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.


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