"Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: 'Do you actually think there's a group of people sitting around in a room, plotting things?' For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together - on park benches or carousels?"-
Michael Parenti in 'The Dirty Truths', p. 174
Michael Parenti in his penetrating monograph, achieved a brilliant high point in identifying a Zeitgeist that runs rife through the American mainstream media: 'Conspiracy Phobia'. I was reminded of this only last night, while viewing 'Hardball' with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. The actual topic was whether Jimmy Carter was correct in attributing racism to the recent extreme behavior manifested by the Right - from depicting Obama as a witch doctor in association with his health care reform, to rendering him as a black version of Hitler. And yes, to Joe Wilson's infamous blurtation of 'You lied' during Obama's address to both Houses of Congress.
Then suddenly, the Hardball host turned to his guest, Gerald Posner (of 'Case Closed' fame..or infamy) and asked whether the same sort of dynamic might have helped turn Lee Harvey Oswald into a pro-Soviet assassin of JFK in 1963. Of course, this was a duncie's shuck and jive pat answer question ...since Chris had to know how Posner (of The Daily Beast) would respond.
But in truth and fact, the facts don't line up that way - all available evidence shows Oswald had nada to do with the hit, but was exactly what he insisted he was at the Dallas Police Dept., a "patsy". Readers might wish to check out James Douglass' new book, JFK and the Unspeakable- Why He Died and Why It Matters, and they may also like to check out my next blog entry which will deal with Posner's specific 'Case Closed' claims and others.
For now, I am interested in the more general generic gestalt and issue of why more people, especially in the assumed cognoscenti, insist that conspiracies such as the JFK one are only accepted by tin foil hat wearers or those a short deck from the loonybin.
Parenti doesn't touch on this, only averring (ibid.) that they almost always get it wrong, because - as in the JFK case- they err in "conflating the low political value of the victim with the high political value of the assassination." (Thus deflating the widely held perception amongst media mavens that people so worshipped JFK and "Camelot" it was unfathomable he could be offed by a lone loser....WRONG!!)
The high political value of the actual hit, of course, is emphasized and expanded upon in Douglass' book - for more than five chapters and 200 pp. so I will not reinvent the wheel here. Suffice it to say, JFK stood in the way of powerful forces arrayed against him, from his determination to pull out all personnel from Vietnam by 1965 (dictated in his National Security Action Memorandum 263), to his refusal to bomb or invade Cuba as the Joint Chiefs implored him to do at the height of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, to his late 1963 rapprochement with Cuba and secret meetings with Castro's aid-de-camp, Rene Vallejo. Any one of these would have put him in the sights of the national security state - all in concert rendered him the proverbial 'goner'. It merely remained to find the right patsy to deflect attention from the actual architects. And keep people chasing the wrong information and leads for over 40 years.
A person who does touch on the aforementioned dynamic (though not specifically to do with conspiracies) is Curtis White in his landmark book, The Middle Mind. White's contention, well supported in his book, is that an entire corporate-directed PR structure exists to manage the public mind. To ensure its collective thoughts don't veer too far off the beaten path, or into realms that seriously question or challenge the powers-that -be. As he puts it (p.12):
"We have the lovely pretense of serious inquiry: no one gets hurt and no one has to worry that something undesirable might come of it. Like a demand for real thought. We are free to say anything we like so long as what we say does not suggest...that the ruling order has no right to rule"
Of course, now follow me here, IF one were to assert JFK was felled as part of a coup d'etat, so a national security state ruling power took over, and has remained entrenched, then this would come close to saying the same thing. Rather than most media and especially corporate big boys, CEOs to go that route, it is far easier and simpler to play the 'lone nut did it' fantasy (which one Mensa Bulletin article said was as likely as a human virgin birth) so "no one gets hurt and nothing undesirable will come of it". Say like a REAL investigation, as opposed to the Warren Whitewash, in which most witnesses never even saw (far less delivered testimony to) 3 of the 7 Commissioners, and 200 material witnesses were never called at all.
But let us break from the mold of the "Middle Mind" and scrutinize some myths that have been widely circulated by the corporate media Middle-Mind managers over the past 40 years or so. I will take each in turn:
1-The simplest explanation for something is almost always the correct one.
Which, of course, assumes that the non-conspiracy model will always be correct because it is 'simpler'. This is almost invariably true in the realm of natural sciences- such as physics. But it is dubious that this can be applied to the realm of human affairs. For one thing, humans are enmeshed in complexes of emotions and ideological agendas that can't be quantified like Newton's laws of motion, or simplistically reduced to one cause-one effect relationships. In addition, humans - unlike natural laws, are capable of deceit and misdirection. So, from many points of view, it would be foolhardy to reduce the realm of human behavior - including conspiracy - to the model applicable to simple natural laws. It would require something basically approaching a general denial that humans would or could ever act with duplicity. Which is nonsense.
