The Left and conspiracy theories

Cross posted on my own blog

Fifty years ago, a book was written about political conspiracy theories. It was called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It was written in 1964 and has been a staple of the left ever since. Its theme was the paranoia of the political right that was looking for communists in the State Department and harassing Hollywood actors and writers. It was specifically directed at Senator Barry Goldwater who was the Republican nominee that year. It is still in print with new material contributed by Sean Wilentz, an Obama supporter and leftist professor of history.

It has been an article of faith on the left that conservatives are paranoid about such subjects as communists (Although defenders of Alger Hiss were disappointed to find him in Soviet archives as a spy) and foreign threats like the Soviet Union and militant Islam. The left now says that they knew all along that the USSR would collapse and Reagan had nothing to do with it. Fortunately for them, You Tube was not around in those days to record speeches to the contrary. The threat of militant Islam is the latest example of a threat dismissed by the left. President Obama has embodied this concept in his “reaching out” to Iran and Syria. Nancy Pelosi even conducted her own diplomacy while Bush was president by visiting Syria to convince them we were a friend. The left does not seem to be discouraged by failure to respond.

Recently, especially since Obama has been president, the conspiracy forces seem to be stronger on the left. The “9/11 truthers” are represented even in the administration. Jones, of course, was too nutty to represent a serious threat but it is suggestive.

Jones’s genius as an ideological entrepreneur was to mine white liberal anxiety — they are quite aware of their own NIMBY hypocrisy — by selling them the “green jobs” shtick to reconcile class/racial guilt with environmental enthusiasm, thus making them feel better about themselves.

That’s why Jones rose so far. That’s why he was such a “progressive” star. That’s why, as top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett put it, “we’ve been watching him” and were so eager to recruit him to the White House.

In the White House no more. Why? He’s gone for one reason and one reason only. You can’t sign a petition demanding not one but four investigations of the charge that the Bush administration deliberately allowed Sept. 11, 2001 — i.e., collaborated in the worst massacre ever perpetrated on American soil — and be permitted in polite society, let alone have a high-level job in the White House.

He was “outed” and recently had a free lance reporter expelled from a “open to the public” meeting he was holding.

I read leftist blogs to find out what the other side is thinking. Here are some recent examples. In a post about the current struggle over the Bush tax rates, Steve Benen says:

There’s a reasonable case to be made that we’re looking at a cumulative effect. For much of the left, the concessions, many of which seemed wholly unnecessary, are just becoming intolerable. The party’s messaging, tactics, and inability to compromise effectively are just exasperating, and the apparent fact that Republicans will get an extension of a failed tax policy has led some to throw up their arms in disgust and proclaim, “I’ve had it.”

I get that. It’s a sentiment that obviously makes sense.

The Democrats are committed to static analysis of tax effects. A tax cut loses revenue while a tax increase adds revenue. Now why are the Democrats, who have large majorities in both houses of Congress, unable to block this Republican effort to keep tax rates the same? It can’t be good economic policy because Steve Benen said so. What could they do to convince Republicans the Democrat position is the better choice ? Here are some theories.

You’re sending the message the richest of the rich actually control this country, and in order to get a few crumbs for the common man, the rich need to be paid off with borrowed money – money that the common man (and woman), and their children, will be obligated to pay back, with interest. That does not bode well for the future of America.

Posted by: delNorte

So the rich and the corporations control the country. That is probably the most widely accepted conspiracy theory in the country. It is accepted by the left and many independents.

I think it’s a confluence of reasons: 1) It’s a simple issue with little to no nuance. There is no good reason to extend the cuts to the rich (outside of politics). 2) OTOH, the bank bailout and the fin reg are/were very complex issues which did not satisfy anyone’s sense of justice for holding responsible those to blame for the mess we’re in.

Posted by: You Don’t Say

Now, there is another theory. There is no reason to keep the tax rates the same for those with incomes over $250,000 except politics. Here is a person who does not believe that small business creates jobs. I doubt he would be impressed by this video. That business owner makes $300,000 and employes about ten people. Raise his taxes and what happens ? Who cares ?

There is absolutely NO convincing case that extending tax breaks for the super-wealthy is good for the nation; quite the reverse — it signals that the unabated looting of America is now in full swing;

Here’s more the same from another commenter.

What strikes me is there is no discussion of economics and how the economy works. OK. “Trickle Down” doesn’t work. “Tax cuts for the rich” doesn’t work. What does work ? Silence.

This morning, the This Week program on ABC, in its new incarnation with Christiane Amanpour, spent the entire show on DADT. They said not a word about the economy. DADT will not be repealed so why spend an hour on it two days after the unemployment rate went up again to 9/8% ? The political left is bored by economics and the national economy. They are far more interested in social issues like DADT or gay marriage. I can understand this because so many of them are government employees, or academic institution employees or low level employees of private organizations who have nothing to do with managing the business. They don’t know how private business is managed, they have never signed the front of a paycheck, and have no idea how people make decisions about investing because, aside from 401ks, they have no contact with it.

