“I believe in facts about conspiracies. . . Any time people with power plan in secret, they are conducting a conspiracy. So there are conspiracies everywhere. There are also crazed conspiracy theories. It’s important not to confuse these two. Generally, when there’s enough facts about a conspiracy we simply call this news. . . I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.”
~ Julian Assange
There is this idea about conspiracy theories. It’s that conspiracies aren’t possible or so rare as to be irrelevant. If conspiracies happened, so the argument goes, there would always be someone who would speak out and so we’d know about them.
It is such a naive view. Despite this mainstream belief, conspiracies happen all the time. And people do speak out about them quite often, whether or not the MSM pays it much attention.
We have voluminous official documentation and other evidence about conspiracies that weren’t known while they were happening, often only becoming verified decades later. Even when evidence shows the official story doesn’t make sense, any alternative explanation is a conspiracy theory by default, until some damning evidence finally comes forth. But even deathbed confessions by insiders (spymasters, covert operation agents, etc) are regularly dismissed for the type of people who get involved in conspiracies are those with reputations of secrecy and deceit.
Probably most of what militaries, alphabet soup agencies, organized crime, corporations, etc does in secret never comes to light. Conspiracies, if successful, are designed to be hard to prove with few paper trails and a surfeit of plausible deniability.
I’m not sure why anyone should find this surprising. It’s not hard to keep a secret, when all involved have a vested interest to keep it secret or who, like soldiers, are trained to be subservient by maintaining silence. Conspirators, in particular, are legally complicit and so have little motive to admit anything. If all else fails, there are endless means to keep people silent, from blackmail to assassinating them (when one pays attention, one finds an amazingly improbable number of alleged conspirators, subpoenaed witnesses, and investigators who end up dying by mysterious accidents and unforeseen suicides).
Take something like the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident—if not a proven false flag operation, then at least a conspiracy to hide the truth. Far from being a minor incident, it justified the US entering into the Vietnam War. It just so happens that those in power had been in the process of looking for an excuse to officially declare war, although illegal covert military operations had been going on for a while. Anyway, it turns out that parts of the official account never happened or not the way it was officially stated, but evidence didn’t finally come out in mainstream reporting until after the war was already over an government documents were only declassified in 2005.
That was decades later! And that was a situation with multiple naval ships and naval crews from multiple countries, and so involved numerous potential eye witnesses. Declassified records show that even US Senators at the time knew the official story was false. Certainly, officials in the other involved governments also had information about what actually happened and didn’t happen. Few conspiracies have ever involved so many.
The Gulf of Tonkin is not much different than the WMDs that got us into the Iraq War. Even the CIA didn’t believe Iraq had WMDs (not unlike when the CIA knew that the Soviet Union posed no threat when politicians were pushing to start the Cold War and not unlike when the CIA knew John F. Kennedy was lying during his presidential campaign about the weaponry the Soviet Union possessed, both incidents of CIA collusion by inaction not known until long after the historical era had passed). Besides, those in the Bush administration knew they were misleading the public in connecting Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 terrorists. It was a conspiracy and one that operated right out in the open, for those who had eyes to see. All it took was a servile mainstream media and a submissive public. Too many people don’t want to know the truth, even when the truth is obvious. That is what can make conspiracies so easy to commit. Most people want to believe whatever they’re told, especially when the person telling it to them is an authority figure.
It’s the same reason the Vatican was able to hush up the sex abuse for decades, as most people simply don’t want to talk about it, what is called a conspiracy of silence. Netflix’s documentary “The Keepers” focuses on a Catholic school where this happened. It goes into great detail about how an offender could sexually abuse so many children while so many people around him remained oblivious or else refused to see. Even most of the victims never talked about it and the few that did were ignored. The one person, a nun, who seriously challenged the conspiracy of silence apparently was murdered. And more damning, there is strong evidence the police were involved in shutting down investigations, because the priest who was molesting children had family ties.
The documentary finally managed to put the pieces together almost a half century later. That is praise for this one tenacious investigator, but it is hardly evidence of a fully functioning free press that it took so long for the depravity of it to be revealed. So, don’t feed me any bullshit about there being no way conspiracies can be kept secret.
Consider another example from the private sector. Recent investigative reporting from an alternative media organization (Inside Climate News) found that Exxon and other major oil/gas corporations knew about man-made climate change since the 1970s.
Numerous people in these corporations, from scientists to upper management, were aware of this knowledge. There were even internal documents showing this knowledge. This was and is a problem that not only has threatened the earth’s biosphere and global population but has also been a national threat to powerful countries like the US. Yet a successful campaign of lies, obfuscation, and disinformation (involving not just PR but also powerful political lobbyist organizations, think tanks, and front groups) lasted for decades apparently without any of the conspirators coming forward to speak out about the conspiracy or, if they did, it never received much MSM news coverage.
