Conspiracy theories

by Henry on March 11, 2006

As Jim Henley has noted, there’s a lot of ressentiment on the right these days. And “not only”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/5824c998-b0a3-11da-a142-0000779e2340.html in the US.

bq. Two years after the Madrid train bombings, Spain’s main political parties cannot agree on who was responsible for the nation’s deadliest terrorist attack. … The Popular party, which lost power in a general election three days after the train bombings, accuses the Socialist government, the police and the judiciary of taking part in a massive conspiracy to cover up alleged links between Islamic radicals and Eta, the violent Basque separatist group. … The Popular party’s conspiracy theory has been taken up by rightwing talk- show hosts, some of whom have even accused unamed Socialists of financing the terrorist attacks to oust the Popular party from power. …

bq. After a two-year investigation spanning nine countries, Juan del Olmo, an investigating magistrate, says he will lay formal charges against dozens of suspects within the next three weeks. … The Popular party refuses to endorse Mr del Olmo’s conclusions, perhaps because José María Aznar, the former prime minister, retains a powerful influence over his party. Mr Aznar blamed Eta for the Madrid train bombings and continued to insist on a Basque connection long after evidence began to point to Islamist extremists.

Reading this, and drawing the obvious comparison with Cheney’s “bogus claims”:http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/06/18/cheney.iraq.al.qaeda/ about the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection, and Wolfowitz’s “fantasies”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.bergen.html, about who ordered the original World Trade Center bombing makes it seem pretty strange to me that the meme of lefties as conspiracy theorists has stuck. Not that there aren’t some strange conspiracy theories out there on the left – but they’re weak beer in comparison to some of the deeply weird shit that our Right Wing Overlords in the US administration, and our former and would-be future Overlords in Madrid, take as gospel truth.

{ 48 comments }

1

otto 03.11.06 at 1:58 pm

Poor Aznar. If he’d just been willing to say, It might be Islamists, it might be Eta, murderers in both cases, let the police investigate, the PP might still be in power and he would not have nailed his reputation (up to that point, not bad) to this mast.

2

Brendan 03.11.06 at 2:39 pm

Part of the problem is that the conspiracy theories of the right have become, god help us, part of the established discourse of how we see things.

Even people who hate the Republicans and all their deeds, for example, often still accept that there was a single, global entity called ‘World Communism’: that its tentacles spread into almost every country in the world, that the US and the UK faced infiltration (or worse) from this entity, that many (perhaps most, perhaps all) ‘terrorist groups’ in the West were at least funded and perhaps ‘run’ by this entity….and so on. In other words, that the Cold War was essentially a defensive ‘war’ fought by the ‘west’ against its will, and so forth…in other words, that the ‘war’ against ‘Communism’ was essentially the same as the war against Fascism, and that if you supported one, you would have to support the other.

Once you have made that fateful connection then everything else follows, and it becomes easy to follow the logical next step, that, whereas before there was ‘Fascism’, then ‘communism’, there is now a unified movement called ‘Islamo-fascism’ which fights ‘the West’ and which ‘we’ have to ‘defeat’ before it does something or other.

This is conspiratorial thinking in its craziest and most lunatic form, but few people are laughing. Instead, even relatively intelligent people like Salman Rushdie and Francis Wheen (author of a rather excellent biography of Marx) sign up to a ridiculous ‘petition’ which begins: ‘After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism…’ etc. etc. etc.

3

John Emerson 03.11.06 at 3:15 pm

I always say this and no one cares, but some things are conspiracies and some aren’t. It’s not as though there never has been a conspiracy anywhere since the the beginning of time.

I think that the problem with conspiracy theories isn’t suspicion and paranoia, which can be valid reactions to certain kinds of actual situations.

Conspiracy theorists just fail to realize that the way the world works, most of us are helpless, either to understand some of the things that are happening, or to do anything about them. We all always live, to some degree, within in a systematic regime of disinformation and chaff.

Was the Lincoln assassination a conspiracy? The government thought so, and hanged six people, but maybe the government was wrong. Was the explosion of the battleship Maine in Cuba a conspiracy? Who knows? The Kennedy assassination? Ruby and Oswald sure did have a lot of weird connections.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism….

