Archive for the ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Category

Conspiracy Theories

March 21, 2015

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I have often been critical of conspiracy theories on this blog, so I think I should make it clear that I think conspiracies do happen. (There is, for example, good reason to believe that the “October Surprise” conspiracy was real.) The problem is that it’s all too easy for people to imagine a conspiracy behind every single thing that happens in the world. One can spin a conspiracy about almost anything. (Is Vladimir Putin really the president of Russia, or is he really the tool of a CIA-Mossad false flag operation?) The “Everything You Know is Wrong” spiel has a strong attraction for some people.

It is worth remembering that anti-Semitism is based on a conspiracy theory: the idea that Jews are trying to take over the world or are in some way plotting against the rest of us. (The Nazis really believed this. They accepted it as an article of faith.) And when you look at some of the more extreme conspiracy websites, you begin to find anti-Semitic ideas. (Veterans Today is a good example of this.) This is something that people who are inclined toward conspiracy theories should ponder.

One of the more curious theories is the idea that the moon landing was faked. The idea that the landing was filmed in a Hollywood sound studio is naive to anyone who knows anything about film and video. I’m waiting for the day when someone claims that World War II was faked. (Of course, it was filmed on a Hollywood back lot!) There is no idea so stupid that someone won’t believe it.

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What is the US Doing in Syria?

October 10, 2014

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There has been a proliferation of conspiracy theories since ISIS captured Mosul last June. This should not be surprising, considering the way that ISIS just seemed to appear out of nowhere, though what actually happened is that the Western media simply didn’t pay any attention to them up until that point.

One of the most popular conspiracy theories holds that the US deliberately created ISIS to give itself an excuse to send troops back into Iraq. CJ Werleman has put forward a somewhat more plausible theory, which holds that the US and Saudi Arabia have conspired to create a sectarian army that would attack Iran’s allies in Iraq and Syria, and perhaps eventually Iran itself. But if this is the US’s plan, wouldn’t the US now be attacking Assad, who is Iran’s ally?

I’ve have grown wary of conspiracy theories as I’ve gotten older, but I still have to wonder if we’re being told the truth about what is going on. A recent article in The Guardian reports that:

    No coalition strikes have been made to help or relieve rebel forces where they were facing either Isis or government troops. Emile Hokayem of the International Institute of Strategic Studies said Assad has been able “to give his troops a break while surveying the landscape and looking for opportunities.”

We also learn that:

    Coalition hits on grain silos and a gas plant in Manbij and Deir al-Zor drew warnings of a humanitarian disaster – and the risk of playing into Isis’s hands, as shortages during the winter will be blamed on the international community. The Hazm movement – backed by the US and supplied with advanced anti-tank weapons – publicly denounced the intervention but was quickly silenced by Washington, rebel sources say. Attacks on Jabhat al Nusra (another al-Qaida-linked jihadi group and a rival to Isis) have backfired, and are said to have brought it new recruits.

    Civilian deaths caused by coalition attacks clearly risk a backlash. “We had 10 martyrs when they targeted Al-Riqa,” said Zeid Al-Jabli, a student from Zawiya in the Idlib area. “There had been a base for Jabhat al-Nusra but they pulled out a long time ago and the civilians were killed instead. Shelling by the regime has intensified because of the coalition. We have martyrs and wounded every day.”

The Guardian also reports that Kurdish fighters are saying the air strikes are doing no good:

    He [a Kurdish spokesman] said Isis had adapted its tactics to military strikes from the air. “Each time a jet approaches, they leave their open positions, they scatter and hide. What we really need is ground support. We need heavy weapons and ammunition in order to fend them off and defeat them.”

The US is following a strategy that is not only not working, but which is actually counterproductive. One can spin all sorts of conspiracy theories about this, but I suspect the problem is really just that our policymakers have no idea what they are doing.

Tunnel Vision on ISIS

September 13, 2014

Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

There is a certain type of argument that I’ve been hearing on the Left lately, a good example of which can be found in an article by John V. Walsh at Dissident Voice, entitled Syria Next on Hit List (ISIS is a side issue at best). In it, he writes about President Obama’s recent speech:

    The rationales that Obama is peddling make no sense. If the barbarity of beheading were the actual trigger of this latest onslaught on the Middle East, then the U.S. would not be sending our “moderate” trainees to Saudi Arabia where beheading is a well respected national past time – far more popular than allowing women to drive automobiles.

