Conspiracy and Class Power

My my, there sure is a lot of dumb talk about conspiracy theory on the internet today, presumably because of Amber Frost’s dumb list of things that are much less good than the super-effective, not-at-all crackpot Democratic Socialists of America, “an American socialist organization” for which Frost is an officer.

My favorite so far in the outpouring of Frost-inspired dumbness is this tweet from one of Twitter’s most lovable “Marxists”

Conspiracy theories are a class enemy

Of course we hear variations on this all the time on the Left, among people desperate to align themselves with the serious people for good radical reasons, no matter how blatantly non-analytical it requires them to be. A variation on the above is that conspiracy theories “ignore/obfusate systemic analysis,” which if you haven’t noticed is a concept that’s all the rage among people who like to tell people to shut up in fancy schmancy ways, not just about conspiracies.

Surely the most dramatic manifestation of this bullshit — and surely the inspiration for a lot of it — is Noam Chomsky’s famous insistence that it really doesn’t matter who brought down the World Trade Center. “Who cares?” the world’s most important intellectual said around the time. Now one needn’t have any particular position on what happened in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001 to regard that as a remark so breathtakingly stupid it defies belief.  But then Noam, and especially his reputation, are always defying belief.

We are in a state in our politics where people on the Left defend Pam Gellar’s right to stage hateful provocations more robustly than discussions of domestic covert ops for which there is ample historical precedent. Cui bono? Do I really have to ask?

This nonsense is, more than anything else, mandatory rejection of both history and critical thinking, that whitewashes and conceals ruling class ruthlessness and methods. The best tonic for this bullshit is Michael Parenti, a radical scholar who sees no conflict between systemic analysis and assessing the way conspiracies — or whatever you want to call them — advance class interests. Parenti is one hell of a good speaker, not least because he’s very funny. He also thinks and writes rings around Chomsky, which is why he’ll never be as famous or celebrated.

Anyway, I invite you to listen to the broadcast embedded below. Pay no attention to the graphic; the talk is not about 9/11. Please do indulge any impulse you may have to discuss what you’ve heard in comments.

UPDATE 3

Never change, Media Lens losers. Below, typical display of baseless hostility, sexism and homophobia from incorrigible git Rhisiart Gwilym. Imagine, this guy, who can never mention me without gendered insults, complaining about my “act-up bitching”, that I direct almost entirely at powerful strangers. The “caveat emptor” in the same ML post, re insufficient deference to Chomsky, is priceless, too. How can you ML users stand these idiots?

Oooh Tarzie is such a b1tch, isn’t she! he gets things too deeply right too often to be dismissed for his act-up b1tching.

UPDATE 2

Welcome Charnel House visitors! Is that Wolfe dude for real? Or is mind-numbingly petty purge talk concluding with a lecture on how the bad people ignore “structural dynamics” some kind of joke?  It comes as a great surprise that obsessively hating Molly Klein and kicking tofu eaters out of Left Forum is where thoroughgoing, not flaky, “structural” analysis leads. But then, I’m one of the bad people. Anyway, ICYMI I have responded to Wolfe’s overwrought sneering here.

In my reply, I neglected to admit that I am guilty as charged for wishing that a bus in motion and Amber Frost fatefully occupy the same space. This wish was, of course, far less earnest and genuine than Frost’s and The DSA’s support for Bernie Sanders, who sincerely wished violence, trauma, and death on Palestinian children, among other victims of U. S. Imperialism.

However, it is for informational purposes only, without any intent to justify my cavalier attitude toward the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that I present something that not-at-all-flaky Amber A’lee Frost — who believes conference-attending vegans are delaying socialism and on whom one should never jokingly wish a bus collision — can entirely overlook to support Sanders, who unequivocally endorsed it.

Children-killed-by-Israel-on-beach

UPDATE

Via commenter Golfish Training Institute, this is a good, easy read. Not about conspiracy but rather Chomsky’s muddled, ahistoric, reactionary views on communism. Begins on the page numbered 203

Another View of Chomsky — Michael Parenti.

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89 Responses to Conspiracy and Class Power

  1. A variation on the above is that conspiracy theories ignore/obfusate systemic analysis,” which if you haven’t noticed is a concept that’s all the rage among people who like to tell people to shut up in fancy schmancy ways, not just about conspiracies.
    It only occurred to me belatedly, after we’d chatted about this point earlier, that the use of “systemic analysis” as shut-down technique sits very uncomfortably next to the use of “agency” by the same people to shut down anti-imperialist analysis. (For anyone else reading, Kahina has a good round-up here and here of this trope/rhetorical move.)

    I mean, it seems almost obvious to me that it’s the interaction of agents, with greater or lesser power, with each other and with various systems at various levels, that should be the focus of analysis. That kind of analysis is what I read in your Sy Hersh essay, for example.

    Anyway, a minor point, but one that rankles me disproportionately, I suppose because it’s one more example of the disingenuous nature of so much online “discourse”.

    • Tarzie says:

      it seems almost obvious to me that it’s the interaction of agents, with greater or lesser power, with each other and with various systems at various levels, that should be the focus of analysis.

      Yes! Very well said. There is a systemic view of individual agents within the system, which as you say, takes account of their place and degree of influence and the forces acting with them and against them. A non-systemic view is exactly like what you allude to, talking about Ukrainian “agency” to avoid its interplay with the CIA, USAID, Soros, Omidyar. The autonomous individual is a concept very beloved to Celebrity Left neoliberalism. But then, somehow, when its convenient for them, systemic analysis precludes any talk of individuals at all. It’s impossible to have a discussion or any kind of connection with people who are just using and discarding sometimes entirely contradictory buzz concepts as circumstances warrant.

      The shabbiness of online discourse is sadly becoming a topic all its own. I think it’s beyond repair.

      • wendyedavis says:

        Minutiae, I realize, but when it was announced that hacktavists had obtained Soros emails on Ukraine, I’d wondered why in tarnation they hadn’t gone for Pierre’s, Quite ironic that searching the cache for a link, some sites were calling Soros a ‘leftist’..
        http://rt.com/news/264037-soros-ukraine-poroshenko-leak/

        The other conspiracies right now going on, of course, are the TTP, TAFTA, and TISA global power and $ grabs with the lowest common denominators in the putative signatory nations as far as even reigning in capitalist profits and destruction of the planet’s gifts; plus ALEC Koch-written bills being passed in states whose citizens really can’t afford more privatization and diminution; nor further decreases to the social safety net and regulations to water, food, etc.

        I’ve only had time for 22 minutes of Parenti, and he may get to it, but one of the single most long-term ongoing conspiracies has happened under Arne Duncan’s privatized education and ‘race to the bottom’.

        Briefly I peeked into ‘Left Anticommunism: the unkindest cut’, and mused that ‘the Domino Theory of Viet Nam’ was exactly that. 55,000 USian kids dead, goddess knows how many in VN, Laos, and Cambodia.

        The ‘Beware of Colonel Sanders’ piece looks worth reading more closely. I did put up a heavy socialist critique link at my website, and it included the fact that Bernie’s never mentioned the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Daily Kos says he now has, fwiw (not much by now to me). But I do think that taking away energy from the wider movements against capitalism to ‘work for Bernie’ needs to understood more broadly. When even Hillary is now a populist, lol, it’s just getting crazy out there.

        Thanks again for your analysis, and the good discussions on the thread.

  2. Ned Ludd says:

    “What you’re getting on the left, lately, is a debate in which people are saying: we mustn’t look at conspiracy; we’ve got to look at the broader, institutional systems. That’s an argument being made by Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky, Chip Berlet, any number of people; and I think it’s an incorrect argument.”

    As soon as I started watching, and Parenti mentioned Chomsky, it struck me that Parenti had become obscure while Chomsky became a dominant intellectual among the left.

    According to the Michael Parenti Archive, the talk you posted was given in 1993. Michael Parenti was, at that point, possibly the most influential author on the left. His book Democracy for the Few was prominently displayed (and frequently sold) at all of the radical bookstores.

    However, after Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media was released, Chomsky became very popular among liberals. He seemed to be speaking all over the country, to large lecture halls at university campuses. For the talk that I attended, he was sponsored by a human rights advocate and was paid by the campus speakers committee. He talked to us, informed us; but unlike a leftist event, there was no call to action. The socialist student group was not even allowed an official presence; whereas an anti-abortion group was allowed to address the crowd and thank him, though it was never clear for what (his free speech advocacy?).

    As Chomsky’s star shined, Parenti and other radicals faded into the background. Chomsky exemplifies one of the ways that the left was shunted into a more liberal, establishment-friendly direction.

    • Tarzie says:

      Chomsky exemplifies one of the ways that the left was shunted into a more liberal, establishment-friendly direction.

      Oh yes absolutely. We’ve been swinging at him to that effect for a while. Everything about Parenti dooms him to ultimate obscurity: a genuinely radical analysis, a gift for bringing it across and a willingness to discuss how thoroughly crafty and ruthless the state can be in defense of class interests. When I hear Parenti, all I can think of is the contrast to Noam’s soporific monotone. I did not know, though, that he was ever more popular than Chomsky. I have trouble relying on just anecdotal evidence for that, though. I’m very curious about the history of celebrity lefts from the 70s on, but I find it hard to get useful information.

      • robertmstahl says:

        Particularly, I liked the expanding clarity Parenti does bring forth in the example of truths about Reagan, not mentioning Berkely in the 60s, or connections surrounding Hugo Chavez.

        Nevertheless, I have had a hard job not paying attention to Paul Craig Roberts for a while now. Where, early on it was about the way the stock market is assimilated into the lairs of these liars, the appropriation of expanding credit instruments, and becoming how Washington occupies huge craters of civilization in the full blown ignorance of The Casino’s Anti-Up Policies, it is so chemical as to point the specie’s jib sail directly into a the nuclear detonation. Agendas of gamblers. But, how dark?

        PCR seems to continue in this “play” of pitting the nation-state against the nation-state. In that play, this continuance, so much quaintness is confused for maturity. It brings about a different set of convergences than is natural, or is it, when all morality is is tradition caught in time, the traditions, likely, having to change?

        Really thought provoking piece, as always, and electrically grounded. Thank you.

      • Ned Ludd says:

        “I did not know, though, that he was ever more popular than Chomsky.”

        Chomsky seemed to first become popular in academic institutions, which is where I originally heard about him. I was not particularly connected to that part of the left. The crowd that Chomsky drew to a large university auditorium was different than the homeless anarchists, runaway youth, eco-radicals, and working class socialists and anarchists who would show up to an old community center to hear someone from Latin America speak about the indigenous resistance movement.

        Michael Parenti was more influential than Chomsky among this latter demographic; people who would casually remark: “Scratch a liberal, get a fascist”. Before social media, this was what I viewed as “the left”; but it is probably more precise to call it the radical anti-capitalist left (although Syriza has now stripped the word “radical” of meaning).

        At the time, it was radical leftists – mostly working class and poor – who organized and supported worker co-ops, collectively-run radical bookstores, and worker-owned vegetarian restaurants. Our protests were designed to shut down the target of our ire, not just parade around like a bunch of liberals. We had a coherent culture, even though it was composed of competing ideologies (anarchism, socialism, and communism). Where I now live, that culture and its cultural institutions are largely gone, marginalized along with Parenti and displaced by more establishment-friendly leftists.

      • Kara says:

        FWIW, I attended SF state in 1989 to 1992, I was in the International Relations program which was and is a highly regarded however cia influenced program (from the left side as they say) anyhoo, I had a few classes (they had a mix of rad and conservative professors) they assigned Michael Parenti’s books to classes! not chomsky’s. In fact, I read Parenti’s “Inventing Reality” and ” the Sword and dollar” as texts in my IR classes. I was a radical in a sophisticated liberal department. Chomsky was a rising star and Im sure the dissolution of the soviet union and the confusion on the left that ensued esp with Yugoslavia had something to do with it
        .

      • Tarzie says:

        Im sure the dissolution of the soviet union and the confusion on the left that ensued esp with Yugoslavia had something to do with it

        I reject the idea that someone like Chomsky becomes a star for any reason but anointment by the ruling class.

    • mickstep says:

      This is an excellent point and fits in very well with Tarzie’s “Chomsky won’t analyse his own role in the propaganda model” motif.

      For context what year was it that you attended this Chomsky talk?

      • Ned Ludd says:

        The late 1990’s. I just looked up an old article about the talk. According to the article, more than 700 people attended. The article also says that at the end of the lecture, Chomsky was surrounded by fans taking his picture, before rushing off to his next event.

      • Ned Ludd says:

        I think Chomsky copied his media analysis from Parenti and produced a simulacrum that was non-threatening to the establishment. Parenti’s Inventing Reality was first published in 1986; some excerpts from the New York Times book review:

        Michael Parenti, the author of “Democracy for the Few,” has written a forceful though flawed critique of the American news media… Unfortunately, Mr. Parenti is so simplistic and doctrinaire in accounting for this bias that he makes his book easy to dismiss.

        The function of the press, Mr. Parenti says, is to “recreate a view of reality supportive of existing social and economic class power.” Major newspapers and networks accomplish this by advancing the class interests of their corporate owners, who dictate the politics of the press. Only editors who share their outlook get promoted; reporters, eager to please editors, censor themselves. The result is news organizations that favor “management over labor … the affluent over the poor, private enterprise over socialism … anticommunism and arms-race militarism over disarmament.” Most of the news is little more than “ruling class propaganda.” […]

        “The truth,” Mr. Parenti says, “never catches up with the lie.” He cites these cases as evidence of the news media’s “compliance” in government “disinformation campaigns.” Mr. Parenti paints the press in such broad, Marxist strokes that he ignores many details.

        Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media came out two years later. Parenti’s “forceful” and “simplistic” media analysis was eclipsed by a plodding academic tome that lacked Parenti’s “broad, Marxist strokes”.

      • Tarzie says:

        Wow. That’s a great catch, Ned. I read the whole NYT review, and MC seems close to plagiarism. Even the title is obliquely similar. Undoubtedly Chomsky and Herman were aware of the book. Surprised we haven’t heard this before.

        More and more, from Chomsky on, it seems like there has been a gradual process of removing Leftness, particularly any trace of Marxism, from mainstream Left discourse. Chomsky took it to one level. Greenwald is now erasing the left residue in Chomsky’s critique. We’re left with something akin to libertarianism.

    • Steam Grain says:

      I think the ascendancy of Chomsky well preceded ‘Manufacturing Consent’ (the book or the documentary), however much that may have served to enhance his reputation as ‘leading intellectual on the left.’ Here’s how I’ve understood things: Chomsky became known for writing about politics in the late ’60s, first with articles in the New York Review of Books, soon after book-length critiques. The first I ever came across his name was some time in the early ’80s, when he had an essay included in a paperback called ‘Superpowers In Collision.’ When I read that, I thought–Wow! I don’t know what I’d think of the essay now, but then, it sounded so far removed from accepted media discourse, that it couldn’t help but seem…well, radical. Remember, this was before the internet, and for a suburban teen in Reagan’s America, it was difficult at that time finding anything to the left of, say, Phil Donahue.

      I also recall reading an editorial from, I think, 1986, written by one of the founders (possibly Jeff Cohen) of a then-new organization called FAIR (Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting), which complained about the absence of leftist commentators on the airwaves; and cited Chomsky as an example of an intellectual who could draw large, enthusiastic audiences on campuses and in foreign countries, but couldn’t get on the air in the U.S., where the spectrum on TV only ran from center to right.

      When I was in college in the late ’80s, the name Chomsky was (at least for people I associated with) practically synonymous with ‘dissident intellectual.’ Brilliant, and wrongfully suppressed by the establishment. Invoking his name lent an air of seriousness to political discussions. Like a way of showing that one was ‘in the know’ about what was really going on. (I think I might still have an early issue of ‘Z’ magazine, from 1989.)

      The thing is, I also remember hearing Parenti’s name brought up in these years, by basically the same people. They knew of him, and they would mention him favorably. And I think that might be a basic difference between then and since: That while people who are familiar with Parenti also know about Chomsky, the reverse is much less often the case.

      And I think that may be traceable to what happened in the early ’90s. Specifically, it was the release of Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’ film in late 1991, and the subsequent public response, that–apart from a loud chorus of denunciation in the corporate press that had begun months before the film had even been released–prompted the likes of Chomsky, Cockburn, and others to launch into a round of lectures, counseling leftists that belief in conspiracies was incompatible with structural analysis, blah, blah, blah. And instead of being a good, loyal, team player, Parenti called them out on their b.s. And rather than counter his arguments (and those of others, such as Peter Dale Scott), their response was just to ignore him, as if they couldn’t hear what he was saying.

      So I think that might have been the start of a divergence between their audiences that may not have been there before. But while he does not have the name recognition of a Chomsky, it isn’t as though Parenti has faded into some forlorn, abandoned, reject. He and his ever-growing list of books continue to find their audience. His ‘The Assassination of Julius Caesar’ (2003), an analysis of class and power in ancient Rome, was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. From more recently, people may be interested in these videos showing him giving a talk at a bookstore in Berkeley in 2011, about his book ‘The Face of Imperialism’:

      • diane says:

        When I read that, I thought–Wow! I don’t know what I’d think of the essay now, but then, it sounded so far removed from accepted media discourse, that it couldn’t help but seem…well, radical. Remember, this was before the internet, and for a suburban teen in Reagan’s America, it was difficult at that time finding anything to the left of, say, Phil Donahue.

        yep, …such, … has been, … and still is, … a baited hook for those who desire not to harm, who might cause ‘a stir’:

        it sounded so far removed from accepted media discourse [even when it was still far, far, … from anything heading towards sanity and kindness], that it couldn’t help but seem…well, radical.

      • diane says:

        (mind you, I’m not at all slyly suggesting slaughter of those quite evidently running the show (unto death and utter desolation), but are we really incapable of, so to speak, strait jacketing them ( as they did, far more brutally, to those far more sane and kind than them) until they recover from their deadly and fevered disease?)

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        Is this the same Oliver Stone who said “Fuck Stalin, Mao, and the Kims?”

        I’m not sure Stone’s JFK and the rise of Chomsky figure prominently in anything about the marginalization of Parenti. The New Left didn’t start in the 90s, it started in the 60s. (and no question that hack Stone would have identified with them given the nonsense he’s always peddling). It was founded on disillusionment with Marxist principles and vanguardism and a rejection of class and unionization as the basis for change. So no surprise their shit was folded into the Democratic party as reformism. Parenti’s been bucking the reformism of the new left since he began writing in the 1970s. His marginalization is baked into the cake. You don’t get to write about global capitalism and imperialist crimes without having a bounty on your head. Democracy for the Few came out in the mid-1970s. Inventing Reality I believe was written in the 80s. (Sorry Greenwald you’re not the vanguard on media crit you asshole.) Parenti wrote an entire book about Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia and the war crimes of NATO and the CIA. He took on the left itself when he wrote about leftists swallowing the mass media’s lies about Milosevic and the Serbs. By the 1990s, with probably over a dozen books under his belt (I’ve lost count and I’m one of his biggest fans), I doubt his star would have been on the rise even had Chomsky not come on the scene. The ruling class will never let this brilliant writer and analyst loose on the masses in mainstream media.

        But if there was any event that foresaw the rise of Chomsky in the early 90s, it wasn’t “JFK,” it was the collapse of the fSU. Since Chomsky never met a revolution he hasn’t poured his contempt on, he would certainly be your guy if you wanted to batter up fake anti-imperialism AND anti-revolutionary ideology in a full swing. He would definitely be the man if you wanted to “help” the left make sense of what turned out to be the most reactionary political and social counterrevolutionary catastrophe of the XX century.

        Based on what I’ve read of Stone’s comments on revolution and social change, and based on what I know about Chomsky, the best revolutions seem to be the ones that never happen.

  3. diane says:

    Re the Amber Frost dumb list Baffler piece link (in the first paragraph of your post, Tarzie):

    Recently I considered submitting a piece, regarding a nightmare I’ve ended up in, to Baffler (I’m always checking out possible venues of spilling the gut while not being tracked down for it (near impossible).

    So, I checked out their Submissions page, reading this:

    Muckraking, stem-winding, take-downing, doomsaying, and howling with indescribable pain are all to be expected and duly considered— …

    So far, … Wonderful!

    oooops, …. oh motherfucker, ……. so long as they don’t lack humor?:

    Muckraking, stem-winding, take-downing, doomsaying, and howling with indescribable pain are all to be expected and duly considered—so long as they don’t lack humor.

    but …. (Nisour Square????????????? Detroit????????????? …….. ) …… those truly mowed over, now matter how beautiful their laughter and stunning smile once was, have no humor left in them. They are not worthy of a submission? Are you Fucking Kidding?

    Don’t know about anyone else, but my secret decoder ring (my gut), tells me that those, Humor Only allowed, submissions to The Baffler [MIT PRESS], are by those Smart Set!; those who have managed to evade any firsthand misery whatsoever, when it pertains to any of the truly venal and life threatening abuse – or conspiring – by those calling the shots.

    The truly overridden with misery will have their submissions rejected; since they have lost their, …. their entire sense of humor, ….. along with that beautiful, … beautiful smile. Instead! the Amber Frosts get to decide whether those in miserys’ suspicions of economic conspiring: by corporations and the One Party (of ‘two’ (to ‘three’ libertarion$/green$)) SyStem ‘warrant further consideration’ ….

    Pretty fucking horrifying. Not to say that Amber, et al, are conspiring, they are just stunningly self absorbed to the deaths and detriment of those they never bother hearing, or listening to.

    • Tarzie says:

      Great comment, Diane.

      • diane says:

        I could not have made that comment if you weren’t there to welcome it. It takes two, and far more. I Love you much of the time, ;0) ., ‘tarzie’..my homey! … .

    • Rich says:

      Navy O-6 physician. I’ve been having your exact conversation with Dems Murtha(deceased), Critz(,replacement) and Sen. Casey since 2007. I described the mechanism that you Tarzie describe in this post and replies. But the mystery remains, how do “they” maintain such uniform discipline particularly without any discernible or demonstrable connection to the mother ship?

      • Tarzie says:

        An elaborate system of punishment and reward. They are connected to The Mother Ship via hierarchy.

