bassnation

the abyss
MATT MAson said:
I heard a senator on the news the other day saying the blame for the government's failure to deal with Hurricane Katrina effectivly should be "left for historians to debate." It made me feel sick. Do we really live in a society where the only judge is history? Thanks to the 'conspiracy theory brush' tarnishing many people who deserve to be taken seriously, it would seem so.
blair said something similar the other day about "god and the history books judging me".

i agree, its totally unacceptable. people should be out in the streets protesting against this kind of unaccountable arrogance - but then again where did it get us last time?

do people get the governments they deserve?
 

sherief

Generic Human
A reply better late then never.

Idle rich, what you were saying about refuting the dangerous/wrong viewpoint in the strongest terms may point out the limit case of my example, however, I don't think that they're necessarily incomensurable. I think that we are fully in the right to attempt to refute someone, to show the danger or error in their view, at the same time however this still does not entail (and I loathe using this term) "hair-splitting." One should not get into the legitimacy game, or the my facts-outweigh-your-facts and so I'm right game. On the one hand, 'facts' in the realm of the political, hell, in just about any realm, fail to create opinions much less decisions. There is an apprehension even of the mere facts that occurs wherein we must state the truth of the situation, a truth which is properly outside of or perhaps incomensurable with the reported facts. So in this case we would assert our truth (or "truth" if you'd prefer) over the holocaust denier/conspiracy theorist/whoeverthefuck and not grant them anything more. When we treat them as rational is the point where we begin to accept their viewpoint.

As far as Occam's razor goes, I worry about the real applicability of this, because it seems to me that the simplest explanations are often just the explanations most supported by the system / status quo. Especially when you construe 'simple' as 'instrumentally rational,' you tread the thin ice of apologetics. I can see that you use it within a different framework, so it doesn't seem to be a problem (as far as I'm concerned ;) ), but, like I said.

Also, even if a conspiracy theory is apparently provable or supported by 'massive evidence' (Matt Mason). To this I have to be regretably curt and say, what does this do for us? Does this mean that there are 10 men in black suits smoking cigarettes around a mahogany table deciding what somewhat-large-but-smaller-than-a-757-sized object hits the Pentagon, meanwhile worrying about how to "disappear" another 757? Maybe so, but even in this case the same results come about, and in all honesty I feel even a shadow council would be driven by the same root causes as everything else. What leads to horrific acts of violence/terror/etc., whether it be a group of terrorists in a hijacked plane or a group of old fat white guys sitting around a table, is similar in either case, and the means to attack it I think lie on similar grounds regardless.
 
...in all honesty I feel even a shadow council would be driven by the same root causes as everything else.


Exactly. The one thing we can take from conspiracy theories about 9/11 is the very legitimate point that the event was in an important sense perfectly in the interests of the US Government. We don't really need to fuck around with the empirical question of Who and Why, just to show that there is a logic in operation that binds the US state and terrorists together. They feed off each other and they do so for essential reasons.

From here the problem is not to track down the American 'masterminds' responsible for the atrocity but to work to break the logic of the state of emergency. Incredibly crudely: terror attack = greater crackdown on civilians (especially Muslims) & more aggressive international policy = further terror attacks...

There is also something of a dangerous nostalgia for supreme Authority in conspiracy theories, but that's a story for another time.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I agree that there is no point getting bogged down in the minutiae of an argument when the conclusions are patently wrong and to do so can lend credence to such an idea. I think that an extreme case of this (and again I've mentioned it before) is when ideas of "even-handedness" in the media lead to present both sides of an argument equally when often one side of the debate is in reality believed by only one crackpot.
I take your point about Occam's Razor but I'm just trying to say that sometimes the simple explanation is correct. For example, in the 9/11 video the accepted and simple premise is that a plane crashed in to the Pentagon but the video suggests that the plane in question was somehow spirited away with its passengers and something else hit the Pentagon - that just seems to raise more questions than it answers and isn't really that helpful.

"Also, even if a conspiracy theory is apparently provable or supported by 'massive evidence' (Matt Mason). To this I have to be regretably curt and say, what does this do for us?"
I think that this goes too far, if there were direct evidence of this then it does do something and should be acted on directly (as well as dealing with the root causes). As stated in the essays that Droid linked to, some of the "conspiracy theories" of history really did happen beyond any debate and I don't think it's acceptable to just throw your hands up in the air and say "oh, that's Capitalism".
 

blunt

shot by both sides
MATT MAson said:
All the video tapes that caught whatever it was hitting the building, that could very easily prove it was a 757, are being held by the government in the interests of "national security." If this doesn't suggest the US government was involved, then who was it? Hamburglar?
Sorry, but this is exactly the kind of shoddy logic that brings those (like yourself) who ask serious questions about what really happened that day into disrepute. The US Government decides not to release information, and that's proof of their prior involvement?! And if it wasn't them, it can't have been anyone else other than the fictional creation of some coked-up ad executive circa 1982?

