“Conspiracy Theory in America” (University of Texas Press, Austin TX, © 2013) by Lance de Haven-Smith came to the attention of this columnist when it was spotted in the window of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and seemed worth the trouble of being granted an exception to the rule: “We don’t buy books to review them” because we have been worried by the idea that if we don’t soon find a comprehensive encyclopedia of conspiracy theories, we will have to fill the gap in the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory reference library by writing such a book and that would be a lot of work to undertake.
It turned out that the book wasn’t aimed at readers hoping to reap new and sensational disclosures for the “round up the usual suspects” list of conspiracy theories. The “Conspiracy Theory” (AKA CT) label has become the equivalent of a chess game that involves the “Fool’s Pawn” strategy, in which a beginner plays a game that involves only three move. The victim makes one unwise move and the game is over.
Lance deHaven-Smith bolsters his claim that the CIA used the “conspiracy theory” label to attack critics of the Warren Commission Report by providing a transcript of dispatch #1035-960.
For debaters, the “Conspiracy Theory” label is the verbal equivalent of a come from behind walk-off grand slam in baseball. Can’t you just imagine the voice of Mel Allen doing a play-by-play account of the debate? “The Theorist asserts that one bullet can not possibly deliver that amount of damage to two victims and remain in (virtually) pristine condition. . . . the opposing debater steps to the plate. Three on two out and the score is six to three against the ‘Official Version of the Truth’ team. The pitch. It’s a long drive to right. The ‘Conspiracy Theory Lunatic’ charge is invoked! It’s outta here. Home run! End of debate! The crowd goes wild as the batter (debater) trots around the bases.”
The defendants at Nuremberg were tried not for specific murders or incidents of torture, but (page 71) for “‘participating in the formulation or execution of a Common Plan or Conspiracy’ to wage aggressive war.”
The book discusses the “conspiracy theory of the Fourteenth Amendment” which was promoted by Charles Beard and his wife Mary in 1927. The “Corporations are people” move started long before the current members of the United States Supreme Court were sworn-in.
On page 107, readers are informed: MWAVE is the name of the CIA station in Miami. Wasn’t it actually JMWAVE (J M as in Jose Martine?).
In the back of the book, in Table 5.1, we learn on an unnumbered page that in 1968 “With RFK out of the way . . . Nixon is reelected.” WTF?
On page 106 a sentence that spills over to the next page states that the Warren Commission findings are unchallenged. Apparently the author is unaware of the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations
or chose to completely ignore that Inquiry.
Recently we found a used copy of “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken N. J. © 2008) by Farhad Majoo and it asserts that the Swift Boater attack on 2004 Democratic Party Presidential Candidate John Kerry’s record in Vietnam was a “conspiracy theory” that aimed to turn the record of an undisputed war hero into the belief in a story of a dishonorable soldier who didn’t deserve the medals awarded to him.
Could these two books taken together convince an unbiased reader that in an era when no official explanation of baffling events can stand up to scholastic investigation that the government misleads voters with lies or are there valid gaps in reality that are due to occasional anomalies such as things not conforming to the scientific (them again!) laws of physics that get a temporary suspension during intensive moments of history that carry a tremendous emotional impact (“Back and to the left!”)?
The two books present an odd paradox. In one instance in the deHaven-Smith book, the concept of “conspiracy theory” is used to dispel the effect facts might have on a debate, while Manjoo examines the fact that the Swift Boat vets didn’t supply any valid facts to change voters’ opinions about Kerry’s conduct in combat. (“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. . . . He loved Big Brother.”)
“True Enough” is an entertaining and informative book length elaboration that concurs with the psychological investigation done by Simon and Garfunkel that was summed up thusly: “ . . . a man hears what he wants to hear and all the rest is lies and jest . . . .”
We have also acquired a bargain used copy of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” Disciples of St. Ayn Rand believe that capitalists were and continue to be benevolent philanthropists whose generous attitudes towards employees make the need for unions and strikes irrelevant, immaterial, and obsolete. Unfortunately the (Leftist?) folks who read about the Ludlow massacre, the Pullman strike, the Republic Steel strike (“Autopsies showed that the bullets had hit the workers in the back as they were running away; . . . .” Op cit, page 392), and the Ford Motor Company strike, seem vulnerable to a more cynical attitude regarding duplicity and deception from captains of industry than the loyal fans of Ayn Rand do.
Zinn’s book makes a reader wonder: If what you learn in history class was subjected to exaggeration, spin control, and rewriting, is it reasonable to expect the government to flat out lie about some events?
A copy of “It’s a Conspiracy!” written by “The National Insecurity Council” published by Earth Works Books of Berkeley CA in 1992 was acquired used for a bargain basement price. It is a well done book but since there have been one or two more instances since 1992 where skeptics charge that the United States Government deliberately committed prevarications, a revised and update version of this work might be a good idea. Whew! Looks like we don’t have to write an encyclopedic overview of the topic of conspiracy theories after all!
Will the questions being asked about the details surrounding the recent death of a suspect in Florida spawn a new conspiracy theory about a cover-up?
Recent news reports indicate that top secret American Military plans and designs have been acquired by hackers. That news makes us wonder why the military didn’t use the services of the companies that designed and provided the unhackable electronic voting machines. Was there a conspiracy to exclude them and use the inept people who let this scandalous electronic invasion occur?
Some skeptics who think that the “low ball the bid and be caught off guard by cost overruns that will provide the missing margin of profit” trend may, in the future, be invoked by the a low bid winner of a facet of California’s coveted “bullet train” project (that voters don’t want to subsidize) out in the dessert. Cost overruns can always be explained away by the old “blindsided by reality” (i.e. “no one could possibly have foreseen . . .”) ploy.
Can allegations of unexpected “cost overruns” be classified as a subcategory of “conspiracy theory” and thereby be exempted from embarrassing witch hunt style investigations?
There is supposed to be a march from Oakland to Stockton, to publicize allegations of “police brutality” in the bankrupt city, starting at noon on Friday May 31, 2013. The march is scheduled to start shortly after this column is posted. Will critics contend that police brutality in that city is being covered up? We’ll have to include an update on that topic in our column next Friday.
If we score a press pass, we’ll go to the Conspiracy Convention (http://www.conspiracycon.com/ ) this weekend in Milpitas and write up our perception of it for next week’s column.
[Note from the Photo Editor: Dueling perceptions is the crucial element for conspiracy theories, so it seems that a photo that shows what some people may see as a turtle and others may just call a manhole cover with chalk graffiti markings qualifies for being the photo to run with this column. Is it an image of a turtle or does it show a manhole cover?]
Legend has it that Aimee Semple McPherson’s response to reporters who were skeptical of her explanation of her kidnapping was the famous line: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Now, the disk jockey will play (from the Twenties) “I Know that you know,” Peter and Gordon’s “Wrong from the start,” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s only make believe.” We have to go put on our Gonzo Journalist disguise. Have a “Just keep walkin’” type week.