Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Review: Conspiracy Theory in America by Lance deHaven-Smith

            This is a very even-handed book, even though I'm pretty sure that the author and/or a lot of his friends, at some level, feel like me when I think there is lots of evidence for a particular conspiracy theory.
            I feel like jumping up and down and screaming, “Don’t you guys get it?!?  _____ got away with ___ and you must be blind if you can’t see it!”
            The book starts with an examination of the modern concept of “conspiracy theory” as a label.  You see, it is an historical fact that many times political change has occurred as the result of a small group of planners implementing a series of actions that brought about a change that had a big effect.  Do the words “et tu, Brute?” ring any bells?
            Yep, insider actions for various reasons have been around a long time.  De-Haven-Smith (what a nuisance to type!) compares and contrasts the  views of three thinkers, Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, and Charles Beard, regarding “Political Perspectives on Conspiracy Theory,” a section beginning on page 82.  As with many deep things, it made sense to me as I read it, but I would have to re-read and think about it before I could repeat it to you and make sense.
            Suffice it to say, political conspiracies have been around a long time.  Some are undertaken for the benefit of a few in power; some are supposedly to benefit an entire nation.  However, all are wrong in that they subvert the informed will of the people!  Taking a secret action and then hiding it, or setting up another to be blamed, is not what we want members of our government to be doing -- at any level!
            It’s for this reason that de-Haven-Smith proposes the acronym SCAD, standing for State Crimes Against Democracy.  If you Google the acronym or the phrase, you will learn a lot about some proposed SCADS that you may or may not agree with.
            It also interests me (but doesn’t surprise me) that the framing of “conspiracy theory,” in the general consciousness, as the belief of a whacko, came from the CIA in its attempts to undermine the credibility of Warren Commission opponents.
            That belief is certainly true nowadays, vide the 1997 Mel Gibson film of that name.  I think a big part of how this framed opinion, that conspiracist = unbalanced loon, is also more easily accepted by people who don’t want somebody rocking the boat of the “we’re-the-good-guys” worldview.  I know that I, at least, fervently wish for our government servants to take our founding ideas seriously.  But being human, sneaky people seek and find ways to subvert the individual rights intended by our founders.
            A big example is the Fourteenth Amendment, which was passed in 1868.  Specifically, part of it gives corporations the same constitutional protections as persons.  This isn’t right!  A company is NOT a person.
            There is a lot of discussion and theory here.  I encourage anybody interested in free will, our government, or “conspiracies” to read the book.  As I said at the top, some of the SCADs that the author sees, I may not agree with.  But to his credit he frames a broad discussion without emphasizing the things he sees as most egregious or harmful.
            One description of a SCAD, from page 11, is that “it refers to a special type of transgression: an attack from within on the political system’s organizing principles.” I would agree, wouldn’t you?, that such a thing is wrong!
            It’s one thing to steal an orphan’s money; it’s a lot worse when the thief is the banker in charge of the account.  In the same way, the fact that such offenses are instigated by people in power is what makes them even more outrageous than “ordinary” crimes.
            I encourage you to read this book and start to take the idea seriously.  Scoundrelism DOES occur at high levels.  Sometimes, in my opinion, it takes the form of murder.  The more we realize that crimes such as these  DO occur, the less likely that the crimes can be covered up for long.  In parting I leave you with two examples that YOU may or may not agree with.
            “I DID NOT have sex with that woman … It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
            “I am not a crook.”
            Read the book and learn about SCADs.

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© by Mark Alfred