Postmodernism is the genesis of Contemporary Conspiracy Theory By Tony Sobrado

Tony Sobrado writing for The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tony-sobrado/postmodernism-is-the-gene_b_967669.html

Postmodernism as a broad intellectual, social and literary movement is hard to capture and define, not more so due to the deliberate wishes of the some of it protagonists for the paradigm to remain enigmatic. As many Post modernists question the practice and prorogation of meta and universal theories grounded in frameworks of “truth”, there are obvious overlaps between Postmodernism, Philosophy and the Social Sciences. This is in terms of both the subjects of knowledge and the products of research and literature. For Postmodernism, the role, use and application of theory are not only pivotal to epistemological questions but have fundamental consequences on conceptions of reality.

One area completing overlooked is the relationship between Conspiracy Theory and Postmodernism. One tenet of Postmodernism, as the name directly suggests, is that the analysis of knowledge, society and ontology requires a framework that moves beyond the universal rationalism espoused by the enlightenment period. Enlightenment bore the mark of the birth of Modernity but is now dead. We therefore require a post-modern theory to secede the shackles of the Modern period. For the sake of brevity, this usually entails contextual sensitivity and relativism as opposed to universalism and absolute truth.

Although Conspiracy Theories have always been present throughout history, the genesis of the modern day conspiratorial phenomena is taken to be that of JFK. This saw the inception of a Meta Conspiracy Theory in which political phenomena was not what it seemed. Behind what appears to be the establishment there is a ruling elite, an organisation of individuals who act as puppet masters; the real elite behind the masquerading elite.

This undoubtedly gave rise, over the last forty years, to Meta conspiracy theories encompassing the Illuminati, The Bilderberg Group, The Freemasons and the New world Order. It then began to propagate Meta historical continuing conspiracy theories. For instance the New World Order or Illuminati does not juts control all the facets of political, economic and social activity but this plot has been deliberately designed and executed throughout history. This changes the dimension of modern conspiracy theory from being just Meta causal to being all historically encapsulating. This ushered in new questions, not just of current affairs but of the nature and validity of history itself.

This above illustrates one aspect of modern conspiracy theories subsumed by the Postmodern tradition. For contemporary conspiracy theorists, we now require a philosophy and conceptual framework that moves past the enlightenment period’s proposals of Liberalism and representative Government. This is because in the world of conspiracy theorists the latter paradigms are evidentially fallacious. We therefore need new theories to look at incidents such as JFK, the Iraq war, 911 and observable inequalities in wealth and living standards. For the exclaimer of conspiracy, old political ideologies and theories of Government, society and civil interaction are inept. Instead conspiracy theory serves as a better explanation for the post modern world.

It is these arguments advanced by conspiracy theorists to accommodate the post modern political world that paradoxically has its roots in the Postmodernist tradition. Certain aspects of Postmodernism entail a revamped romanticism, the vacuum left behind by the insufficient claim to universal truth and knowledge is filled by an epistemological tendency “that anything goes”. In a Postmodern world in which scientific claims to “true knowledge” are questioned and merely labeled as social constructionism – that it is the social process and practices of institutions such as Universities and scientists that perpetuate science as “truth”; the discourse of science for some Postmodernist is filed under oppressive regimes that perpetuate universal truth.

Instead Jacques Derrida’s notorious Deconstruction Theory comes vividly to life in that any subject matter is not just open to interpretation but the possibilities of interpretation are endless. In today’s world we see conspiracy theorists operating within this framework. Mistrust in scientific facts and the agents of established social institutions, especially those who endorse the official account of 911 is coupled with the both the ability and license to look at phenomena such as 911, the Iraq war, JFK and the banking crisis and interpret them in any way possible. In fact this is incredibly salient for conspiracy theorists. The Deconstruction Theory rings true in that the narrative of Conspiracy Theory is applicable to any phenomena imaginable. Postmodernists scream out that any phenomena are open to infinite alternative accounts and conspiracy theorists seize on the opportunity.

Ironically under the Postmodernist tradition Conspiracy Theory falls victim to its own claim and purchase of “truth” through its own self created discourse. By dismissing the “truth” presented by established institutions, conspiracy theorists explicate their own version of “truth”. However both opposing factions are discourses and Conspiracy Theory mirrors the account of Liberal Government but with its own formation of “truth”.

