Friday, June 09, 2006

Conspiracy Theory

I found myself entertaining a conspiracy theory the other day. Virtually believing it. I have always ridiculed conspiracy theories. The most amusing among these are the ones about the Trilateral Commission and Standard Oil (I can't really remember how it goes). Since of course, Standard Oil doesn't really need a conspiracy to have a huge influence. I mean, no one needs a conspiracy. It's all OUTRIGHT. The scheming is right in front of you.

In fact, what is a 'conspiracy theory.' I suppose the definition would have to do something with the appearances/reality. That situation X appears to be one thing (a democracy, a complex world of nation states which have opposing interests) but turns out to be something else (run by a secret cabal/all the nation states are in the service of Group X). It also makes events which seem a bit like happenstance part of a large plan. It substitutes single human agency (or some kind of 'board of conspirators') and choice for events that probably have complex multiple causes-- the ones we can't always figure out or know or be certain of.

The reason it is silly to develop conspiracy theories about corporations ruling the world is that corporations rule the world outright. (Well, I exaggerate a bit. But only a bit.) I guess the appearance/reality thing is that they have even more influence over elections than they appear to. The whole 'election' thing is a total sham instead of just sort of a sham.

It was a long rant that got me to the conspiracy theory place. I have a lot of these rants although I'm trying to cut down. I find it hard to believe that most people who read the newspaper who are at all reasonable don't succumb to the rant urge at least weekly.

This was the rant that goes (I advise skipping the rant entirely): So what if we killed Zarqawi? SO THE F WHAT? This war is such a mess I can't believe that anyone is the least bit optimistic about it! They can't LITERALLY believe that it is going well, can they? I mean, can they? DO THEY NOT REMEMBER WHAT THEY THOUGHT BEFORE? Before the war started? Do they not remember their thoughts of several years ago about being greeted with flowers and so forth and then realize that they had false beliefs? Doesn't recollection of your past false hope become a kind of lesson for current and future false hope? Isn't that a necessary step any intelligent person takes? Come to think of it, I changed my mind after the invasion of Afghanistan. I thought it would lead to massive carnage and accomplish nothing and although it accomplished less than it could have, the carnage was not massive. And it even looked as though--if it had not been done so sloppily--it might have actually accomplished something good, like the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Less oppressive government. Possible democracy. So I was wrong about Afghanistan. Putting aside the possibility that a diplomatic solution might actually have worked if given a try and there was nothing to lose by giving it a try maybe it might have been a good idea to go to war in.... Etc. Wait, speaking of Osama Bin Laden...

Then I had this flash of a conspiracy theory. Yeah, why DIDN'T we catch Osama Bin Laden? Maybe they don't want to catch Osama Bin Laden!

The unfortunate person who was near me during this rant replied

--Yeah, it is a little weird. He's in a very remote location. It's so remote. Maybe instead we should overthrow this dictator we think has powerful weapons and a big army and then somehow create a democratic U.S.-friendly state between three groups that have despised one another for centuries. After all, that would be easier, wouldn't it than finding Bin Laden in that remote location that he is in. Can't find a needle in a haystack and that dictator is sitting RIGHT THERE. He's eeeeaaassssy to find! Like picking apples. Bin Laden--TOO HARD.

This of course finally led me to sort of kind of entertain the conspiracy theory that one of my lefty students advanced in class. (the only pacifist I've had in class. He also has a Muslim background but I doubt he is a practicing Muslim. His background may not be relevant but he has a fascinating skepticism and lots of surprising views.) This student argued that they actually GOT Osama and they didn't want anyone to know because they need him as a figurehead for this whole endless war thing they have going.

I mean, you have to wonder. How did we get here? Why have things become so surreal such that we were attacked and we went to war about the attacks and yet somehow everyone has nearly forgotten the attacks themselves and who did them? And you have to wonder: Could they screw up THIS bad? Is there some plan, after all? Maybe it's not sheer incompetence. Maybe THIS--the trillion dollar war that looks completely hopeless and has clearly made things worse-- IS ALL PART OF A MASTER PLAN!

Things are so strange sometimes conspiracy theories start to make sense. I now feel guilty for my scorn for all the people I made fun of when I lived in California. I'm worried that I'm going to be like Mel Gibson in that movie. I'll accidentally invent the conspiracy theory that is true and then they'll have to silence me.


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