Also, it's just not true that ALL the CCTV footage from the Pentagon is being sat on. They released about 25 frames from one camera to CNN about a week after Thierry Meyssen's website did the rounds on the Internet (in itself, an illuminating decision). In fact, it served only to compound my own doubts about what happened that day.

I certainly think that some difficult decisions were made that day; that (as I've already said) there was a huge amount of incompetence at all levels; and that since then the US Government has taken a number of steps to obfuscate the day's events as is humanly possible. The invasion of Iraq is just one of those. But I've never seen anything that has made me seriously consider the idea that 9/11 was planned and executed by Bush & co. The guy's a self-serving fucking idiot, and he's surrounded by kindred spirits - but in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I simply don't believe that the US is that far gone yet. Tho that time may come...

Sorry, I don't mean to sound harsh or unduly dismissive, not least because I suspect there's a large amount on which we totally agree. But this kind of lazy logic doesn't do anyone any good.

Yours, without prejudice... :)
 

blunt

shot by both sides
Sorry, sherief, I didn't mean to turn your thread into another 9/11 discussion. I'll be quiet now :)
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
As I understand it the overall point that Sherief is making is that conspiracy theories are useless because they are normally nonsense and even if they're not they don't achieve anything anyway because they fail to deal with the underlying problems that cause the final event. Even if the neocons were responsible for 9/11 the thing to do is not to convict them and stick them in jail but to address the question of how such a cabal could be in power in the first place and why it is in their interest to do such a thing etc etc The reason being that even if Bush wasn't in power the system would have thrown up someone else who would have acted in effectively the same way. Correct me if I'm wrong but that's what you're saying in a nutshell right?
Even though I agree with the first point I don't think I can totally subscribe to the second idea.
 
D

droid

Guest
IdleRich said:
As I understand it the overall point that Sherief is making is that conspiracy theories are useless because they are normally nonsense and even if they're not they don't achieve anything anyway because they fail to deal with the underlying problems that cause the final event. Even if the neocons were responsible for 9/11 the thing to do is not to convict them and stick them in jail but to address the question of how such a cabal could be in power in the first place and why it is in their interest to do such a thing etc etc The reason being that even if Bush wasn't in power the system would have thrown up someone else who would have acted in effectively the same way. Correct me if I'm wrong but that's what you're saying in a nutshell right?
Even though I agree with the first point I don't think I can totally subscribe to the second idea.
I dont want to speak for Sherief, but I think thats essentially it.

Emphasising the acts of Individuals over institutional factors is a get of jail free card to some extent. Conspiracies are by their nature 'outside' the system, so reducing everything down to a conspiracy of some sort or another lets the system off the hook - if events like 9/11 are the result of secret planning by a cadre of individuals, and not the predictable (and horrible) response to years of foreign policy, then the system has no need to change - its the individuals that are to blame. After all, thats what was said about Abu-Ghraib, and thats what is always said when somebody inside the system gets caught with their pants down, so in some ways the conspiracy position is a conservative one, as it (unknowingly) pursues one of the aims of power - to obfusicate the facts...

IMO its also counterproductive in that it blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and sucks in otherwise intelligent people, who might actually be doing something useful with all their motivation and knowledge...

In fact, if you were conspiratorially minded you might put forward the theory that conspiracy theories are themselves creations of the US Government designed to distract serious investigation, tie up political opposition, and deflect genuine criticism away from the system and towards some infinitely complex but ultimately unsupportable thesis... in fact, thats probably the only explanation that accounts for some of the gaping holes in various theories down through the years...

OMG! :eek: Ive think Ive just discovered the ultimate conspiracy theory!

Now if I can just make all the facts fit somehow... :D
 

blunt

shot by both sides
droid said:
In fact, if you were conspiratorially minded you might put forward the theory that conspiracy theories are themselves creations of the US Government designed to distract serious investigation [...] OMG! I think I've just discovered the ultimate conspiracy theory! Now if I can just make all the facts fit somehow...
Oh, that's easy - the US Government actively encouraged alien abduction / UFO / 'visitors' etc from the 1950s onwards to help conceal the development of secret plane technology (U2 / Blackbird / Stealth thru to crazy saucer-shaped aircraft).

