.
3. One of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers was a partner of Bush’s.
4. Afghanistan, where Bin Laden is hiding, is where oil companies want to run a pipeline but the Taliban government is unfriendly.
5. The intelligence community knew that something “spectacular” was going to happen but did not prevent it.
6. Therefore, Bush allowed Bin Laden to attack the World Trade Center in order to have an excuse to invade Afghanistan and set up a friendly government, which would allow the pipeline to run through and make oil companies money.
Events, connections, agendas form the basis for conspiracy theories. If we take the above example and flesh it out with more direct and indirect connections between various players, then it could sound plausible. I personally don’t believe it, but it could sound plausible to many rational people. And this gets to the root of the problem with many conspiracy theories, the attempt to indict people and organizations based purely on circumstantial evidence. We could make the process of logic even simpler in this example:
1. Joe was murdered.
2. Bob hated Joe.
3. If Joe would die, Bob could try to date Joe’s girlfriend.
4. Bob murdered Joe.
Another problem, with the massive, elaborate theories, is a lack of common sense. One has to ask how the world’s greatest secret societies have volumes of material written about their inner plans and workings. Or how many years the U.N. army is going to hide in Mexico before they are finally allowed to invade the U.S. Or why 13 rich white men who already rule the world behind the scenes would want to stage a military takeover of our country. The larger the conspiracy is, generally, the more holes and greater contrariness to common sense. A final problem with conspiracy theories is that they are too often used to justify racial and religious prejudice and hatred. When you hear somebody say that Jews have a plot to take over the world, the menace and hatred makes you wish conspiracy theories didn’t exist at all.
Perhaps conspiracy theories are most valuable in the questions they ask, not always the answers they provide. A free society should be asking many of the questions raised by conspiracy theorists. And while conspiracy theories have a lot of problems, they should not be discounted lightly. History is rife with conspiracies of all shapes and sizes. People like to say that the government is too large, and too stupid, to keep secrets. And yet the government does keep secrets, even big ones, and it does so very well. In fact, the U.S. government spends about $3 billion a year protecting its secrets. The Freedom of Information Act let us peek behind the curtain at many conspiracies within the U.S. government. Those quick to believe that conspiracy theories are the product of insanity must first make a distinction between conspiracy history and theory. For example:
1. The CIA knocked off foreign leaders, conducted LSD research on unwitting Americans, recruited journalists to help them in foreign intelligence operations, and planted stories in the foreign press, hoping they would be picked up in the domestic press. Below is a brief excerpt of senate committee hearings on MKULTRA program, a CIA program in which LSD was distributed to unwitting Americans so as to study human behavior on LSD:
SENATOR INOYE: In February, 19954, and this was in the very early stages of MKULTRA, the Director of Central Intelligence wrote to the technical staff officials criticizing their judgment because they had participated in an experiment involving the administration of LSD on an unwitting basis to Dr. Frank Olson, who later committed suicide . . . Even though these individuals were clearly aware of the dangers of surreptitious administration and had been criticized by the Director of Central Intelligence, Subproject 3 was not terminated immediately after Dr. Olson’s death. In fact, according to the documents, it continued for a number of years. Can you provide this committee with any explanation of how such testing could have continued under these circumstances?
ADMIRAL TURNER: No, sir, I really can’t.
2. The Army conducted drug research on its own soldiers and sprayed San Francisco, the Pentagon and the New York City subway system with germs as part of its biological warfare testing program.
3. The FBI infiltrated and illegally harassed radical organizations in the 1960s as part of its COINTELPRO program; at one time, it even developed its own chapter of the KKK. Below is an excerpt of a FBI memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover to one of the FBI’s field offices, dated 7/5/68:
Bulet 5/10/68 requested suggestions for counterintelligence action against the New Left. The replies to the Bureau’s request have been analyzed and it is felt that the following suggestions for counterintelligence action can be utilized by all offices:
1. Preparation of a leaflet designed to counteract the impression that Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and other minority groups speak for the majority of students at universities. The leaflet should contain photographs of New Left leadership at the respective university. Naturally, the most obnoxious pictures should be used.
