Thursday, February 07, 2008

Conspiracy’s Bloody Path

“Poor evidence or lack of evidence, circular reasoning, repetition of unproven premises, and false dilemmas are all standard characteristics of conspiratorial arguments.” (Baskerville 1961, Griffin 1988, Young et al., 1990, Zarefsky 1984).
The Witch Hunt of the New Century
In Salem anything bad that happened was blamed upon someone practicing witchcraft. Of course there was always “evidence” to back up these claims, enough for a court of law to have people brutally executed.

In the dark ages gremlins were the cause of all kinds of problems too. In ancient times gods of all varieties were responsible for the plagues and blessings of man.

The sun circled the earth.

All of these and many other beliefs were once supported by “evidence.” Most were promoted with paranoia, fear, and plain ignorance. Conspiracy theories of today are essentially the same kinds of beliefs using the same distorted forms of logic wrapped in new clothes. However, as with the witch trials of Salem, the inquisitions of Spain, and even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (for treason, blasphemy, and the conjuring of demons) conspiracy theories can lead to the slaughter of innocents. They are not always simply harmless viewpoints. Often, history shows us, they can be drivers for genocidal behavior.

Jim Jones and the People’s Temple
Untrammeled by the constraints of US society, Jones' paranoia developed here in full. He saw enemies in the CIA and the FBI who he claimed were trying to destroy the Temple, and even sometimes in Guyanese officials.

Jim Jones, leader and founder of The People’s Temple used conspiracy and paranoia as a driving and unifying force behind his delusional ministry. One that would eventually lead to the deaths of almost 1,000 people. Does his conspiracy sound familiar?

Like other paranoids, Jones used “the threat” as a means to unify and brainwash his followers into believing only him, and questioning his version of the truth could be met with harsh punishment. This “threat” is used by nearly every dysfunctional group to keep the group together. The difference from one group to the next are the players in the “threat.”

Jones was also able to produce “evidence” for his beliefs. Evidence that apparently was pretty convincing to those who followed him and eventually those who he would murder, including women and children.
Aum Shrinko
A Japanese apocalyptic cult released Sarin gas on subway trains in Japan in 1995, killing 12 and injuring 5,000. Their idea was to kill thousands and usher in the apocalypse and starting a war between the US and Japan. Like many other such groups their philosophy is laden with conspiracy beliefs.
Timothy McVeigh
In 1995, Timothy McVeigh built and detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people, including 19 children in the building’s daycare. McVeigh was fond of the book, The Turner Diaries which was a fictional account of a race war and governmental conspiracies.

“The story starts soon after the US federal government has confiscated all civilian firearms in the US under the "Cohen Act", and the "Organization" of which Turner and his cohorts are members "[goes] underground" to launch a guerrilla war against the "System", which is depicted as the totality of the government, media, and economy that is under ‘Jewish control’”

(Sound familiar?)

While McVeigh was not known to be an active militia member, he was reported to have been interested in some elements of the movement, which often espoused conspiracy based beliefs that the government of the United States is secretly conspiring against the American people.
Interestingly, while McVeigh’s anti-government conspiracy beliefs played a major role in his attack on the federal building, more conspiracies arose surrounding the event after McVeigh’s arrest. Other paranoids began to claim that McVeigh’s act of terrorism was actually supported or perpetrated by the US government itself. An ironic twist for McVeigh indeed, to not be recognized as the “freedom fighter” he fancied himself to be and rather labeled as part of the conspiracy he supposedly fought against. As with other conspiracies more pseudo-scientists and laughable “experts” claimed that the bomb McVeigh used would not have taken the building down in the manner that it did. Conspiracy dictated that more explosives must have been used, while common sense would not be allowed to ask the question, “If the amount of explosives was not enough, why wouldn’t he simply make a larger bomb?” The same “experts” sound frighteningly similar to the 9-11 conspiracists in that they believed that demolitions must have been planted within the building itself.

McVeigh’s partner in the bombing, Terry Nichols, attempted to claim that the FBI was involved with the entire incident. Like any other coward trying to dodge conviction and accept responsibility Nichols claimed that the government was directing McVeigh in his exploits.

When McVeigh was arrested it was reported that he was wearing a T-shirt with the motto: sic semper tyrannis, the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Abraham Lincoln. Translation being: Thus always to tyrants.

The same overblown and outlandishly complex “the government did it” plot is regurgitated over and over again with each new generation of conspiracy theorist that comes along.
Al Qaeda and other Islamic Extremist Groups
Islamic extremists believe that the West in cahoots with the Jews are seeking to destroy Islam. This underreported conspiracy theory is so prevalent that many Muslims in mainstream society unaffiliated with extremists believe that Jews are to blame for the woes of the Middle East. Not much more than an extension and revision of Hitler’s paranoia laden rhetoric about Jews being responsible for Germany’s poor economic and social conditions, the Islamacist views Jews as subhuman.

The accounts of murder and genocidal acts against westerners, Muslims that don’t subscribe to extremist ideology, and anyone else on the globe that aren’t considered “faithful” to the cause of this brand of Islam are too many to mention and ongoing on a daily basis. Contrary to some far left ideology, the “policies” of the US are not the primary focus of Islamic extremists.

It is ironic that so many conspiracy theories abound about 9-11. When the actual trigger for the attack was itself based in conspiracy beliefs.

It is the belief that Jews are out to destroy them and that the United States is controlled by Israel. If the extremists want to destroy Israel, and they do, then they must first make the US unable to stop them. Time will tell how many will die from this cancer of conspiracy. Especially as these paranoid beliefs in “god’s support” of the cause drive them to seek and use nuclear weapons or something like smallpox.
The Next One
As more and more mentally ill people subscribe to the conspiracy theories of 9-11 it is inevitable that this paranoid propaganda will influence another McVeigh type to take action. While some people enjoy a good conspiracy theory for the fun of it and others are out to sell videos and books, some wholeheartedly are adding fuel to an already burning fire of rage and paranoia. Like the Islamic extremists place the blame of the condition of their society on the West and on the Jews, some loner or worse some semi-organized group of individuals with nothing to lose will inevitably make their move to “fight back” against their nightmare vision of some secret cabal. Whether an apocalyptic cult feels that attacking the government and or the populace will somehow usher in the return of the Messiah or bring about the fall of some perceived Anti-Christ the likelihood of this disease of logic absent mentality causing the deaths of innocents grows each day.

Conspiracy laid the foundation for the extermination of 6 million Jews during the rise of Nazi Germany and subsequently initiated World War 2 and spawned the deaths of over 50 million people. It is not a harmless ideology. Nearly every genocide is built upon some paranoid belief that the “enemy” out there is coming to undermine and destroy.

As it stands the Anthrax attacks of October ’01 appear to have been perpetrated by an individual or individuals with an anti-government agenda. Neo-Nazi groups have also attempted to utilize biological and chemical weapons on US soil before being stopped by the authorities. The conspiracy theory driven paranoid laced mind is becoming more committed and adept at finding new ways to bring the war they have created in their own twisted fantasies to the real world.

What may seem as harmless conjecture of the paranoid few has the potential to become the next Oklahoma City, Jonestown, 9-11, or World War 3. The conspiracy theorists themselves may transform into a type of disorganized but dangerous conspiracy of their own.
One not of men in black suits hiding under the bed or secret agents listening to our phone calls. One not of pipe bombs or truck bombs. The next attack may not only spill the blood of government officials but may spill into the lives of everyday Americans. The next conspiracy driven attack may not come with the thunderous explosion of homemade explosives but with the faint breaking of glass.

From a vial filled with smallpox.