This sort of bias seems to exclude anything not describable by a serial cause and effect model. The problem is that most conspiracies hitherto exposed (e.g. BCCI, COINTELPRO, Iran-Contra) have invariably been molded from what we call a 'disjunctive plurality of causes'. Constructed more as a kind of parallel architecture - or unfolding of parallel and simultaneous operations, than simple one to one cause-effects. So if one is naive enough to assume the latter model, he certainly will be ill-equipped to deal with an actual conspiracy at any level.
2) The government can't even keep a secret for two weeks, how can it keep something like the JFK assassination secret for over 35 years.
This one's been around for quite some time. It sounds very plausible on the surface, but that is only because its recipients may not have the historical facts at hand to solidly refute it. Such as these notable exceptions:
-'Project Stargate' - the DIA and CIA- sponsored program to 'exploit the paranormal' in psy warfare (London Electronic Telegraph, Issue 521,Saturday October 26, 1996) was concealed at least that long.
-MK Ultra which used LSD in secret experiments on military personnel, kept hidden for overt two decades.
-The massacre of South Korean civilians at NO Gun Ri by U.S. soldiers at the start of the Korean War, kept hidden for fifty years.
- The ZR-Rifle Assassination program, kept concealed over twenty-five years.
- The CIA's Report on its own dereliction in the Bay of Pigs, kept concealed over 35 years.
All of these in concert show how anti-conspiracy canards can and do acquire a life and validity of their own simply through repetition. But they're not any more credible from having been repeated - in the media or other venues - umpteen times!
The fact is the government is quite capable of keeping key operations and programs hidden, and the conspiracies associated with them. Indeed, 'black operations' ('black ops') are totally dedicated to that premise! In the JFK case, it is even more possible- given that no formal documents or papers were probably ever signed off(by the architects) on the hit. Plausible Denial to the googlepoint power. Though as serious researchers have noted, one can examine exactly who profited in its wake ('Cui bono?').
Despite that - we have actual photographic footage (as well as acoustic records) that discloses the physics of this event. To be sure, physics trumps political expediency every time. And - as the House Select Committee on Assassinations found in its 1979 conclusion " there was a conspiracy with 96% probability." This is now - or should be - the officially adopted position of the government. So its refusal to evolve from the now discredited Warren Report leads one to think that it may have been actually complicit in JFK's killing. That would be one prime reason not to sign on to the HSCA conclusion.
3) Conspiracy-theorists claim that the lack of evidence for the conspiracy is proof of the conspiracy itself--a beautiful example of circular logic.
In fact, advocates of conspiracy explanations do no such thing, so this argument is in effect a 'straw man'. The fact is (for the most researched conspiracies, such as JFK, MLK, BCCI, Iran-Contra etc.) we have reams of evidence, lots of it. The question is whether people are prepared to accept this evidence, without political or media benediction. (I.e. waiting for the media or high profile political figures to confer their approval).
In the JFK case, for example, we have abundant physics evidence such as the recent peer-reviewed paper by D.B. Thomas appearing in the British journal 'Science and Justice' confirming the HSCA's acoustic tests were valid, and their conclusion of a "96% probably conspiracy" stands. This is even apart from the unambiguous data that can be gleaned from frame by frame analysis of the Nix and Zapruder films. Showing the kill shot's momentum was totally opposite what would have been expected from the Texas Book Depository. So two shooters were required, the minimalist definition of a conspiracy.
In the BCCI conspiracy reams of evidence were culled from that criminal bank's operations in 73 countries and exposed. But whether anyone could comprehend all aspects of its workings - which were deliberately rendered complex- is another matter. But this goes back to what was noted earlier about human architects not necessarily obeying the simple laws of nature in fabricating their schemes and plans. Indeed, it is clear that misdirection would have to be a fundamental part of any successful conspiracy.
In the Watergate conspiracy, Nixon and his cronies virtually handed the evidence to investigating committees and prosecutors on a 'silver platter' - since they had taped everything! Every word and every plan or scheme, from targeting McGovern supporters using the IRS to illegal wiretaps of those on the 'enemies' list' to breaking and entering into Daniel Ellsberg's place.
Each of these in turn totally confutes the pseudo argument that conspiracies are predicated on claiming a 'lack of evidence' leading to a 'circular argument'. Which brings us to the role of the media in perpetuating an anti-conspiracy mindset, certainly amongst the power-elites and those professionals (lawyers, doctors, politicians, professors etc.)who tend to be included in the so called 'Overclass'.