2. The instigating of or the taking advantage of personal conflicts or animosities existing between New Left leaders.
3. The creating of impressions that certain New Left leaders are informants for the Bureau or other law enforcement agencies.
4. The use of articles from student newspapers and/or the “underground press” to show the depravity of New Left leaders and members. In this connection, articles showing advocation of the use of narcotics and free sex are ideal to send to university officials, wealthy donors, members of the legislature and parents of students who are active in New Left matters.
The above list, complete, is 12 items long in just this one memo of several by the director of the FBI and other senior officials at the Bureau, advocating misinformation and disruption of New Left activities. Congressman Don Edwards (D-California) said of COINTELPRO in 1975 after a Congressional inquiry revealed its activities to the public:
Regardless of the unattractiveness or noisy militancy of some private citizens or organizations, the Constitution does not permit Federal interference with their activities except through the criminal justice system, armed with its ancient safeguards. There are no exceptions. No Federal agency, the CIA, the IRS, the FBI can be at the same time policeman, prosecutor, judge and jury. That is what constitutionally guaranteed due process is all about. It may sometimes be disorderly and unsatisfactory to some, but it is the essence of freedom . . . I suggest that the philosophy supporting COINTELPRO is the subversive notion that any public official, the President or a policeman, possesses a kind of inherent power to set aside the Constitution whenever he thinks the public interest, or “national security,” warrants it. That notion is postulate to tyranny.
4. The U.S. government performed radiation experiments on people and kept it a secret for decades; in these experiments, Americans were fed, injected or otherwise exposed to radioactive materials. It also knew that atom bomb testing in Nevada and Utah in the 1950s was giving its own citizens cancer and kept that secret, too. Below is an excerpt of a letter from Congressman Edward Markey, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, to the Secretary of Energy, dated October 24, 1986:
The report reviewed Department of Energy documents, which revealed the frequent and systematic use of human subjects as guinea pigs for radiation experiments sponsored by the Department’s predecessor agencies. Some of these experiments were conducted in the 1940s and 1950s, and others were performed during the supposedly more enlightened 1960s and 1970s. The report describes in detail 31 experiments during which about 695 persons were exposed. In many of these experiments, individuals were exposed to radiation which provided little or no medical benefit to the subjects. The purpose of several of these experiments was actually to cause injury to the participants. Many others sought simply to measure the effects of radiation on humans. American citizens thus became nuclear calibration devices for experimenters run amok . . . These experiments, and others described in the Subcommittee staff report, shock the conscience and represent a black mark on the history of nuclear medical research. They raise one major horrifying question: Did the intense desire to know the consequences of radioactive exposure after the dawn of the atomic age lead American scientists to mimic the kind of demented human experiments conducted by the Nazis?
5. Between 1932 and 1972, the Public Health Service held some 400 poor black sharecroppers who had syphilis but denied them treatment, even after a cure was discovered, so as to study the effects of syphilis. Below is an excerpt of the official apology for the infamous Tuskegee, AL syphilis study, delivered by President Clinton in the East Room on May 16, 1997:
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The eight men who are survivors of the syphilis study at Tuskegee are a living link to a time not so very long ago that many Americans would prefer not to remember, but we dare not forget. It was a time when our nation failed to live up to its ideas, when our nation broke the trust with our people that is the very foundation of our democracy. It is not only in remembering that shameful past that we can make amends and repair our nation, but it is in remembering that past that we can build a better present and a better future. And without remembering it, we cannot make amends and we cannot go forward. So America does remember the hundreds of men used in research without their knowledge and consent. We remember them and their family members. Men who were poor and African-American, without resources and with few alternatives, they believed they had found hope when they were offered free medical care by the United States Public Health Service. They were betrayed . . . The United States did something that was wrong–deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens . . . The American people are sorry–for the loss, the years of hurt . . . I apologize and I am sorry that this apology took so long in coming . . .