There was an amusing exchange about passports yesterday. It began with this:

Mayor Mike Bloomberg, leader of the Bloomberg faction of the Bloomberg party, was interviewed en route to China, where he was seeking to open diplomatic ties between Cathay and the colorful principality he governs. A quote: “If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate — they can’t read. I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports.”

Imagine that ! People who don’t have passports ! Anyway, the funniest part was a comment that the writer was being interviewed about tea parties by a German journalist. She asked him if he had a passport and he told her that he had lived in Germany as a child. I can’t find the link now and I wish he had asked her if she had ever owned a share of stock. Economic ignorance seems to be requirement for leftist credentials. Not only ignorance but disinterest.

15 thoughts on “The Left and conspiracy theories”

  1. Richard Epstein is a law professor at the University of Chicago. He described his conversations with Obama [edited]:

    === ===
    The fundamental mistake of Obama’s entire world view is that he treats contracts as devices for exploitation and not as devices for mutual gain, and he assumes that redistribution can take place without any negative impact upon production.
    === ===

    This is the basis for the regulation and harassment of business in the US. The progressive and Democratic view is that business is theft. It must be closely regulated in detail to prevent the thieves from stepping over the line. If business itself is supressed along the way, then it is worth it to stop the thievery.

    The following is consistent with Obama’s actions: Obama is working hard to take the dead hand of capitalism off of the backs of the workers. After a period of dislocation, we will all be working a harder, poorer, but a more satisfying life that is in accord with the principles of an overarching, federal community of values.

    –> Richard Epstein Discusses Barack Obama

  2. I probably should have provided a link to this marvelous essay from last year.

    Yet they [ Gorbachev and Obama] do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

  3. “Recently, especially since Obama has been president, the conspiracy forces seem to be stronger on the left.”

    This is a decidedly odd statement. It is fairly standard that whatever party or ideology is on the “outside” of power is where the conspiracy nonsense will ferment. Witness the ‘Black Helicopter’ types of the Clinton era. That in mind, the statement above seems to ignore the fact that the conspiacy yahoos have been far far stronger on the left ever since W. Bush “stole” the election, yabba yabba yabba, downhill from there. That was ten years ago. The right wing conspirators have largely been in remission during that time.

    So with that in mind, it is very much worth noting how, I for one, assumed that, when the Dems took Congress, and then the White House, both the anger and the conspiracy bosh would then swing back right. Stunned was I to find that the left had assumed power, and I could not detect one iota of lessening of their frothing-at-the-mouth rage at world that simply refuses to conform to their quasi-religious framework of how it all “ought to be.” THAT is an extremely cogent observation of the modern day left, well worth remembering.

    The other point worth making hereabout the conspiracists is how much of a hit they have taken via WikiLeaks. Unless one is prepared to argue that the ENTIRE Wikileaks scandal is a put up job to hid the “real” truth, blah blah blah….. take your meds, please…. the biggest revelation of WikiLeaks is that almost ALL of the so-called conspiracies of the Western world are outright horse-puckey, and any ones that WOULD BE true will be and are damn hard to hide…. from anybody.

    I really dislike conspiracy freaks. Thier entire purpose is to convince themselves and everyone else that they are so much more moral than their so-called perpetrators, and so much more brilliant than all of us sheeple who just “don’t want to see the truth”.

    “A man who believes in nothing will believe in anything.” Conspiracy freaks will believe anything, and are generally idiots who are about one-sixth as smart as they think they are.

  4. “that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air”

    Gorbachev, Obama and some contractors. One carpenter removed several consecutive studs in a load-bearing wall without reinforcing the opening, maintaining it was not a structural wall contrary to my assertion. Then, things began to sag…

    Both Left and Right seem to have their share of fabulous, mainstreamed conspiratorialists. Think Oliver Stone, Al Gore, Michael Moore, Dick Gregory, maybe Lyndon LaRouche and, um, I can’t say who else because I’m beginning to believe in plots ever since Obama and Napolitano decided to serially irradiate the Cain and Abels and promised lands of America’s Type A+ productive class– business frequent fliers.


  5. John, I saw that but can’t find the comment about being interviewed by the German journalist. I think it was him but can’t find a link.

    Adrew, I don’t disagree but I was also surprised they didn’t settle down and try to govern. Maybe that was what I was referring to.

  6. MK – My post may have seemed even a smidge like it was targeted at you directly, when it definitely was not. I think much of what you specifically refer to is more like “collective motivation” of the “rich and corporations” and the like, etc, then outright conspiracy idiocy, i.e. 9/11 trutherism, moon-landing nonsense, and Cheney-Rove-ism (heh).

