Thursday, January 11, 2007

Conspiracy Denial

I was chatting with a few folks last week about why many people on the mainstream Left of politics, as personified by Noam Chomsky, refuse to investigate the discrepancies in events like 9/11 or 7/7.

If people like Chomsky looked into the issues and then rejected them as being insignificant on the basis of the evidence that would be one thing. However, what they are actually doing is rejecting the possibility that anything untoward happened out of hand, almost as a matter of principle.

Which means that they are effectively leaving research into 9/11 and 7/7 to the Internet crop circle brigade, the occasional porno mag and a handful of people who aren’t necessarily obsessed with crop circles, spontaneous human combustion or pornography but who do genuinely think something is amiss.

7/7 and 9/11 are tangible events that happened in the real world. They have serious and profound ramifications. Yet anyone who has doubts about the official narrative of those events is automatically categorised as being part of the lunatic fringe. Not just by the mainstream media but by heavyweight figures on the political Left - the kind of people who you would think would grab at an opportunity to expose bad boy behaviour by the Establishment.

In fact, established icons of the political Left are so reluctant to even take a quick peek at 9/11 and 7/7 issues some people have started to suspect that they are part of the Establishment - the gatekeeping thing I’ve banged on about in a couple of posts.

But there is another explanation for their behaviour that requires a little historical perspective…

Back in the olden days people believed that everything that happened in the world had an intelligence behind it. Thor was responsible for lightning, natural disasters were the manifestation of God, or a god’s, wrath, even the roll of dice or the arrangement of chicken entrails were the product of Fate.

There was no such thing as blind chance.

After a few thousand years of thinking like this, people started to reject these old superstitions and replace them with new ones. Good public relations being everything, this collection of new superstitions was called The Enlightenment. A key tenet of which was …

God isn’t responsible for shit. Shit just happens

In fact, organised religion - the belief that the hidden hand of someone (i.e. God) is behind all events - began to be viewed as the ultimate conspiracy theory.

Post-Enlightenment thinking rejected all that nonsense and bent over backwards to explain the world in such a way that absolutely no-one, and especially no deity, was pulling the levers…

The pioneers of geology and evolutionary theory emphasised that the natural world around us was shaped by gradual, tediously predictable natural forces. The significance of catastrophic events was downplayed to a point of active denial – catastrophes smacked too much of the Bible and divine intervention.

A similar attitude applied to economics and history - with thinkers downplaying the role of the individual and emphasising the significance of impersonal forces such as the ‘proletariat’ or ‘capital’, grinding away at each other like waves against a shoreline.

The idea being that, interpreted with the right equation, the flow of human history is just as predictable as a chemical or physical reaction.

And, like minor impurities in a reaction, the actions of individuals may cause a few hiccups in the scheme of things but their influence on the end result is ultimately insignificant.

I remember sitting a history exam years ago and answering a question along the lines of

‘Would Germany have militarised and started World War 2 if Hitler hadn’t become chancellor?’

The reason why the question was even asked in an exam was because it was considered particularly astute by historians to answer by saying ‘Yes, WW2 was an inevitable consequence of Germany’s humiliation at Versailles. The German people were looking for payback and if Hitler hadn’t come along they would have found another leader who would have behaved in a similar way’

Total horseshit IMHO but plausible-sounding horseshit.

Back to Chomsky and other uber Lefties blowing off conspiracy theories…

Chomsky's problem is, I think, that he is a slave to that post-Enlightenment paradigm that sees history and human events as being the product of impersonal natural forces and not the result of decisions and actions of individuals.

So, when presented with the suggestion that there may have been a conspiracy behind 9/11 Chomsky will naturally reject it out of hand – regardless of the quality, good or bad, of the supporting evidence.

If you believe that human history is the product of forces rather than individuals or individual events an occurrence like 9/11 is nothing more than a burp in the scheme of things and of little interest to someone with a Superbrain looking at the Big Picture like Chomsky.

Chomsky and his kind are ultimately preaching futility and the Que Sera Sera school of thought.

Doris Day explaining the theories of Karl Marx...

Ultimately, this kind of thinking is no different to believing in gods, fate and destiny. You still believe that the future is already written but, in a perverse way, there’s even less emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability than with the established monotheistic religions.

In Chomsky-world there’s a depressing inevitability to everything that will Be – globalisation, clashes between civilisations, CCTV cameras in our bathrooms, genetically modified soya fashioned from pureed human embryos, all of it. None of it is planned. It just happens.

And all we can do is shrug our shoulders, say something like ‘well, that’s progress’, bend over and take it

And that’s why Chomsky is such a c^nt.