4

abb1 03.11.06 at 3:32 pm

I don’t think “World Communism” is a right-wing conspiracy theory – in the sense of Republicans being right-wing to the Democrats’ left-wing. Rather it’s an official doctrine, the exact equivalent, mirror image of the corresponding Soviet doctrine.

5

PersonFromPorlock 03.11.06 at 4:18 pm

Even people who hate the Republicans and all their deeds, for example, often still accept that there was a single, global entity called ‘World Communism’…”

Well, Stalin believed it, as Trotsky found out to his cost, but I don’t think the idea of a ‘global entity’ outlived the sixties, or even the fifties. It was pretty obvious by then, even to us Republicans, that the communists were badly divided.

Of course, if by “Republicans” you mean J. Edgar Hoover, that’s a whole different thing….

6

P O'Neill 03.11.06 at 4:24 pm

One obstacle to even getting as far as the conpiracy theories is that some of the garden variety administration talking points are wrong:

MADRID, Spain – A two-year probe into the Madrid train bombings concludes the Islamic terrorists who carried out the blasts were homegrown radicals acting on their own rather than at the behest of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, two senior intelligence officials said.

Spain still remains home to a web of radical Algerian, Moroccan and Syrian groups bent on carrying out attacks — and aiding the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq — a Spanish intelligence chief and a Western official intimately involved in counterterrorism measures in Spain told The Associated Press.

The intelligence chief said there were no phone calls between the Madrid bombers and al-Qaida and no money transfers. The Western official said the plotters had links to other Islamic radicals in Western Europe, but the plan was hatched and organized in Spain. “This was not an al-Qaida operation,” he said. “It was homegrown.”

7

Brendan 03.11.06 at 4:57 pm

Incidentally….

‘I always say this and no one cares, but some things are conspiracies and some aren’t. It’s not as though there never has been a conspiracy anywhere since the the beginning of time.’

Yes but these conspiracy theories are all of a definite type. They are all of the type: ‘You see? They seem to be not on the same side, or fighting each other…but they’re actually all in it together‘.

So, to a sane rational person there would seem to be nothing in common between those fighting for Basque independence and those fighting to restore the Caliphate. And that’s because there is nothing in common between these two groups. ETA have no links with Al-Qaeda (or ‘Al-Qaeda’): never have, never will have.

But of course in this strand of thinking what ‘these people’ actually think or say or do isn’t important: what’s important is that they fight ‘us’. Therefore it seems plausible that they would ‘all be in it together’.

This is the same kind of thinking that led Cheney etc. to think that Saddam and Osama were burkha buddies. And I would argue that this kind of thinking is always illegitimate unless they links are obvious and public and open, and even then such links will almost always be short term (the classic example being the Nazi Soviet pact).

8

e-tat 03.11.06 at 6:34 pm

If the left wing had ever cornered the market on conspiracy theories Slim Pickens would have been wearing a beret.

9

soru 03.11.06 at 7:14 pm

So, to a sane rational person there would seem to be nothing in common between those fighting for Basque independence and those fighting to restore the Caliphate. And that’s because there is nothing in common between these two groups. ETA have no links with Al-Qaeda (or ‘Al-Qaeda’): never have, never will have.

Similar reasoning can, of course, be used to logically disprove the existence of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Either they collaborated in some way, or they didn’t, abstract discussion of ideologies as a prediction method is no more or less accurate than reading tea leaves.

Historical examples of collaborations in similar activities: Japanese marxists + palestinian nationalists, the IRA + whatever ideology Colonel Ghadaffi was, islamists and Republicans, …

It would probably be shorter to list the pairs of groups that actually would refuse to collaborate.

10

Brendan 03.11.06 at 7:24 pm

‘Japanese marxists + palestinian nationalists, the IRA + whatever ideology Colonel Ghadaffi was.’