    It was the thing about conspiracy theories being “stronger on the left lately” that prompted my response, that I had to take issue with in general. I’ve had SO much of it over the past ten years driving me stone nuts that I had to jump in.

    ‘Nuff said.

  7. What does work?

    I don’t think they’re that shy about saying what works. It’s a two-pronged approach: stimulus spending and maintaining fiscal responsibility. Stimulus spending creates jobs, and good, high-paying, sustainable jobs at that. Sadly, real stimulus hasn’t been tried; only a few nine-figure expenditures in a $14 trillion economy, which were obviously too small to have any noticeable effect.

    Stimulus spending works by stimulating aggregate demand, which is too low right now. The money gets into the hands of the middle class, who will spend it. (That’s also why it’s a good idea to extend emergency unemployment benefits to 130 or 140 weeks.) Middle-class consumer spending drives the economy. If money reaches the middle class, they can start to buy imports and begin to restore global trade, which is the least we can do after the harm we caused the global economy. The middle class may also be willing to use money to take a chance on the recovery of the market, and provide capital for business expansion.

    Of course, there’s more to good economic policy than spending unprecedented amounts of money. It’s also important to have fiscal discipline. As the president has made perfectly clear, he is committed to fiscal responsibility. Elementary Keynesian economics demands deficit spending to exert a counter-cyclical effect on the economy. Unfortunately, the debt is already enormous because of the deficits during the Bush years, which were a mistake despite the fact that the economy was terrible then too. (If anything, the economy was much worse while Bush was President, though that doesn’t mean either that he was right to run deficits or that deficit spending doesn’t help the economy.) Since fiscal discipline is as important as putting extra trillions in spending under federal control, the only responsible thing to do is raise taxes.

    It wouldn’t make any sense to tax the middle class beneficiaries of the stimulus. That would mean money was just cycling through the economy, instead of growing GDP through the multiplier effect. Instead, taxes should be raised on the rich. The middle class needs the money to improve demand in consumer goods and import industries and to invest in America. Money left in the hands of the rich is just wasted on luxury items, sending jobs overseas to foreigners, and wasteful speculation.

    I really think it’s that simple.

  8. I really think it’s that simple.

    I know you do but it isn’t. Borrowing money and giving it to people to spend has been given a very good trial. It’s called the real estate bubble. Millions borrowed the new paper equity they thought they had in their houses and spent it. More of the same isn’t the answer.

  9. Michael Kennedy: Do you think we are having our collective legs pulled by Mr. B. Gates? Sometimes parody of the left-wing position looks like the left wing position (the economy was worse under Mr. Bush, but Mr. Bush was wrong to try stimulus and Mr. Obama, with a less-worse economy is correct?)

  10. I really think it’s that simple.

    I know you do but it isn’t.

    I’m fairly sure bgates’ post was satire. To actually believe what was written in that post requires a significant amount of cognitive dissonance of which I see no evidence.

    What’s that saying about how much trouble we’re in when it is not longer possible to tell whether someone is being satirical or serious?

  11. As always the economics of the left only makes sense if you posit wealth as falling from the sky from mysterious sources and concentrating in individuals for equally mysterious reasons. The idea that the quote super-rich unquote might have acquired their super-riches by generating an even greater degree of wealth that is now enjoyed by others is either insanity, wishful thinking, or heresy.

  12. One reason for the delusion about super wealth is that super wealthy Democrats tend to have inherited it (or, like John Kerry, married it) and therefore assume others have, as well.

    It is alarming that parody is getting hard to recognize.

    $250,000 is by no means super wealth. Having educated five children and survived two divorces with an average income not much higher than that, I can identify.

  13. To elaborate on Michael’s point, there are three leftist red herrings at work here. The first is their ridiculous definition of “wealthy”; we all know that just about any small business owner who incorporates as a sub-S will fall above their “wealthy” cut line, while being well short of having Scrooge McDuck’s money bin to swim in.

    The second red herring, which a lot of people haven’t yet picked up on, is that when the left says “the rich”, they don’t mean everyone who is wealthy. They only mean people who got that way from engaging in business and industry. They don’t mean leftists who inherited/married into wealth (as in the Kerry example). Or the ones who are wealthy by proxy, via having gained control of well-endowed institutions like the Ford Foundation. Or those who became wealthy through government graft. Or the Hollywood leftists — they are among the wealthiest individuals in the world, yet the left doesn’t count them as “rich” as long as they do the left’s bidding.

    The third red herring is that, as we’ve learned from the vetting of the Obama political appointees: when leftists do owe taxes, they simply don’t pay them. Because their tribe controls the executive prosecutorial functions, they have no fear of being prosecuted. At worst, if they are caught and it becomes a political embarrassment, they’ll offer to pay back (some of) what is owed, and then get political donors to pay it for them.

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