Tag Archives: Cass Sunstein

LIONEL PODCAST: How the CIA Weaponized the Term “Conspiracy Theory”

“CIA Document 1035-960” was released in response to a 1976 FOIA request by the New York Times. The memorandum delimits a detailed series of actions and techniques for “countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries.” It provided the blueprint of discrediting any idea or theory deemed unpalatable or embarrassing with the blanket and dismissive pejorative “conspiracy theory.”

Proem. Nothing will grind to a halt a discussion or disquisition quicker than calling it a “conspiracy theory.” So how did this come to be? Have we always enjoyed this distinction? Or rather, this almost patellar rejection of anything deemed to be the product of an illegal confederation.

It’s the third rail of political discussion. Kryptonite. A mine field. Drop the topic altogether. Don’t go there. Bring up a verboten or sensitive topic and watch what happens if it’s dubbed a conspiracy theory by an audience. All discussions ceases and you are a de facto nut, a loon, whose opinion is baseless and motivation (as well as sanity) is suspect. So where and when did this conspiracy phobia emerge? Was it always a part of our inquiry-killing repertoire? And what exactly is wrong with a conspiracy or theory of one? There are scores of convicted defendants warehoused today for conspiracies. How successful would they have been in seeking to have their convictions overturned by saying “This was just a conspiracy theory!” No, we’ve changed the meaning of the charge. It’s synonymous with insane, baseless, paranoid and baseless. And the transmutation of terminology was deliberate and by design. Courtesy of your CIA.

Your forebears would be livid. Professor Lance deHaven-Smith in Conspiracy Theory in America details “how the Founders’ hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced by today’s blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition.” It was ostensibly their deep-seated and well-founded suspicions that gave way to the inspiration and motivation to create our republic, borne from . . . you guessed it, conspiracy theories.

The weaponization of a term. In Conspiracy Theory”: Foundations of a Weaponized Term Professor James F. Tracy explains accordingly. And remember, the CIA under the Allen Dulles was the beginning of the transformation of the agency from intelligence-gathering to that of covert operations. Remember as well that Dulles, no fan of Kennedy, was positioned on the Warren Commission, which today is synonymous with whitewash and distortion.

Conspiracy theory’s acutely negative connotations may be traced to liberal historian Richard Hofstadter’s well-known fusillades against the “New Right.” Yet it was the Central Intelligence Agency that likely played the greatest role in effectively “weaponizing” the term. In the groundswell of public skepticism toward the Warren Commission’s findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA sent a detailed directive to all of its bureaus. Titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission Report,” the dispatch played a definitive role in making the “conspiracy theory” term a weapon to be wielded against almost any individual or group calling the government’s increasingly clandestine programs and activities into question.

Sound familiar? But even today the same techniques are employed, specifically this favorite argument: Conspiracy on a large scale would be impossible to conceal in the United States. Its synthetic reasoning and the transmission of such as a potent meme to this day serve to divert, obscure and redirect valid considerations and review of critical issues. And along with knee-jerk and Pavlovian false claims of racism and to a lesser extent homophobia, all discussion stops, valid areas of inquiry are sidelined and shelved, discussion ditched and sanity reevaluated. The history of the construction of his meme is mandatory for any truth-loving American who cherishes historical verity.

The latest introduction of the dread theory. So, do you think that conspiracy theory as pejorative weapon of distraction is limited only to truthers, birthers and vaxxers? Think again. Behold the rudiments of distraction.

LIONEL PODCAST: Why Mainstream Media News Can’t Recognize Their Own Extinction

Let’s start with the abecedarian: The current crop of mainstream network media news robots are simply idiots. Is that limpid enough? I should stop right there as the clarity of message won’t improve. But I shan’t. It’s critical that you grasp this. And understand that this is not a toothless indictment. I’m dead serious. James S. Ettema and Theodore L. Glasser called investigative journalism “custodians of conscience.” they likened it to social and moral inquiry and public virtue. I remind you of such because there was a time before selfies and narcissistic self-adoration. If there’s any hope it’s for local news because the subject matter is so directed: fires, arrests, crime, weather, sports. Though I’ve never quite understood the concept of traffic reportage on television. Think about it. (But not for long.)

