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One of the eternal follies of old age is the delusion that you have a duty to record your insights into the nature of humanity before you perish, overlooking the fact that they are already common currency in every bar or taxicab in the world.

Thanks to Alfred Armstrong over at Odd Books for this flash in the pan brilliance.  The problem though is that old people know their wisdoms are common currency, they just want affirmation, to shock the youngins and/or want attention.  Spouting this craziness is just more fun.  When with a certain close group of friends we tend to become verbally rowdy and say things we would never actually say becasue we either do not believe them, are not creative enough when sober and/or do not care enough to fight our way past the knee-jerk reacting liberals up here in the tundra.

In any case, I think I may start writing about conspiracy theories.  These people seem to have a ton of fun and I want to join in.  Being the kook in the corner at a party might be a neat place for once.  9/11?  Inside job.  Autism?  Vaccines.  Vatican? Mouth piece for gloabl elites controlling all the money.  It is already more fun.

Plus, what better way to discount them when I decide that I’ve had enough fun?  For example, Scientologists.  Downtown a few days ago there was a protest across the street from the Scientology institute (institute?).  The people were in masks, they need to be anonymous because the Church of Scientology is known for being super letigious against protestors, handing out leaflets and carrying signs.  Meanwhile there was a guy acors the street rightin front of the place dressed in a coat and tie.  He would stop passerbys and talk to them.  He came off as a sincere Scientologist.  Too sincere.  He was very creepy and I think he was actually protesting by over-identifying and turning people off of Scientology: “if that guy is one of them, then I want no part in it.”  Zizek talks about this, somewhere (I am currently being lazy), in the context of resisting militarism.  He claims Platoon does a better job than M.A.S.H. because of this same over-identification strategy of resistance.

I like that logic, but I wonder how effective either can be as a stand-alone strategy.  The uberScientologist may push people away but do they actually think less about the group without knowing there is a criticism as well?  MLK needed Malcolm X.  Young people need old people if only for their reactionary sentimentality that drives progress and a disdain for traditions.

BTW, if Scientologists are not Christians why do they display a cross?  Does the cross make them appear to be less non-Christian than they are?

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Here is another passage I recently found in my files. Although it was written before the current terrorism ‘craze’ it still seems as erudite to me now as it did to me then. Some would say this passage does not speak to contemporary times, and in response (does this argument not prove the very argument it is supposed to refute?) I would contend that this book was written in a state of terroristic ‘craze’. The book was a study of Spain and the Basque problem at a time when ETA was very active and most of the Spanish population was concerned about terrorism. While things may have changed here in the US since the publishing of this book, it is arguably the same environment as the environment that created the book.

It is hard to imagine a better and more widespread example of what Richard Hofstadter labeled “the paranoid style in American politics” than the rhetoric of experts such as Claire Sterling. She replicates, almost literally, the fears of other alleged grand world conspiracies, such as the panic that broke out at the end of the eighteenth century in New England against the Bavarian Illuminati, and which merited a leap into fantasy by the other well-known author John Robinson when he charged that the association had been formed “for the express purpose of…OVERTURNING ALL THE EXISTING GOVERNMENTS OF EUROPE.” Soon the Illuminati were held to be the Antichrist and denounced from the pulpits of New England, even though it is uncertain whether any of them ever came to the United States from Germany. The anti-Masonic movement of the 1820s and 1830s reflects the same obsession with conspiracy, thus illustrating the essence of the paranoid style, which posits “the existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character.” Such an apocalyptic framework is quite characteristic of terrorism discourse. (J. Zulaika and W. Douglas. Terror and taboo: The follies, fables and faces of terrorism. NY: Routledge. pp. 53-4.)

There is a conversation on many blogs that I read about conspiracy theorists and why those conspiracies believe what so few believe. I think this passage sheds some light on the topic. The mainstream story we are told is a conspiracy theory, so why is the counter-narrative so preposterous from a rhetorical perspective? It is a peculiarly American political narrative that makes the conspiracy a credible story for our community. There are probably many arguments, beyond this note and my background, which illustrate this peculiarity. Analysis of conspiracy theories, which some of the writers are not guilty of omitting, needs to begin not with the conspiracy inquiries but rather an examination of conspiracy theory versus conspiracy theory. Why does one gain more salience than the other? That should be the starting point of these discussions.

The passage, however, should not be used only to counter the War on Terrorism critics, but should also be a lens through which we examine the War on Terrorism. Zulaika and Douglas seem particularly prescient as they could be writing 5 years later without having to change a single word from this passage. I could do some work and find the ramblings of our administration to highlight the passage in to-day’s context, but I will not. The passage is, I believe, an enthymeme: everyone knows the continuation without needing it to be told to them. If I am wrong about this, if you do not see the Bush criticism in the passage above then let me know and I will expound.