Almost from the time of The Warren Report on the JFK assassination, the media have been complicit in impugning any and all notions of conspiracy. As if the U.S. is somehow special or untouched by the Machiavellian mindset that produces assassinations, plans, and hidden schemes in other parts of the world. But our history tells a decidedly different story. From COINTELPRO, to Watergate, to BCCI and Iran-Contra we now know that conspiracies are not only real - as real as this computer keyboard I'm using - they are one of the primary ways to get things done.
By the same token, the planned concealment of conspiracy, or the act of pooh-poohing its proponents, has the beneficial effect of protecting key elements or people. People who, if these things were disclosed, might refuse to be a willing source of political news for the media. At the other extreme, as I will show, it is quite plausible that media generating anti-conspiracy themes and columns are doing so because they have themselves been infiltrated (as was pointed out by Kathryn Olmstead in her exhaustive investigative work 'Challenging the Secret Government', University of North Carolina Press, 1996). As she points out (p. 21.):
"According to the Church committee's final report, approximately fifty U.S. Journalists had covert relationships with the CIA, about half of which involved money. Watergate investigative reporter Carl Bernstein charged that the total number of U.S. journalists who worked for the CIA was actually much higher."
Recall that the Church Committee, set up in 1975, was designed to examine the hidden workings and operations of a number of agencies that make up the national security state, including the CIA and NSA (National Security Agency).
Before anyone goes max-snark or apoplectic, it is well to get grounded by noting some of the content in CIA document 1035-960 dealing with critics of the Warren Commission conclusion on the JFK assassination. Of particular interest are the following paragraphs:
"Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active [business] addresses are requested:
b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. "
The core message embodied in the above comports totally with the findings of Kathryn Olmstead.
While this is not intended to explain all the variants of media attack vis-a-vis conspiracy, it may well account for a significant fraction. In any case, one would like to the get to the bottom of the knee jerk media reaction to lampoon and savagely criticize anything remotely hinting at the c-word. Of course, the most notorious of all such examples is the assassination of JFK in November, 1963. Since then, the media in concert have been uniformly hostile to any and all reports, disclosures - even released documents, that suggest JFK was killed in a conspiracy. This despite the fact that the HSCA (House Committee on Assassinations) officially found there was a "96% probability of conspiracy." Given the standards of most scientific research, this denotes a QA (quality assurance) that is about as solid as one can achieve - since no scientist in his right mind ever claims 100% proof. There are inevitably 'error bars' and uncertainties.
In one wire service story, 'Study Backs Theory of Grassy Knoll', which came out ca. March 25, 2002, D.B. Thomas' paper- which appeared in the British peer-reviewed Journal 'Science and Justice', was headlined and the conclusions given. Thomas' paper basically confirmed in every aspect the original analysis performed by actual acoustic specialists for the HSCA. Despite being in a peer-reviewed journal and already supported by the exhaustive work of the initial HSCA experts, it was savagely attacked within days in a Washington Post article. This was by Joel Achenbach who employed his usual catch phrases and incisive wit (he writes mainly as a 'humorist') to skewer the study, despite the fact that it's doubtful he actually read it. And what came off his piece was that it merely advanced some sort of 'agenda'.
It seems that the corporate owned media have been fully complicit in spreading conspiracy phobia as a deliberate strategy. Startling? Hardly. Remember that black operations - or 'black ops' (operations conducted apart from any official budget) were formally integrated into the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) during WW II. This continued right on through to the establishment of the CIA, the OSS successor, in 1947. And over this time the establishment media cooperated totally, becoming little more than a propaganda arm of the Pentagon.
Their role now would seem to be to misdirect people, to shift their attention away from conspiracy as a plausible working model for government, business and other interests - and toward some vague 'serendipity' of fortuitous circumstance.
These insights into the conspiracy phobia dynamic alert citizens to the true perspective. In this sense, no one who applies conspiracy where appropriate is trying to 'run away' from reality but to face it. As Michael Parenti notes (op. cit. p. 186), these citizens are effectively "raising grave questions about the nature of state power in what is supposed to be a democracy."
Perhaps, those who promote conspiracy phobia are tacitly admitting that we no longer live in a democracy. Rather than explore that outrageous thought, the corporate mainstream mind managers heel to their PR palaver of dismissing all conspiracies as unthinkable or improbable.
Much easier to focus on assorted lone nuts, than to peel back the sordid facts of how the USA mutated into a Corporatocracy.
For those interested, my own full FAQ on the JFK conspiracy may be found here: