On May 30th 2019 the FBI released an intelligence bulletin entitled Ant–Government, Identity Based, and Fringe Political Conspiracy Theories Very Likely Motivate Some Domestic Extremists To Commit Criminal, Sometimes Violent Activity. In it they propose the wholesale censorship of so called ‘conspiracy theories.’ Not because they are wrong or lack corroborating evidence, far from it. The FBI acknowledge the accuracy of many conspiracy theories. They state:
“….another factor driving the intensity of conspiracy theorizing in the United States, and subsequent threat from conspiracy minded extremists, is the uncovering of real conspiracies and cover-ups, involving illegal, harmful or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.”
To be clear the FBI are saying that the exposure of real state crimes encourages conspiracy theories. However, given that many conspiracy theories concern the exposure of real state crimes that’s hardly surprising.
In a startling coincidence, the recent El Paso mass shooting attack has widely been reported by the mainstream media as the first clear example of a conspiracy theory inspired terrorist attack. The FBI’s timely warning couldn’t have been more auspicious. This attack certainly lends remarkable credibility to their claims. Yet perhaps there remains solid reason for doubt.
They FBI allege that people may commit acts of violence due to their awareness of these conspiracy theories (a.k.a. state crimes.) Given the terrible events in El Paso they may well be right. This can never be ruled out because people do stupid stuff all the time for all manner of unfathomable reasons. Therefore, the FBI suggest the sharing of information, which exposes political corruption, government cover-ups and state crimes should be silenced, just in case.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread and evolve in the modern information market place…..Indicators that may lead to revised judgments or cause a change in the confidence level….include….significant efforts by major social media companies and websites to remove, regulate and counter potentially harmful conspiratorial content.”
This harmful conspiratorial content includes the evidence of state malfeasance. Governments call this ‘disinformation.’ Not because it is inaccurate but more commonly because it isn’t. The FBI’s bulletin dovetails neatly with legislation like the EU’s Copyright Directive and UK government’s proposed online harms legislation, designed to tackle the problem of people exposing political corruption and state cover-ups, then sharing that disinformation online with other people.
The FBI, in order to assist their paymasters to end freedom of speech and the free and open sharing of information, have therefore called this all conspiracy theory and claimed it is potentially dangerous. Though, irrespective of El Paso, we might ask for whom. In order to pad out their allegations they provide the evidence in their footnotes. Thankfully not before providing a handy table to evidence their certainty.
The eagle eyed may have noticed a rather glaring anomaly in the FBI’s suggested expression of likelihood. Firstly they state:
“Phrases such as ‘The FBI judges’ and ‘the FBI assesses,’ and terms such as ‘likely’ and ‘probably’ convey analytical judgments and assessments.”
They then add:
“The FBI does not arrive at judgements through statistical analysis.”
I leave you to make sense of that if you can, because I certainly can’t.
The presented evidence itself largely consists of an allegation that a man may have possibly intended to build a bomb to perhaps blow up something he supposedly thought was the Church of Satan; the conviction of a man on terrorist charges after he illegally parked his car; interviews of crazy people by ATF agents; numerous news articles and media reports that allege that conspiracy theorists are dangerous; dupes shooting at Pizza restaurants; Wikipedia, Snopes and a book called the Web of Conspiracy.
People commit acts of violence for a myriad of reasons. This could be for religious, political or even economic reasons. There is no limit to peoples’ self justification for being morons. The notion of people doing stupid stuff, as a justification for shutting down freedom of speech, is indefensible.
If a belief in conspiracy theory means that the theories themselves should be silenced, for fear of some inspired, unhinged psycho taking it upon themselves to wreak havoc, then the same can be said for all political theories, economics and religion. In fact you could apply this logic to opinions in general. Perhaps we should ban all thought and certainly all debate?
Yet, to date, the FBI haven’t advocated the censorship of theology, political science or chat shows. Why not? Why have so called ‘conspiracy theories’ been singled out for this special treatment? What evidence is there that people labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’ present a specific threat? Because there isn’t any in the FBI’s bulletin.