These are just some examples of roads to hell paved by good intentions–crimes planned and committed by members of the U.S. government and kept secret, sometimes for decades. Other examples include Watergate and the Iran Contra arms-for-hostages deals. (In both situations, the major players got pardoned, which makes Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardons while in office sound pretty trivial in comparison.)
The point is that conspiracies do happen, are likely happening right now, and will in all probability go on happening. Conspiracy theorists will be racing to keep up. They don’t assume that somebody’s out there taking care of every good cause they believe in. They don’t trust the government, and they have a right not to since the government abused that trust in the past too many times. Many have learned also not to trust corporations, which have committed their own share of conspiracies, from pollution to big tobacco, that are too numerous to describe here. Conspiracy theorists remind us all to be vigilant about our civil liberties, not to take anything for granted, and that a little Paranoia is healthy–encouraging us to realize that liberty in America is a personal responsibility, not a constant in physics. Conspiracy theorists, for example, are alarmed at the Justice Department for chipping away at civil liberties in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1995 and current anti-terrorist legislation in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, finding a strange ally in the ACLU. While most Americans would not argue with any new laws that would help them feel more secure against the still unbelievable tragedy of large-scale terrorism, some reasonably question how these laws might be used in the future when the immediate threat is gone. Said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office:
“This bill [new 2001 anti-terrorism 'USA Act' legislation] has simply missed the mark of maximizing security and, at the same time, minimizing any adverse effects on America’s freedoms. Most Americans do not recognize that Congress has just passed a bill that would give the government expanded power to invade our privacy, imprison people without due process and punish dissent.”
The legislation was rammed through Congress despite tough opposition from some Democrats. With Anthrax cropping up and grabbing a huge share of media attention, hardly anybody noticed. As an American, on one hand, I want the government to act quickly to protect the country from foreign attack, and yet as an American I also love the Constitution and become concerned when legislation is worded that could lead to violating its purpose. During the Cold War, excesses for a good cause resulted in an internal assault on American democracy; during the future tensions of a prolonged struggle against implacable terrorist organizations, will similar excesses, enabled by new legislation, be coming?
Conspiracy theorists, as information addicts, are extremely well-informed. Again, they may see too much in the news or make the news fit into a preconceived theory, but other Americans can learn something from them, which is not to accept everything the media force-feeds the public. The media, which in the past 20 years went through colossal mergers until about 10 conglomerates control most media, is heavily influenced by corporations and government, and the news is often skewed and censored, if not by the government, then by program sponsors. (It’s also nonsense to continue believing in the “liberal media establishment,” which no longer exists, if it ever did.) It is the responsibility of every American, I believe, to be well-informed, which may require more than watching TV news programs, which often have their own bias, agendas and often focus on the sensational (such as hyper-coverage of the Anthrax scare, which clouded coverage of other news, such as the anti-terrorism bill and the voices of opposition to it).
What is perhaps most alarming to many conspiracy theorists are powers that the President and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can assume during a state of national emergency, which the President can (and has) declared at any time. Each president going back in recent history declared 75-200+ national emergencies to justify issuing executive orders that have the power of legislation. Most of these executive orders have to do with the operation of government and foreign policy; one of Bill Clinton’s executive orders, for example, required Federal buildings to become more energy-efficient. Other executive orders, however, are more ominous, which rendered into law powers of the Federal government during a national emergency. On September 30, 1973, Senators Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Charles McMathias (R-Maryland) made a joint statement regarding these orders:
“The President has the power to seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, call reserve forces amounting to two and a half million men to duty, institute martial law, seize and control all means of transportation, regulate all private enterprise, restrict travel and in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of Americans . . .
“Most [of these laws] remain a potential source of virtually unlimited power for a President should he choose to activate them. It is possible that some future President could exercise this vast authority in an attempt to place the United States under authoritarian rule.
“While the danger of a dictatorship through legal means may seem remote to us today, recent history records Hitler seizing control through the use of emergency powers provisions contained in the laws of the Weimar Republic.”
