Dueling Perceptions by Bob Patterson
Dueling perceptions often compete for supremacy in the realm of conspiracy theories. Is this a photo of a turtle's shell or a manhole cover?
"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
(http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report/) 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.