Academia has attempted to identify the factors contributing to criminal violence. For example, in 2017 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) delivered their report on Countering Domestic Extremism. They identified the suspected causes of radical extremism which can lead to violent acts.
In no order of significance, these included exposure to traumatic events and subsequent emotional instability, previous criminal activity (particularly early in life,) adherence to far right or far left political ideologies, poor or inadequate employment, political disenfranchisement, a sense of social exclusion or victimisation, untreated mental health needs and existing in the echo chamber of isolated, radical groups.
Oddly, the the solutions to the problems cited in the NAS report all appear to be sociopolitical. A reduction in economic inequality, improved political power sharing, effective community out reach programs, properly funded support for the survivors of domestic violence and child abuse, educational support for disadvantaged communities, broadening social and political engagement, a well trained and effective police force free to investigate without political interference, effective community interventions (particularly in the areas of employment and health & social care,) a redistribution of economic opportunity (social mobility programs,) and improved mental health support, especially for traumatised children, young adults and those already affected by violence (such as victims of crime and veterans.)
In the NAS report a noted contribution came from Michael Downing, deputy chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), who stated that there is no “silver bullet” or profile of someone who is likely to perpetrate violent criminality. Yet the FBI claim to have found one. The conspiracy theorist
The exposure of state crimes hasn’t always been called ‘conspiracy theory.’ It used to be called ‘asking questions of power.’ Traditionally it was the role of the mainstream media (MSM) to carry out this vital function of democracy.
However, for some years now they haven’t bothered to actively investigate anything or questions any state narratives, preferring instead to parrot whatever power tells them to report. They have also gone to great lengths to label anyone who does investigate state narratives as ‘conspiracy theorists’ or more latterly ‘disinformation agents’ of a foreign power. Usually Russia, though China are close on their heels.
It is worth noting that the Russiagate conspiracy theory really kicked off when the U.S security and intelligence agencies, including the FBI, leaked a supposedly classified report. It seems not all conspiracy theories are created equal as far as the FBI are concerned.
For their part Russia must surely be the most powerful nation on Earth. If the western MSM are to be believed they can exercise almost complete control over the national discourse, shaping election results wherever they choose, across the western hemisphere and beyond. Their expenditure in this effort must dwarf entire economies, as they presumably employ millions of people (me included obviously) to keep asking their governments to provide some evidence to back up their stories. A truly incredible global propaganda effort, especially seeing as they can’t even control the media in their own country.
When the Bush and Blair regimes lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction people quite deliberately tried to point out that they were making it all up. It wasn’t difficult to figure this out as there was absolutely no substantiating evidence, and therefore no reason, to believe anything the state was lying about.
During the WMD propaganda operation the mainstream media carried out no investigative journalism at all, consistently promoted war, based upon nothing but state lies, accused those who opposed the unjustified murder of millions of being absurd ‘conspiracy theorists‘ and were, in terms of serving their supposed social function, utterly useless. Any investigative journalist worth their salt could have easily exposed the governments deception. Literally millions of ordinary citizens recognised it, yet not a single MSM journalist was able to wrap their head around the concept.
After the unnecessary deaths of millions of Iraqis and western troops, once it was too late, the MSM apologised for letting down the public. They said they were misled and shouldn’t have simply believed everything they were told by the state.
Quite right! That isn’t supposed to be their job. Their job is to question the state (and others,) investigate and verify the evidence of any claim, no matter who makes it, and report the facts as they understand them. This is called reporting the news. It should not be confused with the fake news the MSM currently trot out.
Given their mea culpa moment, hopes were high that the MSM would pick up their game and start acting like real journalists. Unfortunately they haven’t. In fact they have continued to deteriorate and are now nothing more than a permanent state propaganda enterprise. We don’t have to go far to evidence of this woeful fact. The recent alleged Skripal chemical weapons attack in the UK and the Russiagate debacle in the U.S. illustrate that the western MSM are simply incapable of questioning, or even accurately reporting, evidence.