Postmodernism under Foucault and Derrida pronounced prophetic one liners such as “discourses forms of objects of which they speak” and thus instead of “truth” standing outside narratives and discourses, the separation is not possible as discourses themselves form “truth” and “reality” in a circular and interlocking manner.

This is precisely what the discourse of Conspiracy Theory does when proposing the “truth” behind social and political phenomena. For instance the movement called the 911 “Truth” Movement. By rejecting the modern explanation of social and political phenomena, by employing open interpretation that requires no reference to established scientific facts and by creating a discourse which forms “truth” and thus a notion of “reality”, modern conspiratorial phenomena finds its foundations in Postmodernism.

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UK Economy: Does Ed Balls Have a Credible Alternative? By Thomas Costello

http://uk.ibtimes.com/articles/214290/20110915/uk-economy-ed-balls-deficit-reduction-uk-economy-labour-party-government-george-osborne-london-schoo.htm

The UK economy has flat lined and with the threat of massive trade union strikes on 30 November both the public and economists are seriously considering whether David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have got their plan right. Has the UK moved down a road they can’t come back from or is it in fact that Ed Balls’ and the Labour Party plans simply are not credible?

Wednesday unemployment rose 80,000 to 2.51 million and the government has come under serious attack from Ed Balls and Ed Miliband over the rate of deficit reduction plans. Tony Travers from the London School of Economics revealed on the BBC Newsnight programme that one of the biggest falls in employment has happened in London and the South East where much of the successful private sector opportunities exist.

The Labour Party spent Wednesday attacking the government’s plans but did they come out with any substance themselves? Ed Miliband attacked the government at Prime Minsters questions claiming that the government has “got it wrong” and the private sector is not picking up the slack from public sector job losses. What Ed Miliband says is in line with Tony Travers, with the Labour leader saying that every two jobs being lost in the in public sector, less than one is being created in the private. However, the Labour Party has not talked about how they will create new jobs in these sectors; simply opposing trade union strikes will not appease a nation that wants to hear a credible plan.

 Ed Balls has stressed that a way of breathing life into the economy is to put more money into the economy. Mr Balls has said that the government must bring down the rate of VAT which will get people spending in the economy once again. However, the government’s plans will not allow for such a drop in VAT.

Mr Balls has said that cutting the tax for the highest earners, which “raises billions of pounds”, should not be “the first priority”.

“Do you really think, when we need to get the economy moving, do you really think the first priority is not to cut VAT for families or find other ways to help families on middle incomes but to only cut to taxes for people on incomes over £150,000?” asked Balls.

If the government is going to continue on its plan and not look for a ‘plan b’ there can’t be a reduction in VAT for their plans to work. The VAT increase is a crucial aspect of George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan as it stands today. The plan relies on increased tax revenues to the tune of £149.5 billion per year by 2014/15. A reduction in the VAT rate now would therefore risk undermining the credibility of the plan, which has been credited with calming the fears of markets and international bodies.

Simply the UK will have to accept that the country is not going to see huge economic growth in the next twelve months. However, steps must be taken to curb unemployment; something the chancellor seems incapable of doing. On Labour’s side there are more serious issues at hand. Does Ed Balls have a plan, if he does, is it credible? Is Ed Miliband the right man to take the country from a flat lining economy into a growth economy? What is clear is that the government will last but only because of the divisions and lack of a serious alternative from the Labour Party.

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The use of Conspiracy Theory by Politicians: “Climate Truthers: Why Global Warming Deniers Are Conspiracy Theorists, Not Rational Skeptics” By Sahil Kapur

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sahil-kapur/climate-truthers-why-glob_1_b_869294.html

The United States is experiencing a golden era of conspiracy theories. From the 9/11 Truthers to the Obama Birthers to the Trig Birthers and, most recently, the bin Laden Deathers, alternate theories of reality are alive and thriving on the American fringes, perhaps more so than ever in the age of digital media.

One group of conspiracy theorists, however, has escaped the label — and has even succeeded in bringing its theory into the mainstream. These are the people who deny that human activity is contributing to climate change, despite enormous evidence to the contrary — call them the Climate Truthers, for lack of a better term.

