Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part Two

Bale then goes to contrast the non-existent groups of the bogus conspiracy theories, with real conspiratorial groups, which have exerted a genuine influence, such as the Afrikaner Broederbond, the extremist Afrikaner nationalist group that was ultimately responsible for the adoption of apartheid. He writes

No Monolithic Conspiracy
There has never been, to be sure, a single, monolithic Communist Conspiracy of the sort postulated by the American John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s. Nor has there ever been an all-encompassing International Capitalist Conspiracy, a Jewish World Conspiracy, a Masonic Conspiracy, or a Universal Vatican Conspiracy. And nowadays, contrary to the apparent belief of millions, neither a vast Underground Satanist Conspiracy nor an Alien Abduction Conspiracy exists. This reassuring knowledge should not, however, prompt anyone to throw out the baby with the bath water, as many academics have been wont to do. For just as surely as none of the above mentioned Grand Conspiracies has ever existed, diverse groups of Communists, capitalists, Zionists, masons and Catholics have in fact secretly plotted, often against one another, to accomplish various specific but limited political objectives.

No sensible person would claim, for example, that the Soviet secret police has not been involved in a vast array of covert operations since the establishment of the Soviet Union, or that international front groups controlled by the Russian Communist Party have not systematically engage in worldwide penetration and propaganda campaigns. it is nonetheless true that scholars have often hastened to deny the existence of genuine conspiratorial plots, without making any effort to investigate them, simply because such schemes fall outside their own realm of knowledge and experience or – even worse – directly challenge their sometimes naïve conceptions about how the world functions.

They Do Exist
If someone were to say, for example, that a secret masonic lodge in Italy had infiltrated all of the state’s security agencies and was involved in promoting or exploiting acts of neo-fascist terrorism in order to condition the political system and strengthen its own hold over the levers of government, most newspaper readers would probably assume that they were joking or accuse them of having taken leave of their senses. Ten years ago I might have had the same reaction myself. Nevertheless, although the above statement oversimplifies a far more complex pattern of interaction between the public and private spheres, such a lodge in fact existed. It was known as Loggia Massonica Propaganda Due (P2), was affiliated with the Grand Orient branch of Italian masonry, and was headed by a former fascist militiaman named Licio Gelli. In all probability something like P2 still exists today in an altered form, even though the lodge was officially outlawed in 1982. Likewise, with the claim that an Afrikaner secret society, founded in the second decade of this century [the 20th], had played a key role in establishing the system of apartheid in South Africa, and in the process helped to ensure the preservation of ultra-conservative Afrikaner cultural values and Afrikaner political dominance until 199. (sic). Yet this organisation also existed. It was known as the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), and it formed a powerful ‘state within a state’ in that country by virtue, among other things, of its unchallenged control over the security services. There is no doubt that specialists on contemporary Italian politics who fail to take account of the activities of P2, like experts on South Africa who ignore the AB, are missing an important dimension of political life there. Nevertheless, neither of these to important organisations has been thoroughly investigated by academics. In these instances, as is so often the case, investigative journalists have done most of the truly groundbreaking preliminary research.
(pp. 21-2).

He then goes on criticise the attitude of historians like David Hackett Fischer, who have identified those theories that attribute too much power to secret organisations as part of the ‘furtive fallacy’, but then go too far the other way in insisting that the only significant influences are those that are above board and public, and that nothing of any significance has ever been by clandestine groups. He writes

To accept these unstated proposition uncritically could induce a person, among other things, to overlook the bitter nineteenth century struggle between political secret societies for, at least, between revolutionaries using non-political secret societies as a ‘cover’ and the political police of powerful states like Austria and Russia, to minimise the role played by revolutionary vanguard parties in the Russian and communist Chinese revolutions, or to deny that powerful intelligence services like the CIA and the KGB have fomented coups and intervened massively in the internal affairs of other sovereign states since the end of World War II. In short, it might well lead to the misinterpretation or falsification of history on a grand scale.

It is easier to recognise such dangers when relatively well-known historical development like these are used as illustrative examples, but problems often arise when the possible role played by conspiratorial groups in more obscure event is brought up. It is above all in these cases, as well as in high-profile cases where a comforting ‘official’ version of events has been widely diffused, that commonplace academic prejudices against taking covert politics seriously come into play and can exert a potentially detrimental effect on historical judgements. (p. 21-2, my emphasis).

He concludes

There is probably no way to prevent this sort of unconscious reaction in the current intellectual climate, but the least that can be expected of serious scholars is that they carefully examine the available evidence before dismissing matters out of hand.

The proposals by YouTube, the Beeb and the Tory Party to set up monitoring groups to rebut ‘fake news’ go far beyond normal academic prejudice against taking real secret politics seriously. They are an attempt to present a very comforting official version of politics, which in the case of the Tory party means suppressing and falsifying the horrific assault their policies have had on British institutions, industry, and people since Maggie Thatcher. They are trying to shore up the decaying economic edifice of neoliberalism by presenting its opponents as wild-eyed radicals in the grip of loony conspiracies, producing ‘fake news’.

And the same is true of Israel lobby, which tries to hide its attempts to pervert British and American politics through lobbying and the sponsorship of leading politicians. It also uses the existence of malign, anti-Semitic conspiracies as a weapon to smear genuine historians and activists, who support the Palestinians in their struggle for dignity and equality, or simply want to correct their lies, as anti-Semites. People like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and so many, many others. They need to be stopped. Now.

The article is available at the magazine’s website. However, early issues, like 29 are behind a paywall. The editor, Robin Ramsay, has also written a book on conspiracies, where he makes the same distinction.


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One Response to “Lobster on Real Conspiracies Versus Conspiracy Theories: Part Two”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    old movie ‘Salamander’ showing on iplayer….hmmmm

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