Okay, okay, I’m a Conspiracy Theorist: But Let Me Tell You How & Why

This is a follow up to my recent posting entitled “Beware: Conspiracy Theorists May Be Prophetically Correct.” There, in the context of my weekly Sunday Homily, I cautioned against “cancelling” OpEdNews authors who espouse so-called conspiracy theories and who use editorially objectionable terms like “Deep State.”

In this present submission, I want to reiterate (in more detail than previously) why I think conspiracy theories with their references to Deep State are not only valuable and necessary. They correct officially disseminated misinformation by agencies such as the CIA whose programs have the expressed intention of deceiving the American public and shaping world opinion accordingly.

After all, it was CIA director, William Casey, who said infamously, “We will know that our disinformation program has been successful, when everything (emphasis added) the American people believe is false.” More recently, another former head of the CIA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, bragged that the Agency “lies, cheats, and steals” all the time. In fact, he said, the CIA educates its personnel with entire academic courses on how to do so effectively.

Given those official admissions of deceptive intent, is it any wonder that so many of us espouse alternative explanations for events such as the Kennedy and King assassinations, 9/11, the alleged suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, or the real reasons for world-wide shut down in the face of COVID-19? Should we be surprised that many speculate about the true power of the CIA and other actors who together might well constitute a shadow government often referenced as the Deep State?

With Mike Lofgren and others, I argue here that the evidence for such hidden power is staring us in the face. It has given many of us exceptionally good reason to reject mainstream media (MSM) sources of information in favor of those I’ll list at the end of this piece.

Conspiracy Theories Defined

So, let me begin with full disclosure: I myself believe in conspiracies. (There, I’ve said it.) I do so because I’m a rational person who endorses the rule of law. And that’s my starting point – the often-ignored fact that conspiracy theory constitutes a legal category.

Juridically, the term refers to criminal activity planned by more than one person. In that sense, conspiracies happen all the time. People go to jail for them. Most often, they’re locked up based, not on some “smoking gun,” but on circumstantial evidence. The latter relies on inference [such as a fingerprint or eyewitness testimony (e.g. of a suspect fleeing the scene of a crime)] to connect it to a conclusion of fact. Classically, convictions rely on considerations of motive, opportunity and means to commit a crime. Again, most guilty verdicts are founded on such indications, rather than on confessions or video recordings.

With those factors often ignored, the popular understanding of “conspiracy theory” has come to refer to unfounded explanations of events that depart from those promulgated by sources such as government officials who by their own admission (see above) are committed to comprehensive deception.

This dismissive meaning has taken center stage, all but consigning the legal meaning to irrelevance. Unlike that counterpart, the popular notion of conspiracy typically requires irrefutable smoking gun evidence before it may be (even reluctantly) entertained without derision.

As a result of such double standards, conspiracy theorists are often comically portrayed as reclusive nerds frantically typing their wild insights into their basement computers while wearing hats made of tinfoil to protect their brains from government surveillance and from extraterrestrial mind control.

Deep State Centrality

In this popular sense, conspiracy theories centralize allegations of hidden “behind the throne” powers – sometimes called the “Deep State” – secretly controlling events. While such allegations tend to be dismissed without serious examination, I find them to be basically credible.

By deep state, I’m not referring primarily to “the bureaucracy” – i.e. to career diplomats who remain behind no matter who’s in the White House or Congress. While such bureaucrats play their role in government continuity, they’re not really in control. Neither are they routinely trying to deceive the public. In fact, the vast majority of bureaucrats fit the description of good public servants mostly (naively, I would say) committed to the good of their country.

Instead, my list of those who are really calling the shots has to include the military industrial complex (MNC) as well as big oil, big pharma, private prison corporations, and the mainstream media (MSM) which the latter own and employ. These are the entities that truly have the ear of our politicians who (against the clearly expressed will of their citizen “constituents”) routinely vote against the latter’s interests and programs such as Medicare for all, environmental protection and a Green New Deal, free higher education, debt jubilee (especially for indebted college students) and reallocation of police and military funding to social programs, community policing and infrastructure development.

Ignoring the overwhelmingly popular will on such issues, the powers-that-be pay politicians to vote instead for increased military spending, tax cuts for the already rich, and for the deregulation of industry and finance. They discredit a Bernie Sanders and advance milk toast candidates like Joe Biden who brazenly ignore the interests of their would-be constituents. None of that is even debatable.

However, in global terms, at least according to insider analysts such as ex-CIA official, Robert David Steele and others, the Deep State is much more profound and hidden than already indicated. It embraces, they say:

  • A small number of families (like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers) in Europe, the U.S., and increasingly in Asia
  • The Free Masons, Knights of Malta, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberger Group
  • The City of London Corporation
  • Wall Street
  • Catholic Church societies such as Opus Dei
  • Every Central Bank in the World
  • A semi-unified world intelligence agency that includes the CIA, Israel’s Mossad, and Great Britain’s MI 5 and MI 6 – and probably Russia’s KGB. All of them are more or less on the same side.