First the facts: the American and international scientific community overwhelmingly agree that carbon dioxide emissions are triggering a slate of harmful effects on the planet. “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems,” declares a recent report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The fact that a small percentage of scientists disagree — which is also the case with, say, evolution — doesn’t mean the issue isn’t settled.

Yet unlike their counterparts, Climate Truthers aren’t merely an irrelevant group of rabble-rousers — on the contrary, the scientific consensus is denied by the leaders of one of America’s two great political parties, as well as the majority of its ideological base. Speaker John Boehner, the most powerful Republican in the country, considers the notion that carbon emissions are harming the planet “comical.” In recent years, this viewpoint has become something of a GOP litmus test, and today it’s difficult to find Republicans who accept the scientific consensus.

Climate Trutherism embodies the lynchpin of conspiracy theories: the belief that a group of influential people is coordinating a wide-ranging cover-up to advance their interests by bamboozling the rest of us. Doubting human-caused climate change requires the same paranoid logic as, say, doubting that the 9/11 attacks caught Bush administration officials by surprise, or that President Obama’s birth certificate is authentic. But rather than believing that we’re being lied to by the Bush White House or Obama’s mother and the state of Hawaii, you’re required to believe that we’re being lied to by nearly every scientist and scientific institution in the world.

Conspiracy theories are usually traceable back to some small grain of truth, blown way out of proportion. The thinking goes something like this: George W. Bush really did use 9/11 to start an unnecessary war, so he must have had a hand in the attacks. Or, Sarah Palin really does have a habit of making stuff up, so she must have lied about being the mother of her youngest child. Or, Barack Obama really does look different than the other American presidents, so he must be foreign. And in this case, mitigating global warming really does require government intervention in the energy industry, so it must be a left-wing plot. What binds all these conspiracy theorists together is the belief that their ideological opponents are evil masterminds engaged in a cabal. That’s when healthy skepticism turns pathological and destructive.

There exists a somewhat tamer brand of Climate Trutherism, which takes a different tack: rather than attack or challenge the findings head on, they merely assert that the science is unsettled, based on a few dissenters. But this is simply obfuscation, designed to exploit misconceptions. A handful of scientists still dispute natural selection and the Big Bang, proving that even the soundest theories retain their share of skeptics, so that’s an unreasonable standard. To wit, the scientific consensus is so strong you either believe man-made climate change is real or you believe there’s a massive conspiracy going on. No third option.

So why, then, aren’t Climate Truthers relegated to the fringes alongside their brethren? Firstly, Climate Truthers have the support of a wealthy, powerful industry dedicated to mainstreaming their theory. Secondly, the Republican Party’s anti-regulation policy agenda is threatened by the realities of climate change, so it’s better to deny there’s anything wrong than cede the argument to their adversaries. And thirdly — and this is why it self-perpetuates — the media likes to stay in good spirits with powerful people, so oftentimes it can’t quite bring itself to unequivocally pronounce one side wrong.

As with other conspiracy theories, it’s the media’s job to call out Climate Truthers as such and resist the urge to split the difference. If journalists failed to do this with other paranoid theorists we’d be living in a society where 9/11 Truthers and Obama Birthers were legitimate skeptics rather than outlandish people unable to come to grips with reality. Yes, it takes more courage to call out Climate Truthers, because some of them are very influential. But that’s what makes it more important — because climate change is relevant to our lives and futures in a way that the speculation about Trig Palin’s birth-mother is not.

None of this means there isn’t room for debate about the path forward. It’s completely legitimate to argue over how exactly we should deal with climate change. It’s also fair game to ponder the extent to which governments should intervene in energy markets. But, as the vast swath of evidence makes clear, it’s illegitimate to write off human-induced climate change as anything less than a serious problem that deserves our attention. That’s the difference between rational skepticism and

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Why Trutherism Lives On! The 9/11 conspiracy movement has faded, but the conspiracy theory will never die By Jeremy Stahl

http://www.slate.com/id/2302853/

When Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in a nighttime raid on May 2, many in the media wondered whether a new conspiracy group of “deathers” would rise up to replace the recently deflated bubble of “birthers.” The number of potential “deathers”—those who doubt Bin Laden is dead—ranged between 12 percent and 15 percent, according to a pair of May polls from Fox News and Zogby. Among 9/11 conspiracy theorists, though, it is practically a given that the May raid was a hoax. Many believe that Bin Laden died long ago, probably in 2001, and that the video and audio recordings of him broadcast over the years were government-manufactured fakes.