Also, and this is a total aside: I read the other week about some guys who decided to actually test the theory that wearing foil helmets protects the brain from ultra low frequency transmissions (because these wavelengths are reserved for use by govenment bodies and commerical interests, it has been suggested that they are used by the military industrial complex to brainwash the masses).

Anyway, it turns out that wearing foil helmets actually amplifies these frequencies. So (of course!), the same people that previously advocated the use of foil helmets as a form of protection are now claiming that the whole idea must have been seeded by [insert cabal of choice here] to encourage people to wear them to increase their susceptibility to the frequencies in question.

Genius!
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"Conspiracies are by their nature 'outside' the system, so reducing everything down to a conspiracy of some sort or another lets the system off the hook - if events like 9/11 are the result of secret planning by a cadre of individuals, and not the predictable (and horrible) response to years of foreign policy, then the system has no need to change - its the individuals that are to blame"
All good and true but I think that individuals act within a system and they too can be guilty.
Abhu Ghraib (not sure about the spelling I'm afraid) is a good example of this I think - the system from top to bottom may be at fault but there were individuals who tortured people and their bosses who ordered them to do it and their bosses who allowed that specific system to be set up in Iraq etc even if they were working within an overall system that tends to allow this kind of thing to happen. The big picture is important but details can be important too is what I'm saying.
 
D

droid

Guest
IdleRich said:
All good and true but I think that individuals act within a system and they too can be guilty.
Abhu Ghraib (not sure about the spelling I'm afraid) is a good example of this I think - the system from top to bottom may be at fault but there were individuals who tortured people and their bosses who ordered them to do it and their bosses who allowed that specific system to be set up in Iraq etc even if they were working within an overall system that tends to allow this kind of thing to happen. The big picture is important but details can be important too is what I'm saying.
I agree - but I dont think that 'institutional thinking' precludes the role (or guilt) of the individual, it just places them inside the context of the larger system. Conspiracy thinking on the other hand places ALL the emphasis on the role of the individual, or on a small group of individuals...

My veiw of Abu Ghraib is that torture has been unoffiical policy of the US since WW2, that they have used, encouraged the use, and actually TAUGHT the use of torture worldwide, and that Iraq presents almost no deviation from the norm - which is why I reject the idea that the system 'allowed these things to happen', or that as the US military has done, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of 6 men and women who acts were coordinated by military intelligence officers and CIA agents... thats the reflexive reaction of most power systems - to scapegoat and distance itself from public criticism...

Torture is US policy, pure and simple, its not a tendency or a slip up, its the default position. (sorry to go off topic btw :eek: )
 
D

droid

Guest
blunt said:
Oh, that's easy - the US Government actively encouraged alien abduction / UFO / 'visitors' etc from the 1950s onwards to help conceal the development of secret plane technology (U2 / Blackbird / Stealth thru to crazy saucer-shaped aircraft).

Also, and this is a total aside: I read the other week about some guys who decided to actually test the theory that wearing foil helmets protects the brain from ultra low frequency transmissions (because these wavelengths are reserved for use by govenment bodies and commerical interests, it has been suggested that they are used by the military industrial complex to brainwash the masses).

Anyway, it turns out that wearing foil helmets actually amplifies these frequencies. So (of course!), the same people that previously advocated the use of foil helmets as a form of protection are now claiming that the whole idea must have been seeded by [insert cabal of choice here] to encourage people to wear them to increase their susceptibility to the frequencies in question.

Genius!

Im very excited by this! its our duty to start a website so we can inform the world of this shocking discovery!

First thing we need is a catchy name... how about: http://www.wakeupyounaivefools.com :D
 

MATT MAson

Streetonomics
blunt said:
I've never seen anything that has made me seriously consider the idea that 9/11 was planned and executed by Bush & co. The guy's a self-serving fucking idiot, and he's surrounded by kindred spirits - but in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I simply don't believe that the US is that far gone yet. Tho that time may come...

Sorry, I don't mean to sound harsh or unduly dismissive, not least because I suspect there's a large amount on which we totally agree. But this kind of lazy logic doesn't do anyone any good.

Yours, without prejudice... :)
Blunt - No offence taken, I think we do agree on a lot of things here. But it is well documented that the US government has planned to go that far in times gone by - Project Northwoods is one example, there are countless other examples of underhand tactics used by the US throughout the developing world to control everything from natural resources to the Panama Canal in which many civillians have died. Check out PNAC's website and the Wolfowitz Doctrine for a great motive, written in the Neo-con's own words.

