PDA

View Full Version : Lance De Haven - Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America



Albert Rossi
07-29-2013, 01:16 PM
http://www.amazon.com/Conspiracy-Theory-America-Discovering/dp/0292743793

I just finished this book. It is well written, and offers a sophisticated discussion of a number of important topics concerning the poisoning (and closing off) of public discourse via the term / meme "conspiracy theory".

Some of the more important components of his argument:

- the vagueness of the concept supposedly denoted by the term
- the fact that belief in and distrust of the tendency for political power to be managed through factionalism was actually a cornerstone of the U.S. constitutional system of checks and balances; the "naturalness" of this form of political thought actually could be said to characterize American attitudes until WWII; the current state of affairs is thus a reversal, according to him, of a traditional perspective on power
- the fact that this kind of thinking about cabals or factions within the realm of governance has been too easily and wrongly conflated by modern political science and sociology with 19th-century fears and prejudices based on race, religion, and ethnicity
- the injection of this meme into the American lexicon by CIA/media assets in response to the first wave of skepticism concerning the Warren Report (he reproduces in full at the end of the book the famous internal memo recommending how to handle the critics)
- a solid and insightful comparative analysis of three political thinkers who have shaped the debate about "conspiracies" in the social sciences: Charles Beard, Karl Popper and Leo Strauss (at long last, an author who takes the problem of conspiracy seriously directly engages its academic/philosophical substrate); what he has to say about the logical fallacies in Popper and the influence of Strauss on neocon thinking is very good

Throughout the book, De Haven-Smith replaces the term "conspiracy", at least for the kinds of collusion we are usually interested in, with the acronym "SCAD", standing for "State Crime Against Democracy". He has a long appendix in which he enumerates the most important SCADs in US history, beginning with the Sedition Act of 1798.

Where De Haven-Smith really shines, in my opinion, is when he does extended readings of cultural memes. The high point, a deconstructive tour de force, is his discussion of the "9/11" meme. I won't reproduce it here, but it is perhaps the most comprehensive dismantling of the significance of the linguistic and semantic coding embedded in this peculiar usage.

I have some problems with the particulars of his views on certain events, in particular the JFK assassination and Watergate; those are, in my view, the weakest parts of his presentation. But notwithstanding my disagreements here, I think the book has much merit and is a worthwhile read.

Anthony Thorne
07-29-2013, 01:28 PM
I'm keen to purchase and read this one (it's quite nicely priced on Amazon). Thanks for the recommendation Albert. It makes a pleasant change to see quality writers approaching the subject of conspiracy without offering caveats and wringing their hands over the notion. I'm sure the very existence of the book has already pissed off some people somewhere.

Scroll down to show #628 (May 2nd) at the following link, and there's a long Black Op Radio interview featured with Lance De Haven-Smith.

http://blackopradio.com/archives2013.html

Albert Rossi
07-29-2013, 01:29 PM
I'm keen to purchase and read this one (it's quite nicely priced on Amazon). Thanks for the recommendation Albert. It makes a pleasant change to see quality writers approaching the subject of conspiracy without offering caveats and wringing their hands over the notion. I'm sure the very existence of the book has already pissed off some people somewhere.

Scroll down to show #628 (May 2nd) at the following link, and there's a long Black Op Radio interview featured with Lance De Haven-Smith.

http://blackopradio.com/archives2013.html

It was because of that interview that I bought and read the book!

Albert Rossi
07-29-2013, 01:44 PM
- the injection of this meme into the American lexicon by CIA/media assets in response to the first wave of skepticism concerning the Warren Report (he reproduces in full at the end of the book the famous internal memo recommending how to handle the critics).

I should add that this is not just a deduction he makes based on this document alone. He also provides statistical analyses based on the number of occurrences of the term, for example, in NYT articles before and after 1966. The graph is nearly flat until that point, at which it rises, if not exponentially, certainly polynomially, to the considerable figure it is today.

Keith Millea
07-29-2013, 03:25 PM
DVP needs a copy of this book.He uses the meme "conspiracy theory" in almost every post he makes to denigrate honest JFK researchers.What a sorry ass he is............

Albert Rossi
07-29-2013, 11:47 PM
I forgot to mention one other very important set of observations De Haven - Smith makes concerning the effect of the "conspiracy theory" meme. It is that of disconnectedness. How often do you hear about "The Kennedy Assassinations" anywhere outside the community? Certainly we have COPA, Probe, the Eugenio/Pease volume, and, from long ago, Scott, P.D., P.L. Hoch, and R. Stetler. The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond. A Guide to Cover-Ups and Investigations. New York: Vintage Books, 1976. But, at large, the term encourages one to treat each event as sui generis, an unicum with its own "theory", with the final implication of its being aberrant or unusual. Now of course I would not deny that the context and circumstances of each crime are indeed historically specific and determinate, but I would nonetheless concur that the term does have the power to deflect investigation of similarities and patterns by a subtle crippling of the analytic faculties. It also stops one from having suspicions about synchronicities, or sequences of events, that one would quite naturally be led to question. One of the author's favorite examples is how MSM have managed to avoid the obvious (or what at least appeared to me as obvious) connection between the Twin Towers/Pentagon attack and the anthrax scares that soon followed. Another example of this kind of blindness -- willful or imposed -- I sensed for many years but thought I was just being "paranoid" about, until I read Jim DiEugenio's two-part "Posthumous Assassination" essay: the waves of defamatory ordure dumped into the news-stream about the Kennedys seemed to me very often curiously timed to coincide with (and distract from) other revelations about the parallel government (when it was made clear in that article how closely tied these authors were to intelligence, I at last felt vindicated in my suspicions). How this terminological usage codifies the isolation of events this way is another canny perception offered by the author.

Magda Hassan
07-30-2013, 01:24 AM
I forgot to mention one other very important set of observations De Haven - Smith makes concerning the effect of the "conspiracy theory" meme. It is that of disconnectedness. How often do you hear about "The Kennedy Assassinations" anywhere outside the community? Certainly we have COPA, Probe, the Eugenio/Pease volume, and, from long ago, Scott, P.D., P.L. Hoch, and R. Stetler. The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond. A Guide to Cover-Ups and Investigations. New York: Vintage Books, 1976. But, at large, the term encourages one to treat each event as sui generis, an unicum with its own "theory", with the final implication of its being aberrant or unusual. Now of course I would not deny that the context and circumstances of each crime are indeed historically specific and determinate, but I would nonetheless concur that the term does have the power to deflect investigation of similarities and patterns by a subtle crippling of the analytic faculties. It also stops one from having suspicions about synchronicities, or sequences of events, that one would quite naturally be led to question. One of the author's favorite examples is how MSM have managed to avoid the obvious (or what at least appeared to me as obvious) connection between the Twin Towers/Pentagon attack and the anthrax scares that soon followed. Another example of this kind of blindness -- willful or imposed -- I sensed for many years but thought I was just being "paranoid" about, until I read Jim DiEugenio's two-part "Posthumous Assassination" essay: the waves of defamatory ordure dumped into the news-stream about the Kennedys seemed to me very often curiously timed to coincide with (and distract from) other revelations about the parallel government (when it was made clear in that article how closely tied these authors were to intelligence, I at last felt vindicated in my suspicions). How this terminological usage codifies the isolation of events this way is another canny perception offered by the author.
Yes, the 'disconnectedness'. It is the way most history is taught or presented and understood by most people. Each event is discreet and unique and made by powerful individuals acting according to their will.

On the other hand "Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand." — Karl Marx, Grundrisse, 1858