The May 2 raid “was Barack Obama saying we’re getting our ass kicked in Afghanistan, the empire is collapsing, let’s do a phony show to kill Osama, declare victory, and go home,” said early 9/11 conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert. Ruppert believes that Obama needed Bin Laden killed in order to be able to justify his Afghanistan troop withdrawal plan. The new plan, according to Ruppert, is to send those troops to Iraq, “or to get them back home for civil unrest here. Which is going to happen, like real soon.” Meanwhile, David Ray Griffin, another leading conspiracist, says the raid story “sounds fishy” because Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea before it could be positively identified to Griffin’s satisfaction.

And so it goes. The decade since 9/11 has given rise to a panoply of conspiracy theories accusing the government of complicity in the attacks. These theories remained on the fringes of political life in the first few years after 9/11, grew in popularity with the unpopularity of Bush and the war in Iraq in the middle of the decade, and faded with the end of the Bush administration. But they have not died completely. As long as there is public distrust of government—and with the financial crisis, the collapse of the economy, and the recent debt ceiling debate, public opinion of Washington is at a record low—there will be conspiracy theories.

More specifically, there will probably always be 9/11 conspiracy theories. “I think that it was inevitable that a conspiracy, maybe many conspiracy theories, would arise, because inordinate tragedy is almost always accompanied by such conspiracies,” says Lawrence Wright, whose Pulitzer Prize winning Looming Tower is the definitive account of the rise of al-Qaida. “People have a view of the world and they want to make the facts conform to that view.”

Professional conspiracists like radio host Alex Jones and Ruppert preached conspiracy theories for years before 2001. But for many “truthers,” as they would call themselves, the 9/11 conspiracy was a kind of gateway drug. Most of the leading activists I spoke with became involved in the movement because of the Iraq war, but their anger at the Bush administration soon spread to all major institutions of government and media. “In order to maintain the bubble of the conspiracy, it needs to get more demonic, and it needs to include more people,” explains 9/11 conspiracy apostate Charlie Veitch. “You need more and more evil until you hit the wall of absurdity.”

The theory that Veitch gave the most credence to was that there was an ancient order of freemasons, or illuminati, or an extremely rich central banking family that had been in control of all world events since the time of Babylon. According to this theory, 9/11 was a propaganda spectacle orchestrated to make the common man fearful. “There’s something about it which appeals to the ego in people,” Veitch said. “You suddenly feel empowered by having secret knowledge.”

A more typical theory about who is behind world events like 9/11, espoused by Alex Jones, is that a hodgepodge of disparate banking, corporate, globalization, and military interests are working together to bring about a New World Order of centralized “globalist” government. Jones’ “world government” bogeyman has been around for decades. In his quintessential essay on the psychology of paranoia in American political life, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter describes an episode from 1964:

Shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, a great deal of publicity was given to a bill, sponsored chiefly by Senator Thomas E. Dodd of Connecticut, to tighten federal controls over the sale of firearms through the mail. When hearings were being held on the measure, three men drove 2,500 miles to Washington from Bagdad, Arizona, to testify against it. Now there are arguments against the Dodd bill which, however unpersuasive one may find them, have the color of conventional political reasoning. But one of the Arizonans opposed it with what might be considered representative paranoid arguments, insisting that it was “a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialistic government” and that it threatened to “create chaos” that would help “our enemies” to seize power.

In the case of 9/11, Bush’s policies in Iraq and the administration’s guardedness with the 9/11 Commission helped create conditions that allowed the conspiracy theory to get a hearing. But the conspiracy theory was always going to exist.

“Like in the case of the Kennedy assassination, [when] you have a horrible tragedy that seems absurd and it’s hard to account for the fact that a single individual could inflict so much grief on the nation, there’s a natural tendency to believe that there must be more at work,” says Lawrence Wright. “In the case of 9/11 there was a sense of disbelief that a man in a cave in Afghanistan could reach out and humiliate the most powerful nation in the history of the world. How could that happen? It must be that something else was at work and because we are so powerful, we must have done it to ourselves.”