Take his Propaganda Model. No real specifics, no names, lots of woolly generalisations. No viable plan of action…

If you were to deliberately set out to paralyse potential activists with an idea that seems to explain everything but an idea that doesn’t enable or empower them to identify who they should revolt against/ put on trial/ hang, you couldn’t do better. As a meme it is both virulent and sterile - effectively out-competing and blocking out other, less simplistic but potentially more fruitful, ways of thinking.

The really interesting question is this…

Is the belief that human events are the product of unintelligent natural forces an idea actively promoted by the people who really run things to distract us all from what they’re up to? Or is that really how things are?

Personally, and boringly, I suspect that the answer is a bit of both. Controlling the flow of history would be as difficult as diverting a river like the Mississippi but what you could do is give the flow a nudge here and there at selected points.

And it's depressing how so many people from the Intellectual Left are willing to discount evidence of some really fucking serious global nudging, not on the basis of reason but because it doesn’t fit in with an ideology they've inherited. Shame on them.



Sophia said...


You are absolutely right about the role of the enlightenment in shaping a specific way of thinking which make people dismiss hidden forces behind an event. However, the true Humanist enlightenment (old 18th century, and not our 21st century positivist and marxist contaminated thinking) did make a difference between explanation of natural phenomena and social phenomena in this way of thinking, the social ones having to be explained in terms of Human actions.
Another point I would like to make is that people who dismiss conspiracy theories are very few actually. The problem is not that conspiracy theories are brushed aside, the problem is that some comspiracy theories that go against the official narrative are dismissed. Because the official narrative is full of conspiracy theories. One has to consider that concepts like 'Al-Qaida', few turbaned men hiding in the caves of Afghanistan and inspiring a worldwide network of terror, or 'islamo-fascism, a global menace to our liberties, or Muslim veiled women and their threatening potential, etc...All these are conspiracy theories begging to stay unchallenged in order to feed the 'war on terror'...

Anyway, great post as usual, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed your critique of Chomsky...

Anonymous said...

If you haven't already, a must read (and re-read) is Nassim Nicholas Taleb's, Fooled by Randomness.

Here's a pdf (2 pages) interview from the New Scientist from July of this year.

Also, if you get it this is very interesting: Blackswan Glossary

At least read the pdf then the book.

Also, I haven't read this yet but intend to do so ... "The Self-Made Tapestry
Pattern Formation in Nature
by Philip Ball

Stef said...

@sophia - you do, of course, have a point. The trick with the Official Conspiracy theories is to a) don't label them as such, and b) present them in the context of some 'natural' force, as discussed above, being at work e.g. a 'clash of civilisations'

@anon - ha, taleb distributions - I know them well - the articles you link to are new to me though, thanks

Shutter said...

"One of the foremost geopolitical intellects of our times ... and Noam Chomsky"

Oh Christ I've lost my lunch , "Big up yourself Main Man"

This shouldn't be allowed - children might see it.

Sophia said...

Anon, Stef,

Thanks for making me discover Taleb. We share many things in common, background and the experience of the civil war in Lebanon when we were the same age.

cmain said...

40 years ago things were a bit different on the Left, though. The Ludicrous Diversion interview on J7 prompted me to investigate Bertrand Russell's "Who killed Kennedy?" committee. It included Michael Foot and Carolyn Benn as well as some well known lefties from the Arts. Why has the mainstream left changed since then?

Stef said...

That is, as they say, a very good question

I haven't looked at the 'Who Killed Kennedy?' committee (but I will) so I can't comment on it

If I were doing a Chomsky impression I could answer by saying that diversity of thought, in the media and in politics, has been supressed by the inexorable consolidation of news organisations and other insitutions into ever-larger, ever centralised entities that, in turn, naturally fall prey to the influence of their proprietors' interests or groupthink. The end result being a filtering out of any ideas that don't fit in with the worldview of the owners or the groups. Not as deliberate policy but simply because of the way the owners or the groups see the world.

If I were doing my tinfoil hat impression I'd maintain that the suppression of, for want of a better term, conspiratorial thinking is premeditated at controlled.

The wild card in all of this is, of course, the Internet.

And it is a daily source of joy to me to see how fucked off politicians and journalists are with the existence of the Net. A means of mass communication and discussion that 'They' cannot control - for the moment anyway

t-mix said...

Interesting to see how Chomsky in the Ali G interview clearly does not understand the situation he is in...

t-mix said...

Slightly more worthy opponents for Ali G...

Stef said...

FB ..... I