"Towards a Theory of Conspiracy Theories"; implications for 911 street activists

Towards a Theory of Conspiracy Theories

Nice meta-summary of "conspiranoia" as a means of social control, and implications for 911 street activists

This essay doesn't support the author's conclusions with examples, or develop arguments all that much, beyond what we can glean from reading online summary articles regarding 911/left gatekeepers. However, it's worth a read, as it takes an analytical viewpoint that, it seems to me, can challenge the more intelligent reader who is, nevertheless, constrained in his/her thinking by ambient frames imposed by the societal structure which (coincidence or not?) protects the ruling class so well. Especially, I suppose, it precludes reaction against 911 as a government-assisted conspiracy, as there is no mention of 911, or any other specific conspiracy.

IOW, you might look at this essay as having special value, since it effectively abstracts out the basic arguments presented by 911/left gatekeepers, and thus doesn't get caught up in the details of specific conspiracies that are being obscured by the intelligentsia. It could be argued that this is particularly valueable when approaching somebody who has a reflexive aversion to any arguments questioning the official 911 story.

And that suggests another approach, by 911 street activist, to attacking the pseudo-reality which serves the ruling class. And that is: Print out a copy of this essay, and distribute it to political science and sociology students, as they walk into the doors of their classes. Don't write about 911 - just put a link to your group's 911 website on the bottom.

Even better, I think, would be printing out Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's "9/11 "Conspiracies" and the Defactualisation of Analysis", and stapling this underneath "Towards a Theory of Conspiracy Theories". Ahmed's lucid analysis is also partly a "meta" one - he is examining defects in the very process of reasoning about 9/11, which - wouldn't you know it! - lead away from a conspiratorial conclusion.

Some excerpts:

More important than a detailed analysis of a single essay would be a sustained theoretical critique of the role of "conspiracy theory" in delegitimizing information contrary to the interests and consensus reality of the elite. None of the coverage of Sunstein's journal article offered this broader view. I would like to do so, by posting a revised version of something I posted here a few years back which, unfortunately, remains as timely as ever.
On the other hand, the disavowal of conspiranoia has also become an integral part of the conventional wisdom itself, a social technology of control that establishes the boundaries of "responsible discourse" by reflecting elite consensus on the fundamental nature of social reality, in accordance with the elite's own class interests. This makes for an incredibly effective means of establishing ruling class hegemony by controlling dissent, foreclosing alternatives, engineering support, and transmuting the interests of the ruling class into that of the nation as a whole.

In fact, one is apt to be labeled a conspiracy theorist for merely suggesting that there is a ruling class in this country that seeks to maintain hegemony, to say nothing of the idea that the ruling class might occasionally use conspiratorial methods. Rather than conspiracy theory, most media and intellectual gatekeepers prefer to view elite behavior through the lens of "somnambulist theory," "coincidence theory", "incompetence theory", or "spontaneity theory". No amount of intellectual gymnastics is spared to avoid arriving at the conclusion that the rich and powerful, like the rest of us, might possibly act in support of their own perceived best interests. This is, of course, in spite of a voluminous sociological literature on the power elite and "elite deviance" and a plethora of laws on the books against criminal conspiracy.

Instead of the usual characterization of conspiracy theory as a branch of group psychopathology, "troubled minds looking for order in chaotic and rapidly changing times" as the academic literature so uniformly spins it, conspiranoia might be better and more accurately thought of as a populist fusion of life writing, historiography, and political science which provides explanatory narratives that void the epistemic warrant of the elite consensus on history, social reality, and the "conventional wisdom." This is a major development in the long tradition of popular resistance to state power and economic oligarchy, not of the right vs. left, but of the bottom vs. the top.

(emphasis mine)

As a resurgent populism is showing signs of gaining strength, and threatening the Democratic / Republican elite control of government, it may well be the case that the government is going to increase it's demonisation of "conspiracy theories" and conspiracy theorists, as a means to try and dampen populism. I kind of doubt it, as "conspiracy theories" are what I call "high strangeness", and thus I expect that populist political movements, themselves, will not openly make a big deal about 911 or any other "conspiracy theory."