The Austin Chronicle

Page Two: Grand Illusions

The only problem with wide-ranging, all-encompassing conspiracy theories is that they're wrong

By Louis Black, July 6, 2007, Columns

There are conspiracy theories and grand conspiracy theories. The latter are more than just event-specific: They might include that 9/11 was an inside job or have some overlay for the Kennedy assassination, but they have a much broader vision. Instead of addressing individual events, these theories are rooted in the past and looking toward the future. Essentially, with variations, they argue that history has been and is being manipulated, planned, and executed by small cabals of conspirators determined to control the future. Different theories offer different culprits, which are mutually exclusive of one another. These include the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Vatican, American Jewry, Jews in general, Zionists, and the Israeli government (and though those last may appear the same, they are not). Then there is the English aristocracy, including the royal bloodline, the royal bloodline without the aristocracy, world bankers, and so on.

Some of the most pointed dissenting arguments against 9/11 as an inside job are the most obvious. The Bush administration has screwed up almost any complicated problem it has faced. This is especially true of Iraq, which it purposefully misled this country into invading; the resulting occupation is an all-time classic of incompetence.

Given that, how could this administration pull off such a complicated conspiracy as 9/11? Since the plan was to invade Iraq, why weren't any of the hijackers Iraqi? If these questions seem obvious, most conspiracy theorists would contend that just shows how brainwashed we all are – that these actions are all part of the master plan for New World Order aimed at creating war, hatred, chaos, and confusion in the world, allowing them to exit the shadows and take control.

This country was once a proud, constitutional republic. The government was elected by a vote of all the people and was thus responsible to them. The government's purpose was to ensure and protect the entire citizenry's rights. A responsible media and a free public-education system gave all Americans the tools to participate.

Over the last century, however, there has been a massive deterioration in all these areas. Now, this view is not limited to conspiracy hobbyists but rather is shared by much of the general population. Whether on the left, the right, or in the middle, people have a sense that things are getting worse. The future holds little promise. Constitutional guarantees have been eroded, the press corrupted, public schools devastated, politicians co-opted, and the power of each citizen's vote neutered. If not completely gone, our basic rights are severely compromised. Internationally, there is more turmoil than ever; soulless, multinational corporations are running everything, while human rights and freedoms are on the ropes across the globe.

Theorists know exactly what, why, and how this is happening, as well as who is responsible: A secret cabal has deliberately orchestrated the nation's move from freedom to fascism. In the service of achieving a one-world government, they plan to destroy national sovereignty. The United States, as well as everything for which it stands, is a special target because it is such a clear example of the economic, political, and social heights that can be achieved in a free society.

Depending on your take, the conspiracy has been going on for all of human history, since the 12th and 13th centuries, the 17th and 18th centuries, or the last century. Regardless, 9/11, the resulting chaos, and the consequent Iraqi fiasco were all intentionally planned.

Other than in Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, never has a group been so expertly in control. Unerringly, history and all of humanity has been skillfully manipulated toward its long-term, malevolent global vision. The cabalists demonstrate a genius evidenced by no other leaders or governments, ever. Even the greatest leaders suffered circumstances that distorted careful planning, with messy, ugly reality trumping their specific strategies. In contrast, without major mistake or misstep, this shadow group has not only exercised power and effortlessly manipulated governments, companies, and people internationally but has known the exact consequences of every event. Most remarkable is that this vision and perfection has been passed from generation to generation, without aberration or major failure.

Many believe the New World Order is already in control and the U.S. government already fascist, with basic freedoms now subverted. Fools that we are, we note that Congress has just defeated an immigration-reform bill, as much because of racial prejudice as anything else, but missed the bigger picture. Naively, we've been worrying about the spread of racist, militaristic, purposefully ignorant, anachronistic American jingoism. Meanwhile, the three-piece-suit-wearing, cigar-smoking, white male cabalists have already instituted the North American Union, combining the U.S. with Canada and Mexico in a single political entity. In Europe, you know, you can already purchase Amero dollars that are much like the Euro.

The only problem with these visions is that they are not true. (Certainly, technological advancements and the ever-increasing world population highlight the notion of collapse and destruction. The power, destructiveness, and availability of weapons, accompanied by the worldwide penetration of communication innovations and media, have shrunk the world and exaggerated events. But that is another story.)

Historically the 20th century experienced greater strides toward economic, political, and social justice, as well as the spread of national independence, than any previous time in history. Rather than deteriorate, freedoms have instead spread and are now less determined by bigotry, status, and biases. One can still be very discouraged at the state of the world, but asserting that things are just getting worse is ahistorical.

