Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ooooooh, conspiracy bashers!

Oh, looky what I just found on Prison Planet.

Historians agree that imperial Japan, hoping to cripple United States forces in the Pacific, scored a major – although fatally incomplete – victory 65 years ago this week at Pearl Harbor.

But there's a version of the tale you won't find in textbooks. In this alternative history, Dec. 7, 1941, was also President Franklin Roosevelt's triumph. He had withheld information that would have warned the Pacific Fleet, willingly sacrificing a dozen ships and more than 2,400 Americans to achieve his goal.

FDR had dragged America into World War II.

That's the gist of the “backdoor to war” conspiracy theory, originally championed by Roosevelt's right-wing foes in the 1940s. This revisionist view of Pearl Harbor was dying when Sept. 11, 2001, cast it in a new light. The notion that an American president would welcome a surprise attack as a pretext for war was taken up anew. This time, though, the argument came from leftist commentators.


Here is yet another article that repeats the tired 'conspiracy' canards we've been hearing about over and over again from the American corporate media. Let's look at how they try to 'prove' that conspiracies don't happen, it's just people who have been imagining them for centuries.

Underground, unofficial versions of history have flourished in most countries. In fact, some Japanese conservatives advance their own “backdoor to war” theory. In one Tokyo museum, photos, charts and texts “prove” that American actions in Asia and the Pacific had left Japan with no choice short of hostilities.


Apparently the Americans hold a monopoly on what constitutes the 'official' versions of history. Clearly, the authors of the article have not heard of the declassified McCollum memos which explicitly admitted that they tried to push Japan into war. (Even Wikipedia carries an article on this). But that's not good enough, because facts aren't enough to 'prove' theories that aren't government approved.

By the way, this is a response typical of Turkish government officials who still deny to this day the Armenian genocide.

In the United States, it's increasingly a mainstream view that secret forces with mysterious aims shape our destiny. In 1998, CBS News found that three out of four Americans believe that the truth behind John F. Kennedy's assassination has been covered up. This summer, a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll found that more than one out of three Americans believe it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that federal officials planned 9/11 or at least did nothing to stop the attacks.


Political assassinations only happen in South America, there are no coup d'états in the good ol'US of A! (Never mind that the people being accused of assassinating Kennedy were the ones who themselves carried out the Latin American coup d'états!)

Oh, and only the Soviet Union would have covered up Stalin's Ukrainian genocide for over fifty years until Gorbatchev allowed the media to speak only, and only the Turks would cover up their own genocide for almost a century. The US of A would never do something like that!

Why people embrace conspiracy theories is a complex topic, touching on ideology and psychology.


It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that governments DO conspire, would it? Oh, wait, they only exist in people's imagination.

In our time, two factors have made these tales more pervasive:

The Internet accelerates the pace at which isolated mutterings can become national phenomena, exposed to a potential audience of billions. Video clips and documents, real and manufactured, zip through the ether and buttress tales that might otherwise be dismissed as cockamamie speculation.


Oh my gawd! People are starting to think for themselves! And, (gasp), they're backing up their speculation with FACTS!

From the Pentagon Papers to Watergate, late 20th-century scandals proved that the official version of events can be a smoke screen hiding a more sinister and more accurate story.


Translation: because governments do conspire.

“Americans tend to be particularly receptive to anti-government conspiracy theories,” said Kathryn Olmsted, a University of California Davis history professor who is writing a book on this subject.


Now we're getting into the meat of the pseudopsychological theories. Firstly, the claim that Americans are 'receptive' to conspiracy theories more than other people is baseless. Daniel Pipes has claimed that the Arab world is receptive to conspiracy theories, while similar claims were made about the French when Thierry Meyssan released his books on 9/11, and the British when doubts arised about Princess Diana's assassination (this same article even accuse the Japanese of believing in conspiracy theories, whatever that means).

The difference is that the term 'conspiracy theory' is not popular in other languages as in English, as they are usually almost literal and awkward translations (such as in French 'théorie du complot' or in German 'Verschwörungstheorie'. The reason is because the stereotype of 'conspiracy theories' as fantasies similar to belief in UFOs is an American cultural concept, originally used to dismiss non-official explanations of JFK's assassination.

In short, this is a spin of the fact that people are open to the idea that governments abuse their power.

Secondly, anyone who has tried to expose the 9/11 coverups will tell you that Americans actually have greater difficulty than other people to accept that governments do commit conspiracies, in part because of the smear campaign led by establishment media and dubious publications such as this one, but also of pride based on national myths such as being a beacon for democracy and having transparent government, making it difficult to believe that the government would be able to commit atrocities. In fact, that 9/11 and the JFK assassination were a cover up are facts accepted by a far wider (in the latter case, vast majority) of populations outside the United States. In 2003,19% of Germans already believed that 9/11 was an inside job (this number is likely higher today).

But as Washington's power grew, conspiracy theorists “found” more masterminds – past and present – within the federal government. In 1937, a book titled “Why Was Lincoln Murdered?” gave a startling answer. The Great Emancipator, author Otto Eisenschiml argued, fell victim to a plot cooked up by his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton.