When Wright was touring the country with his book, he would regularly be confronted by conspiracy theorists who hadn’t read the book but thought that, through clever questioning, they could demolish a case he had arrived at by five years of research and interviews with 600 sources. “I spent a lot of time trying to reason with various people who had these kinds of perspectives. And it was very frustrating,” he said. “There was absolutely no way to argue with them because they rejected any kind of factual evidence.”

After his book came out, Wright had occasion to discuss the alternative view of 9/11 with Alex Jones. Both men live in Austin, and both are friends with director Richard Linklater, who featured Jones as a street prophet in two of his films, A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. During a party at Linklater’s home near the Lost Pines of East Central Texas, the Slacker director put these two avatars of opposing 9/11 thought together. The conversation was similar to others Wright had had with other conspiracy theorists. “What they call facts aren’t typically facts,” Wright said. “They sound like facts. They’re asserted. But basically, at the root of the conspiracies are these unproven theories.”

While the 9/11 conspiracy theory is based on conjecture, it has a stubbornness. The overall number of conspiracy believers has dipped since Bush left office, but the numbers believing the most radical version of the theory have been fairly steady. In 2006, 16 percent of respondents in a Scripps-Howard poll said it was either somewhat or very likely that the collapse of the Twin Towers was aided by explosives secretly planted in the buildings. That number was virtually unchanged in an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll this month. This was despite a 12 percent drop between 2007 and 2009 in the number of respondents who agreed with the statement that the Bush administration let the attacks take place in order to go to war in the Middle East. And although overall faith in the theories has subsided, general doubts about some kind of government cover-up have not. In the most recent Angus Reid survey, 66 percent of respondents said they believed the official version of events as presented by the 9/11 Commission, while only 12 percent did not. But 22 percent were undecided.

Veitch compared being a believer in the theory to being in a cult. “There’s so many people with so much of a vested political and psychological interest in maintaining, what I call the ‘Conspiranoia,’ view of the world—that there are these demons just behind the scenes where we can’t see, running everything,” Veitch told conspiracy theorist Max Igan. Veitch is one of the rare cases of a conspiracy theorist going back on his views. Sites like 911myths.com, debunking911.com, and Screw Loose Change provide a valuable service in offering answers to rebut conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are “a little like sexually transmitted diseases,” says Wright. “You have to take precautions and know that it’s always going to be out there, but you should never succumb to the theories without actually thinking them through. I’m really dismayed to see very intelligent people often times taken in by what are really very absurd propositions.”

Which brings me back to the college friend who introduced me to a 9/11 conspiracy theory just one day after 9/11. I caught up with him last month, finding him the same bright, politically minded person I remembered. When we spoke on the phone, he remembered our conversation from 10 years ago as clearly as I did. And he was still convinced that he had been right to argue the point, even while acknowledging that the facts had proved him wrong. To him, there are always good reasons to be skeptical of any government version of events.

This lack of faith in the government epitomized by the conspiratorial worldview has only become more widespread in the last 10 years. While the theories that Bush let 9/11 happen intentionally were slowly dissipating in popularity on the left, they were replaced by the growth of “birther” theories on the right holding that President Obama was not a natural born American citizen, nor a legal president. The birther theory peaked in April when one in four Americans and 45 percent of Republicans told pollsters that they believed Obama was not born in the United States.

Unlike the “truther” theories, the birther theory actually declined precipitously in the face of refutation. Still, it shows that a large portion of the American public, on both ends of the political spectrum, is capable of telling pollsters it agrees with irrational conspiracy theories.

One likely explanation for this trend may be the record numbers of Democrats and Republicans who say they distrust the government. According to a Fox poll in July, the number of people who said they generally did not trust the government was at an all-time high of 62 percent, double what it was in June 2002. The number was highest among Republicans, with 76 percent saying they did not trust the government, but a plurality of Democrats also said they distrusted the government, as did 68 percent of independents.

Nobody understands this distrust better than the conspiracy theorists themselves. That distrust is what has allowed these theories to gain credence on such a wide scale. Their viability has more to do with pessimism, anger, distrust, or some other psychological or emotional need than with evidence or even paranoia.

