The Conspiracy to Conceal Conspiracies

7 February, 2022
“A Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry,” 2018, oil on can­vas, 100 x 100cm (cour­tesy artist Sergiu Roman).

 

Truth and Untruth Lurk­ing in Plain Sight

Mua­mar­rat are ubiq­ui­tous in the Arab world—there are so many con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, for instance, about Syr­i­a’s civ­il war, the gas attacks, ISIS, Israel and the CIA, it’s enough to dri­ve any­one crazy — so many ver­sions of “the truth.” In this col­umn, expat observ­er Mike Booth mines the var­i­ous hid­den forces and cat­a­stro­phes inher­ent in con­spir­a­cies in the con­text of the Unit­ed States.

 

Mike Booth

 

“Oh, him, he’s an anti-vaxxer, a dan­ger­ous crazy. Don’t pay any atten­tion to what he says. The 9/11 Truth Move­ment? Them too. They’re all con­spir­a­cy theorists.”

Well, not exact­ly. These are the two con­trast­ing exam­ples cit­ed by Jaron Haram­bam, the Nether­lands soci­ol­o­gist whose spe­cial­ty is study­ing the sub­ject of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and who argues in his recent book, Con­tem­po­rary Con­spir­a­cy Cul­ture: Truth and Knowl­edge in an Era of Epis­temic Insta­bil­i­ty, that “we need to focus on the mean­ing, diver­si­ty and con­text of dif­fer­ent con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, as well as the peo­ple who sub­scribe to them.”

That seems to make sense, but how do we dis­tin­guish one from the oth­er? That is the prob­lem often posed by con­tro­ver­sial affir­ma­tions on vital sub­jects. But is it enough to dis­miss ques­tion­able truths by mere­ly past­ing a “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry” label on them with­out tak­ing a deep­er look? That seems to be the default reac­tion in the Unit­ed States. If some­thing is true, but is uncom­fort­able for impor­tant peo­ple or insti­tu­tions, the most expe­di­ent way to deal with it is by heap­ing it with ridicule and denial until it fades out of sight. This pro­ce­dure requires no research, no inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions, nor pub­lic debate, and it’s free. Who could ask for a more per­fect method for cur­tail­ing debate and cloak­ing the truth?

Which is emphat­i­cal­ly not to say that all “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” are base­less. Far from it — but when they all get lumped togeth­er in the same trick bag, it’s hard to tell them apart. How do you man­age that? You do your home­work. You read, com­pare ver­sions of events, eval­u­ate the sources, and weigh the prob­a­bil­i­ties. Then you make a con­sid­ered deci­sion based on all the facts you can muster. Yes, it can be work, but it is the most reli­able way of get­ting to the truth. Admit­ted­ly, many con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries may not stand up to the truth. But, to the dis­may of some impor­tant peo­ple, orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions, some will.

Haram­bam char­cac­ter­izes the 9/11 Truth Move­ment as “rather dif­fer­ent, peo­ple who chal­lenge the main­stream nar­ra­tive of 9/11 with com­plete­ly fac­tu­al and sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence.” He adds, “These activists pro­fess knowl­edge of physics, con­struc­tion and explo­sives, and ground their legit­i­ma­cy in exper­tise. Haram­bam con­cludes, “Con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries are not uni­form, nor should our engage­ments with them be.”

 

Kennedy Deserves Better

Anoth­er his­toric case that belongs along­side the 9/11 Truth Move­ment for plau­si­bil­i­ty, after about a half cen­tu­ry of rich and var­ied inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion, is that of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. I’m not sure if any­one is pre­pared to make a firm accu­sa­tion in the mat­ter, in terms of who­dunit, but it should at least be freely aired. That has not hap­pened, and does­n’t look about to. The case car­ries an addi­tion­al fac­tor that serves to inten­si­fy the smell of con­spir­a­cy: gov­ern­ment col­lu­sion in efforts to occlude evi­dence rel­e­vant to the case. What pos­si­ble expla­na­tion can there be for that, aside from bla­tant malfeasance?

Yes, there was a hur­ried and slip­shod offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion, head­ed by Chief Jus­tice Earl War­ren of the Supreme Court, a pil­lar of Amer­i­can judi­cial hon­esty. But it was nei­ther thor­ough nor con­vinc­ing. That brings up anoth­er ques­tion: can gov­ern­ment author­i­ties be trust­ed to exca­vate the truth, the whole truth, and noth­ing but — or are there some ques­tions of secu­ri­ty, diplo­ma­cy, or loy­al­ty to be pro­tect­ed at the same time? Jus­tice War­ren was a close friend of the Kennedy fam­i­ly, and his per­son­al attach­ment may have inter­fered with his duties to the Com­mis­sion. In one of the most infa­mous episodes of the inves­ti­ga­tion, War­ren denied his fel­low Com­mis­sion mem­bers access to Kennedy’s autop­sy pho­tos because he deemed them “too dis­turb­ing.” I.F. Stone, the great Amer­i­can inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist, is quot­ed as say­ing, “If you can only remem­ber two things, remem­ber this: ‘Gov­ern­ments lie’. If you can remem­ber three, remem­ber, ‘All gov­ern­ments lie.’ ”