      • Rich says:

        Yes but, there’s nothing more hierarchical than the Navy. Yet, the lines of this “elaborate system of rewards and punishments” remain invisible, imperceptible and undetectable to the masses or to most of the individuals involved in the local game. Even so, while acutely aware of it, there is no recourse for the marginalization and disenfranchisement as the act of “joining their side” has no demonstrable improvement on the assigned outgroup position. In this position, even the sympathetic and uninvolved perceive the stench and injury.

    • diane says:

      Truly priceless, minutes ago I did a duckduckgo.com search, entering the words: “The Baffler MIT PRESS.” The very first result was:

      Baffler | The MIT Press
      The Baffler mixes stylishly written essays in cultural muckraking with original fiction, poetry, and graphic art. Baffling the consensus since 1988, the magazine …
      mitpress.mit.edu/index.php?q=journals/baffler

      Baffling the consensus since 1988 indeed. … Something like claiming to be a friend of yours, ..yet:….. not seeing you; … not lending you an ear; ….. let alone not embracing you, ….. the thing most needed.

      • Baffling the consensus since 1988…
        It’s also worthwhie to note that this genealogy, as sold by MITPress, isn’t all that accurate. They bought the name & mailing list from the defunct, but previously pretty awesome, independent journal founded by Thomas Frank.

        (And, btw, thank you for your original comment – it opened my eyes and gave me so much to think about.)

      • diane says:

        You’re most welcome, tinyfist (I love that moniker), and thank you for that clarification, I wasn’t familiar with the magazine pre the MITPress years.

  4. Don says:

    Just a note on a typo, you have September 1, when you mean 11.
    As for Parenti, I’m actually more familiar with his son Christian’s work, particularly Lockdown America which, I think, is better in the spoken word album version (Taking Liberties, available on Spotify) than the book, although the book is pretty on-point.

    • Kat says:

      Second the rec for Lockdown America (and the relatedThe Soft Cage). The New Jim Crow gets all the plaudits (written by the someone married to a corporate attorney/fed prosecutor) but leaves out any real critique of capitalism and any mention of radical prison activists. Oh yes, I see why it gets all the plaudits. It is a more reassuring message for liberals.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    You might want to check out Richard Thieme and some of his talks regarding the nat sec/ surveillance state and various government secrets. He has a quote I like from some or other military or intelligence contact, along the lines of “You have 95% of the picture: you know enough to know what isn’t true, but not quite enough to know what is.” regarding the “information system” as I think you’ve referred to it.

    To me this is the best stance to take regarding a lot of official statements. Hard to know what is exactly true but one can be reasonably sure it’s not the official story.

  6. Umfuld says:

    How many posts in a row have you trashed Chomsky now? The ones I’ve read has to be at least half a dozen. By the way I’m not actually asking you that question as the one time I replied here you told me not to comment, presumably because I’m so dumb I was wasting your precious time. (I was defending Chomsky, of course). And this is exactly what you simply cannot comprehend.

    What you miss is Chomsky reaches people like me. Who am I? I’m someone who didn’t graduate Jr. High and, predictably, is quite poor as an adult. Gosh – the “left” could probably use people like me, couldn’t it? Maybe 10s of millions of people like me. Globally, maybe billions.

    Chomsky reaches people like me and thanks to him I feel I have reasonable intellectual self-defense (his term). When I read a story about China hacking the U.S. the first thing I do is consider why this is probably bullshit. That’s because of Noam Chomsky (and Edward Herman, of course). He doesn’t give a call to action? Good, because who the fuck wants a vanguard anyway – apart form narcissists who think they are a lot smarter than they really are?

    I don’t Noam Chomsky is even trying to reach intellectuals – and hasn’t for many years. You’re not his target audience. His redundancy, in talks and essays, is a pretty clear clue about that. If your job is to read about politics all day do you really expect to find anything useful in a short Chomsky article? Granted his pragmatism can be frustrating, never more than his obsequious toward Randian Greenwald, though it is pretty insulting, as a member of the underclass, to see people chide him for saying a democrat president is a better option than a republican one).

    What he does is help people like me, like the majority of human beings alive on the planet, better understand the forces controlling our lives. You tell people like me I’m wasting your time. Shockingly I’m still gonna stick with Noam here.

    Anything that happens in what should be the Left you use as an excuse to blast 100 year old Noam Chomsky. I get why people poke fun at how critical I am of Glenn Greenwald but you know and I know Glenn is trying with all his might to get Rand Paul in the White House and I’m gonna speak up about that until one of his Glennbots assassinates me. What the heck is Chomsky doing that you’ve dedicated your life to stopping?

    Oh, that’s right. He’s reaching people like me, who in turn waste your time. Got it.

    • Tarzie says:

      I try to work a dig at Chomsky into any post that will accommodate it. It’s kind of a running joke. But he also deserves it. My favorite is the Punxatawny Phil comparison.

      I can’t recall telling you not to comment. I recall asking you, in vain, to respond to something I’ve actually said, something you have at great length not done here. If Chomsky’s so great, why don’t you ever hazard a substantive argument rather than special pleading? You’ve written all these words and there is nothing remotely responsive to my complaint about Chomsky’s idiotic “Who Cares” in the wake of 9/11, one more case of whitewashing and minimizing the ruthlessness of the US ruling class, something he does frequently.

      Chomsky is reaching people like you *and* intellectuals because he’s the only “radical” the ruling class has ever shined a light on. Now, why do you think that is? I would like people like you to have access to better radicals, which is why I have embedded a video of Michael Parenti in this post. I have never claimed Chomsky’s not useful. But I think as an iconic figure that says and does stupid, even horrible, things frequently, he does more harm than good. The good stuff authenticates the bad and compels people like you to defend him in all instances, by insisting on his superhuman virtue.

      To me, he is the proto-Greenwald. The first Celebrity Left merchant of horror. The ruling class has allowed him a lucrative and lengthy career because he counsels compliance, affirms quite a lot of bourgeois doctrine and makes people feel powerless. He also did research extremely beneficial to the military. I’m glad you now have a theoretical “self-defense” but what does that get you? To me, the widespread notion that seeing through bullshit is the primary feature of left politics is part of his shitty legacy. I agree with his admirers that he’s the most influential living intellectual — he certainly is on the left — which is why I think he is so poisonous. Which is why I condemn him whenever it’s warranted.

      I never tasked Chomsky with creating a vanguard or making a call to action. I’ve simply noted that like all Celebrity Lefts he is not at all prescriptive, except for his routine endorsements of the Democratic Party. Compare him to the Black visionaries that preceded him as icons. Martin Luther King wasn’t part of a vanguard, but he was clear on what needed to be done and what the world should look like afterward. In other words, he appealed to the left imagination. Chomsky, like Greenwald, merely invites us to wallow in the muck, and to feel superior for doing so.

      I don’t honestly understand why you love Chomsky so much and hate Greenwald, when they’re self-consciously peas in a pod. Does it not bother you that Chomsky is clearly passing the torch to Greenwald? That he has lent his lofty credibility to the Greenwald/Omidyar marriage?

  7. Pingback: Conspiracy and Class Power | Aisle C

  8. parink says:

    Amber Frost has to be a porn name.

  9. Ross Wolfe says:

    Speaking of conspiracies, have any of you guys misplaced your shoes recently? Burning questions of our movement.

    Meant to post this lol but Pantera will do

    • Tarzie says:

      Oh good, I’ve arrived as a conspiracy theorist. Perennial asshole Ross Wolfe has deigned to make an ass of himself on my blog.

      “Movement” LOL.

