Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some more observations on conspiracy buffs and the Boogeyman...

They--the ubiquitous "they"--see them everywhere, and they know the score, according to...well, to them. Above all others, they understand the "true" machinations of our civilization, never mind those silly academics-they're part of the conspiracy too if they don't agree with the conspiracy buffs. Which conspiracy theory? Take your pick. Isn't it really about crime, under the color of law and authority? Isn't that something you could actually try in a court of law, before a jury? Wouldn't going after politicians who are criminals by treating them as such work better? No, it's a conspiracy, because that's easier for me to unthink about.

The truth? Ultimate truth is unknowable, so the conspiracy gurus like the Alex Joneses and Alex Constantines of the world must be elves, pixies, faeries, and the Oracle at Delphi, atop mount Parnassus, telling everyone what they already know: that conspiracy buffs are full of shit, possibly nuts in many cases, and need to get a life and learn to be responsible citizens who really watchdog their government. Constantine claims that he once did. He might return to his good work, but like Alex Jones, it takes him all morning to get his coffee back from the toxicology lab. No, the ones that really get away with murder in our society are the business & finance sectors. But most of the cranks love them, contrary claims aside, because those CEOs believe most of the same things that the dopes do: the Libertarian credo of the lawless Frontier maverick (long dead in the real world, meaning it's alive-and-well on Wall Street and in boardrooms) who's entitled to do whatever he wants without any repercussions. That's not freedom for everyone else, it's negative freedom, negative "Liberty."

There are legitimate researchers, journalists, and historians out there who are doing diligent and thoughtful work that at least eventually gets some kind of a "peer review" (we won't dwell on the nano-thermite flap regarding the rickety WTC-7), and they should be thanked. Naming them here would be unfair, and anyone familiar with academic intelligence history and credible historiographical research (private and academic) into our political history knows wildly speculative crap when they see it. Many in the public today do not, and I lay the blame at the feet of educators and the individual. The mainstream media is also sorely to blame. Too many members of the public are simply not credible or rational thinkers, generally, and more standardized requirements for logic training would go a long way in ameliorating this problem. Americans don't stand on the international stage as especially rational thinkers, hardly. Many Americans have literally never written a thesis in their entire lives if they even know what it means.

Our domestic policies are a great illustration of this: on the one hand, many Americans don't trust their government (thanks partly to scandals like Watergate and Iran-Contra, but perpetuated by anti-government cranks who call themselves "conspiracy researchers," etc.), yet expect to receive social services from it. The prevalence of the myth of "the disappeared" gives this attitude an especially weird quality when one considers that many Americans don't want to pay taxes, but again, expect social services like Social Security checks, roads, bridges, power plants, drinkable water, and all of the things social infrastructure can bring. Still, according to some on the fringe, the government is totalitarian and "evil." That's a conservative argument, though not a traditional one. There are no real conservatives, but that's a theme for another time.

The fact is that even with all of the corruption, the bribing lobbyists, crony appointments, kiss-ass politicians, a mostly comatose and wrong-headed public, obviously unconstitutional legislation, absurd Supreme Court rulings, and the resultant scandals and cock-ups, they still have to deliver these social services because the social contract has to be served. Regardless of what anyone says, we're still a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, no matter how impaired these things might be at present. Classical liberal theory on servicing the social contract through the redistribution of wealth is a warning, not a threat, that if you don't manage your society wisely, you will reap chaos. If it is not, you can expect very serious drama indeed. What the conspiracy buffs and nuts are saying is that the social contract has been entirely forfeited, and that's not true by any stretch, especially compared to many other nations around the world where it's patently obvious that that's the case. However, were many of them to have it their way, yes, a cohesive society we can be proud of would be almost entirely null-and-void.

Without even understanding what the social contract is, conspiracy nuts say that we're already at the critical mass, that the government isn't delivering--or even that it should at all. Most of these people don't believe in traditional Western democracy nor the ideals of the French Revolution, meaning Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. They're barbarians. They don't really believe in our most cherished American ideals of Liberty and democracy. What they believe in is selling you a t-shirt or a poorly researched and produced DVD so that they can turn a profit off of social discontent and sell you the anti-government line. Government is only as good as the people of a nation, and in that sense, it's not complicated. You must stay engaged. You must watch the watchers as a lifetime responsibility. If you want government services--rich, poor, or even middle-class--you must expect to pay for them, but you should also pay your fair share. When the top 500 corporations are often paying significantly less than a working-class individual, something's very wrong with the body politic.

But the conspiracy nuts--in-the-main--don't get this...or much else.

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