One of my favorite bloggers, Walter Glass, has quite a good new post, which, in a short space, ranges over a number of interesting ideas but is, at heart, about conspiracism. Glass takes as his jumping off point the most upvoted comment on this recent New York Times piece by Ross Douhat, which, rather than grappling with anything Douhat has actually said speculates that —
The Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute and the Club For Growth must have issued the new propaganda memo: Paint the opposition as Marxist
This is pretty out there, considering that Douthat’s piece is really just a respectfully conservative take on the much-talked-about resurgence of Marxism on the academic left. Glass is more open-minded about commenter Socrates’ point than I am, but nonetheless wonders “how exactly an honest-to-goodness conspiracy theory finds purchase among a mainstream liberal crowd that we might expect to reject such things.” He suggests that there are three essential characteristics that render a conspiracy theory acceptable to the kind of people who read the New York Times:
1. the theory ignores inconvenient and confusing context
2. the theory is partisan
3. the theory is harmless [to the ruling class]
In other words, a conspiracy theory is like any other kind of discourse: its legitimacy and traction in the public sphere is determined by how it serves power. By disclosing his own ‘paranoia’ about the CIA and comparing theories that don’t meet the criteria for acceptability, Glass implies, without saying outright, what we all really know: everyone is a conspiracist, and rightfully so. The label ‘conspiracy theory’ is simply a smear applied to theories that challenge hallowed assumptions about power.