Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy Theory’
Craziness is not new in American politics. I remember the Joe McCarthy era, when otherwise sane people believed that President Truman was knowingly harboring Communists within his administration and patriots such as Dean Acheson and General George C. Marshall were secret Soviet agents. The John Birch Society, which out-McCarthy-ed McCarthy, said President Eisenhower was a secret Soviet agent. In their heyday, the Birchers represented a significant minority of American voters at that time.
I remember the Clinton administration, when otherwise sane people believed that President Clinton was a Soviet sleeper agent recruited on a trip to Moscow when he was a college student, that he murdered Vince Foster, that he was in cahoots with a drug cartel operating out of Mena, Arkansas, that his wife decorated the White House Christmas tree with obscene and blasphemous ornaments – it seemed as if nothing was too trivial or too far-fetched to throw at him.
Where President Obama is concerned, craziness is at high tide.
Some examples: Is Obama a Communist, Fascist or Socialist? He is all three at the same time. President Obama is a Muslim. Why is a crescent on the U.S. Missile Defense logo? Obama may be (it’s hard to say) the love child of Malcolm X. It’s not the birth certificate, it’s the DNA. Obama thinks like a Kenyan anti-colonialist.
Now, it’s true that crazy people can be found on all parts of the political map. I know otherwise reasonable people who take seriously the idea that the 9/11 attacks were masterminded by President Bush or Vice President Cheney, which is just as crazy as any of the idea I’ve linked to here. But although my political bias may affect my perception, I think the current right-wing craziness is something special.
The problem with the crazy people is that if you take the time to make the argument that, no, Obama is not really a Communist, fascist, socialist, secret Muslim jihadist or radical Christian black liberationist, you find you don’t have the time to talk about what Obama has actually done and said, including his very real failures.
Obama as the Communist messiah
Obama as the angel of death
When I say I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, I don’t mean literally to deny that people in positions of power ever do bad things in secret or try to cover them up. I mean theories that require you to believe that evildoers (1) have near-superhuman ability to manipulate events and keep secrets but (2) act for no understandable human motive except love of evil.
Here are examples of what I mean:
9/11 Truthers. I know otherwise-sensible people who believe that President George W. Bush manipulated the 9/11 attacks, arranged to have explosives secretly planted in the World Trade Center and had the Pentagon hit with something else except a bomb. The case is based on certain technical arguments which have been disputed. But what really defies belief is how such a conspiracy could be arranged by people who could not provide convincing evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All such conspiracy theories rest on the idea that there is a two-track government – one of normal human fallibility, which does all the things we read about in the newspapers, and another with the capabilities of the old TV Mission Impossible team, which we never learn about.
Obama Birthers. This is the theory that President Obama was really born in Kenya, and hence is Constitutionally unable to serve as President of the United States. In order to believe this, you have to believe that a pregnant woman resident of Hawaii would choose to go to Kenya to have her child delivered, then return to Hawaii to plant fake evidence (a newspaper announcement and a Department of Health birth record) that the child was born in Hawaii. What motive would anyone have to do this? Hawaii has converted its records to electronic form, so the record of Obama’s birth is electronic rather than a written document. The Birthers believe, or would have us believe, that Team Obama was somehow able to manipulate the changeover.
There is an almost endless list of examples – the many Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories and, before that, the many Lincoln assassination conspiracy theories; all the things that Obama is supposedly plotting to do, from death panels to abolition of sport fishing. But of course there are such things as conspiracies – the Kissinger-CIA plot to overthrow President Allende of Chile, for example. Carroll Quigley’s hard-to-obtain history of the 20th century, Tragedy and Hope, has much interesting information about the behind-the-scenes influence of the Anglo-American financial establishment. What distinguishes these reports from what I call “conspiracy theories” is that they provide credible evidence, not speculation, about people with human capabilities doing things for human reasons.
If I were more conspiracy-minded than I am, I would suspect the existence of a conspiracy to spread bogus conspiracy theories to distract attention from the real conspiracies.