Y’see this is exactly what i’m talking about. Whatever one might think about this, there is a long tradition on the left (or the ‘left’ depending on your point of view) of supporting aims that are perceived to be ‘anti-imperialist’ or whatever. So there is a good reason for Marxists to support the Palestinians (especially under fatah) or for Ghadaffi (an Arab nationalist) to support the IRA (Irish nationalists).

That’s a whole other ball game from claiming that Saddam Hussein (Arab Nationalist) would be supported by ‘Al Qaeda’ (religious Islamic ‘group’ keen to re-establish the Caliphate (an aim incompatible with ‘nationalism’)).

It’s even further from the claim that there is a single ‘movement’: ‘Islamism’ which sponsors terrorism throughout the world, and which perhaps even has a single ‘leader’ and a single ‘organisation’ etc. etc. etc.

That really IS conspiracy thinking.

11

John Quiggin 03.11.06 at 8:13 pm

“Was the Lincoln assassination a conspiracy? The government thought so …”

If you define a conspiracy as any criminal action involving more than one person, it’s pretty obvious that there are lots of them.

The term “conspiracy theory” usually implies some much larger group whose unseen connections explain seemingly disparate events.

On collaboration between disparate groups, this is common enough, but pretty clearly soru’s list would include Saddam and AQ

12

radek 03.11.06 at 9:16 pm

“often still accept that there was a single, global entity called ‘World Communism’: that its tentacles spread into almost every country in the world, that the US and the UK faced infiltration (or worse) from this entity, that many (perhaps most, perhaps all) ‘terrorist groups’ in the West were at least funded and perhaps ‘run’ by this entity….and so on.”

I don’t know about single ‘World Communism’, at least after the Sino-Soviet split, but inflitration, terrorist group funding was definetly going on. Pretty much every major country in the world HAD been infiltrated by commie agents of one sort or another. Most terrorist groups of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s DID get their finding from one of the commiunist states (unless they were getting their money from the CIA), not to mention many cover organizations with purportedly peacful means in the West.
I’m not so sure if you can call the failure to properly distinguish between Stalinism and Maoism or other farleftyism a ‘conspiracy’.

13

Matt McIrvin 03.11.06 at 11:13 pm

Don’t forget the claims that Timothy McVeigh was working with/for either al Qaeda or Iraq (I think Laurie Mylroie actually suggested the latter, if I’m remembering correctly).

The problem isn’t theories about conspiracies, it’s conspiracist thinking: the tendency to use a conspiracy as your first explanation for everything. When you run into a bunch of actual conspiracies it’s easy to fall into this, but indulged too long it eats your brain.

14

bad Jim 03.12.06 at 2:54 am

I seem to recall that the most notorious conspiracy theory, and arguably the most persuasive, revolved around international Jewish bankers. Needless to say, this theory was introduced and continues to be promulgated by the right.

Political discourse in my youth, during Nixon’s presidency, was persistently paranoid. I dismissed most of the speculation at the time, and was soon proved wrong – they were in fact spying on us, there were agents provocateurs among us, there were even plans for prison camps for protesters.

I still think I was right to be skeptical then, even though I was wrong, but the idea that I’m missing what the paranoids are catching is something I keep in the back of my mind.

15

Anthony 03.12.06 at 3:01 am

The Jewish conspiracy is quite popular on the far left as well these days. They just jsut different nomenclature.

It’s made the same leap as the fluoridation conspiracy.

Given Robert Fisk’s recent comments about climate change and the murder of Iraqi academics, I don’t think you can discount the left’s conspiracy memes as small beer.

16

zdenek 03.12.06 at 3:28 am

Left friendly to conspiracy thinking ? You can not refute the claim that left is accomodating to CT by pointing out that some right wingers also sometime help themselves. This is so because both may have the same problem i.e. nazis are as friendly to irrationality as the radical left is.
Better question is is left so susseptible and why ? Very sketchily answer must be that because left has come to tacitly or explicitly embrace Marxist notion that all thinking is ideological it becomes difficult to distinguish between intellectual bullshit and non bullshit . Consider how left is tolerant of post modernism which is wholesale rejection of reason. So I would say no supprise that left loves CT.

