Alex Jones’ conspiracy mongering InfoWars website is a cash cow, my former colleague Alex Seitz-Wald recently reported in Salon. Is that a bad thing?
There’s nothing wrong (and many things right) with seeking to identify the sources of hidden power in America and the world. When it comes to the JFK assassination story, Jones has highlighted the story of Howard Hunt’s cryptic comments about a possible conspiracy, a perfectly legitimate story.
But when Jones confuses the legitimate desires of the majority with the exercise of hidden power, he illustrates how the conspiratorial mindset can turn anti-democratic. To equate popular proposals for background checks of gun buyers amounts to a secret government plan for gun confiscation, is to substitute paranoia for democratic self-government.
15 thoughts on “The problem with Conspiracy Inc.”
I think Jones is an agent provocateur whose function is to look as extreme as possible while trying to attach himself to the sincere research community in attempt to marginalize it. He uses limited hangouts to appear legitimate.
He ran away from the scene of a crime before anybody else knew that a crime had been committed.
Shots being fire at the motorcade of the US president was not a crime that everyone in Dealey Plaza could know and understand immediately?
Oswald didn’t do it.
Prove me wrong.
“There’s nothing wrong (and many things right) with seeking to identify the sources of hidden power in America and the world. When it comes to the JFK assassination story, Jones has highlighted the story of Howard Hunt’s cryptic comments about a possible conspiracy, a perfectly legitimate story.”
Two disconnected sentences.
“But when Jones confuses the legitimate desires of the majority with the exercise of hidden power, he illustrates how the conspiratorial mindset can turn anti-democratic. To equate popular proposals for background checks of gun buyers amounts to a secret government plan for gun confiscation, is to substitute paranoia for democratic self-government.”
FIRST: There are many important features of this country’s political landscape that are anti-democratic: the electoral college, the senate filibuster, many of the senate rules for bringing a matter to a vote, etc. The constitution establishes a republican form of government, not a pure democracy. Truth is, the Founders were elites who believed big decisions should be made by elites (i.e., elected elites).
SECOND: What is popular is not always good policy. For example, IMO, the death penalty. Popular, but deprives society of the chance to learn how the killer’s mind (e.g., Ted Bundy’s mind) works.
THIRD: Come this January 1, Connecticut will begin confiscating so-called high-capacity magazines. This confiscation plan will follow upon a new gun registration law enacted this year.
Honest, law-abiding gun owners have every reason to fear gun confiscation. The fear isn’t paranoia. It’s a fear of pandering politicians, of whom there is no shortage.
FOURTH: Jeff, I thought this site was apolitical. I swing to the right but tolerate all, especially libertarians. For one, I don’t want to get into politics here. If right-wingers killed JFK, so be it; let the truth be known.
I don’t mind people coming at this site from whatever end of the political spectrum, in fact it would be quite stale if it was only from one end. Like Kennedy, I tend to lean liberal, not Adlai liberal, but tough, pragmatic liberal. I see his assassination as coming from the rightwing military and intelligence, and with Lyndon Johnson, who on paper (and in his political campaigning for the Presidency) tried to look like a liberal, but was more of an opportunist, grasping the reins of the military/intel crowd to grab power, in a coup. At the end of his presidency, Lyndon Johnson had so badly tainted the Democratic presidential brand that Republicans were able to move in, with only one temporary exception (Carter) for many years afterward.
Facts have a durable quality. They stand up to examination.
(referring to an earlier topic): If one feels many of the conspiracy theories floating around the globe help shield the CIA and their alleged orchestration /participation JFK’s violent murder then one might also feel that the Agency loves Alex Jones.
I don’t particularly care for his shows because he reminds me of one of my former wives in that it takes his an hour of ranting & raving and accusing to say something he could have said in one or two sentences and be done with it.
I made a comment a long time ago on one of his videos stating more or less that I don’t believe the public today is any less helpless in doing anything about black operations than it was back in November of 1963. All one can really hope for is the intended target doesn’t include us.
This got my comment deleted and me banned from posting remarks with Alex.
