Sympathy for Paranoia

The moon landing was faked by the U.S. government for propaganda purposes to win the Cold War. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 was actually an inside job as a pretext to go to war. Space aliens landed in Roswell, NM but the government has been covering it up. The Sandy Hook massacre was faked to increase support for new gun control laws; the “victims” were actually actors who are all alive and well today. The Illuminati is the secret entity which actually governs the whole world…

The natural response to these statements is to say “these people are mad barking moonbats” and to keep ourselves as distant as possible from the people making them. Those of us in the liberty movement who want to be taken seriously are very quick to renounce anyone who is within six degrees of Alex Jones or anyone else who states any of the above. It’s difficult enough to be taken seriously about legalizing drugs, the non-aggression principle, free markets, and freedom of association; the last thing we need is to be lumped in with “those people.”

While it is very important to defend the “brand” of the liberty movement, it’s also important to recognize the reasons why people believe some rather nutty things.

[W]hen I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. – Jesse Walker, The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, (p. 24) (Read my book review here)

Once one learns about some of the activities governments been proven to have been involved in, some conspiracy theories no longer seem as outlandish. I used to refer to conspiracy theories and wacky beliefs as “black helicopter” stories and I’m fairly certain that others used the same terminology. Once I learned that black unmarked helicopters were used in the assault by the FBI on the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX,(Napolitano, p.110) I stopped calling such ideas “black helicopter.”

Not everything that sounds crazy is.

One common theme among conspiracy theorists is the notion of false flag operations. Sandy Hook and 9/11 are among the more prominent events which we are to believe were false flags.

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
– James Madison

Even as cynical as many of us are, is it really possible that governments would do such a thing in such an “ends justify the means” fashion? While true false flag operations are most likely not as common as conspiracy theorists would have us believe, such tactics have been used throughout history – even by the U.S. and her allies.

When I think about true false flag operations, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Operation Susannah (a.k.a the Lavon Affair) are the two that usually come to my mind. Both of these events would seem to be crazy Prison Planet conspiracy theories until one realizes that both happened.

So governments lie to persuade the people or allies the necessity for war, what else is new?

Beyond the false flags, governments are capable of committing unspeakable evils against people who trust its very institutions. Even if we try to conveniently forget the horrors of the Indian Wars and the internment camps during World War II (as most Americans tend to do), there are plenty more examples of why we should be concerned about government harming the people its supposed to protect. Unsuspecting Americans were used as lab rats in the Tuskegee Study and in the MKULTRA program. This could explain why some people are skeptical of medical research findings, vaccination, fluoride in the drinking water, or GMOs. A seal of approval from the FDA or the USDA might as well be a skull and crossbones to these people.
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In the era of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, no one can any longer credibly deny that every level of government in conjunction with large corporations are watching us – all of us (at least to some degree). About the only way to keep one’s privacy is to eschew smartphones (aka GPS tracking devices) and the internet. If you ever post anything in social media or online anywhere, you must know that that posting will outlive you and is accessible by a few easy keystrokes.

Even if you choose the inconveniences of living “off the grid,” unless you decide to create your own self-sufficient community ala Galt’s Gulch and never, ever show your face in public, your movements will be recorded on video a couple of dozen times if not a hundred times (and even more so if you live in a major U.S. city) every time you do. Of course the act of minding your own business and living off the grid itself tends to raise suspicion of the watchers who will still find your fallout shelter and “compound” (oh nos, scary “militia” word) with satellite pictures with higher resolution than Google Earth. As if that wasn’t enough, along with satellites and drones (some small enough to impersonate insects) is the ability to view inside a dwelling using the same or similar technology as the TSA airport nudie scanners.

Jeez Steve, paranoid much?

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I know, I know, it all sounds bugnutty as hell. The problem is its also true.

If you happen to express disagreement with the administration in power, you are probably even more likely to be a target. According to a story broke right here at The Liberty Papers by one Stephen Gordon on April 12, 2009, a Department of Homeland Security report advised agents to be on the lookout for certain individuals or groups which didn’t necessarily buy into the “Hope n’ Change” Obama sold the American people. Gordon wrote:

[A]ll it takes to fit the terrorist profile is to have general anti-government feelings or prefer local/state government to federal control over everything […]

[…]

Also targeted in the report are veterans, folks anticipating additional restrictions to their Second Amendment rights, and those concerned about the loss of U.S. sovereignty.

This report implies that one harboring these sorts of views is a racist as well as a potential terrorism suspect.

Not only has the federal government used these technologies and techniques to monitor the behavior of American citizens participating in constitutionally protected activities but also has used such intelligence to blackmail and cause discord within organizations critical of policy aims of the administration in power.

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As I’ve pointed out before, these tactics are nothing new or unique to the Obama administration. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had a program called COINTELPRO and the CIA of the Nixon administration had “Operation CHAOS.” The goal of both programs was to infiltrate “extremist” groups. Among the targets of these operations: Martin Luther King Jr.

There are certainly many more examples I could use to demonstrate the many ways the government has manipulated the American people but I think this is more than enough to process for the time being. Having learned this recently myself, I can say that I cannot put much past the ruling class. One cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. If a few people’s life, liberty, and/or property is destroyed in the process to achieve the policy goal, then so be it. The War on (Some) Drugs should be enough evidence to support this proposition by itself.

I would love to be able to trust scientific consensus on issues of importance such as climate change, but how do I know the data hasn’t been manipulated to support a political agenda?

I also wish that I could trust the Secretary of State the next time s/he makes a presentation to the United Nations about the WMD capabilities of a nation which could threaten peace in the world. While I’m not ever going to fall for the notion of “preemptive war” again, I would at least like to know the real purpose of such destructive actions.
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Its this sort of secrecy and government evil which allows political paranoia and the most outrageous conspiracy theories to thrive. Against this backdrop, what isn’t the government capable of? How can we determine true conspiracies from nonsense? Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things offers some really great ideas here.

When confronted by 9/11 “truthers,” Shermer reminds them that this was the same government which had failure after failure in Iraq. Somehow these same people pulled off the greatest, most spectacular false flag operation in world history? Really?

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”-Marcello Truzzi

Its tempting to simply mock or shun the conspiracy theorists but is that really the best approach? Certainly there are mainstream ideas within the greater liberty movement which are dismissed because they challenge conventional “wisdom” of the age. Ron Paul and Gary Johnson – they weren’t “serious” candidates for president, don’t you know.

Perhaps the better approach is to actually listen to the underlying concerns (health, economic security, and liberty) then show them how their notions are flawed (just because black helicopters exist does not necessarily mean they are being used at the behest of a secret New World Order). If we fail to do so, the ruling class gets the advantage. If the same people who have legitimate concerns about the Federal Reserve and a proposed North American Union also raise concerns about Chemtrails and the Illuminati, the legitimate concerns will be dismissed out of hand by potential allies and ultimately, the general public.

Reference:

Napolitano, A. (2004). Assaulting the People. In Constitutional chaos: What happens when the government breaks its own laws (E-book ed., p. 110). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

  • RavenNation

    Nice piece & some excellent points (+ bonus points for referencing Jesse Walker’s book). I used to teach a course on American conspiracy theories. I made two points for my students when it came to writing final papers, well three actually: (i) assume the theory is wrong; (ii) assume the people who believe are normal, intelligent people who are rational in all areas of their life except the conspiracy theory; (iii) explain the persistence of the theory based on social events taking place at the time.