17

Bob B 03.12.06 at 3:51 am

Brendan: “In other words, that the Cold War was essentially a defensive ‘war’ fought by the ‘west’ against its will, and so forth…in other words, that the ‘war’ against ‘Communism’ was essentially the same as the war against Fascism, and that if you supported one, you would have to support the other.”

Hmm! Stalin evidently had no insuperable objections to the Soviet Union contracting a Friendship Treaty with Nazi Germany on 28 September 1939 when Britain and France were already at war. Amongst other issues, the treaty provided for the friendly exchange of military liaison officers between German and Soviet forces across their new mutual border running across what had previously been Polish territory. [Norman Davies: Europe (OUP, 1996) p.1000]

No Communist conspiracy against the west?

Try this and the links therein:

“A left-wing academic, unmasked as a spy in the unfolding Cold War scandal, has denied acting illegally or betraying his country. . . ”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/09/99/britain_betrayed/451366.stm

And this:

“Richard Clements, 71, a former editor of Tribune and one-time political aide to Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock is among the three alleged spies named yesterday. The Mitrokhin archive claims Mr Clements was an agent of influence codenamed Dan and that he published articles using information given to him by the KGB. Mr Clements and others yesterday dismissed the allegations as nonsense, pointing to the many anti-Soviet articles that ran in Tribune under his editorship. . . ”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,271697,00.html

As for the new front against Islamism, in what seems to be a distinct switch of editorial line, the Sunday Telegraph in Britain is now taking a clear and strong anti-American stance on Britain’s continuing engagement as part of the “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq because of the increasingly unacceptable/unlawfall behaviour of the American military there.

“An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the ‘illegal’ tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/12/nsas12.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/03/12/ixportaltop.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/12/nsas112.xml
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/03/12/do1201.xml

The last of the above links is to an opinion piece by Sir Max Hastings, who is widely known in Britain as a previous editor of the Daily Telegraph and then the London Evening Standard as well as the highly regarded author of numerous, well-received books on military history.

18

zdenek 03.12.06 at 3:58 am

why is conspiracy theorising dumb ? of course there are conspiracies and sometime we uncover them but that is not at issue . What is wrong with it is that it is in the nature of this type of explanation ( when you invoke it to explain why US is in Iraq say ) that it cannot be tested ; essentially clandestine , behind the scenes mechanisms and plottings are at play . But this cannot be established to be true or false ( if you try to investigate such a claim and refute it the come back is always “ja those guys are good at covering their tracks and so on ) it remains always untestable speculation.
Of course for those on the left who dont need to do any investigating because they already know the truth this is not an objection . For them as the master said the point is not to understand the world but to change it.If you think like this conspiracy claims are useful tools in the ideological war with the class enemy.

19

bad Jim 03.12.06 at 4:36 am

I can’t actually set my car into motion without a conspiracy between at least my right hand and both my feet.

There are more than an eighth of a million American soldiers on Iraqi soil, and they are there as the result of an entirely preposterous right wing conspiracy theory, once loudly and enthusiastically enjoyed and endorsed by America’s mainstream media.

But, apart from that and the holocaust, yeah, it’s generally lefty looniness.

20

J Thomas 03.12.06 at 6:10 am

So I would say no supprise that left loves CT.

Conspiracy Theory.
Crooked Timber.

Coincidence? I think not.

21

J Thomas 03.12.06 at 6:34 am

Anyway, people who hold fringe views are more likely to believe that the mass of people are being lied to, than the mass of people are.

If the mass of people believe they’re being systematically lied to, they tend to get upset about it and do something about it. But if a fringe group believes it’s lies they tend to tell people about it and get labeled conspiracy theorists.

How often do governments mislead the public? Pretty much all the time. The real story is almost always much more complex than the public wants to know about, and so anybody who wants the public’s attention has to boil the story down into something simple that people are ready to think they understand easily. And usually it’s easier to build on the enemy’s story than to try to refute it. People will tend to believe stories that make sense regardless of refutations.

So there are lots of attempts to delude the public, and people who look a little deeper will find evidence of that. But that doesn’t get us very far.