Is this post about Second Amendment rights? The exploitation of paranoia for profit? The facts of the JFK assassination? Talk radio topics that appeal to the Right?
Is is a plea for background checks on guns buyers? Is that it? If so, count me with the crowd that doesn’t trust what the U.S. government would do with such a database.
Lots of states do their own background checks, which is fine with me.
Much as I may be one of the first to agree with people who say that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy of people, and involving Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, and some of the CIA and military, I try to approach things from a skeptical mindset. I look for holes in my own arguments to test for leaks before sailing out. I don’t suffer fools gladly, and will be quick to point out flaws in other people’s thinking when I see them, but I also stay ready to jettison things that I thought were true but were found to have weak foundations. To do anything otherwise would be to make a church of my beliefs, and that’s just not logical.
A book I recommend people read is an old classic by Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It’s from the sixties, but still relevant today. I’ll bet Alex Jones never read it.
Just finished a quick look at Hofstadter’s essay (thanks).
My take: Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style” boils down to distrust of big government. He comes at the subject from the Left. Today, both Left and Right distrust big government…for both overlapping and different reasons.
Moi? The Patriot Act, NDAA, Iran-Contra, the 1960s assassinations — all provide plenty of reasons not to be paranoid — that’s irrational — but to be rationally distrustful of the U.S. government on matters of national security.
My personal opinion is not to trust concentrated power in any form: public or private sector. With the private sector, the only power consumers have is through purchase (of stock or goods), a very passive control–not really control or check on corporate power at all. I agree with those like Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, others—who realized that concentrated wealth and power had to be ‘checked’ by the power of the federal government, government being the only source that the private citizen has to right the wrongs. In order for government to work however, we have to disassociate ourselves from the lame idea that big government is bad, and get involved in our government, demand as citizens that it be held accountable to the people again. We’ve lost that feeling of trust, starting with JFK’s assassination, fueled by cynicism of the Vietnam War, Watergate and the rightward tilt toward weaker unions and more corporate control of elected officials. I’m not against big government, just against moneyed, corrupt, STUPID government, which can’t check corporate power any longer because it has become owned by the corporations. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court only further solidified this bad situation.
So I’m cynical, but I haven’t given up that we may somehow find a way to throw the money lenders out of the public temples of legislative decision making. Unlike the paranoid “conspiracy in everything” set, I am hopeful that through reasoned action we can get back our democracy from the plutocrats who have hijacked it.
Two checks on the private sector have been abandoned over the last 40 years: the enforcement of federal antitrust and federal securities laws.
ExxonMobil. Enron. Two shining examples.
The fault lies with congress, whose members are bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists.
The U.S. does not need a big government to deal with big business; it needs enforcement of laws on the books.
We’ve weakened so much of the federal government’s oversight since Nixon and Reagan that agencies like OSHA can’t even begin to correct for terrible accidents waiting to happen like the Texas fertilizer plant or the BP Oil spill. And even if you enforce the laws on the books, the federal sector can’t keep up with changes brought about by new technologies. It must be able to evolve, not stay static.
John F. Kennedy was a big fan of Richard Neustadt, who wrote “Presidential Power” in 1960. I had to read that book for my poly sci course at university many years ago. The book argued for a strong executive branch because in the nuclear age, Congress was too slow to react in emergencies, whereas the President, with a powerful cabinet, could. Kennedy also looked down on entrenched, old ways of conducting foreign policy that the State Department practiced. He wanted more creative thinkers there. Part of the problem, he realized, was that many of the creatives at State were purged during the McCarthy era. I would add that CIA had very much corrupted and infiltrated the State Dept. (read Phillip Agee’s classic: “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” for ex.).
When Kennedy was president, there seemed to be a feeling that the US government was a vital force or power for good in our country and in the world. There was some distrust of “big government” but it was mostly right wing fringe people of the Bircher/Goldwater mold who fit this group. They were not the majority. Kennedy looked to FDR for his bold domestic example of leadership, and didn’t see a big, strong federal government as a BAD thing. He asked for excellence from everyone who served however. We’ve lost that positive vision in the United States. I agree with you that Congress is bought and paid for, and we need to reform it to get our free system of representative democracy back.