These organizations are involved in the real business of the world that (again, according to Steele) centralizes trade in gold, guns, cash, drugs, and in the trafficking of children. In other words, the real sources of international control are deeply criminal.

Official Indications of Deep State Control   

There are many reasons for believing that some combination of the above entities control world events and our information about them. Modern motivations begin with Major General Smedley Butler’s War Is a Racket and the warnings and testimony of Dwight Eisenhower regarding the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Referring to “the very structure of our society,” Eisenhower soberly cautioned, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Is there anyone in the country who actually believes that Eisenhower’s warning has not come true? Again, he was talking about the controlling influence of an overwhelming war machine on social and governmental structures. That sounds governmental to me. As such, the MIC persuades Americans to support and fight wars which in our era have become absolutely interminable.  

And then we have those officials like Casey and Pompeo who tell us they’re lying. Why on earth would such admissions not deprive their sources of all prima facie credibility? Why wouldn’t anyone take their confessions at face value and conclude that they have no more credibility than a trial witness exposed as an inveterate liar?  

Moreover, insiders such as former CIA operatives support those confessions. One CIA tell-all book after another includes details of “unofficial” interference in foreign elections, of secret assassination programs, cooperation with various mafias, support for terrorists, Agency drug dealing, and systematic vilification of social reformers up to and including Civil Rights icons such as Martin Luther King. (On the latter see, for instance, the government’s own COINTELPRO Report, and the findings of the Church Committee.)

Finally, evidence supporting the integration of corporate power and information sources is there for all to see. Mainstream media are unquestionably owned by the rich and powerful. Their analysts are all millionaires. They rarely, if ever, seek out for honest interview representatives of official enemies such as Venezuela, North Korea, or ISIS. Almost never do they allow victims of police brutality or their relatives to speak for themselves. Instead, the MSM’s usual suspects appear again and again: former military generals, police commissioners, corporate executives, and even disgraced politicians such as Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, and Elliott Abrams.

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman exposed the syndrome years ago. In Manufacturing Consent and elsewhere they described a fake news system supported by fake history and fake education long before Donald Trump was a significant public figure.

Conclusion

In summary then, you can see why I’ve decided to accept the existence of a Deep State as explained above and to give guarded and critical credence to “conspiracy theories” about the 1963 and 1968 assassinations, 9/11, Jeffrey Epstein, and to entertain doubts concerning official explanations of the current pandemic.

Part of it is explained by autobiographical considerations. Crucially (and for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere) they include and transcend long years of formation as a Roman Catholic priest, extensive travel and extended sojourns in Europe, Brazil, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Mexico, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and India. They include study, related reading, and conversations with activists and scholars in all of those places. 

Such experience has led me to follow the advice of Daniel Berrigan. Years ago, when he taught at Berea College, he spoke often of reading “outside the culture” – i.e. from sources distant from U.S. propaganda. With that in mind, my trusted sources of political analysis have come to include Third World activists and scholars, particularly in the field of liberation theology with its reliance on analysts like Franz Fanon, Andre Gunder Frank, and yes, Karl Marx. Closer to home, I’ve come to trust Noam Chomsky, Glen Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, Richard Wolff, Krystal Ball, Cenk Uygur, Medea Benjamin, Naomi Klein, Marianne Williamson, Bill McKibben, and Pope Francis among others. I take seriously what organizations like Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement say.

Does that mean that I’ve blindly confined myself to some left-wing echo chamber no different from those who depend on Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, or Fox News to help them understand the world? I think not. And I’ll tell you why.

In contrast to the right-wing crowd, all of those listed as my sources of information and analysis:

  • Share my overriding values and aspirations to world community, compassion, and unvarnished truth.
  • Take science and climate change seriously. (The failure of their opponents to do so ipso facto disqualifies them from serious consideration.)
  • Are unwilling to entertain the possibility of a suicidal nuclear war.
  • Have a critical understanding of U.S. and world history; they are not knee-jerk apologists for “America” and American exceptionalism.
  • Are comprehensively “pro-life” in a sense that goes far beyond (as Pope Francis puts it) exclusive obsession with abortion to embrace opposition to war, poverty, world hunger, capital punishment, houselessness, racism, sexism, and class conflict.

Please tell me if that does or doesn’t make sense and why.

Dan Berrigan: in Memoriam

Dan Berrigan Resist

I just spent the last hour in tears. The occasion was a tribute to Dan Berrigan on Democracy Now (the best daily news program available).  The saintly Jesuit poet, peace activist and prolific author died on Saturday. He was about to celebrate his 95th birthday this week. What a giant!

Father Berrigan stands with Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton as the most powerful U.S. prophets and social justice activists or our era. They along with Martin Luther King are the true saints of our time.