Conspiracy theories provide clear, simple explanations that are different from the clear simple explanations the public is normally fed. They can be correct for two reasons. Sometimes it can be a conspiracy that simply was not well hidden in the first place. So for example, people who believe in a neocon conspiracy can point to published neocon documents that outline the conspiracy. Then the remaining question is whether the conspiracy has been successful. Just because they said it themselves doesn’t prove they were able to do any of it, their apparent successes could have been coincidence. Is there really a neocon conspiracy or is it just a bunch of guys pretending?

The second reason conspiracy theorists can be successful is that they can predict — from first principles — something that happens to be true. No matter how well conspirators cover their tracks, a conspiracy that fundamentally makes sense may be predicted by a theorist who’s thinking along the same lines. However, the theorist is likely to believe that his theoretical conspiracy is done by people who are fundamentally competent, while real conspirators will make the occasional stupid mistake. It must be unnerving to be a real conspirator and watch conspiracy theorists tell your story so much better than it really is…. And of course for every correct conspiracy theory there will be a number that don’t match up to any reality.

Conspiracy theories are a peculiar solace to people who are powerless. They can believe in a simple story, a story that attributes their lack of power to a competent evil conspiracy. This is more comforting than to believe that people turn away from the truth because it isn’t fashionable, or because they think you’re kooky.

22

Brendan 03.12.06 at 6:49 am

Paranoid thinking has its roots deep in the American political process incidentally, and probably has its roots in the first Puritan settlers who saw their pure and Godly attempts to create a ‘shining city on the hill’ perpetually sabotaged by Catholics and atheists and Jews and savage American indians.

‘In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers’ conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens’ Councils and Black Muslims.’

What is blatantly obvious to an outsider is that this is an American thing. British (for example) Tories simply do not have the same foam flecked, ‘they’re all out to get us’, bomb them and let god sort them out mentality, and never have.

Hence the name of the book: The Paranoid Style in American Politics. (http://karws.gso.uri.edu/JFK/conspiracy_theory/the_paranoid_mentality/The_paranoid_style.html)

Incidentally, I deeply and fundamentally disagree with those who argue that there is ‘really’ or ‘to all intents and purposes’ etc. etc. etc. an entity called ‘World Communism’ (I should note that there were fall back positions. So after the evidence of the Sino-Soviet split, it became impossible for even the extreme right to claim that ‘they’re all in it together’. So it was claimed that the Soviet Union was behind all the bad in the world (the ‘evil empire’) and that, therefore anyone who opposed THEM was our friend. Hence Nixon’s wonderful shenanigans with Mao (later made into a bad opera) and our vigorous support of the Khmer Rouge, and Ceausescu, all of whom passed the criterion of being ‘anti-soviet’).

Anyway: to return. I think many people, even on the Right (and the Left) are still in denial about what a lot of these ‘Communist’ parties were about especially in the Third World. What I would argue is that many of these parties (especially the Cubans and the Vietnamese) are best seen, not as Communist parties at all, but as nationalist parties fighting what they saw as foreign interference or ‘imperialism’ and using Communist/socialist rhetoric which which to argue their case.

For example, why is Castro still so popular (comparatively)? Because he has delivered a socialist paradise? Hardly. No he’s still popular because he kicked out the yanks and, so far has kept them out. Everyone in South and Central American knows this, and hardly anyone in ‘the anglosphere’ understands it. Looking at ‘Communism’ as an entity predisposes you to look at things in terms of East vs West, whereas looking at things in terms of North vs South would probably make things a lot clearer.

Finally:

‘it’s generally lefty looniness.’

Oh really? Sad old SF fans like myself might have a copy of Harlan Ellison’s The Glass Teat kicking around, in the superb Savoy edition. It contains a review of a programme about ‘the common man’: ordinary working class/middle class joes shown in ’69. According to Ellison (and it sounds plausible) these views were common currency on the Nixon supporting Right.

