Friday, August 16, 2019

Conspiracy Theories, Conspiracy Theorists Defended

Conspiracy Theories, Conspiracy Theorists
Peter Schultz

            Some of our most famous politicians have been conspiracy theorists, but more on that in a bit. First, it is necessary to consider such theories and the role they play politically.

            There is a visible and an invisible or hidden social and political order. The ruling class(es) construct the visible order through their public acts, including of course their speeches and their behavior. This visible order is important for legitimizing the power, the authority, the rule of these classes. Of course, this order is constructed in such a way as to justify, to legitimize the power of the ruling classes, turning their power into authority (or authorizing its power). To do this, it is essential to present threats to the established order, “the establishment” in the vernacular, as illegitimate because these threats are unwise, unjust, or un-American. And because of the fluid nature of politics, threats are always arising and needing to be dealt with, controlled, managed, or deflected. As Machiavelli noted, government and politics are all about conspiracies.

            However, there are times then the invisible order threatens to become visible, to go “on stage,” as it were, by becoming part of the drama being played out in public. When these moments arise, what are called “conspiracy theories” appear, with their advocates the “conspiracy theorists” leading the charge. Often these moments occur when seemingly aberrational events occur, e.g., the assassination of a president or an attack on “the homeland.” At such moments and in their aftermaths, it is crucial to the establishment that they are seen as aberrational, and not as the result of the invisible order and its movers and shakers. Hence, conspiracy theories must be dismissed as fantasies, as the products of disturbed and delusional minds. Otherwise, the invisible will become visible while the visible loses its legitimacy and thereby its authority. The ground is then prepared for significant, even revolutionary political and social changes.

            Some of the most significant events in American history offer evidence for this view of things. That is, significant political change has often followed upon the successful propagation of what may be called conspiracy theories, by which the visible order is revealed as a façade behind which an invisible and politically undesirable order operates. Thus, in 1800 Jefferson successfully exposed the Federalists for the “monarchists” they were; Andrew Jackson exposed the conspiracy that allowed John Quincy Adams to become president in 1824, leading to what many historians call the “Age of Jackson;” Lincoln exposed the conspiracy of “Roger [Taney], Franklin [Pierce], James [Buchanan], and Stephen [Douglas]” to perpetuate slavery throughout the United States; FDR exposed the conspiracy of the “capitalists” whose greed brought on the Great Depression; and Trump has allegedly exposed the conspiracy of liberals and socialists who seek to undermine America’s greatness.

            Hence, it is only to be expected that the ruling classes will seek to dismiss conspiracy theories and theorists because they are threats to their power, their authority, and their rule. It is then not at all surprising that the conspiratorial possibilities arising from the Epstein affair are, on the one hand, being ridiculed by establishment politicians and commentators while, on the other hand, Trump is promoting such theories. For how could an established political order hope to survive the charge that a former president engaged with a man involved in the sexual exploitation of “under aged women,” that is, children? Surely, such a charge, if substantiated, would go quite far in undermining the legitimacy of a political order that attracts and then rewards those who engage in pedophilia with its highest offices. Moreover, it is no more surprising that Trump, who claims to want to “drain the swamp” that is D.C., would seize upon the conspiratorial possibilities of the Epstein affair. And, as noted above, he wouldn’t be the first president to do so.

            Conspiracy theories and theorists are often the butt of ridicule and in some instances such ridicule seems justified. But in other instances, conspiracy theories and theorists thrown light on the real character of our political order, a reality that is often disguised by those who control and profit from the established order. It seems prudent then to consider such theories and theorists with an open mind for by doing so we might learn something about our political situation.


Monday, August 5, 2019

What We Need

What We Need
Peter Schultz

            Unless we Americans can get beyond our delusions, we are screwed. Unless we can understand that our nation is anything but exceptional, that its most important issues have little to do with foreign enemies, that our nation was built on slavery and genocide, and was expanded via war and a religiously motivated imperialism, we are going to continue to experience domestic bloodshed and domestic violence on a grand scale. In light of Oklahoma City, Charleston, El Paso, Dayton, this is all that needs be said. These crimes are political crimes, not the result of mental illness, post-traumatic stress, or abuse.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Slavery, American Capitalism, and American Politics

Slavery, American Capitalism, and American Politics
Peter Schultz

            I am reading a wonderfully illuminating book entitled The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist. Baptist’s argument is that slavery was an essential, even the core of the development of American capitalism and this is “the half [that] has never been told.”
Here I want to reproduce two passages because they illustrate how allegedly political “enemies,” Federalists and Republicans, collude even at the expense of justice and of basic human decency. And illustrations like this are important to see today when our “two” political parties may be accurately described as “indispensable enemies.” That is, indispensable for maintaining our Orwellian oligarchy.