I don’t care about the news, I care about being a star. Newsrooms and outfits are jammed with media star wannabes. Distracted and disjointed alleged and putative news gatherers, biased and partisan apparatchiks skewing and narrowcasting – not journalists or reporters but would-be stars and viral hitster hipsters. The next entrant in the hottest reporter contest, the red carpet traipser. Just look at Brian Williams’s own foray into celebrity adoration. I’ve no proof, but I suspect that if the truth be known, Ol’ BW would rather sit on Fallon’s couch than behind the desk waxing stentorian as he reads the prompter.

It’s not a matter of youth per se but chronic inexperience and no perspective. Sure, there are newser tyros who’ve no perspective but it’s not about youth and inexperience. Not to mention no history, no knowledge, no idea of the cyclical phenomenon of news and world affairs. They’re organically incurious and without the ability to be suspect, proudly so at that. They’ve become the conduit for administrations, de facto press agents. Repeaters and not reporters. Presstitutes, as the great Gerald Celente offers, their hearts and limited minds available to the highest bidder. Slow on the draw, quick to the conclusion. Obama acolytes and fawning sycophants, many are. Boot lickers and toadies. Obsequious lickspittles. Still walking zombified with “Hope and Change” reverberating in their memory sticks. Part and parcel of the insane left-right paradigm, followers of the notion that there are significant differences between parties. Still arguing at the internecine, interstitial level.

Retreads, resurrected, recycled museum pieces just entered the building. And the executive and management level of network news appears to be no better. Let’s really focus the gravamen of this indictment accordingly. Concerned and focused on the bottom line. P/L versus MOS. Especially in a shrinking media world. Shuttered newsrooms, budgets slashed, resources crippled. Make it fast and cheap. Dangle the keys in front of the screaming infant. Many of these pathetic news stewards retreads are recycled and regurgitated escapees of media from eons of yore. Those who cut their teeth at a time when media news reportage was considered rarefied and noble, victims of their own deluded unwarranted entitlement and chichi pretentiousness. These are dinosaurs more often than not who actually still believe that the days of cautious, crafted and paralyzing boring news presentation will fly today. And it’s not just TV news but the antediluvian world of terrestrial left-right talk radio — but that’s for another day.

The new breed of witless. And if the antediluvian codger’s not bad enough, enter the “rising star,” the prototypical know-nothing who made her bones in another medium that someone figured would perfectly merge into news. Or the ex-intern who made friends and was first on the list for hires do to a sparkling personality or per stirpes consanguinity with a higher-up. The yoga mat totin’ pseudo-intellect and autodidact (at best) who breaks the record for pretentiousness and throws an errant Ayn Rand quote about and conspicuously carries the latest Economist under her arm. Bogus, ersatz and fictive. And what do these two prototypes have in common? Plenty. They’re clueless.

New and alternative media: operational Darwinism and natural selection with a building pass. And whilst the aforementioned supra run in circles, alternative media and new platforms and delivery systems are blowing them out of the water. Citizen journalism at levels of sophistication that are increasingly mind-boggling. And I’m not talking production level – though they’re beyond the amateurish of yore – I’m talking the level of deep-levels of critical analysis and a conversance with and of the facts that are nonpareil. Irrespective of the subject matter, deep research and data mining rival anything that the more traditional (translation: hoary and cobwebbed) media sources employ. No, my friend, the world for the media moribund is collapsing onto itself like a black hole. And instead of light not being able to escape, truth and viewership can’t escape. Mark my words, within two years – two years! – you will not even recognize what used to be called the heralded and bejeweled halcyon days of media Gloria. So long, Murrow; sayonara, Cronkite. The world has just changed but you were too busy waxing funereal over Jeter’s retirement or the latest antics of the NFL cobbling together a nonexistent domestic violence policy. Consider yourself warned. There are hosts of demos and factions, from millennials to the senescent, in every race, sexual identity or stratum. There are millions who want to know about conspiracy facts not theories, about the dark side of governments, rogue elements, the crippling dynamics of central bank chicanery and deception. They want to know about the fictional and tissue thin veneer of the imaginary wars on terror and the like. They see through the absolute egesta of ISIS and ISIL and can in a flash name all the permutations of the new costumed bogeymen. You are experiencing a new dimension of thought and analysis and I am absolutely honored beyond woods to join the revolution. Hie!

Thought for the day. American exceptionalism has transmogrified into American delusion. Delusion fueled by an active and virulent nescience as to the framers’ intent for our republic. Here, St. Gore of Vidal offered this gem of gems.

We should stop going around babbling about how we’re the greatest democracy on earth, when we’re not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarized republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don’t know how wise they were.

“Gore Vidal and the Mind of the Terrorist”, interview by Ramona Koval, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National (November 2001)