Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Role of Anti-Establishment "Conspiracy Theories"

The Role of Anti-Establishment "Conspiracy Theories"
Global Research.

In recent years, populist explanations for world events have become common
and often taken the form of anti-establishment conspiracy theories. The
contradiction between how people believe the world should be, according to
the mainstream propaganda pertaining to liberty and democracy, and how it is
in this time of crisis leads people to search for easily digestible answers.

It's easy for conspiracy theorists to play on people's fears and prejudices
and to point fingers at certain groups. In the past, it has been 'the Jews',
'the Irish', 'the blacks', 'the Poles' or some other easily identifiable
target that was blamed for society's ills. Resorting to selective
interpretations of history or some simplistic Hollywood-esque inspired
political or sci-fi narrative where giant reptiles are taking over the
planet can be quite seductive, particularly for 'right-leaning' sections of
the population who never had any truck with socialism and probably once
believed in the 'free market' and capitalist liberal democracy but now have
trouble in fathoming out why it has all gone wrong.

Conspiracy theories of different kinds have been found on both the left and
the right of the political spectrum over the decades. While the right saw
reds under the bed everywhere, the left regarded every negative event as a
consequence of capitalism - what sociologists call 'left functionalism' .

Much of the left, however, possesses an analysis based on a sound
understanding of how capitalism works and developed over time. David
Harvey's assessment of the current crisis (1) uses concepts of capital over
accumulation, production outsourcing, wage and demand depression and credit
access to explain why we are where we happen to be right now. John Foster
(2) discusses the nature of the current crisis in similar terms.

The advocates of populist conspiracy theories seek to explain everything in
terms of secret societies and codes, Zionism, 'communism' or the hand of
'Rothschild' . Of course, families like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers and
groups like Bilderberg exist and do hold great power. That much is not in
dispute. However, the nature of the dynamics of power is. Groups or think
tanks like Bilderberg, Brookings Institute, Trilateral Commission, Chatham
House, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation and so on are where
capitalism's state-corporate hegemons, including the rich families mentioned
above, meet to discuss, devise policies and manage capitalism.

Radical critiques of society have often focused on the underlying logic and
processes of capital accumulation and capitalist economic crises as well as
capitalism's inherent contradictions. An analysis of the historical
antecedents of modernity according to scholarly analysis has also been
prevalent. Today, it is popular to assert that the members of some shadowy
group have been in charge all this time - the Illuminati, often used as a
metaphor for 'the Jews'.

The rise of such explanations are understandable in a complex world, where
the ordinary person feels utterly powerless, confused and craves easy
answers. Little surprise then that events and crises are said to be the work
of some sinister 'Illuminati' , an explanation which tends to steer clear of
any genuine analysis of capitalism.

In the West, jobs are being outsourced, wages are falling and unemployment
rising. As the market becomes saturated with goods and demand is unable to
mop up supply, firms go bust. There is a shift towards powerful monopoly
capitalism, while citizens and workers experience increasing powerlessness
and immiseration. And to seek out new profits, imperialist ventures abroad
become the norm. State-corporate monopoly capitalism and imperialist intent
are not part of a 'New World Order' but are part of a world in which the few
benefit at the expense of the many and that has been in the making ever
since Britain became the first industrial nation and capitalism emerged.

But what we now have isn't free market capitalism, some might say. The
notion of the free market has always been a myth. It's always been
controlled and manipulated. It's never been 'free'. And we are now
witnessing advanced capitalism in all its gore.

Capitalism has inherent contradictions. All was never intended to be fine.
Remember the slogan to end poverty by 2020 (or whatever the date was)?
Capitalism thrives on poverty. It's integral to the system. That's why it is
rampant in the West and much more so in the cheap labour economies of the
'developing world'. The increasing concentration of power, ownership and
wealth and the rising impoverishment of the masses is one of capitalism's
greatest contradictions. It's not some kind of conspiracy to keep the masses
in poverty or in fear of falling into it. It's built in to capitalism.

But many do not refer Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky to gain an
understanding of the processes of dialectic materialism and capitalism. They
and their theories are regarded as being part of the Zionist conspiracy. If
socialism and communism are the creation of Zionism, which supposedly exerts
so much control over the US and Britain, strange then that the secret
services of both the US and Britain spent so much time and energy on
infiltrating, deradicalising and subverting the left (3).

While the late Antony C Sutton (sometimes regarded as the father of modern
conspiracy theories) provides food for thought in his writings and research
(4), conspiracy theories tend to provide limited insight into the dynamics
of power and oppression in the 21st century.

However imperfect the work of people like Robert Brenner (5) and Barrington
Moore (6) may have been, their research was based on broad comparative
sociological analysis of the cultural, historical, agrarian and economic
factors that led to the rise of capitalism, fascism and communism in various
societies. In the absence of this, however, prominent proponents of
conspiracy theories in the US and Britain make crude assumptions about such
phenomena comprising part of an Illuminati plot, which play on the
prejudices and fears of ordinary people, who in turn latch on to the
explanation offered as a proxy for the underlying causes of their
powerlessness and frustrations.

Why bother having an informed understanding of the dynamics of the modern
world based on rigorous research? Much easier to watch a few YouTube clips
about some secret, manipulative elite or even amphibians from outer space
with an agenda to control the world.

Many conspiracy theorists have indeed actually been quite informative on how
the banking system works and how bankers conspire to control policies by
keeping governments in permanent debt. They have also highlighted glaring
flaws in official accounts of 9/11. They have rightly pinpointed what the
mainstream misses out of its narratives and have raised issues that many on
the left had tended to ignore or gave scant attention to. But such useful
insights then become wrapped up in theories that too often appear to be
based on flights of fancy.

There is no doubting that people can and do conspire to shape events. Not
everything can be explained by structures where individual motive is
eradicated. For example, corporations conspire to produce price cartels,
media barons conspire to dominate and state-corporate interests embark on
military jaunts to control markets and resources. And yes, bankers conspire
to restrict credit for various reasons. But this has to be placed within the
wider context of Empire and capitalism.

In capitalism, the compulsion to compete, dominate and pursue profit casts
long shadows over virtually every social and cultural institution, from
government and politics to education, law, agriculture and entertainment.

Conspiracy theorists and their followers may well appreciate aspects of
this, but merely speculate about the intentions of and actions of groups of
people without addressing how capitalism shapes any of it.

In finishing it is interesting to recall that not everything in life can be
neatly explained away, as the philosopher Karl Popper once famously argued.
It can be easy for conspiracy theories to overlook the pervasive unintended
consequences of political and social action and assume that all consequences
must have been intended. Unpredictability abounds. And that's something some
on the left may care to occasionally chew over too.

Notes

1) David Harvey (2010), Crises of Capitalism:
http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=qOP2V_np2c0

2) John Foster (2010), Capitalist Crisis and Cuts:
http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=jkhmGOxwbhM

3) Robin Ramsay (1996), The influence of intelligence services on the
British left, Lobster Magazine:
http://www.lobster- magazine. co.uk/articles/ rrtalk.htm

4) Antony C Sutton (1974), Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution:
http://reformed- theology. org/html/ books/bolshevik_ revolution/ index.html

5) Robert Brenner (1976), "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development
in Pre-industrial Europe".Past and Present 70

6) Barrington Moore (1993) [First published 1966]. Social
<http://www.beacon. org/productdetai ls.cfm?PC= 1275> origins of dictatorship
and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world (with a
new foreword by Edward Friedman and James C. Scott ed.). Boston: Beacon
Press.

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Hi Eroo !! Whats your Views on this ?