According to some, conspiracies like this are highly implausible. Yet these particular implausible conspiracies have been proven true. Conspiracy theorists jumped on the Tonkin story early on as they noticed the unexplained discrepancies. And for a long time many have written about the tactics of oil/gas corporations. But until documents are released or discovered conspiracy theories can be almost impossible to prove as conspiracy facts. The problem is that documents usually only come out after massive private investigation has already indicated conspiracy and long after any involved could be held accountable. Overwhelming proof can take a generation or generations to accumulate. Even so, most of what governments and corporations do in secret is never disclosed by those responsible, as the wealthy and powerful have little incentive do so. The government alone has mountains of top secret documents, only a fraction of which have ever been made public by way of leaks or freedom of information requests.
Yet conspiracies sometimes are open secrets. Governments and corporations do all kinds of things that are proven or strongly suspected, but it isn’t unusual for the corporate media to not report much on it or sometimes even to smear those who do speak out. There is even a history of paid agents in US media promoting official propaganda/spin (e.g., Operation Mockingbird), and we have no rational reason to assume that such illegal operations don’t still happen (similarly, even though FBI COINTELPRO and CIA Operation CHAOS was declared illegal, the tactics used have been brought back with the War on Terror). Sure, in the alternative media, known conspiracies are more well reported. And in other countries, actions and manipulations by powerful foreign interests are often well understood.
Still, the average person in a country like the US remains uninformed and disinformed. Chomsky has explained how this is possible, through the propaganda model of news media—such as superficial, sound bite, spectacle-and-celebrity-obsessed ‘news’ reporting largely replacing long form journalism and investigative journalism.
It isn’t always hard for the average person to find info, if they really want to find it, although sometimes it can be quite difficult—Stephanie Savell, writing about the War on Terror, stated that, “Of course, it’s hardly surprising these days that our government is far from transparent about so many things, but doing original research on the war on terror has brought this into stark relief for me. I was stunned at how difficult it can be to find the most basic information, scattered at so many different websites, often hidden, sometimes impossible to locate.” Even when info is available, few know there is anything to be found and so never look for it, assuming they would want to know which is a big assumption.
Conspiracies proliferate, at times remaining hidden in plain sight, because of the public’s apathy and indifference—if one was feeling uncharitable, it could be described as willful ignorance; not knowing and not wanting to know. People fear acknowledging conspiracies exist more than they fear conspiracies themselves. I find that strange. But I sort of understand the fear. Most people would rather not think that such things go on in the world. To admit to any of this is to no longer be able to deny how bad it is. It’s the same reason it’s taken so long for so many to take climate change seriously. It’s depressing. Yet, by doing nothing, we allow it all to get worse.
Some conspiracies get publicly revealed and widely reported on sooner than others. To mention a few examples, there is Watergate and the Iran-Contra Scandal or, more recently and at a local level, the Michigan officials who altered data to hide the lead toxicity in the water supply. But obviously those in power do such things with the expectation of getting away with them and one might presume based on the experience of more often than not having gotten away with similar conspiracies in the past. From what little we’ve discovered about past actions, those in power have been able to get away with conspiracies that are illegal and immoral to an extreme degree and they do so on a regular basis, stolen elections being minor in comparison.
What I find interesting is how much energy those in the mainstream go to make straw man arguments or else superficial reporting, refusing to even acknowledge all the evidence and plausible explanations. Sure, there are crazy conspiracy theorists, even as there are many proven conspiracies. So, why does the mainstream media rarely bring up the proven conspiracies when talking about conspiracy theories, instead obsessing over silly stories about Area 51, Jewish cabals, and such? Isn’t it newsworthy that conspiracy theorists surprisingly often turn out to be right?
Also, isn’t it interesting that the government itself promotes conspiracy theories as a form of distraction from inconvenient truths? As Kathryn S. Olmsted explained in her scholarly study, “With cool calculation, (the government) has promoted conspiracy theories, sometimes demonstrably false ones, for their own purposes…it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy” (Real Enemies, p. 240).
We’d know a lot less about what goes on in the world without people willing to risk their reputations by investigating possible conspiracies. Along with whistleblowers, their lives can be destroyed by those in power. Seeking the truth used to be what respectable investigative journalists did before news media became a part of big biz entertainment media.
How can we hope to have a functioning democracy when we don’t have an informed public? We live a society that is corrupt to the core. Maybe more than an informed public, what we need at this point is a truth and reconciliation commission.