What is tru­ly remark­able in these cas­es in the Unit­ed States is the extent to which a mas­sive major­i­ty of cit­i­zens would rather not both­er look­ing into so many vital issues, pre­fer­ring to con­sign them to “con­spir­a­cy-the­o­ry” lim­bo. A quick Google search on the term will show you just how the play­ing field is tilt­ed in favor of dis­cred­it­ing vir­tu­al­ly every­one who pro­pos­es a seem­ing­ly ques­tion­able or con­tro­ver­sial the­o­ry. Almost all the Google arti­cles are deroga­to­ry and refer more to “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry sub­cul­tures” than to the ques­tions at hand, as if any­one who sub­scribes to any con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry were an idiot. It’s not clear whether this inabil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish between fact and fic­tion is due to lazi­ness or devi­ous inten­tions. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, almost none of the writ­ers offer much evi­dence to sus­tain their affir­ma­tions. They don’t have to. Just label­ing the issue a “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry” will sat­is­fy the most­ly bovine crit­i­cal sense out there. One thing is cer­tain. The Kennedy case will not be closed until all those papers are released.

 

Per­son­al Favorites

While we’re on the sub­ject of gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion, maybe it’s time to drop one of my favorite con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Isn’t it at least pos­si­ble that it was one of Amer­i­ca’s all-pow­er­ful “intel­li­gence” agen­cies that got the con­spir­a­cy-the­o­ry ball rolling? If they did­n’t, they should have, judg­ing by the whole­sale con­fu­sion caused by the onslaught of “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” through­out the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. That forms part of a cou­ple of the spooks’ core skills: pro­pa­gan­da and thought con­trol. What a won­der­ful, spa­cious, dark bin in which to tip the gov­ern­men­t’s dirty laun­dry, the larg­er part of which belongs to the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, itself. All the black ops, all the false flags, the regime change, the sur­veil­lance at home and abroad… It might have some­thing to do with them being secret and there­fore some­how armored. Nev­er mind. They were most like­ly just fol­low­ing orders. They’re clean­cut Amer­i­can boys. They would­n’t be involved in any­thing unchris­t­ian. Would they?

At bot­tom, though the Amer­i­cans think they’re doing them­selves a favor with the con­spir­a­cy-the­o­ries gam­bit, in real­i­ty they’re just adding lia­bil­i­ties to their assets. Too many peo­ple world­wide have done their home­work on “the­o­ries” like Kennedy and 9/11, just to men­tion the most egre­gious cas­es, and are no longer hood­winked by slick pro­pa­gan­da maneu­vers. At the very min­i­mum it’s clear by now that the Amer­i­cans can­not be trust­ed. Just look at Rus­si­a’s sit­u­a­tion today, hemmed in along their entire west­ern bor­der by NATO mil­i­tary bases and mis­siles, with the Amer­i­cans bay­ing for more in Ukraine. This, after Amer­i­can Sec­re­tary of State, James Bak­er, on Feb­ru­ary 9, 1990, famous­ly assured Sovi­et leader, Mikhail Gor­bachev, that NATO would­n’t move “one inch clos­er” to Rus­sia. The occa­sion of that promise, which was repeat­ed sev­er­al times dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings, was the nego­ti­a­tions over the re-uni­fi­ca­tion of Germany.

The next news we had on that, admit­ted­ly ver­bal, agree­ment — some­thing that in Russ­ian cul­ture is to be rig­or­ous­ly hon­ored — was when the Amer­i­cans welched on it, alleg­ing that it was­n’t in writ­ing and it was made with the Sovi­et Union, not Rus­sia. It’s almost as if an Amer­i­can Sec­re­tary of State’s word were not his bond. (See the full sto­ry here.) One won­ders how many world lead­ers will find such a maneu­ver despi­ca­ble. And how many of them will for­get it? I don’t think that sort of for­get­ful­ness abounds at the top of world gov­ern­ments, at least those that matter.

 

It All Boils Down to Demand­ing Stan­dards for Dis­tin­guish­ing Truth from Lies

Per­mit me to sug­gest a few. Let’s start with motive. Does the per­pe­tra­tor or the denier of a giv­en con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry have some­thing to gain from it? Mon­ey, fame, re-elec­tion, sat­is­fac­tion of mis­placed patri­o­tism, mar­ket share, favor swaps, fraud­u­lent geopo­lit­i­cal clout, or just anoth­er piece in the wall?