“That attracted a lot of attention at the time,” noted William Hanchett, history professor emeritus at San Diego State University and an authority on Lincoln's assassination. “But it's been completely discredited.”

Many conspiracy theories meet a similar fate – they rise on the hot air of controversy; wobble as experts poke holes in their fragile underpinnings; and then drop into oblivion.


Of course, left unmentioned are the conspiracy 'theories' that were actually validated, such as Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin incident (which had been dismissed for years before being admitted in 2005).

Unfortunately, there is reason for such rhetoric. In 1990, a New York Times/WCBS-TV poll found that black Americans most apt to embrace conspiracies were also most familiar with U.S. history. They knew that the FBI had infiltrated the civil-rights movement in the 1960s and that the U.S. Public Health Service had withheld effective treatment from black men in the Tuskegee syphilis study of 1932-72.


Hey, nice doublethink. They admit that conspiracies do happen, but you shouldn't believe them! Apparently truth is no defence in the sham court of the anti-conspiratorial police.

For Americans of all races and backgrounds, well-documented government scandals have diminished faith in “the official story.” At the same time, though, even the most elaborate conspiracy theory can offer an odd sort of comfort.

“There is a natural tendency when a tragedy or catastrophe happens to try to make it comprehensible,” Olmsted said. (Full disclosure: Olmsted is married to Bill Ainsworth, a Union-Tribune reporter.)

People often reduce complicated issues to a single cause – the bigger the issue, the bigger the cause, said Patrick Leman, a British psychologist who studies the origins of conspiracy theories.


This is more pseudoscience repeated by establishment 'researchers'. Most 9/11 researchers noticed that it is usually the non-official theory that is more difficult for Americans to accept because it requires them to realise that the government would do them harm to further their own agendas. The reason why government official theories don't stand is because sooner or later people find out that the facts that contradict it, often in spite of themselves violently rejecting them at first in favour of a simplistic story packaged by the government.

Leman's research also indicates that people who are inclined to believe conspiracy theories are also inclined to discard facts that run counter to those theories.

“It's called confirmatory bias,” said Michael Shermer, author of “Why People Believe Weird Things” and executive director of the Skeptics Society. “People tend to look for or recognize evidence that supports their ideas and ignore everything else.”


Speaking of bias, note that it is not said whether this phenomenon also occurs with people who believe and want to validate the official story. Another example of one-sided argumentation that is pervasive in this hit piece.

Case in point: Olmsted notes that every war that the United States has fought since 1900 has spawned a conspiracy theory, often inspired by the conviction that Americans love peace.


And the reason for this is that most of the wars fought by the United States were justified by the government with conspiracy theories to begin with. Such as the Japanese Pearl Harbor conspiracy, the alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the theory that 19 hijackers drove planes into the WTC because they 'hate our freedoms'.

“Opponents of war, at the time or often later, argue that this is basically a peaceful country,” she said. “If everyone had known all the facts, we wouldn't have gone to war.”


I have yet to find an American war opponent claim that the United States is basically 'peaceful'. Most of the people who say this are Democrats and phony progressives who originally supported the war for 'humanitarian' purposes and need to justify their choice on the grounds of having been mistaken. Those people are some of the least likely to accept to accept a non-official theory because they 'discredit the anti-war movement'.

Conversely, more commonplace, non-conspiratorial explanations can shake our faith in order and reason. Rosenberg cites the “clutter and noise” view, that catastrophes sometimes happen because authorities are distracted or incompetent. This can be a difficult, if not intolerable, reminder of chance's role in life.


This is a bizarre explanation for the Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks if I've seen one. Apparently the Japanese and the Arabs decided to randomly plunge airplanes and accidentally hit Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center. Oh, such coincidences!

(Essentially, 'chance's role' is a polite way of saying that conspiracies do exist, but all of them are committed by foreign governments against the United States, so that means that Americans need to obey their government so they can protect them. 'Clutter and noise' means something like 'oops sorry you got your ass gang-raped, I left your cell door open and walked away somewhere, but it was an accident I promise. What do you mean, the guy with the mask on his face looked like me???'.

Again, researchers who actually talk to people will say that when confronted with evidence contradicting the official reports, they will violently reject it either because they want to believe their government is on their side, or because they do not want to be seen as 'conspiracy theorists'. The fear factor of an oppressive government is far greater than chance, because such regime require massive mobilisations and far more effort to combat than external threats that can be fought by siding with the government.

Finally, the article concludes with the following:

Unbelievable or not, this backdoor has moved. Once a staple of the far right, it is now attached to the extreme left.


The article explains nowhere how believing that the government would do something wrong is somehow 'extremist', nor what is 'extremist' about Roosevelt's opponents and the anti-Iraq war movement. Are Mr. Rowe and LaFee implying that Bush and Roosevelt's opponents were authoritarian fascists or communists?

In other words, any disagreement with status quo and enshrined beliefs, whether left or right, constitutes extremism and should be cast aside, no matter facts, individual reasoning and common sense. Facts are for experts to deal with, so trust them, don't ask questions and just accept their version of history.

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