UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 7, 2009

STUPID JOURNALISM TRICKS: THE CONSPIRACY THEORY CARD

Progressive Review - The other day, Politico ran a typically sneering article about the Bilderberg Group. As usual, anyone who shows the slightest interest in the hyper secret meeting of some of the most powerful people in the world is a "conspiracy theorist."

This is smug, childish, mindless establishment journalism at its worst. By any traditional standard of journalism, a secret meeting of some of the most important people in the world is news. How you handle that news is certainly debatable but to ignore it completely is simply incompetence.

Consider this. The recent G-20 conference produced over 10,000 news stories. The next Bilderberg event, about 150 - none in the conventional media according to a Google scan.

Yet how newsworthy was the G20 conference? Robert Kuttner put it well when he wrote:

"Since they began at Rambouillet, France, in 1975, these annual economic summits have been treated as momentous events, but they are memorable mostly for being forgettable. Only very infrequently, as in the 1999 Cologne summit's embrace of debt relief for the third world, do they produce lasting achievements. This Group of 20 meeting was notable only because the club of seven leading democracies plus Russia was expanded to include emerging world powers such as India, China, and Brazil. . . But the 2009 summit, whose extensive press clippings will soon be fish wrap, succeeded mainly because it managed not to fail."

Of course, nothing much may happen at this year's Bilderberg conference - to be held perhaps in Greece in either May or June (only conspiracy theorists care where or when). On the other hand,
Belgian viscount and current Bilderberg-chairman Etienne Davignon pointed out to the EU Observer that the Euro was created in part by the Bilderberg Group in the 1990s, certainly more newsworthy than anything the G20 crowd has been up to lately.

One of the reasons Bilderberg is so heavily censored by the archaic media is the number of publishers and owners who attend.
The Washington Post, the New York Times, LA Times and all major networks' ABC, CBS and NBC have participated. All participants are sworn to secrecy.

Bilderberg denies its existence, and all the resorts at which they hold their meetings require their employees to lie and deny they are present.

Among those reportedly present in 2007 were Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of the Washington Post, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, John Vinocur, senior correspondent of the International Herald Tribune, Paul Gigot, editor of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Nicholas Beytout, editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, George David, chairman of Coca-Cola, Martin Feldstein, president and chief executive officer of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Timothy F. Geithner, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Vernon Jordan, senior managing director of Lazard Freres & Co., and Anatole Kaletsky, editor at large of the Times of London.

Any journalists who don't think such a crowd, meeting at a secret place at a secret time for secret reasons, is not worth covering deserves to have their press pass cancelled.

Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico - The highest levels of the Obama administration are infested with members of a shadowy, elitist cabal intent on installing a one-world government that subverts the will of the American people.

It sounds crazy, but that's what a group of very persistent conspiracy theorists insists, and they point to President Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as the latest piece of evidence supporting their claims.

It turns out that Sebelius - like top administration economists Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker, as well as leading Obama diplomats Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross - is a Bilderberger. That is, she is someone who has participated in the annual invitation-only conference held by an elite international organization known as the Bilderberg group. . .

It is precisely that exclusive roster of globally influential figures that has captured the interest of an international network of conspiracists, who for decades have viewed the Bilderberg conference as a devious corporate-globalist scheme.

The fulminating is aggravated by Obama's preference for surrounding himself with well-credentialed, well-connected, and well-traveled elites. His personnel choices have touched a populist, even paranoid nerve among those who are convinced powerful elites and secret societies are moving the planet toward a new world order.

Their worldview, characterized by a deep and angry suspicion of the ruling class rather than any prevailing partisan or ideological affiliation, is widely articulated on overnight AM radio shows and a collection of Internet websites. . .

THE THINKER'S GUIDE TO CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Sam Smith

- A conspiracy does not have to be illegal; it can merely be wrongful or harmful.

- The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by elite media and politicians to denigrate questions or critical presumptions about events about which important facts remain unrevealed.

- The intelligent response to such events is to remain agnostic, skeptical, and curious. Theories may be suggested - just as they are every day about less complex and more open matters on news broadcasts and op ed pages - but such theories should not stray too far from available evidence.
Conversely, as long as serious anomalies remain, dismissing questions and doubts as a "conspiracy theory" is a highly unintelligent response. It is also ironic as those ridiculing the questions and doubts typically consider themselves intellectually superior to the doubters. But they aren't because they stopped thinking the moment someone in power told them a superficially plausible answer. To ridicule those still with doubts about such matters is intellectually dishonest.

- There is the further irony that many who ridicule doubts about the official version of events were typically trained at elite colleges where, in political science and history, theories often take precedent over facts and in which substantive decisions affecting politics and history are presumed to be the work of a small number of wise men (sic). They are trained, in effect, to trust in (1) theories and (2) benign confederacies. Most major media political coverage is based on the great man theory of history. This pattern can be found in everything from Skull & Bones to the Washington Post editorial board to the Council on Foreign Relations. You might even call them conspiracy theorists.

- Other fields - such as social history or anthropology - posit that change for better or evil can come as cultural change or choices and not just as the decisions of "great men." This is why one of the biggest stories in modern American history was never well covered: the declining birth rate. No great men decided it should happen.