These desires are universal, as evidenced by the popularity of 9/11 conspiracy theories in the Middle East. “One of the things I find particularly sad is that the conspiracy theorists in the U.S. have augmented this tendency in the Middle East to deny any cultural responsibility,” Wright says. Jamal Khalifa, a source in The Looming Tower who Wright became friends with during the book’s writing, was Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law and his closest friend before Bin Laden founded al-Qaida. In the wake of 9/11, Wright says, Khalifa had a hard time accepting any kind of cultural blame as a Saudi for the attacks. And then he did. But toward the end of his life—Khalifa was assassinated in Madagascar in 2007—he began to doubt again. “He’d been watching things like Loose Change and so-on,” Wright said. “He thought, ‘well, why should I accept any responsibility. Americans are saying they did it themselves.’ ”

“I remember being incredibly dismayed that he had changed his mind and especially why he had changed his mind,” Wright recalls. “Middle Easterners are so susceptible to conspiracy theories, but it seems that Americans aren’t much better.”

Jeremy Stahl is the Social Media Editor for Slate Magazine

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Bilderberg, Elite Consensus and the Media By Dr Ian Richardson

Bilderberg People: Elite Power and Consensus in World Affairs

In case you hadn’t noticed, the annual gathering of the transatlantic power elite took place in St. Moritz in June and passed by without too much fuss. Sure, awareness of Bilderberg is increasing, and the crowds outside the event grow each year, but as the glare of publicity shines with increasing intensity on this bastion of elite networking and exclusivity, a number of important things become clear.

First, mainstream media coverage of the conference is increasing – at least in Europe – but the focus remains almost exclusively on the nature, and claims, of the conspiracy theory community. Reporting of Bilderberg has become a pretext for discussion of the weird and paranoid rather than any real attempt to engage with the question of what function transnational elite networks perform in world affairs. The reasons for this today are rather more prosaic than members of the conspiracy theory community believe (although, in fairness, their claim of media suppression of the story does have historical merit). The idea, for instance, that a secret global cabal is pulling strings and influencing world events is considered, frankly, laughable by many in the media and the subject is, unsurprisingly, given a wide berth by credible journalists. For others, i.e. those who participate in the event, informal non-disclosure arrangements ensure privacy but this doesn’t really explain the continuing mystery surrounding the group. Look at the headlines of journals such as The Economist around the time of any Bilderberg conference, for example, and you’ll get a sense of the discussions that have taken place. No, the absence of the real Bilderberg story has more to do with a fundamental failure, on the part of journalists, to understand that there is a story to report. Added to which, of course, the rather complicated realities of world politics fade into insignificance when compared with the entertainment value of patronizing conspiracy theorists.

Second, Bilderberg – and other exclusive policy networks such as the World Economic Forum – are significant events in the transnational elite calendar. While their effects are very subtle, it’s quite wrong to assume they do nothing. They perform a considerable function in the development of narratives that provide legitimacy, as a basis for action, in world affairs. It’s in forums like this that policy consensuses are formed, shaped and disseminated – and although the process is often unconscious, the outcomes are in no way random or accidental. Elite consensus is not some kind of natural or transcendental consequence of elite interaction – it is the product of discreet forces within the elite community. These forces consistently emphasize favorable free trade and globalization agendas and do so, despite conflicting evidence, on the pretext of delivering greater degrees of global social and political harmony. While this description is admittedly less sexy than that of a sinister cadre plotting world domination, make no mistake: the consequences of these discreet, and largely unquestioned, forms of elite consensus have far reaching implications for all of us.

Third, the dependency relationship between media and policy elites is central to our understanding of events and political realities. There’s nothing new here, of course, but what may surprise some people is the extent to which the media has become an integral part of the consensus formation process. It isn’t, as some suggest, simply invited in, or co-opted, for the purposes of spreading elite worldviews. It is a willing and enthusiastic participant in the formation, as well as dispersal, of such ideas. The presence of media participants in elite policy networks is not evidence of a conspiracy – it is a demonstration of the extent to which public, policy and media agendas are interrelated in our liberal societies. And, importantly, it signals a blurring of the lines between events and the reporting of them. Because of its role in shaping consensus, both within the elite community and beyond it, it’s fair to suggest that the media is no longer distinguishable from the subject of its own analysis.

Finally, elite networks are not consciously directing members to think certain things and spread the word accordingly. The processes of consensus formation at work in elite networks are far more discreet than this and, bizarrely, have as much to do with personal motivation and the lure of elite membership than many would care to believe. Most people invited into these networks are unaware of any kind of meaningful agenda – in fact, like organizers, they believe this activity is non-partisan and discussion based. They don’t see the selection processes, the informal acknowledgements of club membership, or the reassuring affirmation that only comes with being seen to think the right thing.

