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April 19, 2004

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Are you sure he's not related to Lyndon Larouche?

I guess having amassed all of that physical evidence that he's both smart and hip, saner voices will not prevail.

See, the problem with this theory - and others like it - is that it assumes that all the f**k-ups of the current and former administrations were intentional - that in fact there's no room for error, wrong-headedness and outright loopiness amongst Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, at al. In fact, the history of all of these men indicates exactly otherwise. Richard Perle alone has made his name by consistently getting it wrong on every major national security policy he's advocated over the last thirty years. What keeps these guys in power isn't competency or an "evil genius," it's an ideology that others find palatable, no matter how screwy or off-base or completely unrealizable it might be.

The notion that the people in charge keep screwing up the Mideast because they WANT to screw up the Mideast - as if they really could control Iraq but just don't want to - is absurd. These guys are true believers. They're just also wrong-headed and dumb.

See, the problem with this theory - and others like it - is that it assumes that all the f**k-ups of the current and former administrations were intentional

I agree that this is the assumption underlying the theory. From the sidelines, however, and as many leftist commentators are responding on Tacitus's thread about reassessing the war in Iraq, this particular invasion seemed so insane to many folks that you just can't believe they didn't see the mess they were getting us into before they started bombing. Therefore, you conclude that perhaps it was an intentional mess...they can't be that incompetent, you reason.

Why don't you have Dr. V post.

I could understand why he might view OBL as a double agent, simply reflects that I continue to question OBL's timing, nothing more.

I could understand why he might view OBL as a double agent, simply reflects that I continue to question OBL's timing, nothing more.

the timing of OBL's attack or the politically fortuitous timing of his (hopefully) pending capture or death?

I'll ask Dr. V if he's interested...although I think most folks would agree with Slarti...he's Larouche sort of extreme on some topics...

"Gravity's Rainbow" one of the few really important novels of the post-war period. Conspiracy or chaos? And how can we tell the difference?

One thing I am pretty sure of; Cheney/Rumsfeld have the Spartan hegemony in mind. Allow no opposition to grow strong; when oligarchies strengthen into tyrannies go in and break them up; avoid large foreign committments, stay mobile (theory crashed and burned in Iraq).
....
As far as China and oil; I simply don't believe oil-as-fuel is going to be so important a century from now. Oil/gas for plastics and petrochemicals, oil as lubricant is another matter. We are burning up some real good stuff.

Here's the thing.

Large multinational corporations are basically amoral actors on the world stage. In the absence of clear U.S. foreign policy, they will create their own. For instance, Unocal was basically driving our Afghanistan policy during much of the Clinton years, so much so that the CIA was asking Unocal for briefings on the Taliban.

Now the MNCs are eagerly carving out market share in China, as they have been with less sucess during the 80s. Given the drift in our China policy as first under Clinton we tried to crack open the markets in the hopes that globalization would lead to democracy, and now we have subsumed everything to the War on Terra (sorry Xinjiang and the Panchet Llama), they have in interest in seeing that their investments are protected. And large American corporations like Cisco, AOL, and Microsoft have shown their willingness to actively cooperate in China's repression of its citizens.

The problem with the Clinton and Bush approach is that it's small and not large capitalism that leads to democracy. Big government in cahoots with big business is fascism.

"So, if you don't mind indulging in the occasional conspiracy theory, can you suggest any ways (other than simply branding it hogwash) that this "chaos theory" can be countered?"

The only way to beat a conspiracy theorist is to resolutely refuse to let him or her dictate the rules of the game. So, look him in the eye and ask him what evidence it'd take to convince him that his theories are incorrect. If he can't come up with a coherent answer, tell him you'll start up this debate again when he works one out and walk briskly away. Repeat as necessary.

(pause)

Unless, of course, he's a customer or something; in that case I'd recommend smiling, nodding, losing gracefully and mentally bumping up your gallery prices by 10%. You may have to suffer fools with at least the appearance of gladness, but there's no reason why they can't pay for the privilege. :)

So, look him in the eye and ask him what evidence it'd take to convince him that his theories are incorrect.

I was just going to say that any conspiracy theory worth its salt is unfalsifiable, but Moe made the same point with much more style and humor than I could ever muster.

I was just going to say that any conspiracy theory worth its salt is unfalsifiable

That's just an artificial logical construct foisted upon us by the Chinese, kenB.

I don't know if I'm pro or con conspiracy theories. I do think that people of similar interest work to effect change beneficial to themselves. That what orgainzations do. I also know think that these people of similar interest don't always publicize their activities. I suppose, then, that I believe in the possibility of the type Edward's buddy promotes.

Yet, I've yet to meet a conspiracy theory I embrace. I generally conclude that the scale of your average CT is such that it is bound to break down under its own weight. Too many people have to know about it so that it will become known or a counter conspiracy will mitigate its effects.

The problem I have with Dr. V's CT is I don't understand the modivation. I suppose somebody with large investments in North Sea or South American Oil may be glad for chaos in the Middle East. But there is a lot of money and power interested in stability in the Middle East - why would the chaos cabal be able to out conspiracy them?

Conspiracy theories are also sliced by Occam's razor. The easiest explanation for the current situation is that the Middle East is complicated and Bush is a screw up.

Or perhaps I have this backwards. Maybe CTs are an attempt to impose an easy explanation where none exists (at least, not in the mind of the CT proponent).

The other thing about conspiracies is that they run counter to human nature. Small-c conspiracies happen a lot: Watergate, Enron's attempts to manipulate the market during the CA energy crisis, etc. The commonality between most small-c conspiracies is that we know about them: there were lots of actors involved, and conscience, hunger for publicity, spite, or plain ol' incompetence caused the conspiracy to get exposed.

Big-C Conspiracy theories assume that all of the actors involved must be inhumanly discreet, inhumanly good at what they do, and inhumanly immune to the temptation to try to defect and get the better of co-conspirators. Conspiracy theories arise out of insecurity - the belief that the Powers That Be are infinitely more competent than the theorist. They also arise out of the fear of a chaotic world - all these things going wrong can't be a result of the choices of individuals, there must be some larger pattern. Also, distrust of institutions in general is a factor.

The way to get to the mysterious Dr. V is to look at the psychological motivations underlying a conspiracy theory. Figure out why he thinks that things don't just go wrong all by themselves, why there has to be a secret guiding hand, and how that secret guiding hand is so much better at secretly guiding things than any of us normal schmucks.

"secret guiding hand"

Adam Smith believed in the "invisible hand".

Many Christians and other religions believe the "hand of God" mysteriously intervenes in events.

Why are Dr. V's conspiracy theories so different?

Am I mistaken that George W. Bush believes he is an instrument of God's conspiracy, despite his incompetence?

Surely the destruction of the World Trade Center was a conspiracy in its planning and execution by Osama Bin Laden. It didn't seem particularly incompetent to me? Why is it conspiratorial, and thus faulty, thinking to believe that that very competent and evil conspiracy's known outlines can be drawn on a larger and more inclusive canvas, a la Dr. V.

Surely no government documents would require redaction, covert destruction, or complete secrecy were there not conspiracies.

Very Pynchonesque .. as in, yes, Gravity's Rainbow, but The Crying of Lot 49 is a better example.

The best is "V". Say hello to Dr. V. for me.

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