This continues from the previous post.
However, I’ve kept suggesting that conspiracy is normal. The question can then arise, what seem to be some major conspiracies, for which there is evidence? And of course my choices are influenced by my own politics.
Media support for the Right generally. One can think of the NYT spending more time on Clinton’s supposed crimes than on Trump’s real crimes. We can think of the way that Trump’s supposed rape of a thirteen year old was barely mentioned, when if this accusation involved Bill Clinton then, probably it would have been everywhere. Indeed we can check this probability by looking at coverage of the Epstein affair in which it was freely asserted that the Clintons had a reason to kill Epstein, but it was rarely pointed out that Trump had exactly the same supposed reasons for murdering him, and far more capacity as President. We can look at the Murdoch Empire, and its celebration of free markets, the Right, the Bush Jr. war in Iraq, its opposition to social services and so on.
As further support for this position, we can also think of the way that most of the media went with Trump and William Barr’s own summary of the Mueller Report, when this was an overtly surprising strategy to take. You go with the description of something likely to be critical of the President, which was completely made by the President’s allies? Was this just bias or conspiracy? or is there no difference?
The ideology of the mainstream media seems to verge from Humanitarian Right to Totalitarian Right, while they (conspire??? to) pretend that some media is horribly biased towards the left, to disguise this. That way, pro-corporate information effectively becomes unchallengeable, and that benefits corporate media owners and their class as a whole. Does this arise from conspiracy or accident, or because of similar ownership and aims?
Furthermore, a large number of studies suggest that most media downplays climate change at best, and is often actively hostile to the idea, or suggests nothing practical can be done, or that action would cost people money. These positions support those established patterns of wealth and power, which are challenged by the recognition of ecological destruction, and people have to be distracted from this. Other information we have like Exxon denying their own research in public to sell more oil, seems to support this position, but this might not involve acting in common with the media. People in the media could just be frightened of climate change, like a lot of other people, and not want to go too deep into its threats. Or perhaps they did not want to upset major sponsors.
Is the fact that a significant part of the population thinks the Media is left wing, evidence of a general and accepted conspiracy to delude people as to their real sources of oppression in corporate economics and power in a closed ecology? Or is it just the way things work?
Pro-Corporate Economics. We can think of corporate funding of think tanks which support climate denial, tax cuts for the wealthy, anti-union propaganda, ‘free market’ economics (which supports corporate oligopoly), consumerism and so on. This is so big its absolutely mainstream. But is it conspiracy, or just the normal workings of information in capitalism?
Did Mises and Hayek support their funders in principle, just happen to have theories which were useful to those funders, or tailor their theories to go along with the funding? We don’t know, but we can ask where they obfuscate, and whether their theories are worked out logically? Why, for example, do they never see wealth as a source of power which could corrupt the market? Why do they see hierarchy in business organisations as good, but outside business organisations as bad? Why do they try to prevent democratic regulation of a non-working ‘free-market’? Would thinking along these lines have threatened their funding?
There are the long trails of the Mont Pelerin Society and the Atlas Network, which have only existed because of corporate funding, although these organisations seem relatively unknown in mainstream conspiracy theory. Perhaps because they appear to operate in support of maintaining corporate dominance, and the function of most contemporary conspiracy theory is to support the capitalist elites? But is that another conspiracy, or is it the shallowness of contemporary reporting?
There appears to have been an active attempt to fund climate change denial, or ecological destruction denial, through these think tanks and corporate organisations, for the benefit of heavily polluting corporations. Is this conspiracy, or is it just the way corporate capitalism routinely deceives people to sell products, and avoid responsibilities for damage?
Through similar forces (or attempts to please powerful wealthy people), the mainstream left of contemporary English speaking politics have embraced “the market” as a marker of acceptability, and possibility. As a result they would probably have been considered right wing 30-40 years ago. But this swing to the right cannot be admitted. Is this a conspiracy, as well?
Support for Trump. We can think of the forces working for Trump’s election in 2016 and earlier, not just the media, but Cambridge Analytica (through Facebook directly or indirectly), Russian misinformation and so on. This may be multiple conspiracies, rather than one over-arching conspiracy, and it is of course hard to know what effect they had. However, given Trump’s narrow win, only a small effect would be necessary to be significant.
However, even if they had no effect, they could still be conspiracies. Conspiracies do not have to succeed to be active. And what is the difference between conspiracy and underhand political manipulation? This point also emphasises function; for instance, through the functioning of the electoral system, various third party candidates had the effect of helping Trump to win, by taking votes away from Clinton, even if they did not want to, or set out to do that.