Members of elite groups uniformly deny that their opinions are shaped in any way but, ask them what they have learned or taken away, and discover a significant consequence of the impact of elite networks. Desperate to ingratiate themselves aspiring members of elite policy groups – among them many representatives of the media – defer to the dominant logic and personalities of the network. And, equally keen to impress upon others what they’ve learned, and who they’ve been fraternizing with, they unconsciously dispense this wisdom within their own networks and constituencies.

There are, of course, many journalists who consciously and diligently attempt to retain a sense of detachment but, the higher one ascends, the more seductive the lure of elite membership becomes. The central question, for those with an interest in democratic fundamentals, is in figuring out exactly how detached our informed – and elite – journalists really are.

Dr. Ian Richardson is an Assistant Professor at Stockholm University School of Business and a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University School of Management. His interests include global governance, world politics, business/political collaboration in liberal democracies, elite networks, and the internet.

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Conspiracy Theory as Political Philosophy and Ideology – Reflections on a post 911 world By Tony Sobrado

Explosive Rumours and Speculation

Tony Sobrado’s Article in The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tony-sobrado/conspiracy-theory-as-poli_b_953732.html

As any Philosopher of Science will tell you formal theories serve as explanations to observed phenomena, an association between the explanandum – the object of phenomena to be explained; and the explanans – the framework, concept or theory to be used as an the reference point for explanation. Pioneers in philosophy of Science such as Hempel coined this logic inference to the best explanation.

Employing a Meta theory that explains a form of social reality and existence has long been the goal of Philosophers who propagate abstract thinking and rules of logic to define and set the boundaries of ontology and epistemology. In Political Philosophy one often has the espousing of an Ideology: A set of ideas that best serve to explain political and social phenomena and thus attempting a correlation between the theory used in explanation with that of the “goings on” observed. For long periods in history Philosophers and Social Scientists have debated whether Liberalism, Marxism, Anarchism, Structuralism or Methodological Individualism best serve as theoretical explanations of social reality.

In this same instance we find Ideologists today who advocate Conspiracy Theory. Like so many others in the realm of theoretical and philosophical explanation they too employ ideal frameworks that account for observed phenomena. Regardless of the aspects that encompass specific conspiracy theories, whether they are single point conspiracy theories like 911 or Meta conspiracy theories of the New World Order, they all occupy the spectrum of political ideology. This is because they advocate an explanation for observed phenomena. As where Marxism does it through the lens of capitalism and its dialectic with the human essence, Liberalism through inalienable individual property rights, conspiracy theorists do it through the lens of an esoteric operating cabal – for instance a horde of business and political agents responsible for 911 and its cover up.

All these ideologies execute the same cognitive apparatus when examining social data. They have a target point to explain and go out about it by utilizing their philosophical and ideological perspective and beliefs to explain the phenomena at hand and simultaneously reinforce their belief system in a circularity manner. Once can examine 911 from various stand points including the official explanation stated by the U.S Government or from the perspective of both Meta conspiracy and single point conspiracy theory. It is worth noting that often proposed theories have to take into account competing theories, and thus in effect explain them too. Here conspiracy theorists would argue that the Ideologies of both Liberalism and Democratic Government are facilitated by the ruling elite to distract us from the real “goings on” at hand.

One of the most significant indicators of Conspiracy Theory as Ideology is its remedy for the perceived problem; the way out of the turmoil and into a utopian future akin to the Marxist proposal for the future design of society and mankind. Ironically it is here where Conspiracy Theory shares its most identifiable resonance with the established philosophies of Liberalism and Marxism.

Certain conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones cry out for the Republicanism of the founding fathers of the American constitution – intended to safeguard the individual rights of citizens from ever intrusive Government legislation. This is an obvious parallel with Liberalism and Anarchism yet not attributed as one due to the predisposed schema that Liberalism is a conspiratorial design. Then we have the utopian future of a collective society void of greed and ego to better mankind and society against the tide of corporatism and the concentration of power in Government as advocated by David Icke. This is an obvious appeal, whether subconscious or not, to Anarcho-Communism.