    • Luther Blissett says:

      I don’t have much to add to this discussion, but I want to add a comment I made about Asghar Bukhari, I made http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/the-curious-incident-of-shoe-in.html.

      1) His story is far more plausible than people think, It’s a form of Gaslighting, which is effective because of the reactions that other people have when they hear of it, although I think it’s far more likely to have been the Met (or a faction of the Met, did something similar to Archbishop John Sentamu while he was working on the Lawrence Report) or secret services.

      2) If he was psychological problems, and this didn’t really happen as he thinks it did, how can the mockers justify their reaction ethically?

      One minute we are told that mental health stigma is bad, the next everybody jumps aboard to mock someone who they think has mental health problems.

      A whole series of Parenti Audio Lectures (17 in total) can be heard at http://unwelcomeguests.net/2

      • Jeffrey says:

        It’s both gas-lighting and a *death threat*, IMO, just to call a spade a spade. Also, regarding point 2, among many reasons I don’t think this is some manifestation of psychological problems is how specific the “paranoia” is, as opposed to a broad suspicion about everyone and everything, which I think is much more the case, along with numerous other tell-tale signs, when the paranoia is not “reality-based” (just to use a term I’ve heard bounced around in circles who have experienced harassment).

      • Luther Blissett says:

        I agree Jeffrey, but then we consider that he might be right. (I’ve heard similar stories from activists in the UK)

        The mockers took to national newspapers and social media to ridicule somebody who they clearly think has psychological problems, which is clearly the kind of thing a harasser would take delight in.

        If people’s behavior would bring joy to a psychopath, maybe it shows their level of empathy.

        Of course, I doubt Mr Wolfe gave it a second thought or even cares. It’s more important to be fashionable.

  10. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Parenti on left anticommunism.

    http://www.greanvillepost.com/2015/05/23/left-anticommunism-the-unkindest-cut/

    He also wrote a piece called “Another View of Chomsky” in 1999 for NST (page 75 in link below)

    http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/151744/nst122.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks. This stuff looks great.

    • Tarzie says:

      Just read “Another View of Chomsky”. Good stuff. I love how straightforward he is. So nice to see someone reaching similar conclusions that go against the grain. Chomsky is bad news.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        I remember seeing Parenti speak in Berkeley in the ???mid-80s. Maybe 100 people there? Afterwards he stayed around for about 10-15 of us, talking about whatever and answering questions. Check out his Facebook page for links to more great ML videos, talks, and comments. There’s an interesting post up about Yugoslavia and not voting for Bernie Sanders based on Sanders’ imperialist foreign policy.

        https://www.facebook.com/michael.parenti.9

      • gbelljnr says:

        Just read that too. I remember making a brief foray into Parenti about five years ago on the advice of a friend, and not really being ready for it, getting bored and turning away. Chomsky was still my main cheat sheet for understanding what was going on, I didn’t have a very sophisticated understanding of what is called, by handwringers, “left infighting” and I didn’t really understand what he was about. But that piece diagnoses in Chomsky so many of the social pathologies of the celebrity left which have become real for me and others in recent years, which we’ve watched happening with unfolding horror. It clearly goes way back. That’s exciting. Maybe it’s time to give Parenti another chance.

        On the topic of structure vs agency, it seems what is really always at issue is who to blame. Zoning in on the agency of “Syrian rebels” is a way of minimizing blame for the partition and destruction of Syria by an imperial ruling class. Escaping into abstractions about structure allows us to wring our hands again about what a great big accident it all is, and how no one fool is responsible for any of it. Both are escape-hatch generalizations, which excuse people from doing the job of thinking about the particulars of each case. Both are also sophisticated techniques for switching the direction of thoughts about a particular case so that it feeds out in a harmless direction, and for shutting down any kind of critical inquiry which stands a chance of breaking out into a revolutionary understanding.

      • Tarzie says:

        Great on provisional use of structure vs agency. Eloquent and right on the money.

  11. Jay23 says:

    Thanks for reminding me about Parenti. I’d come across him a year ago and then completely forgot. Guy is brilliant, and what on earth has he been eating? He looks 25 years younger than his age!

  12. mog says:

    A talk given recently (at The New Left Forum) by Mark Crispin Miller of NYU confronts this issue of the Left being somewhat hobbled by dogmatic and irrational prejudice when it comes to considering elite conspiracies. (As with the graphic in the Parenti talk above, don’t be put off by the title – it is not a factfest on 911)

    As for Chomsky and the general commitment to structural analysis, I have found Peter Dale Scott’s story instructive in this regard. His ‘break’ with Chomsky to develop ‘deep analysis’, I could easily read as representational of how the Left has split post 60’s (at least in one aspect).
    Whenever someone throws the ‘conspiracy theory’ label at me, I refer them to a paper by philosopher Charles Pigden which I think logically unmasks the confused rhetorical coding that overlays the term:
    http://www.niu.edu/~gpynn/Pidgen_ConspiracyTheories&TheConventionalWisdom.pdf

    • Tarzie says:

      Thanks for all this.

    • Bitman says:

      Here’s a short but telling video where PD Scott details of his break with Chomsky and Zinn around the time of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. About 3:30-5:30 (Note: when Scott says “Nassim” he means NSM [National Security Memorandum]).

      Here’s Scott from Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. It’s very consonant with Parenti’s:

      I have always believed, and argued, that a true understanding of the Kennedy assassination will lead not to `a few bad people,’ but to the institutional and parapolitical arrangements which constitute the way we are systematically governed. The conspiracies that I see operative, in other words, are part of our political structure, not exceptions to it. . . The deep-politics paradigm . . . is essentially an extension of conventional political investigative methods to consideration of a much larger field of evidence, including, but not restricted to, the unacknowledged processes and events which conventional decorum excludes from our current “political science” textbooks.

      • Tarzie says:

        Wow, that quote is great. That puts it even better than Parenti.

      • Jeffrey says:

        love the choice of a ten minute clip as a conversation starter (versus the header video… sorry t-smoove but I tuned out after 2 minutes…). I remember hearing someone say recently “the choice to separate political science and economics in academia is itself a politically motivated decision”, though I don’t remember where, I agree.

      • Tarzie says:

        Just watched this. I like the use of “deep politics” as an alternative to “conspiracy theory”. Let them have their stupid phrase.

    • Steam Grain says:

      Regarding what Mark Crispin Miller says near the end of the video from the Left Forum–starting at about 53 minutes–about DailyKos founder Moulitsas and how he’d trained with the CIA: This was admitted to by Moulitsas in response to a question while speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in June 2006. The audio archives at the Commonwealth Club’s website don’t go back that far, but someone used the pertinent segment from the talk to make a video which is still up on YouTube. This may be old news to some, but for those who may not be familiar with it, prepare to be disgusted:

      I find it not surprising that when you do a search on Google for ‘Rancid Honeytrap,’ one of the first links to appear is to a hit piece on Tarzie by none other than DailyKos.

  13. banjolinbuddha says:

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the Parenti vid yet as I’m at work, but the linked piece on anti communism on the left is fantastic. It really nails exactly what we’ve seen with the Celeb Left the last couple of years.

    Part of what I like about it is that it touches a lot on one of my biggest pet peeves, the tendency of that portion of the left to both scream about ‘ideological purists’, while trying to purify ideology themselves. In this view, the ideological purists they’re particularly incensed by are insistent upon things like, oh I don’t know, *actually opposing empire* and *not making common cause with a left that refuses to do so*.

    I know, dangerously puritanical of us.