If we are in conspiracy mode we can point to evidence suggesting this effect of third parties was not simply accident, or bad planning. How do we tell? I suppose by whether they do it again or not….? Or this idea could be a way of distracting Democrats from how badly they ran their campaign.
State based propaganda. The Russians also seem to be conspiring with the US Right to make it look like they are more than simple imperialists in Ukraine and Syria (or that the US is worse, which is irrelevant to their own position), and they seem to have lead the way in promoting the idea that George Soros is part of the Jewish/ISIS conspiracy or whatever, which now seems so much part of the US right’s conspiratorial outlook – probably because Soros is a successful business person who supports open societies, rather than closed free market cliques, or closed authoritarian cliques. These actions are so overt, its probably not a conspiracy, its just effective propaganda. The Soros idea probably reuses some of the old Jewish conspiracy motifs.
From the Mueller report and other sources, we know that the Trump campaign attempted to conspire with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, and we also know that Trump attempted to conspire to obstruct the course of justice, and dismissed people who he thought might be fair or hostile to him. We know that he attempted to force another head of State to provide information useful to him in the next election. He even publicly asked his supposed enemies the Chinese to do the same. We know that Republicans appear to be conspiring to obstruct any impeachment inquiry, cast doubt on its proceedings and cast doubt on evidence relating to Trump, and in this they are largely being supported by the media. They also appear to be using the mechanisms of the State (the ‘deep state’?) to obstruct the inquiry. We know that this impeachment inquiry is being portrayed as unprecedented, when Republicans attacked Obama and both Clintons without much in the way of evidence for years.
We also know that Republicans appear to be conspiring to gerrymander electorates and to keep out Democrats or left wing candidates. They seem to be trying to get ‘pure-left’ people to attack the Democrats in preference to attacking Republicans, and vote for third party candidates to keep the Republicans in power. Is this a conspiracy, or is this just politics as normal?
Hiding and distracting. Trump raves about witch-hunts and conspiracies against him. Are Trump’s actions and accusations, simply hiding his preference for environmental destruction, and giving tax cuts to wealthy people, especially property owners? Is this a conspiracy, or just Republican politics made plain? Its certainly important, but we can lose sight of it in other conspiracies – which itself may be a conspiracy. Obviously corporations who benefit from environmental destruction have much to gain from Trump’s policies, but the truthful slogan “Republicans: better at poisoning you” probably would have little appeal.
Paedophilia in Churches. We now know this happened. People in authority in Churches raped children repeatedly. Others knew about it and hid it. People who were known to have raped children were moved to places where their activities were not known, so they could rape more children. If anyone came to allege that people had been raped, or they had been raped, the full might of the Church was used to discredit them, and to protect the rapist. If someone did receive compensation then they would be sworn to secrecy. The aim seems to have been to do anything to protect the name of the various churches, and that involved protecting rapists, or preventing the presence of child rapists from being recognised. Whether people discussed what they were doing or not, or conspired in the ordinary sense of the word, is almost irrelevant. All the hallmarks of conspiracy were present. Power was used to oppress the relatively powerless, and was used ruthlessly.
After this Church based action, it is hard to disbelieve that conspiracy never happens amongst the powerful.
Conspiracy happens, but it can be a bottomless pit, and easily manipulated, and serve to attack those who might help people.
Genuine conspiracies probably involve people who are naturally powerful, and attempting to retain their power and privilege against challenge. Fake conspiracies usually involve a misrecognition of power (such as saying academics, artists, scientists, gays, marginal religions etc. are to blame for everything) , but yet again people have conspired to replace the ruling classes, so it is sometimes difficult to allocate blame. However, if there is a choice between wealthy people conspiring to maintain their position, and a crowd of scientists, with different politics, interests and wealth positions, trying to displace them, then it would probably be safer to assume the conspiracy comes from the wealth establishment – as wealth buys all other sources of power.
Whatever you think, it would seem to be a mistake to ignore the importance of conspiracy theory, and possibly of conspiratorial action promoting that theory, in the contemporary world.
It also seems likely that supporters of parts of the corporate sector ally together to support the corporate sector, support pro-corporate economics, delay on acting on climate change, and support politics which benefits wealthy people. Organisations can also conspire to hide their own defects or immoralities. These distinct possibilities, should not be dismissed. They are most likely normal behaviours not strange extremes, or mere theory.
The abuse of an approach is not proof that the approach is always wrong.