Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Conspiracy Talk

Posted in United States by Dan on April 5, 2010

JFK was shot and killed by the CIA.  The Bush administration orchestrated the September 11 attacks.  George Bush stole the 2000 presidential election.  Dick Cheney wanted to invade Iraq for its oil reserves.  The Jews control American politics.  What do all of these ridiculous statements have in common?  They are all conspiracy theories that resonate with some sectors of the American public.

I have to admit, I’m a bit ashamed that I have devoted some space on this blog to conspiracy theories.  Personally, I cannot stand running into someone on the street (or in the classroom) who takes conspiracies to heart. It’s even harder for me not to laugh at these people when they spout off at the mouth about the 9/11 attacks being orchestrated by President Bush or the neoconservatives deliberately lying in order to launch a preemptive war in Iraq. And I’m assuming that most Americans out there would have a similar attitude (at least I would hope).

But on the other hand, conspiracy theories are a widespread phenomenon in the United States.  Just last week, I was talking to a professor at my university about some of the new conspiracies that have surfaced and gained traction over the last few years.  And to my surprise, instead of sharing a laugh, I discovered that this professor was forming a class next year dealing exclusively with the politics of conspiracy (a pretty cool topic if you ask me).

When a top academic wants to teach a class about conspiracy theories, you know that this school of thought is common in a society or culture.

I guarantee that if you took a sample on the street and asked them if JFK was shot by a lone-gunman, you would get a few who would vehemently disagree.  Some may claim that the CIA covered up the entire affair, whereas others might argue that Vice President Lyndon Johnson ordered the assassination in order to assume the presidency himself.

I have some conflicting views towards conspiracy theories, because while most of them are absurd, they are still widely entertaining. Everyone loves a good conspiracy, no matter how illogical or irrational it is. Take a look at American pop culture today and you will see movies, books, and television programs using conspiracy in their formula. Just a few weeks ago, Matt Damon came out with a new film called “Green Zone” that basically lays out a distorted view of why the United States decided to invade Iraq (oil, business interests, dominance in the Persian Gulf, etc).

Everyone loves controversy, no matter how perverse it may be. So in the end, perhaps we should just look at the conspiracy camp as another form of entertainment, and leave it at that.  This is what keeps me from arguing with some of these people.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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9 Responses

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  1. LodgePole said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    The conspiracy theory of the 19 hijackers advanced by the government follows your script exactly:
    a) never identifies the precise mechanism
    b) fails to provide concrete evidence to justify its far reaching claims
    c) it is a covert activity. They will not investigate openly
    d) they have hidden the evidence, for whatever reason
    e) they’ve blamed al Qaeda.
    Therefore the government is dead wrong as you imply since they’ve managed to convince most of us that up is down.

  2. Janbekster said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I don’t think the neo-Cons were conspiring at all. Their agenda was always clear about the American century, and the notion of the New Middle East, in which Iraq was supposed to be the launching pad.. They had a listening ear in the “then” Washington administration, and a reasonably compliant American public. As far as being a Cabal, they certainly were.
    khairi janbek.paris/france

  3. Aparicio said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    They “tend” to be false, true. but sometimes they are true. And in the case of 911, I respectfully desagree. Serious “thruers” about that story highlight mostly that the oficial version does not make any sense when studied in details. And it does not. Nobody can assure is was a US government plot, but the oficial version is simply not true.

  4. SMCI60652 said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    The problem with “Green Zone” is that it goes too far.

    It is definitely distorted, but the Bush Administration was cruisin’ for a bruisin’ with the factual information we know about the run-up to the war and its handling in the early years.

    Was the intel that the Administration used to create fear, doctored?

    — Probably not all of it, but some of it clearly was. It is atleast an agreed upon fact that it was not vetted traditionally. And given that many PNAC members and memoranda signatories to Clinton were in positions of influence within the government, it stands to reason that it may have been possible that evidence was stove-piped to fit a pre-conceived conclusion. This seems to be the scholarly consensus on the matter.

    Did Bremer’s announcement at the CPA of the suspension of the Iraqi Army lead to widespread Ba’athist Sunni rebellion?

    — YES. Even Bremer himself grants that that was likely.

    Did suspected WMD site after WMD site turn up empty and devoid of any evidence of WMD production?

    — YES.

    The only part of the film’s retelling that was falsified was the concrete pinning of fabricating intelligence on the Administration, and then the killing off of witnesses.

    I think the Administration, regardless of how flawed its handling of the war was, was too careful not to be seen as ‘outright’ falsifying intelligence.

  5. SeanMcBride said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    The 9/11 official story is itself a conspiracy theory, and one that was thoroughly demolished, along with five or six other major false conspiracy theories promoted by neoconservatives in the Bush 43 administration, within a few years of the event.

    Most 9/11 skeptics are not “conspiracy theorists,” but stone cold rational debunkers of nonsensical official stories of all kinds. They tend to be much better educated, and have more intimate knowledge of insider government, military and intelligence activities, than 9/11 True Believers and defenders of the official story. Check out the resumes of some of the skeptics here

  6. Nicholas Wibberley said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Conspiracy theory is historical fiction like Shakespeare’s Richard III; some is credible, some fanciful, some brilliant, some tedious, and some plain dotty.

  7. M.Mike said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I think that no matter what party is in office the US government is corrupt. There are all kinds of these small groups influencing what is happening against the will of the people. I don’t think of this is a conspiracy but I think that focus on conspiracy theories camouflages that fact.

  8. SeanMcBride said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Does everyone here agree that the following are real and confirmed conspiracies?

    1. ADL spying on Americans
    2. Bernard Madoff
    4. Dubai assassination
    5. Enron
    6. Gulf of Tonkin
    7. Iran-Contra
    8. Italian Mafia
    9. Jonathan Pollard
    10. Lavon Affair/Operation Susannah
    11. MKULTRA
    12. Niger forgeries
    13. Operation Gladio
    14. Operation Mockingbird
    15. Operation Northwoods
    16. Propaganda Due
    17. Reichstag Fire
    18. Russian Mafia
    19. USS Liberty attack and cover-up
    20. Watergate

    • Sin Nombre said, on April 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

      Have to say Sean that one doesn’t have to agree that each and every item on your list qualifies as a conspiracy to observe that it’s still an impressive reminder and you make a valid point.

      As with any other point it can of course be taken too far, but that doesn’t rob it of all validity.

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