But the beheadings aren’t the only trigger. ISIS has carried out mass killings of Yazidis, Christians and Shi’a Muslims. These have received extensive coverage in the US media. Walsh must surely know this, yet he never mentions this. The point about beheadings in Saudi Arabia is basically true, but it’s not really pertinent to the situation in Syria. Walsh goes on:

    And ISIS remains a mysterious entity, springing up out of nowhere and carrying arms that are supplied by American and Saudi agencies. In Iran as was reported in the NYT yesterday on the front page, the great majority of “the street” believes it is an American/Israeli/Saudi creation.

Since Walsh apparently reads the New York Times, he must surely know that ISIS captured US weapons when the US-trained Iraqi army fled Mosul. Another important detail that he neglects to mention. And in what possible sense can “the street” in Iran be considered a reliable source on the relationship between the US and ISIS?

    Syria, of course, was on the list of targets that General Wesley Clarke [sic] revealed to us that there was a hit list in the Middle East and North Africa of seven countries, “starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” And miraculously the schedule has been modified only slightly perhaps because Assad has put up such fierce resistance.

Walsh has no idea what he is talking about here. The “hit list” he refers to was drawn up by neoconservatives in the Bush Administration before the invasion of Iraq. They expected to accomplish all of their goals within five years. (You can see how well that worked out.) It’s doubtful whether this list still has any influence over US foreign policy. Obama has had five years in which to attack Syria. Last year’s Sarin gas attack gave him a perfect excuse to do so, yet instead he eagerly accepted an offer by Russia to negotiate a deal with Assad.

Walsh ends with this rhetorical flourish:

    The dream of the U.S. Empire to dominate the Eurasian land mass is being implemented: Damascus, Tehran, Moscow and finally Beijing unless nuclear war breaks out first. Obama and the rest of the imperial elite are flirting with Armageddon.

Uh, yeah. Look, I have strong reservations about what the president is proposing to do in Syria and Iraq. We need to have a serious national discussion about this. Unfortunately, we have too many people like Walsh, who just want to idly spin conspiracy theories.

The Poisoning of the American Mind

May 31, 2014

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Exene Cervenka

Exene Cervenka, a member of the 1980’s punk band X, has made the claim that the recent killings in Santa Barbara were a hoax. She also claims that the Newtown shootings were a hoax. She says these things are part of a conspiracy by the government to take away our guns. (If the government really wanted to take away our guns, it would go ahead and do it.) There are other people besides Cervenka who believe these things. Some of them have harassed the family members of the Newtown victims.

Think back to the Columbine shootings in 1999. No one ever claimed the shootings were a hoax. The only controversy was over whether stricter gun control laws might have prevented the shootings. The term “false flag event” didn’t even exist in people’s vocabularies at the time. What happened between then and now were the September 11th attacks and the conspiracy industry that grew up in their wake. This industry claimed that the government, the media, and the military had conspired in the attacks and in a subsequent cover-up. If someone is willing to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of people willingly committed treason just to give George W. Bush a political advantage, it’s not much of a stretch for that person to believe that almost anything in the news is a hoax.

9/11 conspiracy theories were mostly associated with the Left, but there were some on the Right who took them up, most notably Alex Jones. Jones’s Facebook page has 799,491 likes. (Consider that the largest far left group in the US, the ISO, has fewer than a thousand members.) Jones’s followers and like-minded people make up a small percentage of the population, but they are becoming increasingly vocal and militant. It’s worth remembering here that it only took one person to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

I don’t pretend to know what to do about this problem. What I do know is that we shouldn’t simply dismiss these people as funny kooks. We need to think seriously about what to do about this problem before somebody gets hurt.

