The "Consolation" of Conspiracy
Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard.
Some of us are prisoners, the rest of us are guards. - Bob Dylan
"The dust hadn’t even settled after the terrorist atrocities in London and already the conspiracy theories...had begun," writes Cinnamon Stillwell in "The London Conspiracy Theories: Here We Go Again." Nevermind that settled dust also covers tracks, as unpolished first reports get squeegee'd from the record. And disregard the fact that every reconstruction of the events must posit a conspiracy of some sort, and that they are not even theories, but hypotheses.
Nevermind all that, as here they go again, baiting the genuine skeptics in the Aeon of Bizarro.
Most irksome are Stillwell's patronizing conclusions:
It never ceases to amaze me how many well-educated, otherwise rational people insist on pushing these fantasies. Unable to cope with the nihilistic and horrifying threat of Islamic terrorism, they instead turn to familiar demons.... How long these people can continue their delusions is unknown, but something tells me that a great number of them will simply have to be written off as functionally insane while the rest of us attend to the business of fighting Islamic terrorism.
In some ways I understand this need to find more comforting answers. There’s been many a day since 9/11 that I’ve wished this threat wasn’t real. But it is. At some point, all of us will have to shake off the conspiracy theories and face that truth.
I don't mind so much being dismissed as mad, so long as I'm not locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the politically insane. Though since that day came for Soviet dissidents, and the Western calender is running just a little behind, we shouldn't be surprised if our questions will eventually be addressed with a pharmacological magic bullet. Rather, what I find most disagreeable about this popular refutation of "conspiracy theory" is that such thinking is somehow comforting.
Tell me what I say is crazy, without bothering to hear what I'm saying. I'm fine with that. Hell, I listen to what I'm saying and sometimes I wonder myself. As a fellow "conspiracy theorist" recently told me, "I feel like the guy in A Beautiful Mind, minus the genius part." Adding things up which are not to be added can do that to you. It's a crazy-making world out there, once you start paying attention to it. Just don't presume to tell me how I feel about it.
And I won't presume to tell you, so you tell me: how did you feel when the floor first fell away from beneath you? When the comforting assumptions of consensus reality folded up upon themselves, and you saw the lone gunmen as cardbard figures, and you glimpsed the grinning skulls beneath the smooth skin of the killers, what did that do to your insides? When you felt the vertiginous drop, did you throw up your hands and let out a "Wheeeeee!"?
(Perhaps there are some who do. Perhaps that's what sets apart the conspiracy buffs from the rest of us. They get a rush from the horror, but it's as real and as threatening as an amusement ride. They've internalized nothing. It means nothing. And that's paranoid style.)
"Comforting answers"? I felt physically ill when I added up what I'd learned about 9/11 and I saw what I got. I didn't want it to be true, and I still don't. I want none of it to be true. If only Oswald had acted alone. But he didn't. So like it or not, here I am.
And it was only at the public execution of John F Kennedy - that is, with the eruption of conspiracy fact into public consciousness - that conspiracy theory became a disreputable subject. Until then, such talk could be heard from, and even encouraged by, some of America's most senior officials. "The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists," wrote J. Edgar Hoover. As I read Eisenhower's better-late-than-never warning about the military-industrial complex, and how Americans must remain "alert and knowledgeable" and "should take nothing for granted" in order to guard against its "acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought," I can hear Scott McClelland's rote rebuttal: "That's a conspiracy theory, Dwight, and I won't dignify that with a response. Next question - Jeff Gannon, Talon News."
There's an account by Fred J Cook, an early critic of the Warren Report, of coming up against the Left Gatekeepers at The Nation, in Martin Schotz's History Will Not Absolve Us. In 1964, Cook submitted a seven-page memorandum "tearing at the guts of the report" to Editor Carey McWilliam. He knew their editorial policy was endorsement of the findings, but he "felt that The Nation was the only magazine with sufficent independence and nerve to print the kind of article I wanted to write." After three weeks of silence, McWilliam rejected it, telling him that he could find no flaw in his reasoning, but that The Nation didn't want to criticize the Report.
A year and a half later, as criticism of the Report became more acceptable and more vocal, McWilliam relented, and published it with a disclaimer that it was only Cook's opinion, then immediately followed it up with a ridiculing piece by a university professor lambasting "conspiracy theory." The author was, in fact, a MOCKINGBIRD asset of the CIA, and later admitted in a fit of conscience to Cook's friend and fellow researcher Vince Salandria that yes, they were right, but that "The truth is too terrible. The American people would never be able to stand it."
Who's comforting who?
In a village you know to be a prison, you should question the motives of your consoling minders.
By the way, two signs for the discomforted, who may be gauging the storm signals:
I've received an email with an unconfirmed report, though from a reputedly good source, that "last week the government bought up all of the available iodine [ie, potassium iodide] in stock for treating radioactive poisoning."
And, according to the latest issue of The American Conservative:
The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.
Be seeing you.