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A Question of Conspiracy and the psychopathology of anti-Americanism

A Question of Conspiracy
and the psychopathology of anti-Americanism

By J.R. Nyquist


The Crackpot

Geoff Metcalf recently wrote a column asking if one of the hijacked jetliners (the one carrying Barbara Olson) really did crash into the Pentagon on 9/11. Photographs of the crash site suggest that the jetliner disintegrated on impact or was burnt up without leaving much debris. Unwilling to accept this explanation, conspiracy theorists suspect a cover-up. They don't think a jetliner hit the Pentagon at all. 

"So Where is the Plane?" asks Metcalf. 

Perhaps the plane was dematerialized by a wizard. Maybe it was taken to a secret rebel base. Maybe the Bilderbergers hijacked the plane to Belgium. Or no -- wait. The CIA wanted to use the passengers as MK-Ultra mind control guinea pigs. 

In his March 11 column Metcalf wrote, "there are several questions that at least should be asked and answered." 

Twinkle twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a fruitcake in the sky!

As I once explained to a journalist friend who believes NASA faked the Apollo moon landings, "Everyone believes, at one time or another, in something that is crazy."

Some readers might say in their heart of hearts, "I am educated and rational." But is that all you are? Are you not also filled with dangerous passions, ungovernable moods, animal instinct and appetite? 


The Zealot

In 1986 I met a young man named Bryan Ellison at a University of California YAF meeting.

He was an undergraduate and I was a graduate student. He was very bright, very logical and passionate about his views. After the meeting he told me about an organization that was going to save America. The organization he recommended was the John Birch Society. 

I went to the library and devoured everything I could on the Birch Society. I learned that the organization was founded in 1958 by Robert Welch. It initially attracted a number of anti-Semites: men like Revilo Oliver and Willis Carto. But Welch didn't try to sell Jewish conspiracy theory to the American masses. Instead, he spoke of a "communist conspiracy." Later he referred to an "Illuminati" conspiracy. In fact, Welch didn't think communism was the main threat to Western Civilization. Communism was merely a front for something even more insidious -- a conspiracy of Western elitists. 

By the time I attended a lecture on "the conspiracy," I already knew where many of the footnotes were coming from. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Afterwards Ellison gushed with awe and wonderment at how conspiracy theory reduced history into something that made sense. It was like owning a magic key. What great truths these were, indeed!

But I saw no truth in the theory that history was the work of conspiratorial forces. Neither could I accept the assertion that the American Civil War, World War One, the Great Depression and World War Two were part of a vast conspiratorial design; or that the League of Nations was the spawn of Satan. (One should never insult the Devil by confusing him with Woodrow Wilson.)

If it wasn't for the intelligence and power of Bryan Ellison's intellect, I wouldn't have given conspiracy theory much attention. Here was a serious person, who correctly understood many things. I don't know what Ellison is doing now, or how his views have changed, but 16 years ago he convinced me to look at this conspiracy business. He even convinced me to join the Birch Society, because it was an effective anti-Communist educational organization (even though I remained skeptical of conspiracy theory). 

In the Birch Society I found many theoretical undercurrents. I met Catholic, Mormon, closet atheist, fundamentalist and libertarian conspiracy theorists. Every intellectual within the Society had his own version of the theory. Each of these rested on an idiosyncratic (if not highly selective) reading of history. The one concept they all agreed on, at bottom, was the decisiveness of conspiracy to politics. To these good people sociology, political economy, psychology and economics had little to offer. Classic texts of history and philosophy were neglected. There was no genuine life of the mind with these people. They had found Political Truth and only needed something to dress it up. Thoughtfulness, skepticism and originality no longer mattered. They'd stopped thinking and analyzing because the Great Puzzle had already been solved. For those with intellectual energy to burn, there was nothing to do but arrange the day's facts to fit the theory. Conspiracy was their Alpha and the Omega, the driving focus of the Birch organization. 