Fearmongering

January 20, 2014

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The Scientific American has posted an article debunking the story that there was a spike in infant mortality rates in the Pacific Northwest immediately following the Fukushima nuclear accident. This was the first in a series of alarmist stories that have come out about that disaster, the latest of these being that the floor of the Pacific ocean is covered with dead animals. (This has also been debunked.) An interesting question here is why do people make up these stories. The Fukushima disaster is something we should all be concerned, and outraged, about, and the people responsible for it should be held accountable, but what is accomplished by making false claims about it? Do some anti-nuclear activists think that they can advance their cause by making false claims? They are deluded if they think so.

Some people actually seem to take a perverse pleasure in the idea that the sky is falling. Consider the popularity of the patently absurd “Mayan Prophecy” hoax. Perhaps this helps to explain the popularity of conspiracy theories, which portray us as helpless victims of a small, secret group of individuals.

Conspiracy-mongering and the Syrian Revolt

September 6, 2013

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Ellen Brown

Experience has taught me to be wary of conspiracy theories, but many of my comrades on the Left can’t get enough of the damn things. Even when it’s quite plain what is going on, they must look for a hidden agenda, or a grand, over-arching scheme outlined in a Goldmann Sachs memo.

CounterPunch and AlterNet have both posted an article by Ellen Brown, in which she writes:

    In his August 22nd article, Greg Palast posted a screenshot of a 1997 memo from Timothy Geithner, then Assistant Secretary of International Affairs under Robert Rubin, to Larry Summers, then Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Geithner referred in the memo to the “end-game of WTO financial services negotiations” and urged Summers to touch base with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citibank, and Chase Manhattan Bank, for whom private phone numbers were provided.

    The game then in play was the deregulation of banks so that they could gamble in the lucrative new field of derivatives. To pull this off required, first, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the 1933 Act that imposed a firewall between investment banking and depository banking in order to protect depositors’ funds from bank gambling. But the plan required more than just deregulating US banks. Banking controls had to be eliminated globally so that money would not flee to nations with safer banking laws.

Brown then goes on to tell how the U.S. pressured countries around the world to loosen their banking regulations. Most eventually gave in, but there were some hold-outs, one of which happened to be Syria. Brown’s article implies that this is what is behind Obama’s recent call for an intervention in Syria. I don’t buy it. I’m expected to believe that Obama waited two and a half years for Assad to gas his own people* so he could finally carry out Timothy Geither’s master plan? If Syria were that important to Obama, he would have found (or invented) some excuse for intervention before now. The fact that Geithner wrote something in a memo sixteen years ago doesn’t mean that must be the reason why the government is doing something right now. (*I know there are some who claim that a rebel group did the gassing, but in these situations the burden of proof is always on the conspiracy theorists. Unless I see some hard evidence indicating otherwise, I’m going to assume it was Assad who did it.)

Brown also writes:

    These seven countries were named by U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.) in a 2007 “Democracy Now” interview as the new “rogue states” being targeted for take down after September 11, 2001. He said that about 10 days after 9-11, he was told by a general that the decision had been made to go to war with Iraq. Later, the same general said they planned to take out seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.

Again, this doesn’t prove anything. Just because somebody said something to Wesley Clark in 2001, it doesn’t necessarily follow that that is the reason why Obama is doing something today.

There are valid arguments that can be made against what Obama is proposing to do. We don’t need to confuse matters by putting forth dubious conspiracy theories.

A 9/11 Truther Comes in from the Cold

May 30, 2013

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The British 9/11 Truther, Charlie Veitch, has recanted. He reportedly changed his mind after a demolitions expert explained to him why the Twin Towers could not have been brought down by controlled demolitions. He was friends with Alex Jones and David Icke, and he had his won website. Since he announced his change of mind, he has received death threats, and both he and his mother have received harassing e-mails.

The Telegraph has an interesting article about Veitch that is worth reading in its entirety. One of the more interesting passages tells how Veitch became a Truther:

    And at six o’clock one morning, after a night out at a club, it pounced.

    “I was absolutely spangled from the nightclub when my best friend said ‘Charlie, you know you’re Right-wing and you joined the Army? Well, they were lying to you.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘9/11; it wasn’t as you think.’ It was almost like an initiation into a cult, a religion. You’re being given special knowledge.”

Truthers have often seemed to me to be almost like religious cultists. The idea of a 9/11 conspiracy is like a revealed truth to them. And it’s one that can seem empowering. Somebody who has never even taken a calculus course can suddenly become an expert on structural engineering, pedantically lecturing other people on controlled demolitions and what a hole left by an airplane looks like.

