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.

Testing Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (6th in a series on critical thinking)

Propaganda Model

Last week in this series on critical thinking, I attempted to connect Plato’s Allegory of the Cave with the work of Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Necessary Illusions. There they alleged that the function of the mainstream media (MSM) is and has always been the dissemination of propaganda. It’s purpose is to create a shadow world far removed from reality. In other words, President Trump is largely correct: fake news is the rule, not the exception. So, for instance, is fake history, fake economics, and fake religion.

Chomsky and Herman don’t expect readers of Necessary Illusions to simply accept their allegations. Instead, they propose testing the model’s predictions (enumerated in last week’s posting).  The first step in doing so identifies “paired examples.” These involve similar controversial actions, performed by the United States or its client states on the one hand, and by “designated enemies” on the other.

In Necessary Illusions many such pairings are provided – all of them, of course, taken from the 1980s, when the book was published. Then U.S. involvement in Central American wars (especially in Nicaragua) dominated the news. While historically “dated,” the examples still communicate what the authors mean by paired examples. In addition, even dated case studies can prove useful to research in order to broaden one’s historical knowledge, while at the same time testing the model’s predictions. (More current examples will be suggested below.) Those given by Chomsky and Herman include[1]:

  • Celebration of elections in (client state) El Salvador (widely criticized for their meaninglessness in Europe) vs. media adoption of the U.S. official account that the 1984 elections in (designated enemy) Nicaragua either never occurred or were hopelessly rigged, even though the Nicaraguan elections were praised internationally for their freedom and fairness (66-67).
  • The defense and rationalization of the U.S. downing of the Iranian air bus in 1988, vs. the furor over the earlier Soviet destruction of KAL 007 (34).
  • The lack of comment on Indochinese injuries and fatalities caused by U.S. mines left behind after the Vietnam war, and on the refusal of the United States to supply minefield maps to civilian mine-deactivation squads, vs. the denunciation of the Soviet Union for the civilian casualties caused by their mines in Afghanistan, where they did provide maps to assist mine clearing units (35).
  • Media indignation aroused in 1988 over alleged plans to build chemical weapons factories in Libya, vs. the media’s lack of concern for the extensive civilian casualties in Indochina caused by U.S. chemical warfare there through its use of Agent Orange (38-39).
  • The sympathetic support given Israel for its repeated invasions and bombings in Lebanon even in the absence of immediate provocation, vs. the identification of Nicaraguan “hot pursuit” of Contras across its unmarked border with Honduras as an “invasion” of a sovereign state (54-55).
  • The press position that Soviet provision of MIG fighter planes to Nicaragua would legitimate a U.S. invasion of that country, vs. media acceptance of the threat posed to Nicaragua by U.S. shipment of F-5 fighter planes to neighboring Honduras (55-6).
  • Portrayal of the World Court as the culprit, when the United States was condemned for its support of the Nicaraguan Contras in 1986, vs. press astonishment over Iran’s lawlessness when it refused to recognize the Court’s adverse decision during the hostage crisis of 1979 (82).
  • Portrayal of the World Court as the culprit, when the United States was condemned for its support of the Nicaraguan Contras in 1986, vs. press astonishment over Saddam Hussein’s lawlessness when he refused to recognize the Court’s jurisdiction, when it ordered him to cease his occupation of Kuwait in 1990.
  • Press outcry over the genocide of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, vs. its silence about the proportionately larger-scale slaughter in East Timor at the hands of U.S.-backed Indonesian invaders (156).
  • Criticism of Soviet failure to pay its U.N. dues, vs. silence about U.S. debts in the world body (222).
  • Focus on Nicaragua’s alleged failures to live up to the Esquipulas II accords, vs. relative silence about the much worse records of client states, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (239).
  • The extensive media coverage given the 1984 murder of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko in (designated enemy) Poland by policemen who were quickly apprehended, tried, and jailed, vs. the comparatively little space given the murder of 100 prominent Latin American religious martyrs, including the Archbishop of San Salvador and four raped American churchwomen, victims of the U.S.-backed security forces (137, 146-47).

Paired examples with more contemporary relevance might include:

  • The San Bernardino shooting on December 2, 2015 by Muslim, Rizuan Farook and Tashfeen Malik vs. the January 29th, 2017 shooting in a Quebec City mosque by white nationalist and supporter of Donald Trump, Alexandre Bissonette.
  • The U.S. nuclear weapons modernization program announced by President Obama vs. suspicions that Iran might have initiated a program to acquire nuclear weapons.
  • Iran’s nuclear weapons program vs. Israel’s.
  • Monroe Doctrine justifications for U.S. attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s vs. Russian justifications for its invasion of the Ukraine beginning in 2014.
  • Russian and Syrian atrocities in the Battle for Aleppo in 2016 vs. similar acts by the U.S. and Iraq in the Battle for Mosul that same year.
  • Stories on Cuban political prisoners vs. stories on U.S. political prisoners.
  • Islam as an inherently violent religion vs. Christianity as an inherently violent religion.
  • The Jewish Holocaust at the hands of Germans vs. the Native American Holocaust at the hands of European settlers.
  • Alexander Putin as a “murderer” vs. Barack Obama as a “murderer.”

Testing such paired examples involves

  • Locating news reports of both incidents in the mainstream media, e.g. The New York Times.
  • Counting the number of articles devoted to each incident.
  • Measuring the column inches devoted to each
  • Comparing the reporting of each incident, noting:
    • The source-bases of the articles in question and whether they conform to Chomsky’s predictions as earlier described.
    • Whether there are significant language differences in the reports of the “paired examples.”
    • The significance of the differences.
    • How the quality of evidence advanced or demanded in each case differs. (E.g. Is a “smoking gun” required for alleged U.S. crimes, while something less is tolerated as proving the crimes of designated enemies?)
    • Whether conclusions are drawn or implied about evil intent on the part of “designated enemy” leaders, while similar actions by the U.S. or its clients are excused or rationalized.
    • Whether conclusions are drawn or implied about the corruption and unworkability of the “designated enemy’s” system, while similar actions by the U.S. or its clients are explained in terms of exceptional crimes by officials at the lowest level possible.
    • Whether arrests, trials or convictions are accepted as indications that the system in question does work or that it doesn’t.

Conclusion:

Both Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Chomsky’s propaganda model suggest that the problem of fake news has been with us for a long time. Even more importantly: critiquing it goes much deeper than merely analyzing what appears in the newspapers, on television or online. Instead, critical thinking often challenges its practitioners to make a 180 degree turn away from accepting what we’ve been told by beloved parents, teachers, priests, ministers, politicians, other public figures and friends.

No wonder it’s so intimidating to walk through our prison’s open cell door!

(Next week: My own journey from egocentrism towards Cosmo-centrism)

[1] Here all page references are to Chomsky, Noam. Necessary illusions. Toronto, ON: CBC Enterprises, 1990.