    I’m not a Marxist, and frankly a lot of time the Marxists I interact with drive me absolutely batshit in their *own* left punching at anarchists, but fucks sake, if my alternative for any kind of coalition is neolibs posing as the radical movement du jour, well fuck it, I’ll take my chances as an anarchist on being first against the Marxist wall.

    Frost’s piece, & the back-slapping froth surrounding it, serve such a distinct purpose by labeling, or more accurately libeling, anyone that doesn’t fall in line, it’s unclear to me how *anyone* that sees it doesn’t see a clear path from ‘purge the left of the left’ (since that’s what they’re talking about if you could get them drunk enough to be honest) to ‘Vote for Hillary!’ (Or more accurately ‘Vote for Sanders until he loses then reluctantly fall in line with Hillary’). Taken as an individual snark piece, I’m sure lots of people just see it as the aforementioned ‘left infighting’. Taking it in context though… Shit, you want to talk conspiracies, then this is the lizard people crown jewel of the *actual existing media conspiracy* to relegate the left to a few choice individuals who’s bylines and bank accounts will inflate in direct proportion to their service to capitalist power.

    Donny Diggins on Twitter made a great point the other day regarding conspiracy theory… paraphrasing, it basically was that conspiracy theory itself isn’t a political position, as presented by the Baffler blowing crowd, rather it’s a type of political discourse that, like any other, has to be evaluated for its premises not its conclusions. As Diggins said, Alex Jones is a conspiracist as much as I am- the difference being his premises are based on supernatural forces, not structural analysis. The fact that actual conspiracies have existed and are documented shows this.

    Great stuff my friend, look forward to watching the linked video later.

  14. diane says:

    What has always utterly boggled my mind is that any theory of conspiracy regards two or more persons/entities conspiring. Yet, I haven’t read, heard, or intuited, that the Smart Set! believes no entities group together and conspire to benefit themselves at the utter exclusion, detriment – and yes even [many, many, many] death[s] – of others.

    As a matter of fact, the SmartSet are 24/7 pointing to the conspiring of the [US] Republican Party, while not at all admitting their ultimate and thorough complicity, let alone their own conspiring, initially independent of their ince$tuous kinfolk.

    Seems we may be even headed to a point where one will be mocked – and put on a list – to use the word conspire without permission; unless one is at least a member of that upper middle management and above, [BiPartisan] Smart Set.

    • Tarzie says:

      True. Walter Glass wrote a great piece on that which will be right up your alley: The Fashionable Crackpot. We discussed it here and Walter’s original article is here.

      It’s so true. Everyone has conspiracies. I’d even say that everyone has been part of one or more conspiracies if you broadly define it as a secret plan that will work to the detriment of a person or persons who’s not in on it. Children conspire all the time. Cliques at work, factions in movements, and groups of friends do too. Even family members do, particularly in large families. Everyone knows this. It’s remarkable that we even have this argument. Walter’s piece lists what makes a conspiracy theory acceptable and therefore not a “conspiracy theory.” Give it a read.

      • diane says:

        yes, we did, and yes, that was a wonderful piece by Walter Glass.

        Thank you so very much for this ‘space.’

  15. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    I’ll take my chances as an anarchist on being first against the Marxist wall.

    LOL. Come on over to the dark (ML) side, you’ll be safe with us. 🙂

    Lenin mentioned the spontaneous nature of revolutionary movements in the beginning stages. I think anarchists and other popular forces can help spark spontaneous revolutionary urges, but they sure as shit can’t finish the job. That would take a mature, organized, and disciplined Marxist-Leninist type of organizational structure.

    • Tarzie says:

      Perhaps because your idea of a finished job isn’t our idea of a finished job. But i’m not gonna pursue or encourage this conversation. I hear enough about anarchy deficiencies on Twitter. This is a space for Marxists and Anarchists and anyone else to meet collegially and not do that.

      • banjolinbuddha says:

        I should have left my own jabs out of it too- point stands though that regardless of any M-L/anarchist sectarianism, ‘fuck liberals’ is a good point of solidarity lol

    • Mallam says:

      Heh, I had figured you for an anarchist, GTI. I try to avoid that conversation as much as Tarzie does, but somehow I always get sucked in. Perhaps it’s my own fault, in needing to qualify my statements; I think it’s because of my hanging around liberals too often. I gotta stop doing that…derails his (always excellent) commentary.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        No, I’m what tarzie derogatorily refers to as a tankie. Non-revisionist ML. Could be a bannable offense. I always thought it was pretty obvious from my comments, but maybe not.

        Were you the OP? My comment about anarchists and revolution was made from historical perspective. The successful revolutions in the XX century were ML. Obviously the anarchists disagree. They like to make exceptions for Castro, though, I guess.

      • Tarzie says:

        I don’t use tankie derogatorily, except when the twitter ones get on my nerves. My favorite marxists are the hardcore. Much better than that DSA riff raff. What’s this ‘bannable’ drama? I knew you were a tankie. It’s been particularly helpful in sorting me out on libertarians. I don’t give a fuck.

        I can’t ban people even if I want to. But I may want to if you do this thing that they all do on twitter. they pick a fight with anarchists out of nowhere, presumably because they have a sudden hardon to beat their chests around people who dont give a fuck. and wnen you guys do this bullshit I always think the same thing: maybe they are delusional authoritarian fanatics, right before i decide to have nothing more to do with them. I’ve blocked almost all of them on Twitter not because of their non-revisionism, but because of this bullshit. Why on earth would I join up with people who act like this? Who have a history of murdering my ilk and are not the least bit repentant about it now? I’ve never been anything but hospitable with you here. You’re one of my favorite commenters and I think you know it.

        So What The Fuck?

      • Tarzie says:

        You are really determined to have this argument. Can we save it for when it matters?

        If there’s a thing I don’t like about tankies, it’s this. Let’s kill oligarchs and bankers together first. And then yinz can kill me afterward. Like you usually do. Because successful revolution.

        You’re living in a dreamworld if you think an anti authoritarian faggot like me considers any of your revolutions successful. A successful revolution is one where I’m allowed to live. It’s kinda basic.

  16. Hulot says:

    Apparently, Chomsky was interested and involved in JFK assassination research in the late ’60s, even accepting that a high-level conspiracy was possible and/or likely, before abruptly ending his participation with the people he was researching with. See this short account, which I think is pretty interesting:
    http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/HWNAU/RMappVIII.html#AB-5Profs

    Similarly, here’s a piece by someone involved in that research describing the role of the Left/Liberal establishment in these sorts of issues. A bit of Celebrity Left critique from the ’90s.
    http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/HWNAU/letterToVJS.html#partIb

    I recently bought the book Correspondences with Vincent Salandria by Michael David Morrissey. It’s a collection of letters written by JFK assassination researchers, but it touches a lot on left intellectuals and why/how they obfuscate when discussing deep state matters. I have only skimmed some of it so far, but it has some interesting tidbits about Chomsky, including that he is personal friends with former CIA Director John Deutch, and was one of the few members of the faculty that defended him when he tried to become the president at MIT. I also know that Chomsky is a friend of Richard Falk, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

    It’s also worth mentioning that both Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn came out with similarly irrational defenses of the official stories of JFK and 9/11, with The Nation magazine being the most prominent place for these. Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel is the daughter of William vanden Heuvel, an OSS veteran with CIA links as a board member of the William J. Donovan Foundation. Additionally, Katrina vanden Heuvel’s wedding was officiated by the minister William Sloane Coffin, a CIA agent and member of Skull and Bones. I’m not coming to any grand conclusions here, but it’s very interesting how close (anti-conspiracy) ‘left’ media is to the ruling class, as you’ve pointed out before with respect to Omidyar, etc.

