June 8, 2008

Michael Parenti: Conspiracy Phobia on the Left


It is an either-or world for those on the Left who harbor an aversion for
any kind of conspiracy investigation: either you are a structuralist in
your approach to politics or a "conspiracist" who reduces historical
developments to the machinations of secret cabals
, thereby causing us
to lose sight of the larger systemic forces. As Chomsky notes: "However
unpleasant and difficult it may be, there is no escape from the need to confront
the reality of institutions and the policies and actions they largely shape." (Z
Magazine, 10/92).

I trust that one of the institutions he has in mind is
the CIA. In most of its operations, the CIA is by definition a
conspiracy, using covert actions and secret plans
, many of which are of
the most unsavory kind. What are covert operations if not conspiracies? At the
same time, the CIA is an institution, a structural part of the national security
state. In sum, the agency is an institutionalized conspiracy.

... Left publications have given much attention to conspiracies
such as Watergate, the FBI Cointelpro, Iran-Contra, Iraq-gate, CIA
drugs-for-guns trade, BCCI, and savings-and-loans scandals
. It is never
explained why these conspiracies are important while the FJK assassination is
not. Chip Berlet repeatedly denounces conspiracy investigations while himself
spending a good deal of time investigating Lyndon LaRouche's fraudulent
financial dealings, conspiracies for which LaRouche went to
. Berlet never explains why the LaRouche conspiracy is a subject
worthy of investigation but not the JFK conspiracy.

G. William Domhoff points out: "If 'conspiracy' means that these [ruling class] men are aware of their interests, know each other personally, meet together privately and off the record, and try to hammer out a consensus on how to anticipate and react to events and issues, then there is some conspiring that goes on in CFR [the Council for Foreign Relations], not to mention the Committee for Economic Development, the Business Council, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency." After providing this useful description of institutional conspiracy, Domhoff then conjures up a caricature that often clouds the issue: "We all have a tremendous tendency to want to get caught up in believing that there's some secret evil cause for all of the obvious ills of the world." Conspiracy theories "encourage a belief that if we get rid of a few bad people, everything will be well in the world."

To this simplistic notion Peter Dale Scott responds: "I believe that a true understanding of the Kennedy assassination will lead not to a few bad people but to the institutional and parapolitical arrangements which constitute the way we are systematically governed." In sum, national security state conspiracies are components of our political structure, not deviations from it.