The Rebel

Anything built on a false basis is bound to prove hazardous in the long run. And now that the United States faces a growing series of threats from overseas, the dangerous side of conspiracy thinking begins to emerge. To understand this, one only has to listen to radio host Alex Jones of www.infowars.com, who says the U.S. Government engineered the 9/11 attacks in order to impose a police state. According to Jones, “the control-freak psychotics of the CFR, Trilateral Commission [and] Bilderberg Group are using all of their considerable influence to create a perceived enemy threat” for the purpose of imposing a totalitarian state. Jones's program is full of outrageous slanders, shabby analysis and hearsay. He says to his audience, “You are slated for dehumanization. The preparations for mass oppression have been underway for decades.”

Alex Jones is a hairy, egregious, knuckle-dragging conspiracy-hound. Unfortunately, he has a large following and he does a lot of damage. On Nov. 10 President Bush denounced the harm done by "outrageous" conspiracy theories during an address to the UN General Assembly. The President said:

We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th - malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty.

Not surprisingly, the John Birch Society’s William Norman Grigg took issue with Bush's statement. In fact, Grigg indirectly suggested that Bush had something to hide, that perhaps the president intentionally allowed the terror strikes of 9/11 go forward because of a “hidden agenda."

Writing in the Birch Society's magazine, The New American, Grigg stated, “When measured against the U.S. Constitution and the Christian 'Just War' tradition, the ongoing 'war on terrorism' must be judged a morally tainted exercise.” 

Why is it morally tainted?

Because Congress did not issue a formal declaration of war. Therefore, Bush's defense of the country is illegal and therefore tainted. According to Grigg, the Founding Fathers would never have tolerated such a gross abuse of power. Yet, President John Adams fought an undeclared war against France in 1798. 

The arguments of Mr. Grigg and other conspiracy theorists are obvious contrivances. Clothing themselves in the righteousness of the Founding Fathers, they select only those facts that agree with their preconceptions. But the statement that gives Grigg away, above all others, is the one in which he describes America’s anti-terror coalition as “UN-directed.” This strange insinuation, which does not square with the facts, seriously misrepresents what is happening in the diplomatic world (where most of the players are at odds). But for Grigg and the John Birch Society, the War on Terror is a device -- a trick -- for establishing a global dictatorship.

Is the CFR blowing up buildings and killing Americans to foster world government? 

If people like Jones and Grigg are right then we ought to overthrow our ruling class before we're all enslaved or exterminated. On the other hand, if Jones, Grigg and the Birch Society are wrong then how should we judge them? How should we regard people who slander the president, undermine the war effort and adopt a political line more in keeping with that of our enemies?


The Marxist

The first problem one encounters when trying to get a grip on conspiracy theory is this: The Conspiracy, as described by conspiracy theorists, cannot be empirically demonstrated. For example, the head of The Conspiracy is not definitively known. The organization behind The Conspiracy is also a question-mark. Only the conspiracy's alleged front groups are visible. Furthermore, the membership of The Conspiracy is often said to be synonymous with a list of key people in government and industry. For example, the membership list of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and other elite organizations is said to coincide with the top ranks of The Conspiracy. In other words, America's ruling class is The Conspiracy. 

Like Marxist theory, conspiracy theory offers a clever polemic against the existing power structure. Boil it all down and that is what conspiracy theory amounts to. As for its "factual content," conspiracy theory cannot prove that "the elite" intends to enslave the masses under a police state. It merely asserts that this is the case. 

When confronted with these obvious criticisms, some conspiracy theorists retreat into theology, explaining that the head of The Conspiracy is Satan. But this kind of statement does not open the way to an empirical validation of conspiracy theory. For how does one prove that the Council on Foreign Relations is a front for the Devil?

Does Mephistopheles carry messages back and forth between David Rockefeller and Hell? Does the American Establishment worship Satan behind closed doors while paving the way for Antichrist and a financial system based on 666?

