The United States of Paranoia

April 3, 2016
Handbill with caption: "9/11 Truth Now"
Handbill with caption: "9/11 Truth Now"

Conspiracy theories are like mushrooms. They pop up everywhere -- from celebrity Twitter feeds to the campaign trail. They can be crazy, hilarious, and weirdly convincing. But even the most wacko conspiracy theories are worth taking serious. To explain why, here's Steve Paulson talking with Jesse Walker, author of "The United States of Paranoia."



The whole concept of this program suffers from a serious conceptual flaw which nobody on it seemed to grasp. There is a profound epistemological shortcoming in the basic approach posited by both guests and interviewers, and in particular by Mr. Walker and Mr. Brotherton. When they dismiss beliefs about various historical occurrences or ongoing political conditions and government behavior as mere "conspiracy theories", they are by implication making the empirical claim that these things are untrue. How, pray tell, do they actually know that? Like any empirical claim, they need to make their case. Where is their evidence that all these things are untrue? it is intellectually dishonest to condemn people as irrational when offering no demonstration that their beliefs are actually false. Upon listening to this program, I get the strong impression that both interviewers and all but one of the interviewees are acting out of nothing more than a sense of smug and naïve ignorance about these matters, based on nothing more than the pronouncements of a few elite talking heads over a few decades. Such mouthings are not proof, or even evidence. In truth, the historical occurrences and social conditions discussed in this program, and the 15 questions promulgated by Brotherton in his article, are extremely complex matters not given to easy, simple yes-no answers. In order to really understand them, intense and long-term detailed study is necessary. How much research has anybody who appeared in this program actually done on international relations and espionage, international finance and global commerce, assassinations and the genesis of wars, and government secrecy, let alone more far out stuff like ufo's. It seems, based on the superficiality of the discussion, virtually none. Which means that the basic premise of this show is a fraud, because nobody, save Ms. Goldstone, who troubled herself to do some real investigating, knows what the hell they are talking about. Brotherton is especially to be condemned because most of his 15 questions imply that things which clearly are true on an episodic basis are not, and that one is delusional for believing them. But the delusion actually runs the other way. In modern institutional society, conspiracies abound. They're everywhere; virtually all organizations are controlled by small groups of their top officers. That's how organizations are designed to work. And large, powerful organizations do enable, by their very structure, small groups of insiders to wield extraordinary power. This is an integral feature of modern life. Therefore, if you are not a "conspiracy theorist", you are an ignorant fool. Modern mass society cannot be accurately understood without taking this into account. This is especially true with regard to political life , where small groups of people are continually battling, in secret, for control over the institutional levers of power. Delving into any particular occurrence is difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes dangerous. But when things do come to light, there is invariably revealed a complex web of secret machinations by small groups of insiders, who sometimes are influenced by public reaction. It is with this conceptual framework in mind that the entire issue of conspiracy should always be approached. Mr. Policon