Globally, the last century witnessed the end of overt European, American, and Asian colonialism, resulting in the emergence of independent nations around the world. The world having become much smaller because of technological advances, we are all made more aware of crises, wars, and governmental failures. But new governments in emerging nations are going to evolve through many awkward stages as they mature. Despite the dire warnings of Luddite anti-globalists and international anti-capitalists, in reality the world's nations are more independent than ever before.

In order for there to be a loss of freedoms, they have to exist. The decline of the United States is based on a shared fantasy of American life during the last century that has almost no basis in reality – the view that small towns, unlocked doors, community sings, and heavily populated bowling leagues were a way of life, and common sense, cracker-barrel wisdom, and universal literacy prevailed. Many buy the common man as wise and empowered. The satiric depiction, in Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg's Candy, of the auto mechanic who crawls under the car with one of the classics and a volume by one of the great philosophers in his back pockets has become an accepted realistic stereotype – ignoring that until paperbacks emerged after World War II, most people really couldn't afford books.

The fantasy is a Norman Rockwell painting set in Currier and Ives frames. Back then, in this view, Americans were not nearly as vehemently partisan, and serious political discussions were common among all citizens. The general population was far better educated, and everyone voted. Constitutional rights were sacrosanct and universal.

The realities of the century were that this country went further in achieving universal suffrage and guaranteed rights independent of economic and social status, race, nationality, and/or religious beliefs. The beginning of the century was a time when minorities, the poor, lower-class children, immigrants, women, labor organizers, workers, and nonlandowners suffered oppression, were frequently denied the vote, and had severely limited rights.

Women didn't get the vote until 1920. The legal standing of women and wives has undergone significant change throughout the century. Women are no longer denied college and post-college education, nor are their professional options limited, with management and governmental roles denied. The glass ceiling, if not shattered, has been penetrated, and whereas salary parity is still an issue, at least it is a very public one.

In the first half of the century, there were between 3,000 and 5,000 lynchings in the South. Schools were segregated, and Jim Crow laws – basically institutionalized segregation – were widespread. Brown v. Board of Education began the end of legalized racism (no comment on the current Supreme Court here). The civil rights legislation of the mid-Sixties was a strong start toward the goal of guaranteeing the full rights of African-Americans. They also marked the beginning of the elimination of a wide range of impediments to minority suffrage.

The first half of the century saw widespread abuses against labor that were, if not officially sanctioned, at least legally overlooked. Child labor was common. Unions were busted, often violently. The Ludlow massacre of 1914 in southern Colorado was carried out by state militia – one of many times the Army and National Guard were used to break strikes, often killing strikers and their families. The power and institutions of government almost always sided with management against labor. Immigrant and labor leaders were often arrested on trumped-up charges. Labor really was not officially protected, nor did unions begin to come into real power until the end of the Depression. Not until almost midcentury were child-labor laws finally enacted.

Radicals, socialists, communists, anarchists, progressives, and other anti-establishment thinkers were frequently legally oppressed and officially denied their rights. The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, nullifying constitutional protections for large groups of people, were widely abused. The Red Scare of the 1920s compounded those abuses. The McCarthy period of anti-communism in the 1950s saw the return of all these abuses and more. The fervor of the period was evidenced by the witch hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the widespread implementation of blacklisting.

Although Miranda rights and similar laws have become the villains of choice for television crime-series, minorities, the homeless, and the poor were regularly deprived of their rights and due process before those laws were implemented.

Industry was dominated by unregulated monopolies run by robber barons who abused the law and government. Newspapers were more biased, news was manufactured, and reporting in general was rather nonchalant. There were anti-immigrant riots, laws, and oppression throughout the century; the nationality of the victims simply changed from decade to decade. The Ku Klux Klan not only revived in the South but was even more popular in the Midwest. Father Coughlin spewed hate on the radio. Political machines dominated urban areas, delivering to their parties more votes than there were voters.

A Shirley Temple view of the past ignores the efforts of those who, against all odds and often risking their lives, championed reform as they tried to realize the vision offered in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There was also the activism and achievements of conservatives and the radical right. All these are minimized by the insistence that conspiratorial manipulation has been a constant.

To come to a point of view that agrees with conspiracy hobbyists of all stripes that they are the only real patriots and visionaries, all one needs to do is accept their self-congratulatory, self-nominating claims of heroic achievement; ignore history; disregard logic; and be willing to demonize many other Americans. Then we can join them in knowing that their clear vision, patriotic courage, and tireless pursuit of detail, coincidence, and possibility makes them all outlaws in the eyes of America, that their obsessive researching causes the powers that be to quake in their boots. Maybe in their wake change won't come, maybe there will be no real-world consequences, maybe this corrupt administration won't really be called on its actions, maybe the insanity in Iraq will continue – but all those are trivialities that pale in the noble pursuit of truth.

Remember that, and the Truth Shall Set Ye Free! end story

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