How did the President gain these broad and dramatic powers? Again, by granting them to himself via executive order. In current times, despite the present wave of patriotism (with the Michigan Militia reportedly offering to help President Bush with homeland security), these powers, coupled with genuine emergencies now and in the future, could make one concerned. Coupled with ECHELON, a vast global intelligence-gathering network (and Carnivore, the FBI capability to read emails), they could make one nervous. Even paranoid.
I believe that Earling Carothers “Jim” Garrison, District Attorney for New Orleans who put local businessman Clay Betrand on trial in connection with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, sums it all up perfectly in the October 1967 Playboy interview:
PLAYBOY: Many of the professional critics of the Warren Commission appear to be prompted by political motives: Those on the left are anxious to prove Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy within the establishment; and those on the right are eager to prove the assassination was an act of “the international Communist conspiracy.” Where would you place yourself on the political spectrum–right, left or center?
JIM GARRISON: That’s a question I’ve asked myself frequently, especially since this investigation started and I found myself in an incongruous and disillusioning battle with agencies of my own Government. I can’t just sit down and add up my political beliefs like a mathematical sum, but I think, in balance, I’d turn up somewhere around the middle. Over the years, I guess I’ve developed a somewhat conservative attitude–in the traditional libertarian sense of conservatism, as opposed to the thumbscrew-and-rack conservatism of the paramilitary right–particularly in regard to the importance of the individual as opposed to the State and the individual’s own responsibilities to humanity . . .
I was with the artillery supporting the division that took Dachau; I arrived there the day after it was taken, when bulldozers were making pyramids of human bodies outside the camp. What I saw there has haunted me ever since. Because the law is my profession, I’ve always wondered about the judges throughout Germany who sentenced men to jail for picking pockets at a time when their own government was jerking gold from the teeth of men murdered in gas chambers. I’m concerned about all of this because it isn’t a German phenomenon; it’s a human phenomenon. It can happen here, because there has been no change, there has been no progress and there has been no increase of understanding on the part of men for their fellow men.
What worries me deeply, and I have seen it exemplified in this case, is that we in America are in great danger of slowly eroding into a proto-fascist state. It will be a different kind of fascist state from the one the Germans evolved; theirs grew out of depression and promised bread and work, while ours, curiously enough, seems to be emerging from prosperity. But in the final analysis, it’s based on power and on the inability to put human goals and human conscience above the dictates of the State. Its origins can be traced in the tremendous war machine we’ve built since 1945, the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower vainly warned us about, which now dominates every aspect of our life. The power of the states and the Congress has gradually been abandoned to the Executive Department, because of war conditions; and we’ve seen the creation of an arrogant, swollen bureaucratic complex totally unfettered by the checks and balances of the Constitution.
In a very real and terrifying sense, our Government is the CIA and the Pentagon, with Congress reduced to a debating society. Of course, you can’t spot this trend to fascism by casually looking around. You can’t look for such familiar signs as the swastika, because they won’t be there. We won’t build Dachaus and Auschwitzes; the clever manipulation of the mass media is creating a concentration camp of the mind that promises to be far more effective in keeping the populace in line. We’re not going to wake up one morning and suddenly find ourselves in gray uniforms goose-stepping off to work. But this isn’t the test. The test is: What happens to the individual who dissents? In Nazi Germany, he was physically destroyed; here the process is more subtle, but the end results are the same. I’ve learned enough about the machinations of the CIA in the past year to know that this is no longer the dreamworld America I once believed in. The imperatives of the population explosion, which almost inevitably will lessen our belief in the sanctity of the individual human life, combined with the awesome power of the CIA and the defense establishment, seem destined to seal the fate of the America I knew as a child and bring us into a new Orwellian world where the citizen exists for the State and where raw power justifies any and every immoral act. I’ve always had a kind of knee-jerk trust in my Government’s basic integrity, whatever political blunders it may make. But I’ve come to realize that in Washington, deceiving and manipulating the public are viewed by some as the natural prerogatives of office. Huey Long once said, “Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism.” I’m afraid, based on my own long experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.