‘They were, to a man, paranoid. There were conspiracies everywhere. The Black Militant Conspiracy. The White Liberal Conspiracy. The Communist Conspiracy. The Bureacratic Conspiracy. The Conspiracy of the Judiciary. All their troubles stemmed from poor people on welfare rolls and the ‘bleading heart liberals’ who stole from them.’

As one of the ‘common men’ put it: ‘If they (i.e. the army) are against Communism they can’t be wrong. J.Edgar Hoover says it’s a conspiracy, therefore it’s evil. It must be stamped on…even if we have to take out Russia’.

or as another interviewee Paul Corbett (what else? a travelling salesman puts it) ‘Black people just can’t cut it. They don’t have the intellectual ability. Now I know how the Liberal Mafia discredits people who speak like that…they call him a racist. But …I don’t even know what a racist is….’

Far from being extraordinary, these men would have felt quite at home in the discussions about the Bavarian Illuminati, the Masons, or the Jesuits which animated American politics in the 19th century.

23

soru 03.12.06 at 6:52 am

On collaboration between disparate groups, this is common enough, but pretty clearly soru’s list would include Saddam and AQ

True enough, if by AQ you mean solely bin Laden’s group.

As brendan pointed out, there is no vast islamist conspiracy, which means no central veto on working with the ba’thists. So it does seem pretty likely saddam had other arrangements with different groups of domestic and international islamists.

Certainly Patrick Cockburn thinks so:
http://www.newleftreview.net/Issue36.asp?Article=02
There must be an element of truth in this, because otherwise effective fighting couldn’t have taken off so rapidly. A vestigial organization that would have been set up by Saddam before his fall must have been responsible for the distribution of money, arms and indication of early targets.
The essence of conspiracy theory is not in thinking that conspiracies exist, but that they are highly significant or dominant in world affairs. Not just some that some organised group was perhaps involved in the decision to invade iraq, or probably planted some of the first bombs in the insurgency, but that there would have be no invasion, or no insurgency, without such conspiracies.

24

Brendan 03.12.06 at 7:18 am

‘So it does seem pretty likely saddam had other arrangements with different groups of domestic and international islamists.’

Actually it’s not just Cockburn. Juan Cole and others believes this. If you think about it, any head of state would make plans for what would happen after an invasion. Eg the Nazis with the ‘werewolves’, the French Resistance etc.

But like the ‘werewolves’ any Ba’athist resistance would have crumbled pretty quickly if it did not adapt and take on NEW fighters who were NOT terribly excited by the return of Saddam or the Ba’athists, but who instead wanted to fight the invaders and just joined the first organisation they found.

Needless to say, this hardly proves that any resistance movement set up by the Ba’athists therefore necessarily had any links with Osama Bin Liner.

25

Don Quijote 03.12.06 at 9:02 am

Anyway, people who hold fringe views are more likely to believe that the mass of people are being lied to, than the mass of people are.

Our leaders would never lie to us or use propaganda to get us to support a war.

26

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 11:29 am

ETA have no links with Al-Qaeda (or ‘Al-Qaeda’): never have, never will have.

Utter bullshit. Common-enemy alliances with nothing much else in common are routine (e.g. WWII Japan and Germany).

If you define a conspiracy as any criminal action involving more than one person, it’s pretty obvious that there are lots of them.

John, that IS the definition of conspiracy. The phrase “conspiracy-theory” is used to smear people who allege a conspiracy by accusing them of insanity. There’s nothing insane about alleging a conspiracy. You have to go case-by-case and judge by the evidence.

Conspiracy theories are hard either to disprove or to prove. Supposedly the default should be disbelief in the conspiracy-theory and trust in the received opinion, but I don’t see why. I think that it should be even-handed skepticism, in full awareness that there are a lot of brutal, ill-intended liars in positions of power out there.

This doesn’t forbid you to conclude that some conspiracy theories are bullshit, but the generalized case is a big lie.

We should all be aware that we don’t really know what’s really happening and that some of the things we don’t know might be terrible. Pretty uncomfortable, isn’t it? But that’s our state of being. Anti-conspiracy theorists rush to comfort, but they’re fooling themselves.

27

Brendan 03.12.06 at 12:10 pm

‘Utter bullshit.’