- Homicide detectives and investigative reporters, among others, are inductive thinkers who start with evidence rather than with theories and aren't happy when the evidence is weak, conflicting or lacking. They keep working the case until a solid answer appears. This is alien to the well-educated newspaper editor who has been trained to trust official answers and conventional theories.

- The unresolved major event is largely a modern phenomenon that coincides with the collapse of America's constitutional government and the decline of its culture. Beginning with the Kennedy assassination, the number of inadequately explained major events has been mounting steadily and with them a steady decline in the trust between he people and their government. The refusal of American elites to take these doubts seriously has been a major disservice to the republic.

- You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful Sam, Abe Foxman will tag ProRev as a hate web site.

April 8, 2009 6:30 AM  
Anonymous Justice said...

I stole this comment years ago because it was so SPOT ON and important:

Stonefruit said:

...Contemporary America is of two minds toward conspiranoia. On one hand, it has become the default popular view, one of commodified skepticism towards history and government. This sentiment has proliferated rapidly since the 1960s and Watergate. With the collapse of the reassuring dualities of the Cold War over the course of the 1990s, it has culminated in a pervasive apocalyptic teleology.

On the other hand, the disavowal of conspiranoia has also become an integral part of the conventional wisdom itself, a social technology of control that establishes the boundaries of "responsible discourse" by reflecting elite consensus on the fundamental nature of social reality, in accordance with the elite's own class interests. This makes for an incredibly effective means of establishing ruling class hegemony by controlling dissent, foreclosing alternatives, engineering support, and transmuting the interests of the ruling class into that of the nation as a whole.

One is apt to be labeled a conspiracy theorist for merely suggesting that there is a ruling class that seeks to maintain hegemony, to say nothing of the idea that the ruling class occasionally uses conspiratorial methods. Rather than conspiracy theory, most media and intellectual gatekeepers prefer to view elite behavior through the lens of "somnambulist theory", "coincidence theory", "incompetence theory", or "spontaneity theory". No amount of intellectual gymnastics will be spared to avoid arriving at the conclusion that the rich and powerful, like the rest of us, might possibly act in support of their own perceived best interests. This is, of course, in spite of a voluminous sociological literature on the power elite and "elite deviance", a danger that laws against conspiracy are presumably designed to protect us from.

True freedom of mind requires not only the negative absence of constraint but the positive presence of other alternatives. Even though the rich and powerful have repeatedly used conspiracy to get richer and more powerful, to mention this sociological fact immediately draws the most vicious criticism, including charges of superstition, cynicism, paranoia, hysteria, and primitivism.

Conspiranoia can and should be a tool of empirical explanation - it is possible to point fingers and name names. The powers that be, thousands of people enslaving six billion, act not in conspiracy but in tacit collusion, supporting an agenda of domination fostered by the similarity of their backgrounds, calibrated at key forums and through key organizations.

Ultimately, however, the appeal of conspiranoia is that of narrative itself: narrative's ability to explain, predict, motivate, and entertain. Although conspiranoia offers the aficionado an integrated worldview, a weltanschauung, it also provides more than this. When confronted with the potential evidence of conspiracy, one must ask, as in criminal trials: "Is there motive, means, and opportunity?" All too often there is, especially at the intersection of politics, law, high finance, intelligence, diplomacy, covert military operations, narcotrafficking, organized crime, and the media simulacrasphere - the place where so much of 20th century history has been made, and the juncture the Bush family has been sitting at for the last four generations.

Life writing can be an effective means of examining this nexus because "like biography, human conspiracy originates in a preconception of the person as historical agent." Instead of the usual characterization of conspiracy theory as an individual psychopathology, conspiranoia can be better thought of as a populist fusion of life writing, historiography, and political science which provides explanatory narratives that void the epistemic warrant of the elite consensus on history, social reality, and the "conventional wisdom". This is a major development in the long tradition of popular resistance to state power and economic oligarchy, not of the right vs. left, but of the bottom vs. the top.

At its best, conspiranoia is a radical exercise of the skepticism and critical reason at the heart of the Enlightenment project. In this sense it represents a last-ditch effort by the supposed repositories of popular sovereignty - the people - to save liberal humanism and the Enlightenment from their demented doppelgangers - the program of perpetual war for perpetual peace and the enslavement of the autonomous bourgeois subject under regimes of panoptic control managed by technocrats serving the super rich, using all of the awesomely powerful tools made possible by the nation-state system established since the Treaty of Westphalia.

Conspiranoia narratives could be empirical explanations of social reality, since it can easily be argued that "conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means...and where there is no limit to power, there is no limit to conspiracy." The knee-jerk denigration of such attitudes by the mainstream, however, demonstrates that their disavowal has become a vital social technology of control in the late modern age. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, virtually all pre- and anti-capitalist systems have been colonized by "global monetocracy", a transnational corporate socialism that socializes the costs and privatizes the profits. This is kleptocracy by any other name, albeit a far more sophisticated version than that practiced by hacks like Marcos, Duvalier, Mobutu, and their ilk.

