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Once Upon a Paranoid Time (In America): Part One - We're All Conspiracy Theorists Now

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Dedicated to: Phillip Marshall, RIP 2013.

At the bottom of Dante's Inferno, in that third part of the traitors' ninth circle called Tolomea, Dante and Vergil encounter a certain Frate Alberigo. Tolomea is devoted to that species of traitors who have betrayed their own guests. The peculiarity of Alberigo is that he is apparently alive on earth, even while his soul is being tormented in the depths of Hell. Alberigo explains that in cases of particularly heinous betrayal, the damned soul departs from the body and descends directly into Hell.....The body remains alive, but it is operated by a demon during the rest of its natural life span. Something similar happened to [George] Bush when he betrayed his oath of office by turning the US government over to the rogue network on 9/11. The demon has been in control ever since. - Webster Griffin Tarpley, 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism - Made in the USA (2004)

We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice and good will to everything that hurts or pleases us. - David Hume

Some circumstantial evidence does exist, such as when you find a trout in the milk. - Henry David Thoreau.


Welcome to the Conspiracy Cafe

Along with possibly hinting at one of the great conspiracies of the twentieth century if not history overall, in his seminal 1969 book The Anti-Communist Impulse, U.S. author, political scientist, historian, and cultural critic Michael Parenti offered up a cogent critique of the faux ideology that fuelled the so-called Cold War, to wit:

"Our fear that communism might someday take over most of the world blinds us to the fact that anti-communism already has."

Parenti's seminal study of the Cold War milieu and the political psychopathology that drove it seem even more relevant now -- in fact possibly moreso than at least reviewer who dismissed it as "little more than a myth-jabber". In this the post-Cold War and -- especially -- the post-9/11 era, we can, some 45 years after he penned these words and in an era of even greater propensity for myth making, now easily substitute the word "terrorism" for "communism". And given that it's "fear" itself that is one of the principal drivers not just of conspiracy theorists but their detractors as well, we would do well to keep Parenti's point in mind when looking at the conspiracy theory construct.

Of course what the conspiracy theorists fear most is that a failure to arrive at the truth or unwillingness to accept such realities and deal with them will necessarily mean more plots, more conspiracies and more secrets, lies and subterfuge down the track, with all that that implies for themselves and for everyone else. In their view, very little of it is a 'good look' for democracy.

And what the debunkers fear most is that any exposes about the veracity of the theorists' claims -- leave alone any broad acceptance of their validity -- will undermine the prevailing social and political order and destroy the status quo. This, not to mention making them all look like a brace of gullible wood-ducks for not at least acknowledging a semblance of truth in the "secrets, lies and subterfuge" -- in true Sherlock Holmes tradition -- at least being open to all probabilities and possibilities.

And as for what the real perpetrators and facilitators before and after the fact of any specific event that has given birth to any given conspiracy theory fear most should be obvious -- they simply don't want to be held to account. Assuming they are still on the right side of the grass, if their secrets are exposed, it's 'roll over Rover and play dead'. Most of them though took their real secrets to the grave, and from my vantage point, those still on this side of the grass aren't looking overly contrite or remorseful.

It's about keeping one's ass covered then, a time honoured political impulse to be sure, but one also that is increasingly invoked in an age where "secrets, lies and subterfuge" -- always cherished as high-value political currency in a national security state -- are, fifteen years into the new millennium, arguably enjoying their most favourable 'exchange rate' since time immemorial. That includes keeping one's own "secrets, lies and subterfuge" under wraps, and in the process -- a la The Watergate Thing -- creating more of the same, whilst still being clued up on everyone else's when and where necessary.

Of course the bigger the stakes the more the perpetrators and facilitators along with their protectors will do to ensure that plausible deniability remains the fallback, and that no theory about their amoral, sub rosa machinations will ever get any traction with the public at large. They remain hidden even if in plain sight.

In Conspiracy Theory in America, Lance de Haven-Smith's intriguing and welcome exposition of the history and 'pathology' of conspiracy politics in American civic culture, he makes a number of compelling observations key to understanding in greater depth many controversial aspects of pivotal events and turning points in the overarching American narrative. In doing so he provides us with a greater appreciation of the causes and effects of those "pivotal events" that have both driven and directed that narrative even well before the estimable Founding Fathers began referring to the Revolution in the past tense and started seriously contemplating their freshly minted, newly independent nation's future ascendancy and its exceptional destiny, manifest or otherwise.

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Greg Maybury is a Perth (Australia) based freelance writer. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, national security, military and geopolitical affairs, and both US domestic and (more...)

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