Magic Bullshit Theory
Maybe you believed nobody else would care
But once you've added every little lie together
You finally find the truth was always waiting there
- Steve Earle, "Conspiracy Theory"
High officials and their media proxies have been playing the "conspiracy theory" card for as long as there have been, in the popular sense of the word, conspiracies. Any doubt, see the CIA's instructions to media assets re: deflecting criticism of the Warren Report, discovered in 1977, ten years after it was distributed to all CIA station chiefs and marked with the instructions "DESTROY WHEN NO LONGER NEEDED."
Anything which deviates from the official story - any official story - as handed down by the White House is fair game to be slagged off as "conspiracy theory." Dispute the Received Version of Events, and this is how you get slapped down, and told in no uncertain terms that your line of inquiry is out of order, and you are possibly psychologically disturbed for pursuing it.
Kristina Borjesson became a former producer for CBS News by investigating beyond the official cause of the crash of TWA 800. Because, despite the
- more than 100 eyewitnesses who saw a streak of light ascending from the ocean surface impact the aircraft;
- FAA tracking of a missile-like radar return, and detection of a high-speed (Mach 2) ejection from the aircraft after the initiating event;
- localized re-crystallization of metal consistent with a missile impact, which could not be explained by the official breakup sequence;
- FBI admission of traces of explosives PETN and RDX on cabin seats;
- seat foam containing missile residue;
- report of French intelligence that the plane was downed by a missile;
- cover-up of a US Naval missile exercise off the coast of Long Island;
- radar track of an unidentified surface vessel speeding from the scene the moment debris began to fall, rather than assist with search and rescue
and more, Borjesson had become a "conspiracy theorist" for challenging the finding of a compromised investigation. For her efforts, she found her phone tapped and her car broken into, with only documents pertaining to the crash stolen. Events she would have had a hard time believing, had she herself not walked "into the buzzsaw":
The buzzsaw is a powerful system of censorship in this country that is revealed to those reporting on extremely sensitive stories, usually having to do with high-level government and/or corporate malfeasace. It often has a fatal effect on one's career.
Borjesson goes on to write that "anyone who doesn't buy the government's unproven theory...is a 'conspiracy theorist'":
Tacitly attached to the term "conspiracy theorist" are all kinds of other nouns and adjectives like "goofball," "nutcake," "bottomfeeder," "crazy," and so on. Using insulting and false labels to marginalize dissenting or politically incorrect voices is a ploy that government and corporations as well as the press use on a daily basis.
Witness the character assassination of Howard Dean. His well-founded charge that the White House was playing politics with terror alerts earned him the smear of "bizarre conspiracy theorist" from Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. (When someone is called a "conspiracy theorist" in today's America, "bizarre" is usually assumed.)
Observe how Scott McClellan spanks the White House press corp for challenging the lies respecting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure:
QUESTION: Thank you. Can you describe what the United States knows about the conditions under which President Aristide left Haiti? Do we know, did he leave of his own? Was he forcibly --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's nonsense. I would just say -- I've seen some of the reports. Conspiracy theories do nothing to help the Haitian people move forward....
QUESTION: Congresswoman Maxine Waters told us that she had spoken directly with Aristide, who claims over and over again saying he was kidnapped, that the coup was completed by the Americans, they forced him out, they disabled his American security force; basically saying that he did not resign, he was forced out, America completed the coup.
MCCLELLAN: I think I just answered a question to that effect. As I said, it's nonsense, and conspiracy theories like that do nothing to help the Haitian people realize the future that they aspire to....
Here, McClellan is being pressed by Helen Thomas on the embarrassment of Bush's National Guard record, or rather, the lack thereof:
MCCLELLAN: ... And it was -- it's interesting to see the conspiracy theories that are out there, because there are certain privacy issues always involved when the National Guard or any government agency releases information.... I'm just amazed by the kinds of conspiracy theories that some have chosen to pursue. The facts are very clear. But there are some that are simply not interested in the facts. And the American people deserve better.
QUESTION: -- the personal record of a President is --
MCCLELLAN: No, hang on, Helen, hang on. I've said from this podium, if we have new information that comes to our attention that relates to this issue, we have made it clear we will share that information. You're asking me to go and chase rumors. There was a conspiracy theory....
Tucker Carlson is a master at beating this deafening drum. A selection from his Mockingbird-like work on CNN:
Why is Halliburton so darn bad? Well, that's a long story - a conspiracy theory, really - too complicated to explain here. Or, for that matter, anywhere.
It is the ugliest possible conspiracy theory and it's a destructive one, too. If you don't like Ashcroft's policy, attack them, critique them. But don't accuse him or any other American of knowing about 9/11 in advance. It's just too much.
So much is happening: Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest press conference, a court ruling on whether the recall will go forward, not to mention Gray Davis' latest conspiracy theory.
FRANKEN: And remember, they warned in February of 2001 that a catastrophic terrorist attack was coming? And remember what the president did? Nothing. He appointed...
CARLSON: That's part of your conspiracy theory, Al. But the fact is...
FRANKEN: No, no, no, that's not a conspiracy theory. That's a fact.
CARLSON: Well, it sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory.
Just as telling is what is not called a conspiracy theory. For instance, the Rovian smears by the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," who suggest John Kerry and others have lied for 34 years about his war record and is undeserving of his decorations, are rather "allegations", and supposedly worthy of our attention.
Conspirators don't lose sleep over conspiracy theories. It's the conspiracy facts that could get them in trouble. But that's unlikely, so long as "conspiracy" in American culture remains an entertainment genre. To move from the relative innocence of X-Files-like amusement to the hard experience of knowing one's government is a treasonous cabal requires a paradigm shift with a steep learning curve, awful implications and the promise of prompt marginalization. A Paranoid Shift, in Michael Hasty's words.
Who needs a magic bullet anymore, or three or four, when the magic bullshit does the trick just fine?