            “The interlinked expansion of both slavery and financial capitalism was now the driving force in an emerging national economic system that benefited elites and others up and down the Atlantic coast as well as throughout the back country. From Jefferson and Madison’s perspective, the soon-to-be states of the Mississippi Territory would yield votes in the Electoral College and Congress, votes to be used against the Federalists – and more than they would have gained by courting hard-core states’ rightists….The Republicans now formed a pro-finance, pro-expansion coalition that ingested many onetime Federalists and dominated US politics until, by the 1820s, it became a victim of its own success.” [pp. 33-34]

“Between the end of the American Revolution and the Fletcher v. Peck decision in 1810, slavery’s expansion linked the nation together. The needs of the nation encouraged the growth of a complex of institutions and patterns – and, just as significantly, excuses – that made national political and financial alliances possible. The needs of individual enslavers and others who hoped to profit from the expansion of all sorts of economic opportunities encouraged the growth of a more powerful set of national capabilities, more market-friendly laws, and more unified markets. The needs of national expansion, plus the ability of chained people to walk, trapped enslaved people as absolutely held property in the political compromises, political alliances, and financial schemes of the United States and in the very map of the young republic. Slavery, and specifically, the right of enslavers to sell and to move their slaves into new territory, became a national practice: as a strict definition of property under constitutional law, as habit and expectation, and as a pattern of political compromise.” [pp. 35-36]

Apparently Orwellian oligarchies are nothing new to American political scene.

Trump's Racism: It Ain't the Problem

“Trump’s” Racism: It Ain’t the Problem
Peter Schultz

            The problem isn’t Trump’s racism. The issue is or should be understanding the white power as a movement based an ideology that consists of a coherent worldview of white supremacy and a forthcoming apocalypse. This kind of understanding has been undermined, subverted by the tendency, decidedly visible in the mainstream media and in our political discourse, to see events like Oklahoma City as isolated events committed by madmen or by forlorn, lost, or psychotic  individuals. Tim McVeigh was deeply embedded in the white power movement and it seems quite implausible that he was, as he himself contended, acting alone with the help of two others who he forced to help him. And his behavior in this regard is consistent with the teachings of those who lead the white power movement.

            Or consider the case of Dylan Roof, the young man who massacred nine black worshippers at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. He indicated his attachment to and to being influenced by the white power movement by his postings online which included a Rhodesian flag patch, referring to a cause that the Aryan Nations Congress had pushed in 1983. He also used a code for Heil Hitler, the number 88, that had been visible in the 1980s, along with his use of the Confederate flag that refers to white supremacy against what is called “multi-culturalism.” And, of course, thanks to the Internet, Roof could have been radicalized without ever attending an Aryan Nation Congress, e.g., any white power meeting, or even any other white power activist.

            Throughout the 80s, the 90s, and even now, events that should be attributed to the white power movement are treated as isolated or aberrational events and not as the result of an ideology that many find legitimate, to say the least. As one commentator has put it: “White power should have been legible as a coherent social movement but was instead largely narrated and prosecuted as scattered actions and inexplicable lone wolf attacks motivated not by ideology but by madness or personal animus.” [Bring the War Home, Kathleen Belew, p. 237]

            Treating the problem as if it is Trump’s racism that we need to be most concerned with, and thinking that removing his from office will accomplish something significant, is to repeat the myopic view that racism or white supremacy in the United States is a reflection of madness or personal idiosyncrasies. As despicable as Trump is, his racism is merely a reflection of his embrace of the white power movement and its ideology of white supremacy and the coming apocalypse. We can get rid of Trump, either by impeachment or voting him out, but that will not do much of anything to damage the white power movement. As Belew puts it so well: “Knowledge of the history of white power activism is integral to preventing future acts of violence and to providing vital context to current political developments. Indeed, to perceive the movement as a legitimate social force, and its ideologies as comprising a coherent worldview of white supremacy and imminent apocalypse – one with continued recruiting power – is to understand that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved. Violent, outright racism and anti-Semitism were live currents in these decades, waiting for the opportunity to resurface in overt form.” [Belew, p. 239]

            Focusing on Trump and his racism blinds us to a more significant problem, viz., a political movement that embraces racism and religious fanaticism, that is, the white power movement. And it this movement that must be confronted politically, socially, and legally. To succumb to what some call “Trump hysteria” will, strangely enough, facilitate the success of the white power movement.

See Kathleen Belew, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.