All of them changed the way Americans approach issues of war and peace. In particular they changed the Catholic Church – challenging it to reverse 1700 years of belligerence and unquestioning support of imperial war, and to follow instead the clear teachings of Jesus the Christ.

Dan Berrigan not only wrote and spoke in ways that uncomfortably juxtaposed the Gospel of Jesus with United States imperialism; he also walked the walk – literally. He marched, spoke out, carried signs, and was arrested more times than he could remember. He spent years in prison, and staged creative protests against the Pentagon and the arms industry.

During the Vietnam War, Berrigan and other activists raided the Selective Service offices in Catonsville MD. They removed nearly 400 files from the place, and burned them with homemade napalm in the adjoining parking lot. They justified the act saying it was better to burn paper than children’s bodies.

Berrigan knew first-hand what he was talking about.  In 1968 he traveled to North Vietnam with historian, Howard Zinn. They had set out on an ultimately successful mission to free three U.S. airmen captured by the Vietnamese. In the process, he saw the burn wounds of children and the elderly scorched by the liquid fire that pursued them relentlessly even in their underground bunkers. He experienced war’s realities as he huddled there with the children and elderly during terroristic bombing raids by his own country.

On another occasion, Dan along with his brother Phil and other “Plowshares” members entered the General Electric nuclear arms plant in King of Prussia PA. There they found an (as yet unarmed) missile and used hammers to beat its nosecone to smithereens. They said they were following the injunction of the prophet Isaiah to turn swords into plowshares (IS 2:4).

I knew Father Berrigan personally. He spent a fall with us here in Berea in the mid-‘80s. His brother, Phil, visited Berea College more than once in connection with a wonderful course called “The Christian Faith in the Modern World.” Imagine actually conversing with saints like that!

I remember how enthusiastic Dan was in supporting the work of the “Berea Interfaith Task Force for Peace.” We were busy at the time with the Nuclear Freeze Movement and with resisting U.S. wars in Central America, especially in Nicaragua.

He met with us regularly – on at least one occasion, in Peggy’s and my home in Buffalo Holler in Rockcastle County. We have a snapshot of him there in our family album. He’s seated on our deck, eating from a paper plate with a bottle of beer on the floor beside his chair.

Another photo shows him standing up in protest with the rest of us at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond Kentucky.  (The Depot holds WWII ordnance – mustard gas and chemical weapons still awaiting demolition.) We had infiltrated a patriotic celebration there.

Our Task Force had entered the facility with protest signs folded up under our shirts. We stood up to display them in the middle of a triumphant speech by one of the generals. Mine read “US out of Nicaragua!” Dan’s message was printed on his tee shirt. When he removed his outer shirt, everyone could see it.  “Stop the Arms Race!” it said.

One of my most memorable Ash Wednesdays came when Dan was here. In his humble understated way he celebrated a thoughtful Mass to begin the season of Lent. It reminded our packed church of St. Clare’s about the ashes created and left behind by brutal U.S. bombing campaigns and unending wars. He called us to repent by refusing our support of such conflicts.

I attended a class Dan taught three times a week during his semester at Berea. It analyzed the Book of Revelation written by John of Patmos – an otherwise unknown author who had been exiled to the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea by the Roman Emperor, Domitian at the end of the first century CE. Like Father Berrigan, the book’s author, “John the Revelator,” was a political prisoner. His crime was that of prophecy – of speaking truth to power. So Father Berrigan claimed a kind of “hermeneutical privilege” in dealing with the Book of Revelation. He said his exegesis was a matter of “one jailbird to another.”

I recall driving Dan to the Bluegrass Airport in Lexington the day he left us. Always on task, Father Berrigan spoke about the similarities between Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the apartheid system still flourishing in South Africa. “All these ‘settler societies,’” he said, “operate in the same brutal ways.” Sadly, his words remain true to this day.

In my early days of working at Berea College, I was privileged to give three lectures a year to the entire sophomore class assembled in Phelps-Stokes Chapel along with my colleagues, their teachers.  The context was a two-semester, primary-source survey course called “Religious and Historical Perspectives.” ( I loved the course. It taught me more than any other academic experience in my life.) My lectures were on Jesus (in the fall), on Marx (in the middle of the spring semester), and on Harvey Cox’s The Secular City (the last presentation of the year).

I remember centralizing Dan Berrigan in my Secular City talk.  I held him up (as I still do) as an example of what the great Jewish prophets, Jesus of Nazareth and Karl Marx, have to tell us about Christians’ relationship to the realities Harvey Cox described in his book.  I recalled Father Berrigan being arrested after spending four months underground resisting relentless pursuit by J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I.

Dan’s hands were handcuffed in front of him, I recalled. And he was asked by a reporter if he had anything to say before going off to Danbury State Prison. Father Berrigan gave a one-word response. He held up his handcuffed hands and made a peace sign. He said simply: “Resist!”  That’s his message to us today!

Thank you, Father Berrigan, for having the courage to resist and for challenging us so consistently to do the same. May we follow your prophetic example.