OK I stand corrected, but in the interests of law and order, could you please bring your insider knowledge to the attention of the Spanish police, who lack the resources you obviously have available to make these seismic discoveries?

28

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 12:17 pm

Brendan: I have no inside knowledge of the facts of the case. It was your argument that was bullshit.

As I understand, though, some terrorists end up hiring themselves out as non-ideological destruction techs. I believe that both IRA members and ETA members have done this, and quite possibly al-Qaeda dropouts might endi up doing that too.

29

abb1 03.12.06 at 12:40 pm

A good kooky conspiracy theory has one well-defined very specific villain: bankers, islamists, terrorists, neocons, commies…

Everything quickly becomes black and white in respect to this particular super-villain; everything else is irrelevant. Either you’re a good guy or you’re objectively pro-Vatican.

That’s how paranoia manifests itself…

30

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 12:57 pm

The grander conspiracy theories claiming the coordination of many different actions by many different agents over periods of decades or centuries deserve suspicion. Even so, the Comintern and Cominform really did exist once, and the CIA and similiar American groups still do.

I would suggest that the default theory of political assassinations should be some kind of conspiracy. Sometimes it’s easy enough to show that the default should not be followed. I don’t think that the Kennedy assassination was one of those cases.

31

Brendan 03.12.06 at 1:31 pm

‘ETA have no links with Al-Qaeda.’

‘Utter bullshit’.

Give us facts or shut up, Inspector Clouseau.

And now I see that as well as solving the Madrid bombing mystery you have also managed to solve the Kennedy assassination mystery. When do you get time to sleep?

32

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 1:51 pm

So, to a sane rational person there would seem to be nothing in common between those fighting for Basque independence and those fighting to restore the Caliphate. And that’s because there is nothing in common between these two groups. ETA have no links with Al-Qaeda (or ‘Al-Qaeda’): never have, never will have.

You’re an idiot and can’t read, Brendan.

What’s bullshit is the logic of your argument above. It doesn’t follow — the “because” is bullshit. I don’t claim to have solved the case; I don’t know one way or another.

What I said about the Kennedy assasination is that there’s not enough evidence in the Oswald case to justify switching from the default conclusion, which is a conspiracy. In the case of Hinckley, for example, I think that there is. I haven’t solved that case either.

My main point has been that we often find ourselves in doubt about deeply unnerving questions of this type, and rather than calling people who say the wrong thing about them insane and irrational, as you do, we should just learn to live with our very real fears.

Your little “Inspector Clouseau” jibe should make it clear to most people that you are a lightweight dogmatist who’s not ready for the big time. Back to school, Junior.

33

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 1:58 pm

“I haven’t solved that case either.”

I haven’t solved the Kennedy assassination. I am satisfied that the Hinckley-Reagan case has been solved.

34

Brendan 03.12.06 at 1:59 pm

You are a Kennedy conspiracist, consequently a moron, consequently a troll. I am going back to school where I will meet and teach many little boys like you. It’s rude to call your teacher ‘Junior’ by the way.

Pleeeeease don’t reply to this post, or any other, troll.

35

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 2:07 pm

Brendan, if you want to play in the big time you’ll have to learn to respond more effectively when you’re being baited.

The effective use of facts and logic is another. The “consequently” in your most recent contribution doesn’t follow either.

36

Brendan 03.12.06 at 2:09 pm

‘The effective use of facts and logic is another. ‘

Another what?

37

John Emerson 03.12.06 at 2:23 pm

Another thing that you’ll have to learn, Brendan.

