Conspiracy Theories Consume and Doom The Republican Party

Alex Jones NYArthur Goldwag tells us that the conservative mindset is in decline while stories of cabals and secret plots provide comfort as its power wanes, at Salon:

What just happened in Washington?

Ask a true conservative believer, and they’ll tell you that it was the birth of a terrible beauty. They’ll say the GOP’s true leaders, our nation’s future leadership, revealed itself in all its splendid, futile glory—only to be stabbed in the back by a “thundering herd of chicken-hearted Republicans in Name Only (RINOs)  galloping to the Left.”

If you asked me, I would say that we witnessed a recrudescence of a nihilistic tendency that has never been far from the surface in American politics—a conservatism that is as far from the dictionary definition of conservatism as Obama is from being a socialist. Last fall, on the eve of the election, I wrote in Salon that “America is becoming more multicultural, more gay-friendly and more feminist every day. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the white, patriarchal, Christian hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious.” Was it vicious enough to strap a figurative suicide vest to its chest and threaten the U.S. with default? If you had asked me at the time, I would have said no. Little did I know.

Some of the Republican jihadists who pressed for default feel so personally violated by the presence of a black family in the White House that they would just as soon burn it down as reclaim it. And some live in such a bubble of denial—an alternate cognitive universe in which the poor lord it over the rich and white Christians are a persecuted minority, in which a president who was twice elected by an overwhelming popular majority is a pretender, and a law that Congress attempted to overturn more than 40 times was “never debated”—that they have convinced themselves that a default would have actually been a good thing, that it would have restored the U.S. economy to a sound foundation.

It is a triumph not so much of a conspiracy as of conspiracist thinking. As John Judis wrote in The New Republic last week, even “lobbyists I talked to cited….Richard Hofstadter’s essay on ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republic article, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.”

Lest I be accused of falling for a left wing conspiracy theory myself, I want to say a few words about “conspiracy theory” before I continue. “Conspiracy theory” is a loaded and frankly a bad term, one that unfairly besmirches any and all theorizing about conspiracies.

Bracketing all thinking about conspiracies with tall tales and outright delusions about secret societies whose leaders toast each other with blood drunk out of human skulls is unfair and misleading. Some anti-government conspiracy theories—that the Tonkin Gulf Incident didn’t happen as reported, for example, or that the CIA was involved with international dope dealers, are so far from being ridiculous that they turn out to be true. The NSA doeshave access to your emails. For that matter, a certain amount of toasting with skulls (if not actual blood) has been reliably reported to go on in some quarters.

Still, there are theories and then there are theories. Scientists know the difference between unfalsifiable ones like intelligent design and genuinely scientific ones like evolution. Theories about political conspiracies are harder to put to the test; absence of evidence, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, is not evidence of absence. In fact it’s the whole point…

[continues at Salon]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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26 Comments on "Conspiracy Theories Consume and Doom The Republican Party"

  1. MOAR!!!

  2. believein1 | Oct 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

    All conspiracy people I know are Democrat. Look at the 9/11 days when Bush was in office.

  3. gustave courbet | Oct 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    Why did I read this? Yes there are idiots, yes there are conspiracies. Cited in this article: “34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents believe a global power elite is conspiring to create a New World Order—compared to just 15 percent of Democrats.” ‘Conspiracy theorists’ who posit the idea of the NWO, while guilty of being intellectually lazy, insufferably inarticulate, and generally lacking in erudition, context and historical research are, if not totally correct in their broad pronouncements that mix myth, prejudice, and vague history, not entirely wrong either.

    ““For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents … to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.” -David Rockefeller

    “This regionalization is in keeping with the Tri-Lateral Plan which calls for a gradual convergence of East and West, ultimately leading toward the goal of one world government. National sovereignty is no longer a viable concept.”
    ― Zbigniew Brzezinski

    • this video probably discusses the “New World Order” as well as really necessary:

    • jasonpaulhayes | Oct 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm |

      There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today.

      Perhaps you’ve forgotten where you are and to whom you’re speaking to? I certainly have… I don’t know where any mans loyalty exists, what it takes to earn it or what it takes to break it.

  4. Aipeed Teaitchse | Oct 20, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

    There are conspiracies – have been + will continue to be. It is not delusional to believe individuals who seek power and who are born into elite society have a different set of values than people who do not and they are willing to work together openly or covertly with other affluent like-minded individuals towards feeding their own greed for wealth and control of people and resources.It isn’t delusional to believe these people will make efforts to change the rules of the game by subverting laws and violating rights or even murdering innocent people and covering it up. It is delusional to allow a random blogger who masquerades as some kind of investigative journalist to put your mind at ease with an article about how we live in a world free of corrupt leaders and the mainstream media is not mind poisoning propaganda. “Here’s a picture of Alex Jones – you don’t like him do you? WE don’t like him or believe a single word he’s ever said, right?”
    What you should be asking yourself is Who the hell is this anti-conspiracy theorist Arthur Goldwag and why would the author of Cults Conspiracies and Secret Societies be writing a diatribe about why people who read about such things, or who even question official narratives have something wrong with them psychologically? And who is he to suggest Ron Paul is a ‘marginal figure?’
    I hate to sound like a broken record but researching such ideas or visiting sites like infowars in an effort to understand our global civilization, its economics and array of subcultures, and the politics of fear driving everything doesn’t make someone right wing or left wing, and it definitely doesn’t mean that a person who believes some things are conspiracies must also believe in and defend every random conspiracy theory ever put forward. Now this is just a theory, but there seems to be some sort of agenda from within the media to lump together anyone who’s ever come up with a conspiracy theory – David Icke, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Robert Anton Wilson, John Birch, Flat Earth, 9/11 Truthers, etc… and everyone who’s ever believed that things you think you know might be wrong. If you look through Mr. Goldwag’s articles and books you may notice a pattern emerging.