    • Tarzie says:

      he is personal friends with former CIA Director John Deutch, and was one of the few members of the faculty that defended him when he tried to become the president at MIT.

      That bit about Deutsch is really surprising, but considering that, according to Wikipedia, he took the post in anguish and was only there for a year, the relationship isn’t as damning as it seems at first glance. However, it is interesting that apparently Clinton bounced him for being alarmist about Saddam which suggests ties to the real baddies.

      That Salandria book sounds amazing. Great, fascinating stuff here, Hulot.

      • Hulot says:

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s hugely damning either. Deutch was at MIT years before he became CIA Director, so I guess it’s not too weird they became friends while working at the same school for so long. I just thought it was interesting. (Although Deutch has been involved in very suspicious organizations both before and especially after his CIA position).

        FWIW, some quotes by Chomsky about his relationship with Deutch can be found in the middle of page 2 here: http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/Knight-on-Chomsky-2010.pdf

      • pnuwb says:

        This particular friendship aside, he avoids talking about behind the scenes actors in general as some of you have already noted, and I think he has touted CIA analysts as reliable sources more than once: the one occasion that comes to mind is in defence of Inept Empire theory on the creation of ISIS: https://twitter.com/pnuwb/status/521843237342818304

    • mog says:

      Thanks for that Hulot, both links were some of the most thought provoking things I’ve read in while.

      • Jeffrey says:

        Thank you greatly, Hulot, for those links and tidbits. I haven’t read the Salandria one yet (I will definitely get to it), but the other two were very interesting and things I had not read before. I would be interested to know what made NC change his mind on the JFK issue (someone or something got to him, psychologically or otherwise, presumably) but I’m not holding my breath on finding out anytime soon.

    • Steam Grain says:

      That first link provided by Hulot is from E. Martin Schotz, who wrote one of my favorite quotes. Writing to Salandria in 1992, he said:

      ‘It is so important to understand that one of the primary means of immobilizing the American people politically today is to hold them in a state of confusion in which anything can be believed but nothing can be known, nothing of significance that is.’

    • Jeffrey says:

      a) read the Salandria piece.
      b) Was not aware of the statement by Truman regarding the CIA. Agree with the analysis of the author regarding Truman’s intentions in writing something like that at the given time. That’s about as clear as someone can be in hinting at something without explicitly saying it. If one were to be any more obvious it would just be the same as an explicit accusation.

    • Steam Grain says:

      You might also find this interesting, relating both to the Schotz piece linked to by Hulot, as well as to Mark Crispin Miller’s discussion–in the video posted by Mog above–about CIA funding of the left and the exposés in ‘Ramparts’ magazine in 1967:

      The Role of the Left in the Cover-Up of the JFK Assassination

      http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=19728

      In this connection, too, we might also consider the role played by the influential Cold War ‘consensus’ historian Richard Hofstadter and his 1964 essay, ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics.’ As described by Robin Ramsay in his ‘Politics and Paranoia’ (2008):

      ‘Hofstader’s influential and widely discussed essay reinforced existing academic and intellectual prejudices which allotted to an interest in conspiracy theories or actual conspiracies the intellectual status of – say – spiritualism: of interest only to the stupid, the uneducated or the ill. For ‘serious’ people – academics, journalists, politicians – large areas of political inquiry have been contaminated ever since by an association with conspiracy theories.’

  17. 14ten5 says:

    Reblogged this on 14ten5.

  18. 14ten5 says:

    Amber Frost’s article is more than just a dumb list: It’s a perfect manifesto for the pseudoprogressive religion, the worship of Celebrity Dissenters and the bashing of their official enemies, the crazy nobody radicals.

    • Tarzie says:

      I agree. I don’t think many people are going to take it up though. Hardly anyone of consequence signal-boosted it on Twitter.

      • 14ten5 says:

        I see. It did occur to me that the broad splattering of celebrities whose names she chanted would never publish so clearly under their own names the principles and examples of the class-based Left.

  19. I almost don’t know what to say.

    First, a word of appreciation for Tarzie’s honesty and for the good discussion above.

    I’ve spent the last several years working on the problem of so-called conspiracy theory and the way it functions in today’s discourse. I’ve also done some looking at Chomsky and his dishonesty when it comes to what again we’re designating by ‘conspiracy theory’, which is why I consider him a trivial commentator.

    Here are some past (rough) pieces on Chomsky and/or conspiracy:

    A couple of stray observations:

    It seems to me that conspiracy theory clearly functions as a taboo in the strict anthropological sense. The equivalence between the sacred and the profane that was observed ages ago operating in what is called ‘taboo’ – the way it marks the limit of structure and threatens to overrun it, though its repression is perhaps a prerequisite to that same structure.

    Even in the remarkably honest discussion above, I detect a certain quickness to come out and say: ‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…’ or ‘Don’t worry, this only looks like 9/11 conspiracy theory material…’

    The interesting thing to me is answering the question why issues like 9/11 and the JFK/RFK/MLK shootings aren’t up-or-down empirical questions like any other. It seems to me we are *incapable* of reasoning about these events in the same way we reason about others. For lack of a better term, our inability is epistemic: conspiracy theories about these events mark the limit of our discourse and therefore our thinking.

    Taken as empirical events there is no question that JFK and RFK were killed by shooters other than those presented to the public. That was settled decades ago. If you present a group of forensic experts with the facts and details of these political killings but omitting to tell them who the victims were and obscuring other details, the judgment would be unanimous that the official story in all cases doesn’t account for the facts. When you reveal to them the true identity of the victims, suddenly there’s all sorts of doubt, prevarication, and so on. Why?

    Chomsky sort of points the way to an answer. I would argue that in the past, leftism was an independent discourse, a counter-tradition to those in established nation-states. The very idea that you might have a revolution and completely overthrow those nation-states attested to this. Today, however, the Left has been integrated into the prevailing discourse. It supports the State. Chomsky is leftist until someone starts suggesting that institutions need to be interfered with or destroyed – witness his defense of the Federal Reserve. He is also a leftist until someone starts suggesting *certain* kinds of criminality among those in power.

    It is remarkably curious when you think about it – a Chomsky accepts as non-controversial that the Iraq War or Vietnam resulted in millions dead and was a crime. Yet he balks at the idea that a JFK, RFK, MLK kiling was motivated by the same gross criminality.

    The only explanation I can come up with – simplifying – is that asserting criminality in massive wars *doesn’t actually threaten* the prevailing discourse/power structure. But claiming insider killings and false flags does. What would be the reaction of the American Good ol’ Boy, the kind who watched Argo or American Sniper, if incontrovertible proof came out that 9/11 was an inside job or that members of the American elite were behind the murder of their own president at the height of the Cold War?

    The only thing threatened – really – by a recognition of these high crimes is American nationalism. That is why I situate Chomsky as an American nationalist. American political discourse encompasses the whole permissible right and left; it is one paradigm. Chomsky functions to maintain his end of that paradigm.

    Really, in a certain time and place, it would have been *laughable* for someone on the left to resist the thought that those in government were bloodthirsty bastards. The healthy leftist tradition in the ’30s and before would have had no problem entertaining it when labor leaders were shot by firing squads. Yet today you have to instantly flash your credentials as a Sane Person when you dare to suggest a Building 7 represents a physical anomaly and that the same bastards who would kill 2 million might also kill 3000.

    • mog says:

      I feel like I have been waiting to read that (all of it) for several years. Excellent.

