Sunday, December 20, 2009

A "conspiracy theory" theory ...of Idiocy

My German friend, Kurt, in Frankfurt (ca. August 30, 1978) showing a film about the Reichstag Fire - part of a Nazi conspiracy to blame the Jews and try to justify their persecution as "enemies of the state". The plan bore many similiarities to the 1962 ‘Operation Northwoods’ – when Gen. Lyman Lemnitizer and his crazed, fellow Joint Chiefs planned to bomb U.S. cities and blame it on Castro to induce a war against Cuba.

It has been amusing the past 45 or so years, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, to behold how those who've seen evidence for conspiracy have changed in the skeptics' perceptions. Originally, we were all called "conspiracy buffs" or "tin foil hats", now the latest take is that we are uniformly smug, arrogant know-it-alls, who insist that we and we alone "have the real story" behind x, y or z event.

Actually, no one I know says any such thing - at least as insinuated by David Aaronovitch's piece ('A Conspiracy Theory-Theory' in The Wall Street Journal, Weekend Ed., Dec. 19-21, p. W3). What we do say, is that in the major substantive conspiracies (not wackjob entries - like the USA being overtaken by black helicopters from the UN) there is significant evidence for reasonable doubt as to the official version on offer. Chief among these is the conspiracy in the JFK assassination.

Of course, Aaronovitch only once mentions that signal conspiracy, which likely marked the corporatist-military takeover of what was once a democratic republic. The rest of the time he bloviates on all manner of wacky, flaky crap such as: "the faked Moon landing", the Knights Templars Christ bloodline conspiracies, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and the "Vince Foster murder" plot - which btw, The Wall Street Journal pumped for months on its op-ed pages) . In the process, all he succeeds in doing (which may be his intent) is muddying the waters for all real conspiracies....and thus tarnishing any serious investigation into any of them.

A really neat tactic, since it ab initio subverts the intent to seriously investigate any substantive conspiracies....more or less putting one into the camp of the flakes by default, if the c-word is used even once. Of course, the mainstream, corporate-owned media has always been part and parcel of this. Preferring to adhere to "official" (read: whitewashed) versions of events whenever possible, as opposed to any conspiracy hypothesis which might paint our nation as less than the upstanding protector of citizens' rights it claims to be. Interestingly, the skeptics always gloss over one of the most vicious high level conspiracies in U.S. history, first brought to light by author James Bamford (using Freedom of Information Act files) in his expose of the National Security Agency ('Body of Secrets'). That was "Operation Northwoods" which, according to Bamford (p. 82):
"had the unwritten approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and called for innocent people to be shot on American streets, for boats carrying Cuban refugees to be sunk on the high seas, and for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington D.C., Miami and elsewhere. People would be blamed for bombings they did not commit, planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, to launch their war (against Cuba)"

Two of the most effective books that at once expose the media’s role in manipulating information, while also showing conspiracy as a valid way to get things done (thereby muting the conspiracy phobic meme sown by the mainstream media) are from author Michael Parenti: America Besieged and Dirty Truths. I would say, without too much risk of exaggeration or hyper-statement, that anyone who is shackled in his or her thoughts by conspiracy phobia can do no better than to obtain these two books and read them carefully. Especially the chapters, ‘Is Conspiracy Only a Theory?’ in the first book, and ‘Conspiracy Phobia on the Left’ in the second.

Parenti makes no bones that “most people suffer from conspiracy phobia” and they “treat anyone who investigates conspiracy as a conspiracy buff or oddball”. Parenti also has a problem with the term “conspiracy theory” since it permits the critics and skeptics to have their intellectual “cake” and eat it. If the purported conspiracy has not been validated or proven to their satisfaction, it is merely a “theory” (which they erroneously equate with speculation), but if it's been validated, as in Watergate and Iran-Contra, then ‘Voila!’ it’s no longer theory but an actuality! But this binary, yes-no, 1-0 dynamic is essential nonsense. It means – as Parenti notes- that “conspiracy can never be proven and – if proven – it could not be conspiracy”.

Parenti concludes that all conspiracies are thereby relegated to the realm of the “imaginary”. Real conspiracies proven so, meanwhile, shuck off the c-word label and become another, different breed of historical reality. What, I don’t know, and neither does Parenti. But what we do know is given the basic definition – from my Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary, viz.

