Acting alone for reasons of ego and politics, Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, Governor John Connally, and Dallas police officer Tippit in November 1963. On September 11 last year, disciples of Osama bin-Laden, a maverick Islamist theocrat, crashed themselves and hundreds of others into the World Trade Center and Pentagon because they believed America to be the enemy and Americans to be evil. Rumsfeld, the CIA, the Mossad, Unocal, and so forth, whatever their many sins, did not do it.
A cabal of bankers do not run the world. The Council of Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission are simply debating societies/social clubs of otherwise very powerful people. The Illuminati did and do not map out history. Things actually are far more often what they seem to be.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are fabrications about a world Jewish conspiracy concocted by Russian bigots in a mad time and place. The Masons are bored grownups playing kids' games.
Of course, history-making conspiracies do happen. And can succeed. That's why I have entitled this Grand Conspiracy Theories Are Dumb. Small conspiracies by alienated misfits are often quite successful at changing history. The assassination of Lincoln was a successful conspiracy of alienated outsiders. So too, incidentally, were the attacks of September 11, 2001. So was the assassination of an Austrian Archduke in Serbia in 1914 that started World War One.
The pair of snipers who semi-paralyzed the capital of 21st Century America recently were two homeless oddballs.
But the idea of a ruling inner circle of humanity who grandly orchestrates great events from behind the scenes seems to excite more interest and attention. Even though such don't exist.
So what then is the attraction -- and foolishness -- of insider conspiracy theories ? I think it is not so much their fascination with great evil but rather their hopeful, if illusory, reassurance of widespread virtue.
Insider conspiracy give us hope when we feel powerless. Strangely enough, grand insider conspiracy theories reassuringly exaggerate the presence, not of evil, but of goodness, humility, and efficiency in the human character. It may seem shocking at first but grand conspiracy theories actually require an enormous -- and ludicrous -- amount of faith in selfless efficient human dedication to others and/or abstract causes.
We need only consider the incredible amount of virtue imputed to people allegedly involved in grand conspiracies. Imagine, for example, if Jack Ruby really was induced by the mafia or some other nefarious cabal to eliminate Lee Harvey Oswald after Oswald was arrested, rather than his actual understandable but unbalanced rage over Kennedy's assassination. Why would Ruby be willing to spend the rest of his life in prison, even face the death sentence, and not squeal or blab about his place in changing history? The mafia doesn't always command that level of silence from family members of the Don over a heroin racket and a few years of jail time.
Thus, if we look carefully we see that such alleged conspiratorial behavior presupposes one heck of a sense of integrity and dedication on the part of the participants in evil and deception. Not to mention brilliantly effective coordination and timing among far-flung conspiracy members. People just aren't that clever, nut it is comforting, even reassuring, to believe it. To accept grand conspiracy theories, one must honestly feel that there are large numbers of people willing to suffer, die, kill, lose their wealth and reputation, and yet still keep loyally silent in order to protect consciously the good name, wealth, and position of some other power-mad or simply greedy individuals.
And on top of that, there are no uncontrolled unintended results of their action.
What efficiency, what integrity one must believe humanity capable of! What loyalty!What crap!
Street thugs typically cannot help bragging about some sadistic petty crime. To imagine great historical actors collaborating is self-sacrifice across generations and without direct credit or benefit to themselves, and without falling out in petty competition, is to give our species far more credit than it deserves.
Indeed, if such conspiratorial forces actually can undertake and command such dedication and integrity, maybe the manipulators really do deserve to run the world! At least the stock market won't crash.
Conspiracy theories are reassure us of the prevalence of virtue in the world in another paradoxical way. It appeals to our sense of self-righteousness and laziness. By making Evil the prerogative of small inner cabal of "them," the rest of us come across as relatively benign. Why look to ourselves to find and do the hard work of fixing the moral and intellectual failings that cause unnecessary ills? Why look to our own responsibility in the creation and perpetuation of wrong? We don't have to, we can just say that it's the [fill in the blank s.o.b. parasite conspirators] doing it, not us, and doing so in a manner beyond our control.
In doing so, they also provide a cover for ignorant bigoted envy and resentment. The villains of conspiracy theories are often simply people who are resented merely for being or appearing successful, admired, or wealthy. Bankers, businesspeople, Jews, Masons, the educated wealthy (Illuminati), etc.
Grand conspiracy theories allow us to ignore the utter transparency of most human motives, good or ill. One actually doesn't need much of a crystal ball to discern personal ambitions, ideological aims, and manipulative tactics. There was nothing especially opaque about the motives and activities of such history-sweeping phenomena as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Or those of a banker like J.P Morgan for that matter.
Now, of course, powerful people, movements, and institutions really do carry out manipulative deceptive acts and hidden nefarious agendas with success. They most certainly engage in recurrent dishonesty. As indeed most of us do from time to time, though the more powerful are better organized and possess a further reach. The ferreting out of these sins is the real hard labor of life and intellect, and an ever-present challenge for the attuned citizen. But all that is no excuse for denying that things really are more often what they seem to be, and perhaps a lot less. Grand manipulations are usually found out fairly quickly. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the French-British-Israeli pre-collaboration in the 1956 Suez War, the French bombing of the Greenpeace ship in New Zealand, the American role in the overthrow and death of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba etc. are but a few examples of the difficulty of secrecy in a world where things are usually obvious and people typically blab.
Never attribute to evil what you can to stupidity and apathy, and never attribute to idealism and selfless dedication what you can to ego, greed, and vanity. Never assume evil power-mad people are so dedicated and clever that they will keep secret their aims and role in affecting history. Nor are they likely to succeed at such efforts without overt challenge, embarrassing exposure, and multiple public failures born of inefficiency, competition, transparency and ego.
Perhaps the most important fact to remember is that it is conspiracy THEORISTS who have carried out the worst evils. Hitlerism was based on the fantasy of a conspiratorial nature of Bolshevism , capitalism, and democracy behind which were the Jews. Conspiracy theorists plunged the world into its worst war and sent millions to crematoria.
Conspiracy theories explain events in a way that reassures us that people are basically good -- so good in fact that even the authors of evil turn up amazingly selfless and dedicated. They paint a world where everything works efficiently. These provide us with comfort instead of truth, and open the door to far far greater evils in the real world than they complain of.