Instead, they have continued with often grotesque propaganda. The BBC offered an apologist excuse for terrorists who decapitate children then Channel 4 made a promotional video for the same murdering scum, consistently maintaining they were ‘moderate rebels;’ CNN faked air strikes in their fraudulent Syrian Documentary 72 Hours Under Fire; The Guardian wrote a fake news story about former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort meeting with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy.
In fact, the list of MSM fake news stories (propaganda) is endless. By shear volume, it far outweighs anything the most ardent army of clickbait trolls could ever hope to emulate.
This is not to claim that all the conspiracy theories are unerringly accurate. But, by refusing to report stark glaringly obvious holes in official state narratives, such as the complete absence of any credible evidence, the MSM actively encourages people to do the research themselves. Something which hitherto has been rendered relatively easy by the Internet.
I suggest we should use every peaceful means at our disposal to fight to maintain it. Why do any of us need to be told what to believe? We’re all adults aren’t we?
Consequently the ‘alternative media’ has flourished at the expense of the MSM. Although it should be noted it is the alternative media who have been doing the job of investigating and reporting the evidence. In reality they are only doing what the MSM should. ‘Independent media’ would be a more accurate description. It is the MSM which has become the discredited ‘alternative.’
Which is why state authorities across the globe are racing to shut down the open and free sharing of information online. The MSM, subject to state control through legislation such as DSMA notices or simply through corporate diktat, are government’s preferred information outlets.
The Internet has robbed governments of their power to control information. Something has to be done and a reason has to be found to regain that control. Otherwise the people will continue to get funny ideas and won’t do as they are told. They may not unquestionably accept everything they are force fed. This will not do, especially when you want to lie to start another war.
Therefore we have seen a slew of legislation aimed at shutting down the free exchange of opinion and information. Thus far this has been tentative as governments have used the slowly slowly catchy monkey approach. Using tactics like ludicrous antisemitism claims, creeping hate speech legislation and spurious allegations about the dissemination of terrorist propaganda online. Coupled with the advent of comically named fact checking sites, which funnily enough never question state narratives, this has provided a stop gap for governments, as they scrabbled to form more robust censorship laws. These are now taking shape.
For example, under the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 , the former UK Home Secretary (now chancellor) Sajid Javid announced that the UK state would potentially imprison people for up to 10 years for going to ‘designated areas’ and up to 15 years for a single click on anything the state deems to be terrorist related material. Which will stop UK based independent journalists from going to and reporting from war zones unless they are approved by the state. Needless to say only journalists who write what they are told to write will be approved by the state. Similarly, anyone who shares anything the state decrees as ‘terrorist related’ can be banged up.
The fall guys to justify all the censorship are the people the state wants you to label as conspiracy theorists. So who are they?
In the book A Dangerous Ideology I spend some time exploring the history of the emergence of ‘conspiracy theory’ as a pejorative term. It can be traced back as far as the 1870’s but it didn’t really have any clear negative connotation until the post WWII era. For most of the late 19th and early to mid 20th century, if used at all, it simply meant a theory about a criminal act planned by two or more people .
In his 1945 work The Open Society and Its Enemies, the philosopher Karl Popper criticised historicism. The tendency for historians to see conspiracies where none existed. He argued this was primarily because the chaotic reality was less interesting than the suggested dramatic plot. Popper didn’t use the term conspiracy theorist, as we use it today, but he did proffer the idea of the conspiracy theory of society . A kind of atheist replacement for theism where the unseen power of the godhead is replaced by the unseen power of the globalist cartel. This tendency, he claimed, sprang from woolly thinking. By 1965, following the Kennedy assassination, historian Richard Hofstadter suggested that a belief in conspiracy was bordering upon delusional, claiming those he called ‘the paranoid’ imagined themselves to be militant leaders.
The fully fledged term, as we understand it today, was first defined by the CIA in 1967. CIA Document 1035-960, Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, was a CIA internal briefing paper which suggested ways CIA personal could attack, undermine and counter any arguments offered by people who considered the Warren Commission Report into the Kennedy investigation to be a whitewash. By combining Poppers conspiracy theory of society with Hofstadters concept of the delusional militant leader, the label of the conspiracy theorist was created.