What’s interesting is how the 9/11 conspiracy theories have begun to bleed over into other more bizarre theories held by people such as Jones and Icke. A conspiracy theory can be like a rabbit-hole. Having embraced an idea that most people reject, the conspiracy theorist begins to associate only with other like-minded people. Eventually he or she learns about the Bilderburg Group, the New World Order, and the Illuminati, until finally the seeker is initiated into the ultimate mystery: shape-shifting reptilian overlords from another dimension.

CounterPunch readers who want to believe that anti-Semitism is not a problem may want to read this part:

    In essence, the modern conspiracy narrative is the same as the one that has existed since at least the 19th century: that the few (often termed the “Illuminati”) control the many. This, of course, is the nucleus of the dangerous anti-Jewish myth. When he was an insider, did he experience anti-Semitism? His eyes open wide: “Loads. Loads. I was once accused of being a Jew because of my olive skin and my nose. They said, ‘We can’t trust him’.” And when they say the ‘Illuminati’ or ‘Reptiles’, do they actually mean Jews? “It’s slightly complicated but, mostly, yes,” he says.

This article in Slate is also worth reading.

Homeland Security and the Politics of Helplessness

May 22, 2013

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A new report from the Center for Media and Democracy documents how this nation’s anti-terrorism police collaborated with businesses to attack the Occupy movement of 2011 to 2012. Alternet reports:

    The report specifically looks at the activities of “fusion centers,” or law enforcement entities created after 9/11 that transform local police forces into counter-terror units in partnership with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers devoted a lot of time–to the point of “obsession,” the report notes–to monitoring the Occupy movement, particularly for any “threats” to public safety or health and to whether there were “extremists” involved in the movement.

Those of us who worried that the Department of Homeland Security created after the 9/11 attacks would be used to suppress political dissent have seen our worst fears realized. The government and corporations did everything they could to crush a non-violent movement that spoke people’s anger at the greed of the banks and of Wall Street. The result has the near stifling of any resistance to the corporate agenda.

In such an atmosphere, it is no surprise that people turn to conspiracy theories to explain their problems. Conspiracy theories are the opiate of the politically defeated. Greg Palast’s good buddy Alex Jones – who last month claimed that the Boston Marathon bombings were a “false flag operation” – has suggested that the recent tornado in Oklahoma was the work of a government-owned weather machine. According to Media Matters:

    Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller’s subject. While he explained that “natural tornadoes” do exist and that he’s not sure if a government “weather weapon” was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government “can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”

    According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft “in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things.” He added, “if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”

The price that we pay for having let Bush and Obama create a police state is a long descent into national infantilism.

Conspiracy Trolls Busy at Work

April 17, 2013

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Mike Adams

Hardly had the smoke cleared from the bombs at the Boston Marathon, than our nation’s conspiracy trolls were hard at work, assuring us that this was another “false flag operation”. You see, any time a shooting or bombing happens, it’s a false flag operation by the government. It’s simply impossible for anything to happen in this country without the government being behind it.

Just ask Mike Adams (his friends call him the “Health Ranger”.) He is the editor of NaturalNews.com, which, I’ve been told, gets over 4 million unique hits each month. According to Wikipedia:

    Adams is an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 truther, a birther and endorses conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

So, name just about any stupid idea you’ve ever heard, and chances are that Mike Adams believes it’s true. (Yeah, you guessed it, he believes in chemtrails.) For Adams, life is just one long, bad episode of The X-Files.

Not long after the bombings, Adams wrote on his website:

    The official story of the bombing is that terrorists detonated two bombs at the marathon finish line and that the Boston bomb squad magically located a third bomb one mile away, identified the bomb, rigged it with explosives and initiated a “controlled explosion” all in less than an hour! (Absurd.)

No, that is not the official story, and it has never been the official story. Shortly after the bombings, there were news reports about a third explosion occurring at the JFK Library, but it later turned out that this was just a fire in the equipment room. The police did search the library for a bomb, but they never claimed to have found one. So, Adams invents an “official story”, and he then proceeds to punch holes in it. Brilliant.