Although seemingly at its moment of universal triumph, this system may in fact be teetering on the brink of economic, political, and social collapse, which would surely usher in overt police state fascism in all of its core states. It is precisely the dramatically escalating accumulation of these fundamental contradictions within the global capitalist system that coincidence theorists try to deflect public attention away from with their vilification of conspiracy theories. This relentless disparagement continues even though, ala Occam's Razor, they often provide the simplest, most rational explanation. As Marx said in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past."

The power elite deliberately obscure the structural limitations on free will (that they themselves largely created) to mask the sad fact that, as human civilization has evolved from feudalism to democracy, we have traded kings and tsars for presidents and prime ministers but the money power behind the scenes has remained the same. Worse yet, it has allowed only the absolute minimum concessions to the establishment of a sane economic, political, and legal order needed to stave off social revolution.

This is not enough. The regime of capital accumulation survives by feeding off of the subject body while simultaneously stupefying the subject mind with the myth of individual agency and doing everything in the regime's power to ensure that this agency cannot be used in any meaningful way. In such an environment, denigrating conspiranoia becomes a means of cordoning off from the masses the facts that they are being lied to every day of their lives by authority figures, and that the consumerist hydrocarbon-based industrial civilization they live in is arguably psychopathic and quite possibly in terminal decline.

While the provisional government of politicians does the lying, they do so in the service of a permanent government above and behind political power, a secular oligarchy working in tacit collusion. In America they are the great commercial dynasties, 500 Fortune companies and their lobbyists, media simulacrasphere, civil and military services, and large research universities, law firms, and charitable foundations. They hire the politicians and establish the boundaries of the politicians' agenda. They authorize the production of regular elections/pageants to protect the brand name of American democracy. They convince a large enough portion of the general population that the system still works, so that the machinery of oppression, theft, enslavement, and murder can continue to operate without friction.

Camps within this oligarchy make effective use of the Bilderberg Group, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Economic Forum at Davos, Bank of International Settlements, World Trade Organization, Council of Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bohemian Grove, Group of Eight, Trans-Atlantic Business Council, and other organizations to calibrate their rhetoric, achieve consensus, and even set policy superceding that of sovereign governments. This isn't done in smoky star chambers, however, but in the miasmic group think of those with similar backgrounds, class interests, and institutional positions, all pursuing the interests of the global capitalist system by pursuing misguided senses of their own self interest.

As the key nations of transnational corporate imperialism degenerate into police states, they slowly strip citizens of their rights, periodically manufacturing "incidents and crises to use as excuses for increased governmental power. Meanwhile, the media toes the government line, lulling the people - or the "sheeple" - to sleep. Eventually, agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and militarized local police will confiscate all weapons and imprison any citizens who dare oppose authoritarian rule."

Although conspiranoiacs exist in great variety, many share a belief in the rough outline of this dystopian nightmare. If true, it is the truth which cannot be spoken. For that reason, the media gatekeepers will continue to dismiss anything that challenges the conventional wisdom as a "conspiracy theory" until some catalyst finally reveals enough of the horrible truth to enough people, facilitating a paradigm shift of world historical importance.

The ills of society can neither be ameliorated nor even adequately described by means of the law alone. Nevertheless, progressive efforts to ameliorate these ills cannot succeed without committed work in the legal field. However, such work will be necessarily defensive in posture until such time as substantial extraparliamentary pressure is brought to bear on the system by means of "either grassroots citizen participation in credible progressive projects or rebellious acts of desperation that threaten the social order." With adequate reach into a broad enough segment of the general population by leaking past the media oligarchy, and armed with adequate credibility by weeding itself of the pervasive disinformation that so often taints it, conspiranoiac analysis has the potential to precipitate and consolidate a very significant portion of that extraparliamentary pressure. "Like it or not, the people of the fringe are in an apocalyptical struggle: either the elite techniques of control will be perfected to the level where dissent can be abolished, or heretics will mutate to some level of consciousness where they can do holy and miraculous works to resurrect the old dream of freedom for all."

Although this may seem a millennial hope, it may also be a cogent empirical analysis of a decisive historical crossroads. In any event, until consciousness is liberated to such a degree as to enable the establishment of an abiding regime of peace, social justice, and sustainability, as Rousseau said, "Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains."

http://rigorousintuition.blogspot.com/2005/03/conspiracy-theory-made-easy.html

April 8, 2009 9:06 AM  
Anonymous I stole this comment, too said...

Yeah, it's ridiculous to think it's planned and some sort of conspiracy; it's just a repeated pattern of incompetence and stupidity that just happens to keep increasing the power and wealth of a handful of interconnected individuals at the expense of 99.9999% of the world's population.

April 8, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger PhreedomPhan said...

I like that term "conspiranoiac." Might a "conspiranoiac" be defined as: One who, on hearing the term conspiracy or even a hint that one exists, hides in his Denial Closet under a pile of "mainstream media" and books from Ivy League colleges, the Brookings Institute, and M.I.T.?

Rick
http://PhreedomPhan-lostliberty.blogspot.com
http://phreedomphan-americasenemies.blogspot.com

May 17, 2009 10:53 AM  

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