Since then, many have written at length about alleged conspiracy theorists. Journalist David Aaranovitch said conspiracy theorists have an intellectual superiority complex (in keeping with the CIA’s view); Dr Hugo Drochon believes that conspiracy theorists are mainly white, middle aged unemployed males who feel disenfranchised. Other researchers and writers, such as experimental psychologist Michael Shermer, share this view though he goes further and suggests conspiracy theorists are suffering a mild form of mental illness.
However, interesting as these opinions are, they are all based upon a single assumption. That the alleged conspiracy theories themselves are entirely false. This was not a view shared by Christopher Hitchens who, like the FBI, recognised that some conspiracy theories are based in fact. Speaking about the allegation of the groundless conspiracy theory he wrote:
“……You may have noticed that those who are too quick to shout ‘conspiracy theorist’ are equally swift, when consequences for authority and consensus impend, to look serious and say: ‘It’s more complicated than that.’ These have become standard damage-control reflexes……..One has become used to this stolid, complacent return serve: so apparently grounded in reason and scepticism but so often naive and one-dimensional.”
Very little significant research has been done to find out who so called conspiracy theorists are. Political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent are one of the few who have undertaken such a study. Their findings thoroughly refute the demographics claimed by Drochon, Shermer and others.
They discovered that women were just as likely to be conspiracy theorists as men. Black and Hispanic people were the predominant ethnic groups and, in keeping with the general population, 23% were University educated. They identified no dominant political ideology, though there was an unsurprising tendency for conspiracy theorists to favour independent electoral candidates. These findings have been corroborated by a number of polls.
For example this year YouGov found that 13% of Americans believe that 9/11 was an inside job, 12% of Brits thought the same and 18% of British people believe there is a global power structure above elected governments with 19% in the U.S agreeing. What was most notable however were the huge numbers who believed the official conspiracy theories. 39% Of U.S citizens believe that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to influence the U.S election and 45% in the UK shared the same opinion.
This polls indicate two seemingly contradictory positions. Firstly, despite being barraged with propaganda, ridicule and now accusations of being extremists with potential terrorist tendencies, a significant proportion of the population are willing to look beyond the headlines and consider a range of ideas outside official state narratives. It also demonstrates that the power of the MSM alone is enough to convince an even larger proportion of the populace that a story is true, regardless of the absence of any verifiable evidence to support it. For the state and its agencies, such as the FBI, this highlights both the problem they face and the potential solution.
Far too many people simply don’t believe the state anymore. They require more than simple government statements in order to be convinced. Repeatedly lied to by the government and the MSM that serves it, they have turned away in droves and are exploring information the state would prefer they didn’t. At the same time there is a larger pool of people who are willing, despite all the occasions they have been blatantly deceived by the state, to accept whatever government tells them without question. What the state fears is the increasing pollution of this pool by the conspiracy theorists.
The solution is straightforward. Demonise the conspiracy theorists, censor the free exchange of information, shut down free speech, restrict the Internet and return control of the narrative to the compliant MSM. This is precisely the plan which the FBI bulletin slots neatly into.
The truth is people labelled conspiracy theorists are just normal, everyday folk. Millions nationally and possibly billions world wide. They come from all walks of life, all nationalities, ages and ethnicity. They span the breadth of the educational and income spectrums, breach the class divide and work in every conceivable occupation. In short, while you may not agree with them on everything, they are your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours.
The FBI suggest that all these people are potential terrorists. This is patently an absurd notion. There is nothing inherently violent about their beliefs and the only thing they are guilty off is questioning the state. In fact so called conspiracy theory, which encompasses a huge range of opinions and beliefs, is, to a very significant extent, strongly anti war and opposed to violence. Particularly state violence.
Unfortunately for all of us, the disinterested majority neither care nor particularly consider the rapidly approaching shut down of free speech. Those that do have a perspective probably think it is about time someone did something about the bloody conspiracy theorists. Sadly, by the time they realise the state won’t stop with the conspiracy theorists it will be too late.