Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Its All A Conspiracy

I'm gathering Conspiracy material by the ton in preparation for a chapter on Conspiracy Theories and how only Social Trust in the political process can begin to reduce the widespread paranoia such theories reveal. Trust and, of course, the abolition of political and economic Conspiracies.

This is an interesting example of the genre. The respectable Lou Dobbs is interviewed by the manic Alex Jones. During the interview we move - in a series of small jumps - from the fascinating question of why the Americans are allowing the Dollar to slide right through to the menace of the New World Order.

We'll stick with the dollar for now. The American passivity does look weird. Like watching mythical lemmings rushing towards their mythical cliff edge. How can it not end in financial collapse and consequent economic ruin? And it's not as though Lou Dobbs is the only one voicing such thoughts. It's as mainstream as you can get. This (mp3 4 mb) was broadcast on Radio 4's Today program this morning (yesterday morning by the time I post this), the day after I listened to Dobbs. And this is on the BBC News site as we speak. The consensus is clearly that we're about to come down with a hard bump. The unprecedented injection - by a consortium of central banks - of 280 Billion dollars into the Lending market also speaks of desparate measures to avoid a crash landing.

Yet given the apparent inertia of the American Establishment, we must assume that either they've got a hidden parachute which will open in the nick of time and permit a relatively soft landing; or they really haven't got a 'king clue what is going on and they're completely unaware that they're about to crash and burn.

...their analytical record to date gives a strong clue as to which is the most likely scenario...

...but that doesn't make for good Conspiracy. For the dedicated conspiracist, incompetence is far too simple and unlikely an explanation for such behaviour. The government cannot possibly be as stupid as it looks. Therefore, if the dollar is going down, then they must want it to go down for a reason. This argument falls at the first hurdle.

Governments really are and always have been every bit as stupid as they look. Human History does not provide a record of sensible or effective management. Almost every major step we have made in social, political and economic organisation has been the necessary attempt to fix the mess made by our predecessors. The fact that there are still some readers who will be surprised by such a description is a measure of how effective their education systems have been to date.

That should tell you where I'm coming from. I favour cockup over conspiracy nearly every time. But that "nearly" is there for a reason.

Meanwhile back at the Plummeting Dollar (good name for a Pub?), the conspiracists' favourite reason for inaction, at the moment, is "to kill off the dollar so it can be replaced by the Amero" which is a reference to the conviction, held by some conspiracists, that the elites of Mexico, the USA and Canada have secretly conspired to create a supernation incorporating all 3.

European readers will be feeling a certain anti-climax at that point. "yeah... and?"

...whereas yer average American Libertarian will be howling at the moon. To us, in the reasonably civilised "supernation" of Europe, apart from above average levels of bureaucracy which we could live without, being in a supernation works pretty well for nearly all of us. Just for example, I have the right to ply my trade or set up home, or access medical and other services in anyone of 25 European countries, even if their government doesn't like me. That's not a bad start for benefits. And I can't think of any significant costs that are unique to membership of EEC.

I'm not going to get into a bare knuckle fight over the issue. Is it perfect? Of course not. But is it a reasonable working model of liberal capitalism? Much more so than the US of A.

We could argue about that, of course, but we'd be arguing on the margins, percentage points here or there separating the two models. What I simply cannot bring myself to understand is the sheer horror with with the idea of an American supernation on the European model is seen by its opponents. Their reaction is very similar the Religious Fundamentalist reaction to things like homosexuality. It is a deeply frightened, bigoted, overemotional - amygdalic - reaction which has almost no basis in objective analysis of the facts.

Ask the average American living in Europe which system they prefer and the answer comes down heavily in favour of Europe, though you could argue that such a sample is self selecting. But objectively, on every significant social, health, economic and political measure, Europe easily matches or outranks the USA. What on earth is it that they think we're suffering under our dreadful system which fills them with such fear for a similar outcome?

Be that as it may, at least their hypothesis is testable. Essentially, if they are right, then in 10 years time, the new superstate of North America will be catching up on Europe. We shall see. Don't hold your breath.

I do not wish to leave you, however, with the notion that I've become an "anti-conspiracist" who now dismisses all conspiracy theories as the work of paranoid delusions. That's why the "nearly" was necessary. There are herds of very real conspiracies. History is riddled with them and there are probably a dozen or so globally significant conspiracies going on right now.

This site gives an entertaining intro to some of the real conspiracies that are matters of historical record. I also like his style, for example:

"Unfortunately for him, Hitler wasn't nearly as forgiving as his fiery public speeches and penchant for genocide would lead you to believe"

The important thing is that the stories are all true and well documented conspiracies. And they're only a small fraction of those we know about. Conspiracy is common place. Unfortunately (hmmm... or perhaps fortunately) actual Conspiracies are nowhere near as commonplace as the vastly more numerous Conspiracy Theories. (to which this randomly selected page gives an intro)

Now, whether or not they are intended as such, the vast majority of Conspiracy Theories serve no other purpose than to act exactly as disinfo is intended to act; as camouflage for the real conspiracies. So when a bunch of conspiracists argue that this is precisely the point of many of the stories - just to cloud the water - it is difficult to argue that they are deranged.

The difference between the real ones and the others is the degree to which we can find satisfactory unequivocal evidence. Not speculation. Not anecdotal reportage. Not a million web sites repeating the same allegations. But cold hard empirically verifiable forensic evidence that we could, if we had to, place before a Jury of our Peers.

That standard of evidence - which we need before we start believing in Ghosts, Aliens, Homeopathy, the election of a President or whatever - narrows the field considerably. But it doesn't kill them all off - any more than all the valid explanations of UFO sightings successfully explains away all the sightings.

Some of the shit sticks.

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