Yet it is these political and social aspirations of Conspiracy Theory that presents it in the light of ideology: the analyzing of socio-political phenomena with theories of causations and justification as well as proposals for future change. Conspiracy Theory is also the political ideology of the disengaged and of the fringe. As previous Socialist, Feminist and Civil Rights movements were motivated by the disenfranchised in society at the time, we now have conspiracy theorists disillusioned with globalization, Sovereign centralization and free market economics to the point where they can no longer follow or assert the dominant paradigms of the modern world, especially when associated with the official accounts of 911. They therefore find solace in a theory that explains the current state of affairs to them in a more appealing manner with the possibility of change – the same as any other political ideology.

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The problem faced by Conspiracy Theory By Tony Sobrado

Tony Sobrado writing for skepticalfreethought.com

http://skepticfreethought.com/2011/08/the-problem-faced-by-conspiracy-theory/

As there are different types of philosophies so too are there different types of Conspiracy Theory. These range from simple one off events such as the assassination of JFK and 911 to historically entrenched conspiracy theories that encompass esoteric ideals with real world implications. The latter tend to be associated with secret societies or Meta intergalactic conspiracy theories involving alien control.

Today the biggest problem facing Conspiracies Theory is its lack of articulation and analysis of systematic processes. However, simply dismissing conspiracy theories as being illogical, wildly imaginative or staggeringly absurd will no longer work as an analytical benchmark. In terms of pure logic and reasoning some conspiracy theories are more plausible than others. For instance take the assassination of JFK. It is plausible that a network of men other than Lee Harvey Oswald had him assassinated. This is more plausible than the premise that the world’s political and financial systems were deigned to be as they are in order to serve the purpose of a smoke screen designed by a secret society in the ancient world that envisioned world domination – whatever that is.

Apart from the art of linguistics, Conspiracy Theory fails to address the phenomena it seeks to explicate in a concise or sophisticated manner. As a further hindrance to the cause, the semantics encompassing Conspiracy Theory have reached bursting point – a concept ablaze with theoretical amalgamation producing ideological saturation. As a consequence both the descriptive and conceptual terms of Conspiracy Theory have become meaningless. Take the conspiracy theory of JFK as a single point conspiracy. By this I mean a preplanned arrangement between two or more individuals at a single point in time. These individuals would have conspired collectively to corrupt the political process when disposing of Kennedy.

It is precisely here where the misdiagnosis of conspiracy theories emerge, they must therefore reframe their theoretical ideas of the process they seek to analyze. Single point conspiracy theories can be equally analyzed as single point corruption, both occurring at designated points in time within social, economic and political systems. Immediately this sense of analyses and the semantic use of single points of corruption bring credence to the attempted argument. Political Scientists and Sociologists study corruption, particularly at discrete points in time regarding illegal operations and processes in a system. However not too many study Conspiracy Theory as a serious framework for consideration or as a viable ontological alternative. Predominantly when studied in a serious format, it is the the work of psychologists attempting to discredit conspiracy theories by merely labeling them under the banner of erratic belief systems.

In order to provide analytical and insightful robustness to a theory, conspiracy theorists must first stipulate what phenomena they are trying to explain and what type of conspiracy they are advocating. If proponents of conspiracy theories want to build a persuasive argument they must first elucidate what they mean by a type of conspiracy in a particular context. To explain something like JFK they must illustrate how single point conspiracy theories are equivocal to single points of corruption – one off events in political systems and not the byproduct of an overarching conspiracy with a superior teleological goal enacted by the New World Order. This is because pre planned Meta conspiracy theories of secret world rule in which every observable phenomenon is linked to a larger Meta Conspiracy Theory is rendered inept by Social Chaos Theory because no room is allocated for randomness and error.

By positioning the argument in the Social Science domain of single point conspiracy or corruption lends itself to readily defensible claims. Systematic corruption and single point conspiracies are rife in the world and this is why rules and regulations are formulated to prevent the abuse of power. What cannot be logically argued is the convergence and transition from the micro to the macro that results in Meta Conspiracy Theory. For example that corruption in small parts of a social system is somehow related to a pre planned conspiracy on a larger scale such as the global financial crisis, 911 and the Iraq war. For this reason when seeking to explicate a corrupt occurrence; the conceptual and contextual use of Conspiracy and Conspiracy Theory is of the most importance when analyzing social and political phenomena.

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