A treacherous, surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons

then either something meets its criteria or it doesn’t. The definition isn’t disavowed or rejected because the matter is proven ex-post-facto. If at any time the condition in the definition was met, however briefly, then it was a conspiracy! Thus, from this, Operation Northwoods was most emphatically a conspiracy even if it didn't come to fruition. It assuredly was a plan formulated in secret by "two or more persons" - in this case the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with potential treacherous outcomes (the bombing and disruption of American cities, citizens). All for what? To incite a war against Castro! Watergate also is and was manifestly a conspiracy, so was Iran-Contra.
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 refutes the pseudo argument that conspiracies are predicated on claiming a 'lack of evidence' leading to a 'circular argument'.

This 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'. The primary framing driver for the media has always been to paint any conspiracy as a kind of urban legend or myth. "Don't bother folks. Nothing there to see. Keep walking and keep those eyes squarely in front!"

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 (contrary to Aaronovitch's skewed, strawman-littered portrayal) - they are one of the primary ways to get things done. As Parenti even points out[1]:

Conspiracy is even a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people, pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal end. Juries find people guilty of conspiracies and people go to jail for conspiracies”

Thus, despite the murmur and sneering of the media(like the WSJ- which at other times humps conspiracy, as in the Vince Foster pseudo-murder), conspiracy does exist as a matter of public legal record. So why are so many brain –benumbed (or eyeballs rolling uncontrollably) when exposed to the c-word? Parenti is convinced it arises from a concerted and directed attempt to manipulate perceptions, and I concur.

In August, 1978, my wife and I were visiting German friends in Frankfurt-Am-Main. After a delicious dinner of spaetzli and glasses of Riesling, my friend Kurt invited us to watch some movies he’d collected about German history. Some of them I’d never seen before, including the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden, which killed over 80,000 German civilians.

Another one depicted how Nazi brigands (from Hitler's SA) set the Reichstag Fire to blame the Jews, while another showed Nazi propaganda (about Poles raping German women and children, which led to Hitler’s justification for the invasion of Poland in 1939, following a radio address in October of that year) was almost as disturbing. At the end of it I was appalled, and turned to Kurt – who himself had been manipulated into joining The Hitler Youth as a lad of 12- and remarked:

“I can’t believe this! No wonder the entire population was so brainwashed, and marched like one mind. They were under the spell of some type of mind control.”

“Doch!” (Of course!) Kurt replied. “But from where do you think Goebbels and Reifenstahl obtained their schooling ?”

“I don’t know. Maybe some turn of the century German psych warrior?”

“Nein!” he snorted, “from one of your own good Americans. Edward Bernays! Your people have been manipulating minds even longer than ours! Our manipulators learned at the knees of yours!”

And so it sunk in from then. We (Americans) were all victims of massive mind manipulation. If this were so, clearly since the 1920s or earlier, it meant methods had been perfected over decades to mold the public mind. So, why not in the case of conspiracies, and the JFK assassination? Especially if it was critical to conceal the true architects and their ultimate intent? In this regard, the Warren Commission and Report would represent the perfect vehicles for mass distraction and manipulation – given their patina of gravitas: blame a lone, "commie" loser & working class guy and take the heat off the actual architects and perps.
In his book America Besieged, Parenti devotes an entire chapter to 'Media Manipulation'. Among the choice methods elaborated, by which the corporate mainstream media projects the dominant ideology, are (ibid.):

- Suppression by omission

- Attack and destroy the target

- Labeling

- Face-value transmission

- Framing

All of these were abundantly evident in a classic presentation appearing on NBC Today during the week of Aug. 8, 2002. Entitled 'Truth or Conspiracy', the manipulation began from the outset – since the title embodied a false dichotomy. By posing it as truth OR conspiracy, the implicit message was that conspiracy was untruth, or lie: The logical effect of such a subtext, to drive the viewer away from conspiracy at the outset. If one had truth, then conspiracy was mutually exclusive with it, or so NBC would have had us believe, totally reinforcing Parenti’s point that the mainstream depicts it as imaginary despite the fact people have been prosecuted for it!

In the JFK assassination segment on August 9, this was compounded by both the content selected and the presenters. Like all propaganda and propagandists, their negative labeling also helped to prefigure and pre-condition the viewer's perceptions of the subject.

