It’s hard to go a day without hearing some kind of conspiracy theory. Most of them come from the left, but many do from the right as well, and the line between logical and insane is frequently tested.
For example, is it a conspiracy theory to think Barack Obama is a type of “Manchurian Candidate” who may have been born in Kenya, raised by American Communists like Bill Ayers and Frank Marshall, and sent to Washington to use a Clovard-Piven strategy to bankrupt America and precipitate change to a Communist revolution?
Beats me, but it wouldn’t be a bad strategy, for those who want power at any cost.
It’s not entirely conspiratorial to wonder about the lack of documents from Mr. Obama. Not specifically his birth certificate, but the utter lack of school records, close friends, legal practice and/or huge time periods in his early life. For all we know, he was in Moscow smoking phillies with Kim Philby.
You can see the difficulty. At some point, the cart pulls the horse, and the grasping mind looks for plausible connections to fit into its narrative. Other things are just suspicious and some standard practices and motivations often correlate with them. Could be, couldn’t be, on and on South of Heaven.
However, for your paranoid eyes today, another suggestion pops up: that our politics is mostly a show designed to distract us, a pleasant series of talking points, with an unrelated struggle going on beneath the surface.
This man-behind-the-curtain manipulates American and European politics as surely as a James Bond supervillain or the most noxious Mafia don or oligarch you can imagine. It comes in three forms:
- Quality of individuals.
- Group identity.
The talking points you read in papers or hear about on the radio — gay marriage, abortion, gun control, immigration amnesty, democracy, etc. — are not in and of themselves all that valuable. They are not acts, but signals, designed to manipulate the above.
Money requires that there be flashy issues to distract the neurotic herd and keep business as usual running. It also likes the expansion of rules, which forces work-arounds, and the cultivation of new audiences.
Individual quality is what has kept our nation from falling apart under the sheer weight of all the contradictory, vague and incoherent law piled onto it over the past two centuries or so. When you put good people into any official capacity, they figure out the task and make it work, usually bending or outright violating the rules so they achieve the goal.
Group identity is more complex. Liberals signal each other to rally around the standard of universal acceptance with issues like gay marriage and immigrant amnesty. Conservatives bunch up over issues of the sacred, like sanctity of life (both abortion and death penalty fall here) or preservation of tradition.
By the time these ideas make it to the surface, they have been translated into emotional signals others can recognize, or methods of hiding the actual agenda. As a result, our candidates go out there and grin their way through promises and debates that are mostly inconsequential.
Sure, there are real issues too. National defense is real, as are many aspects of domestic policy. But the issues that get the most flare-up coverage are the symbolic ones, the emotional ones that unite a crowd into either hoisting mugs or heating up the tar and feathers.
Democracy is a strange beast. We are foolish if we call ourselves its master.