    • gustave courbet | Oct 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

      Well said. I am often perplexed by the conflation of ‘conspiracy theory’ with ‘intellectual incompetence’ or ‘ignorant extremism.’ Equally saddening is the parade of people attracted to subjects like political conspiracies and inconvenient histories that are intellectually incompetent, reactionary, and bigoted. It makes it doubly difficult to have a rational conversation about the subject(s) when one is sandwiched between establishment consensus proponents and ignorant conspiracy mongers.

      • IMO, that’s the point behind the “conspiracy theory” label – it’s the “FNORD!” in “Don’t See the FNORDS”.

        To become an informed citizen insofar as it is possible to do so, one needs to look behind the label to see if it’s accurate, plausible, tinfoil, or astrofoil.

        • astrofrog | Oct 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm |

          “astrofoil”. If that means what I think it means (‘astroturf tinfoil’) then I thank you for adding that brilliant neologism to my vocabulary.

      • It appears to me that many conspiracy theorists think they are smarter, onto some special information, or have a superlative way of percieving data. From my perspective, I feel it’s safe to say that elitism is par for the course in such circles, even though it is commonly the very thing they cry foul of.

        Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.
        ~ Robert Anton Wilson

        I watched a movie just last night about the power of fear and being a believer, titled the Shadow People. It’s not very good, but a great example.

        • gustave courbet | Oct 24, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

          Nailed it. I see that tendency amply evidenced in this particular milieu. Perhaps it is a lack of introspection or self-confidence, but it is vitally important to be aware of the tendency in oneself, lest you fall victim to it. I find that the more I learn the more ambiguous the world becomes.

          • It can feel great being right, and even better if it’s cutting edge. Being wrong may offer more potential for progress though.

    • I don’t care “Who the hell is this anti-conspiracy theorist Arthur Goldwag”, what matters is who funds him. If one knows where the money comes from, one knows why.

  5. BuzzCoastin | Oct 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

    it was a good show
    but I don’t slavishly follow Uncle Homeland’s psyop shows
    (even the reruns)
    I can say with some certainty
    that whatever the wags of mass media are saying
    it’s merely more of the show known as
    Wag the Dog

  6. DeepCough | Oct 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

    How fitting that the GOP should be divided by the Lowest Common Denominator it used to win elections.

  7. lifobryan | Oct 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

    I think I know from whose handsomely smooth skull the electric Kool-aid is being sipped:

    • ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm |

      That must have been so funny twenty five years ago.

      • lifobryan | Oct 23, 2013 at 9:08 pm |

        He wasn’t dead 25 years ago. Okay … maybe brain dead. But it does take at least a few years for the skin to shrivel off the skull after burial, and then a few more years after that for Republican silversmiths to craft a silver chalice base to support the skull. And a couple more years for the cranial kool-aid to ferment. And then at least 5 minutes to add the umbrella & garnish.

  8. It appears to me that some people are bilking alot out of others who think they need an answer. Sure there has been some stuff in the past, maybe now. Is there anything I can do to stop or augment any such huge plan? I doubt it. I admit though, the idea of a decline in conservative mindset is real attractive to me.

  9. I don’t think there is any objective truth with regards to history, and that’s all these conspiracy theories are: an attempt to redefine history. I don’t see the Official Narrative as being particularly more true than the conspiracy theories, but those crafting the official history are smart enough to make sure there’s enough defensible truth in it to make it plausible. I think the conspiracy theories are useful tools with which to frame the official narrative in order to come to the historical gestalt necessary to drive one’s reality. The value in history is in it’s ability to forecast the future. The official narrative and the conspiracy theories are both dead ends and anyone to who clings too tightly to either is lost.

    With regard to the subject of this article, there seems to have been a shift in the theme of the historical revisionism of the right, against the revisionist efforts of its adversary on the left, away from portraying the left as a financial threat and towards portraying them as an existential threat. The historic revisionism is increasingly pointing to violence as a solution as opposed to legislation. If it’s true that their numbers are on the wane, and I see no credible reason to deny this, then they will need some way to buffer the democratic process that will no longer afford them equal standing in the decision making process. As such, I don’t know if the conspiracy theories embraced by the right necessarily portents their doom so much as their next course of action.

    I’m surprised they haven’t spent more energy portraying the struggles in Syria to their advantage. Building a narrative that portrays Assad as the hero protecting a righteous minority against a zealous minority bent on total destruction. It’s exactly the tactics of Bashar al-Assad and his father that they will need to employ to hold on to their authority. Maybe that would only work after Assad is relieved of power by a pseudo-liberal administration.

  10. ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

    Come on, DisInfo: Salon? Really? Their level of analysis is appallingly shallow and mendacious. Take this article for example. They rightly knock the crazy Republican tendency towards conspiracy theory whilst leaving the Democratic versions of the same unanswered (Murdoch controls elections via his media empire. Monsanto own the government. To name just two of the more incipiently anti-Semitic examples).

    Salon is run by the children of the wealthy and knows nothing of the issues it pretends to care about. In its partisanship it is no better than any Republican rag.

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