Adams later tells us:

    …the mainstream media is pushing a new narrative that blames “right-wing extremists” for the bombing, even without a shred of evidence to back that up.

Really? I haven’t noticed. To be fair, Adams probably doesn’t actually pay attention to the mainstream media, since he knows that everything they say is a lie. He also notes:

    It is impossible for a bomb squad to have located, analyzed, rigged and detonated the third bomb in under an hour, especially when it was located one mile away, at the Kennedy Presidential Library.

Which is no doubt why the mainstream media don’t claim that they did any such thing.

Adams then comes to this shocking conclusion:

    Although it’s still a bit early to know for certain, this looks more and more like a planned event that was deployed by the Boston bomb squad, called a “drill,” then used as a pretext for the President to call for TSA agents to be on the streets at all future sporting events.

    And that, in turn, is the run-up to the TSA occupation of America, which has always been the goal of Obama. Remember that back on the campaign trail, he announced he wanted to build a “civilian national security force.”

That’s right! Obama can’t settle for the FBI, the CIA, the ATF, the National Guard, Homeland Security, the Federal Marshals, the Secret Service, and local police departments. No! He must have TSA agents groping us on the streets! Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

I gave in to my morbid curiosity and looked at some of the other posts on Adams’s website. I found one entitled Should you leave the USA before the collapse? Words of wisdom from someone who tried. (I wont’ comment on Adams’s use of capitals.) By “collapse”, Adams means that the US is becoming a police state. (I would argue that the US is already technically a police state, but I will leave that for some other time.) Adams begins by talking about how he has visited other countries and found them wanting in various ways. He then advises people to move to Texas instead:

    Because Texas has its own power grid unlike the rest of the nation. Texas can grow its own food. [Texas has also been known to have severe droughts.] Texas is the energy capital of the nation and can produce natural gas, diesel, oil and even jet fuel. Texas has masses of armed patriots who own more guns than they do pairs of shoes, and that makes Texas practically impenetrable to any invading force. [Does this guy know anything about history?]

    For example, suppose North Korea launches an ICBM into the high atmosphere over North America and unleashes an EMP weapon that destroys nearly all electronics.

    This could theoretically be followed by a naval invasion of forces from Red China [sic] and North Korea, both of which suffer from too many young males that can hardly be fed and might as well be thrown at some enemy nation as cannon fodder.

This could theoretically be followed by Martians landing in New Jersey and killing every human being, so they can then leave their dying planet and colonize Earth.

Life’s a bitch, huh?

Greg Palast Has a Man-Crush on Alex Jones

January 21, 2013

And you thought that Alex Jones is just a loud-mouthed buffoon. According to Greg Palast, Jones, who promotes 9/11 conspiracy theories, as well anti-immigrant racism, is “the host of one of the only intellectually substantive, fact-heavy forums on American radio”.

Palast likes Jones a lot. How much does Palast like Alex Jones? He tells us:

    I love Alex Jones. If I were a woman, I’d appear on his show in my highest heels and shortest mini-skirt.

Palast also tells us that Jones has “iron balls”.

Some things simply defy satire.

Why does Palast like Jones so much? It has to do with a story he once did. He tells us:

    While the BBC ran the story regardless of the threat, my investigations of Singer, despite gaining the cover of Nation, were suddenly pulled from US airwaves, including Piers’ CNN. A major news service said it was spiked not by editors, but by “high up”. Even MSNBC said, coyly, that the story was “too complex for our viewers”.

    But not Jones’ audience. “This is complex,” Jones told me, “so we’ll give you a full hour to explain it.” Which is part of the reason Alex is such a hero in the US – he has the cojones to venture where the mainstream media fear to tread.

So what? The people who listen to Jones’s conspiracist rants aren’t going to build a movement for social change. They’re going to stock up on assault rifles and wait for Armageddon to come. Palast, however, is so vain, he is willing to slobber all over Jones just for letting him talk on his show.

To be fair, Palast says he doesn’t agree with everything that Jones says. Which is nice to know.

Vice.com promises us that this article is the first of a three-part series, in which, among other things, Greg Palast will talk about his penis. I can hardly wait.

You can find out more about Alex Jones here.