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Bob B 03.12.06 at 2:41 pm

abb1: “A good kooky conspiracy theory has one well-defined very specific villain: bankers, islamists, terrorists, neocons, commies…”

A banker perhaps but no Commies, Islamicists or Neocons in this one and the banker wasn’t the villain, at least not the main one:

“Detectives in London have officially concluded that Italian banker Roberto Calvi was murdered in the city in 1982. Known as ‘God’s banker’ because of ties to the Vatican, Mr Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge but the death was first treated as suicide. Four people were charged with murder by the Italian authorities last month. . . ”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4566709.stm

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radek 03.12.06 at 8:49 pm

“A good kooky conspiracy theory has one well-defined very specific villain: bankers, islamists, terrorists, neocons, commies…”

No, no, no. A good conspiracy theory knows that they’re all in it together. The Vatican, the masons, the Jews, the John Birchers, and the phone company. A good conspiracy theory will explain to you the subtle connections that you have missed. It can explain such disparate phenomenon as the Kennedy Assasination, why the Pope is Catholic and the mysterious explosion over lake Baikal in 1908.

I mean, only one villain? And you call that paranoia?

40

abb1 03.13.06 at 3:10 am

You’re right, I stand corrected. They’re all masons and their granfather’s last name is Goldstein.

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Bob B 03.13.06 at 3:50 am

abb1 – Are you absolutely sure you have the correct name there? Could there have been a typo? I asked because of this item in today’s headline news in Britain:

“Britain’s top policeman is being urged to explain why he secretly taped a phone call with the attorney general. Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair [no relation to Tony Blair] recorded the conversation with Lord Goldsmith last September without him knowing, it has emerged. . . ”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4800172.stm

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abb1 03.13.06 at 5:09 am

…conversely, they are all anti-semites and their grandmother’s last name was Murphy.

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ajay 03.13.06 at 6:26 am

An international Irish conspiracy? I dunno… I think you’re going to have trouble pitching that one, even to the lunatic fringe.

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Zephania 03.13.06 at 11:40 am

The best conspiracy theories are the ones that sound like utter crap until evidence appears that proves that they were correct all along.

Eg … The CIA were using drug money to sponsor a war and effect regime change. Utter crap ’til … Ollie North. (There were people before him who spilled the beans – McCoy from Madison – but everyone put their heads in the sand).

Gary Webb’s stuff …

Michael Meiring …

How about in Canada … conspiracy theory: the CIA were conducting mind experiments on children (something like 50,000 children abused). Fact, the 3,000 or so, survivors have been offered pitiful compensation after fighting through the courts.

The interesting part is that absurdities are believed in preference to conspiracy theories, eg, arabs in caves bringing the US to its knees. Yeah, right.

Fascinating, yeah?

In ten years Homer Simpson will say, “al CIA Duh!” rather than ‘duh’.

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bellatrys 03.13.06 at 1:24 pm

a recent technothriller I read called it “conservation of paranoia” – the inclination to bundle up perceived threats into conspiracies.

it isn’t helped when you have, eg, Laurie Myrlroie convincing and being trotted out as proof that the conservatives weren’t really wrong to assume that Oklahoma City was by Arab Terrorists, because Saddam Hussein was really behind McVeigh – something I heard and thought was kind of daft from a conservatarian relative of mine years before I knew where he got it from

But then, when you start finding out that the same few score people, conservative bigwigs, all worked with each other and for the same thinktanks, that some of them are related by blood or marriage, going back generations, and that the money flow comes from the same handful of tycoons, some of whom are related going back to the Gilded Age when communism was “the spectre haunting Europe” – when all this is there not in whispers in dim bars but on their own organizational mastheads and IRS returns – you start wondering if there might not be something to it all…

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Randy Paul 03.13.06 at 10:50 pm

Why would ETA want to influence the spanish election to get the PSOE elected? The PSOE set up a death squad in the 1980’s that ventured into the Basque country in France to kill ETA members.

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Zephania 03.14.06 at 3:16 am

Throughout the 1980s the Afghan mujahideen were America’s surrogate soldiers in the brutal guerrilla war

Does anyone know when the funding was stopped? (I’d guess it wasn’t). Does this mean that the mujahideen are another branch of the CIA?

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Brendan 03.14.06 at 4:44 am

‘Does anyone know when the funding was stopped? (I’d guess it wasn’t). Does this mean that the mujahideen are another branch of the CIA?’

The details are insanely complex, but a good book about this is ‘Ghost Wars’ by Steve Coll (http://www.desijournal.com/book.asp?articleid=130)

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