There are loads of unanswered questions surrounding Flight 77. The lack of airplane debris at the site, the only engine found at the site being from a much smaller plane than a 757 (according to Rolls Royce who manufactured both the engine found and the 757 engines), the immaculate lawn in front of the crash site that should be ripped to shreds, the hole in the pentagon being half the size of a 757's wingspan, the fact that someone shut down the whole air defense system over Washington that day. But this isn't a 9/11 conspiracy thread.

I have no idea what happened. But I know there are a lot of unanswered questions. My point is these questions should be investigated (the 9/11 comission report fails to answer any of the above, and a whole lot more besides). It's not enough to just look at the macro picture. If someone is shot
dead, people don't just get upset about how easy it is to get hold of a gun or how sick society has become or whatever, they want to see whoever is responsible for pulling the trigger brought to justice.


The bigger picture stuff here, I agree, is the most important thing. Imperialism, greed, capitalism and our most basic values as a society are all to blame for the sorry state of affairs we are in, and if we could fix that, we would hopefully find ourselves in a much better place. But in the meantime, if terrorists, governments or hamburglars commit crimes, they should be investigated thouroughly and those responsible should be held accountable.

It just struck me that given McDonald's vapid nature, Hamburglar is actually the good guy. He's kind of like Agent V, but more cute and lovable...

Freedom Fries! Forever!
 

sherief

Generic Human
Institutional, structural, and ideological causes are the most important factors I think. We have to insist on the universality of our political demands. On the one hand (and this is relatively less important) by focusing blame on one group/organization/institution, even if we can "prove" anything, the trail ends there. Look at how easily the Bush administration (one among a large cadre of awful world leaders) has managed to succesively shift blame for any one horrible debacle onto a small group of individuals. I don't care, nor should you, who caused this and who decided on that. I know, as do we all, what the real problems are. "Accountability" is merely the shuffling of blame or its diversion elsewhere. We need to confront the bigger picture always.

Be realistic, ask the impossible!
 

Padraig

Banned
sherief said:
Why bother entertaining 'conspiracy theories'

... I'm asking this because on the front page of this forum, I see one 9/11 conspiracy theory, one about AIDS, and another rather active post about a nuclear attack against Iran. What good comes of these musings or microanalyses, in terms of a real politics or political stance? Isn't the conspiracy theory simply the consolation of the defeated, who takes comfort in the fact that she knows what 'really happened' or that however horrid a situation is, it's even worse because there's a devious set of masterminds controlling the whole thing?
...
Zizek has a similar bit in one of his lectures, if I recall, where he says that the moment that you get into a debate with a holocaust denier, you've already lost. You've conceded something at the moment you consider his pathology (pathological even if he's 'right') worth rational debate. This seems to be the difference between 'facts' and truth. What the former may give us is only further ground to argue, more fuel for our fire. However, the important thing would seem to be asserting a truth which explains the situation with regard to its consequences, what now is to be asserted, to be done, so that this sort of thing cannot happen again or so that we can approach the more serious, deeper rooted injustices, no?
Well, I think the difficulty here is with the gratuitous labelling of some stance, any stance [political or otherwise] that is outside the dominant ideology and its media outlets as "conspiracy theory", for it presupposes some irrefutable, established knowledge [factual or analytic] on the part of the one doing the labelling, so conflating issues of paranoia with those of conspiracy. [For instance, is the claim that 19 members of Al-Kaida flew planes into the WTC itself not a "conspiracy theory"? If you refute this, upon what do you base your refutation? ie. conspiracy works both ways ... is inescapable, unless one is a smug gliberal post-modernist, who somehow always-already simply "knows"]

You refer to Zizek: he makes the same argument about the Bush Admin's claims regarding WNDs in Iraq as he does about the Holocaust deniers [as well as marital jealousy, Nazi anti-semitism, Islamophobia], the WMDs as a - paranoid - displacement of the underlying problem [unaccountable US power], and therefore irrelevant [ie. even if Saddam did have WMDs, the Bush Admin's claim was still based on prejudice, the later possible "fact" of it serving simply to reinforce their pathology].

Along the same lines, isn't it unwise [Dissensus translation: downright irresponsible?] to dismiss the - widely documented - US-planned invasion of Iran as "conspiracy theory"? This is essentially simple ignorance of the actual underlying geo-politics [and ironically, Zizek has also properly expressed concern about US designs on Iran ... Give Iranian Nukes A Chance] taking refuge [Dissensus translation: recklessly resorting?] to the conspiracy theory trope as justification for such continued ignorance. Prejudice by other means.

Yes, we know that the problems are inherently structural [the interpellated symbolic network of Big Other Kapital], but this does not mean that we should pay no attention to its Agents, or fail to continue to report on their behaviour.
 
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