Alas, Political analysis is not theology. It is neither the prerogative of theologians nor philosophers to accuse persons and organizations of Satanism. Such accusations require empirical or judicial proofs, and remind us of the Holy Inquisition (which burned many heretics and even more witches). Here we are reduced to the literal meaning of the term "witch hunt." 

From my very first contact with conspiracy theorists, I have conscientiously examined the evidence to see if the theory has any merit. I have engaged in constructive debate with conspiracy theorists, hoping to learn something that would change my mind. But the arguments of conspiracy theory are designed to support pre-existing assumptions. The conspiracy theorist is not really open to alternative theories. He is committed to a paranoid style of thinking and cannot experiment with any other. 

I believe that conspiracy theory misleads good people and misdirects their political efforts down a dead-end path. The presence of conspiracy theory on the far right has not only discredited the far right, negating the force of its traditionalist views, but conspiracy theory has disorganized the right's survival instinct. As we have seen with the terrorist offensive of 9/11, each blow struck against America has a special significance for conspiracy theory. Not only is the 9/11 attack seen as further proof of a grand conspiracy, it is subtly (and not-so-subtly) attributed to leading U.S. financial and political interests. To make this idea vivid conspiracy theorists manufacture a steady stream of pseudo-facts. The conspiracy theorist's method only superficially resembles empirical investigation. He ignores some facts while fabricating a false context for others. These he organizes, edits and alters to fit his preconceived conclusions. 

Today we can see the pernicious result. Across the internet conspiracy theorists teach that 9/11 was orchestrated (or allowed to happen) by the "powers that be." In other words, America was only nominally attacked by Muslim extremists on 9/11. According to many of these conspiracy hounds, the real culprits are the ruling class of the United States. 

Consider what this teaching actually amounts to. Typically, the conspiracy theorist starts by asserting his pro-Christian, pro-Constitutionalist, pro-American and pro-capitalist position; but he ends by asserting basic Marxist propaganda, which teaches that the ruling class of capitalist civilization is nefarious and wicked, and must be overthrown to forestall the pauperization of the lower classes. 

Here the conspiracy theorist joins with Marxists and Jacobins. Ironic as it may seem, the conspiracy hound proves to be a left wing agitator. For leftists are those who take the side of the lower classes against the elite. (The entire meaning of left and right derives from the fact that those who championed the masses in 1793 sat on the left in the revolutionary French Assembly, while those who championed the church, aristocracy and bourgeoisie sat on the right.)

Is conspiracy theory a communist plot?

No, it is not. Conspiracy theory is older than Marxism. Nevertheless, there is spiritual similarity between conspiracy theory and Marxism-Leninism. Both regard conspiracy as the essential ingredient of politics. Both are boundless in their political cynicism. Both have something of the injured underclass about them.

The great political sociologist Vilfredo Pareto theorized that political rationalizations serve deeply irrational instinctual drives. What if the conspiracy theorist and the Marxist share the same impulse to rebellion and opposition to authority? In that event, do the varying rationalizations offered for hating the U.S. government make any difference?


People who do not have critical sense, who have not learned how to work with facts, continue to level charges against our government day by day. The result of this would be laughable if it wasn't so damaging to the country. 

[As a final note: the original version of this article was hacked shortly after it appeared. Key paragraphs were removed. The hacker was doubtless a conspiracy advocate who would likely portray himself as pro-capitalist (though he violated my property rights), who would also portray himself as a Constitutionalist (though he would deprive me of free speech), and who might even list himself as a Christian (though his methods are those of a bully). Political debate in a free society means that you allow dissenting opinion.]


How Best to Achieve Justice?
By William Norman Grigg

Did We Know What Was Coming?
By William Norman Grigg

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He makes very valid arguments here, but a lot of his own geopolitical theories seem on the verge of conjecture as well.

may i ask u what theories in particular

you would point as such?

Edited at 2010-01-20 02:16 am (UTC)

Re: may i ask u what theories in particular

The general belief that Russia is at the heart of a master plan to destroy Western civ. That the Soviet collapse is a part of that master plan, etc.

Unless I'm misreading something.

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