Then there’s the means. Lee Har­vey Oswald’s rick­ety old 6.5 × 52mm Car­cano Model0 91 infantry car­bine, pro­duced in Italy from 1891–1943 and pur­chased by Oswald by mail order, was not the ide­al tool for such a high-pri­or­i­ty job. It was whol­ly out of char­ac­ter. In the reen­act­ment of the crime, gov­ern­ment sharp­shoot­ers were unable to match Oswald’s marks­man­ship. If he had not been expe­di­tious­ly mur­dered the morn­ing after the event, Oswald might have been able to explain this and oth­er key aspects of the assassination.

What about the pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the per­pe­tra­tor? That is fun­da­men­tal; with­out it no jury will con­vict. And Oswald was not pos­i­tive­ly iden­ti­fied as the killer. Could that be why he had to suc­cumb to may­hem the fol­low­ing morn­ing, to dis­pel all doubts?

What about oppor­tu­ni­ty? Is the inter­est­ed par­ty in a posi­tion to plant or debunk a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry? Is he or she well placed in the media, the gov­ern­ment or the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex? Those are the big three, and the juici­est CTs usu­al­ly refer to one or anoth­er of them. Do they enjoy deserved or unde­served cred­i­bil­i­ty? In the Kennedy case, the ster­ling rep­u­ta­tion of US Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice, Earl War­ren, still blocks the path of truth seek­ers 59 years lat­er. Such was War­ren’s pres­tige as a per­son and the high­est judge in the land that few peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton or any­where else in the coun­try dared to chal­lenge his impec­ca­ble honesty.

With the pas­sage of time, how­ev­er, and new evi­dence that has come to light, the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion bears fresh assess­ment. The His­to­ry Chan­nel pub­lished an arti­cle with nine rea­sons for tak­ing anoth­er look at the case.

Here are a few of them:

• War­ren’s doubts about the case against Oswald led him to turn down the oppor­tu­ni­ty to chair the com­mis­sion mul­ti­ple times, until Pres­i­dent John­son argued that an inad­e­quate report could incite a pub­lic pan­ic and even spark a nuclear war.

• While serv­ing as a lead­ing mem­ber of the War­ren Com­mis­sion, future Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford also act­ed as an inside infor­mant for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Among Ford’s many leaks was the rev­e­la­tion that two unnamed mem­bers of the Commission—most like­ly Richard Rus­sell and Hale Boggs—remained uncon­vinced that the kill shot had been fired from the Texas School Book Depository.

• The FBI and the CIA had mon­i­tored Lee Har­vey Oswald in the months before the assas­si­na­tion, but both agen­cies lat­er tried to down­play their knowl­edge of him to the War­ren Commission.

• When the War­ren Report was first released to the pub­lic in Sep­tem­ber 1964, polls showed that only 56 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agreed with its “lone gun­man the­o­ry.” By 1966, a sec­ond poll would show that only 36 per­cent of peo­ple still had con­fi­dence in the report. Today, stud­ies show that around two-thirds of Amer­i­cans believe in some form of con­spir­a­cy sur­round­ing the assas­si­na­tion. (Source: History.com)

 

Oth­er Caus­es for Concern

A cou­ple of years ago I wrote a two-part arti­cle about the USS Lib­er­ty case. I called it “USS Liberty–Crew Mur­dered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Com­man­der in Chief.” My main source was a book, Assault on the Lib­er­ty, pub­lished by James M. Ennes, Jr., one of the sailor vic­tims of the gra­tu­itous Israeli Navy and Air Force attack on a Unit­ed States sig­nals intel­li­gence ship.

Israel and the U.S. were then, as now, inti­mate allies. If the Lib­er­ty case did not become one of the most fla­grant con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries of the last cen­tu­ry, it’s only because it was so art­ful­ly cov­ered up. That coverup was essen­tial to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son’s upcom­ing reelec­tion cam­paign which, in the end, nev­er mate­ri­al­ized, any­way. He was pre-defeat­ed by the anti-Viet­nam-War movement.

There are oth­er out­rages that were so fla­grant that there was no way the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment could cov­er them up, so they just brazened them out. How, for exam­ple, did all of the most “impor­tant” Sau­di cit­i­zens get evac­u­at­ed back home on char­ter planes on the day after 15 of their com­pa­tri­ots had direct­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 9/11 attacks? It was a day, we must recall, that all US flights were ground­ed due to the emer­gency. How is it pos­si­ble that they were not even inter­ro­gat­ed? Thou­sands of Amer­i­cans were mur­dered. The attack­ers blew a big hole in the Pen­ta­gon. The fuck­ing Pen­ta­gon! What was the hur­ry on the occa­sion of the most impor­tant attack on Amer­i­ca since Pearl Har­bor? Why was Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, the great friend of the Saud­is, his fel­low oil mag­nates, not called to account? Would that not seem appro­pri­ate in the world’s great­est democracy?

So much slime. So lit­tle time.

 

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