Let's consider their presenters first. First, we meet a Marquette University Professor named John McAdams, who conducts a class on the JFK assassination. We see him in action, then hear from his students. McAdams appears to portray an objective, and rational demeanor, which absolutely has no room for any 'conspiracy', so he essentially upholds the Warren Commission “verdict”. However, no one on the set is privy to his background, particularly in trying over years to disrupt the usenet newsgroup alt.conspiracy.jfk and viciously attacking many of its contributors. (I spent years posting there, and also prepared and published the first ‘REAL FAQ’ - which replaced the "Lone Nutter" FAQ)

Next, we behold a procession of McAdams' Marquette students being asked if they "believe in" or accept conspiracy in the JFK assassination. Their answers are naive, ill-informed and on the whole asinine. Even giving credit for the fact they're sound bites. What comes across is that all these students are merely parroting McAdams' own egregious talking points, as opposed to really offering a viewpoint based on their own research. They are regurgitating what they've been fed - as they ignorantly try to explain away points that are not even germane to the case. But why be surprised? Anyone who’s privy to the dynamics of power relationships, especially of a university professor to students, basically knows only a half-idiot would contradict his prof on national television!
All in all, the NBC presentation encapsulated the manipulative tactics of 'labeling', 'attack and destroy the target', 'face value transmission' and 'framing'. McAdams and his carbon copy students 'labeled' what is off -base. They thereby pre-selected the content they wanted - selectively omitting the rest, to attack and destroy the target (any hint of conspiracy in the case). Finally they are benefited from a 'face-value transmission' wherein the viewer was expected to accept at face-value what McAdams was teaching over the tube as an 'authority figure' (thereby incorporating one of the primary logical fallacy techniques "appeal to authority")

Now, Aaronovitch's tactics are nowhere close to these, but he still uses subtle means to attempt to marginalize all conspiracy thinking. In the case of the JFK assassination, his one reference is a complaint about the "violent innocence of conspiracism" ....that we are only "asking questions" as opposed to providing our own answers, viz.

"(they) don't go so far as to have a theory of their own, other than to say is was impossible that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald alone".

Of course, the conspiracy thinker is not obliged to provide a full, self-consistent theory of his own (though many do) only to show that if the minimal necessary and sufficient conditions exist, then by definition a conspiracy has occurred. The minimal necessary condition in this case is at least two shooters, and the sufficient condition is that two of the recorded four shots occurred in less than the bolt action recycling time (2.33 seconds) of the alleged rifle.

In the case of the JFK assassination, acoustic tests and echogram analyses show that two shot impulses registered within 1.6 seconds, thereby meeting the minimal sufficient condition. Hence, IF Oswald was one shooter, then by process of elimination (assuming he used the rifle claimed with its limited bolt action recycling capacity) there had to be one other. Since the 1.6 second interval time is less than 2.33 sec, there had to be TWO shooters to produce the two shots, which by definition satisfies the minimal definition of conspiracy. No further justification is needed. In much the same way, if I can cite one hypothesis (already published) that a natural means of inception for the cosmos is possible, I don't have to rely on the creationist's version that a God did it - and it isn't incumbent upon me to provide my own whole counter-theory to justify my rejection of the creationist story. This is where Aaronvitch goes wrong, but I'd wager few would see it, even college-educated readers.

Back to conspiracy phobia, such as Aaronovitch has tried to sow. The net outcome of it, thanks to media manipulation, has been the sheer number of people who lamely ask the question (as phrased by Michael Parenti, op. cit. p. 156):

Do you actually think there’s a group of men sitting around in a room planning things?”

To which Parenti provides the easy answer(ibid.):

“No. They meet on carousels or they jump out of airplanes and talk while freefalling. Of course they sit around in rooms! Where else would they meet?”

But the fact that such a stupid question could even be asked discloses how brain befogged so many citizens have become by the media’s spin and PR against conspiracy. In his book, Dirty Truths, Parenti hits closer than anyone for the actual motivation to eliminate JFK. To paraphrase, and in not too many words, JFK had transgressed mightily against an entrenched “Gangster state” – comprised of a mix of government and corporate interests. The assassination was the Gangster state’s way to remedy the situation since one man could not be allowed to stand in the way of their hegemonic aspirations. Parenti again, in a powerful blow for truth-telling.

To know the truth about the assassination of John Kennedy is to call into question the state security system and the entire politico-economic order it protects. This is why for over thirty years the corporate-owned press and numerous political leaders have suppressed or attacked the many revelations about the murder unearthed by independent investigators like Mark Lane, Peter Dale Scott, Carl Oglesby, Harold Weisberg, Anthony Summers ..”

This is what all readers need to process, before they succumb to the codswallop of Aaronovitch and his clones.

[1] Michael Parenti: 1998, America Besieged, City Light Books, p. 140.

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