      • Luther Blissett says:

        From Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom
        Revisited
        http://www.otago.ac.nz/philosophy/Staff/CharlesPigden/CTCW%202%20wd.pdf

        The general drift of the conventional wisdom is to trash
        conspiracy theories as due to a defective style of thinking. People tend to get it
        wrong because they have an irrational tendency to posit conspiracies where there are
        no conspiracies. We then get a good deal of sneering, disguised as dispassionate
        diagnosis, of why people are prone to this intellectual malaise. But if some
        conspiracy theories are rational and if the rational alternative to a false conspiracy is
        often not a no-conspiracy theory but a true conspiracy theory, then this isn’t going to
        wash. People don’t just believe in conspiracy theories because they are prone to
        some syndrome of conspiracy-thinking – they often believe them because the theories
        themselves are rational and even correct, and even when the theories are not, people
        may well believe in them because, for whatever reason, they have pitched upon the
        wrong conspiracy. The idea that there is an irrational syndrome which provides a
        general explanation of why people subscribe to conspiracy theories is a diagnosis in
        search of a disease, or, more properly, a shoddy ad hominem disguised as a diagnosis.

        […]Suppose you are an aspiring pundit trying to make a name for
        yourself in the mainstream media by doing down inconvenient conspiracy theories.
        You can score a sequence of dialectical victories by using one definition to defend the
        conventional wisdom and another to attack your opponents. Suppose that you are
        defending the CW thesis that it is irrational to believe in conspiracy theories, and
        some tiresome pedant points out that that there are many conspiracy theories have
        been proved beyond all reasonable doubt. You can cheerfully concede the point,
        helpfully explaining that by ‘conspiracy theory’ you mean, inter alia, a theory that it
        is not rational to believe, and that, though the theories in question are eminently
        believable, in your book, at least, they don’t count as conspiracy theories. All you
        meant to say when defending the CW thesis was that it not rational to believe
        irrational conspiracy theories, and surely, friends, we can all agree on that? (Of course
        you had better not put it quite as bluntly as that or the subterfuge will be too
        obvious.) Then, when that pedant has gone away, you can argue against the next
        conspiracy theorist that comes along, a) that since their theory posits a conspiracy it
        is therefore a conspiracy theory, and b) that since, by the CW thesis, it is irrational to
        believe in conspiracy theories, it follows that theirs is a theory that it is irrational to
        34
        believe. The beauty of this procedure is that there is no need to discuss the merits of
        the theory. No need to address the evidence, no need to discuss delicate
        considerations of plausibility that might be embarrassing to the powers that be! The
        fact that it is a conspiracy theory suffices to damn it. Thus Aaronovitch’s definition
        tends to grease a fallacious slide from ‘X is a theory which posits a conspiracy’ via ‘X
        is a conspiracy theory’ to the conclusion that ‘X is irrational (and ought not to be
        investigated or believed)’. This is a style of argument that cannot be validated by
        adding an intervening premise that is both true and non-tautologous. (And even if
        you did add the tautologous premise, it still wouldn’t be any help.) It lends aid and
        comfort to sophistical politicians such as Tony Blair, leaving theories that deserve to
        be investigated in a limbo of supposed irrationality. It may be that Aaronovitch
        would not mind about this since he is rather more tolerant of Tony Blair than I am
        inclined to be. But then, when it comes to detecting sophistries whether his own or
        other peoples’, Aaronovitch is not a man to be relied on.

      • Luther Blissett says:

        Apologies mog, didn’t see your earlier comment linking to the same source.

    • Tarzie says:

      This is all really great. So very logical and well put. I have long felt that anti-conspiracism is a taboo for whitewashing state malevolence, for the simple reason that it’s only conspiracy theories about state skullduggery that provoke ostracism. Most people who discount 9/11 theories haven’t looked into them. They take it as self-evident that the US’s ruling class isn’t capable of anything so diabolical. There is not need to consider evidence.

      I think you’re absolutely right about how disclosures of crimes during war aren’t disruptive. They’re fully normalized. False flags against the domestic population is not something that can be normalized. A govt that does something like that will never have legitimacy again unless there’s a ritual of safely compartmentalizing it in a particular time and accrediting it to particular bad apples. But even then, people will remain very suspicious. It’s something too damaging for the Ruling Class to recover from, I think. I would hope so anyway.

      Embedded in a lot of Chomsky’s sneering is the idea that people who find a False Flag of that scale uniquely important is that they’re selfish and racist for being so preoccupied with the approx 3000 who were killed that day while they shrug at the huge crimes the US commits routinely against foreigners. He has a point of sorts, morally speaking, but there’s no grounds for it tactically. If you want the war on terror to end, surely there is benefit in showing how false the pretext was for starting it was. It’s very hard to regard him as sincere. Something’s just not right there.

      And I will admit, I do qualify my language about conspiracy in deference to the taboo. You’re right about that too.

  20. diane says:

    Yet today you have to instantly flash your credentials as a Sane Person when you dare to suggest a Building 7 represents a physical anomaly and that the same bastards who would kill 2 million might also kill 3000.

    yep.

  21. wendyedavis says:

    Colin Todhunter wrote a piece recently showing the interlocking corporate and mega-banking collusion in aid of GMOs, and it’s full of delightful surprises. And of course, the US federal government has worked in concert with them, with a few chinks of light here and there, and only recently. (I.e., the EPA *may* decide to randomly test agricultural products since the damning study on glyphosate).

    But of course it’s another example of fascism, inverted totalitarianism, or whatever one wants to call it, and a huge threat to the global food supply. I’ll confess I thought I’d learned some of the wider look at the issue, but it seems there’s far more afoot than I’d ever imagined in terms of the massive financial clout behind gen-modified food, Big Ag herbicides/pesticides, patents, and mono-crops. And the control and privatization of the dwindling water supply is ramping up.

    His single remark about what *might no be* a conspiracy is in this paragraph:

    “Jon Rappaport highlights how this interlocking directorate works on a company level by looking at Monsanto and Whole Foods. He shows that five out of the top 10 shareholders for each company – the holders of the most stock – are the same. The five are investment funds and they buy stocks in many companies. But this should not be regarded as some kind of conscious conspiracy to control the food market, although such a practice should not be discounted. Rappaport says these funds make automatic purchases of stocks, based on computer calculations and based on the rankings of companies.”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/16/gmos-and-the-neoliberal-apologists/

    You may not have seen Bill Blunt’s ‘Snowden Does a Product Endorsement’, referencing the same self-congratulatory Snowden piece in NYT you’d already covered, but he comes at it from this angle: ‘Buy Apple; there stuff will keep your privacy safe!’ He goes on to smack down Tim Cook’s brand, much as Julian Assange did Google’s. Chuckle-worthy, altogether.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/17/snowden-does-a-product-endorsement/

    (Central banks, of course, also…conspire against the Rabble Class, as do the ratings agencies.)

  22. mickstep says:

    I wonder what the epithet was back in the day when a peasant questioned the divine right of kings.

    “What?! You think that in reality the king has just acquired land by violence and is using lies to maintain his priveleged? You’re clearly come kind of nut job conspiracy theorist!”

    Although we know conspiracy theorist is a 20th century invention, so I wonder what came before it. Perhaps as soon as any dissident opened her mouth she was just labelled a witch and burned before anybody asked any questions.

  23. Pingback: The Mainstream and the Margins: Noam Chomsky vs. Michael Parenti | Popaganda

  24. Pingback: Chomsky vs. Parenti, part 2: “Conspiracy Theorism” | Popaganda

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