New York City activist

October 14, 2007

Chip Berlet and “Conspiracism”

Chip Berlet is a leftist writer who opposes the 9/11 Truth movement. In my opinion, he raises valid objections to what he calls “conspiracism” (which he distinguishes from the kinds of conspiracies that are actually likely to exist). But he wrongly classifies, as full-blown “conspiracism,” the idea that 9/11 was an inside job. Thus he echoes what seems to be a key propaganda ploy on the part of those covering up major crimes by high-level people within the U.S. government, namely lumping the evidence for such crimes together with some truly wacky (and truly dangerous) ideas to create the stereotype of the nutty “conspiracy theorist.” Berlet also, apparently, either ignores or has not yet looked at some of the better evidence for government complicity in the attacks of 9/11. On the other hand, I also think that what Berlet calls “conspiracism” is a genuine and dangerous trap which too many people in both the 9/11 Truth movement and the anti-war movement have fallen into, and it would be wise to pay attention to critiques of same.

Let’s look first at Chip Berlet’s article Post 9/11 Conspiracism. See also this response to Chip Berlet by Mark Robinowitz on the “Oil Empire” site.

The latter page contains copies of email correspondence between Robinowitz and Berlet, in which Berlet repeatedly dismisses Robinowitz’s evidence and insults Robinowitz’s research ability. But then, finally, Berlet all but admits that he himself has not examined most of the evidence that Robinowitz presented. Assuming Robinowitz has quoted him accurately, Berlet confesses: “I did not answer your long list of questions about 9/11 because I am employed as a researcher by a non-profit think tank that sets my research agenda,” and then, in a subsequent email, “The vast majority of research PRA conducts and publishes is not related to the issue of conspiracism.” I’ll say more about “conspiracism” later.

Elsewhere, e.g. in The New Pearl Harbor: A Debate On A New Book That Alleges The Bush Administration Was Behind The 9/11 Attacks, Berlet correctly refutes some of the weaker arguments made by people in the 9/11 Truth movement, such as the claim that the Pentagon was hit by something other than a 757. However, by no means does everyone in the 9/11 Truth movement endorse the latter claim. (See Pentagon no-757 theories: debunkings from within the 9/11 Truth movement.) Berlet falsely claims that such flimsy arguments are characteristic of the entire 9/11 Truth movement, ignoring mountains of better evidence for government complicity in the attacks of 9/11. (For a good summary of a lot of the better evidence, see 911proof.com.)

Against the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, Berlet’s main line of attack is to dismiss this idea as “conspiracism.” But what is “conspiracism”? His page on Post 9/11 Conspiracism distinguishes “conspiracism” from plausible conspiracies as follows:

People with unfair power and privilege generally try to hold onto that unfair power and privilege. Sometimes they make plans that are not publicly announced. Sometimes they engage in illegal plots. Real conspiracies have been exposed throughout history. History itself, however, is not controlled by a vast timeless conspiracy. The powerful people and groups in society are hardly a “secret team” or a tiny club of “secret elites.” The tendency to explain all major world events as primarily the product of a secret conspiracy is called conspiracism.

But a belief that 9/11 was an inside job does not, in and of itself, imply a belief that “History itself … is .. controlled by a vast timeless conspiracy” or the idea that “all major world events” are “primarily the product of a secret conspiracy.” To believe that 9/11 was an inside job, one needs only to believe that one particular major world event, namely 9/11, was the product of a secret conspiracy within the U.S. government, rather than just a secret conspiracy of 19 young men with box cutters plus a bearded older man in a cave. One might also believe, as Berlet himself concedes further down on the page, that there have existed other conspiracies by people within the U.S. government to commit various other crimes. (Berlet lists the Tuskegee experiments, COINTELPRO, and the Iran-Contra scandal.) One might also believe in the history of known previous false flag operations. But still, it’s a far cry from that to belief in a single vast generations-old conspiracy which masterminds just about everything.

It is, unfortunately, true that quite a few people in the 9/11 Truth movement are also “conspiracists” in a sense closer to Berlet’s definition. An example is what I call anti-Illuminism, which I have found to be disturbingly commonplace among activists in both the antiwar and 9/11 Truth movements here in New York. (See The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati.) Another example is the conspiratorial anti-Jew bigotry advocated by a small but vocal minority of people in the 9/11 Truth movement. Perhaps “conspiracists” are more likely than most other people to notice real conspiracies, as well as imaginary ones.

But the idea that 9/11 was an inside job does not, in and of itself, imply “conspiracism” in the sense in which Berlet claims to be using that term.

The idea that 9/11 was an insude job does lead logically to a number of conclusions, some which are spelled out on the 9/11 Truth page of the TruthMove site. But none of these conclusions, either, require belief in a single overarching conspiracy which controls and micromanages the entire rest of the world.

In the Z Magazine article Debunking Conspiracy Theories: An Interview with Chip Berlet by David Barsamian, Chip Berlet makes some good arguments against “conspiracism” in the sense of grand-conspiracy theories like anti-Illuminism and conspiratorial anti-Jew bigotry a la Henry Ford’s The International Jew. For example:

People who believe in conspiracy theory are correct in analyzing that the world does not work the way power elites say it works; that there is a disjuncture between how power is realized and how we’re told the U.S. works — as a democracy with everyone having a vote and everyone having a role in developing policies for the United States.

The problem is when this is all attempted to be knit together into one seamless tapestry that goes back hundreds of years and involves everybody who is in the media, education, and politics. It’s this extension into complete control over all aspects of a person’s life that debunks conspiracy just on the basis of rational investigation. You simply can’t have a conspiracy that goes back centuries and extends across so many different sectors of a society and not have it unravel as people turn against each other.

Indeed that would be true for an alleged conspiracy “that goes back centuries and extends across so many different sectors of a society.” Such a vast and overarching secret could not be kept for very long.

But the idea that 9/11 was an inside job does not require such a conspiracy. It requires only a much smaller, limited-purpose conspiracy within the CIA plus probably a few high-ranking people in the administration, such as the President and/or the Vice President and/or the Secretary of Defense, plus maybe a few high-ranking people in NORAD and/or the FAA, plus maybe Larry Silverstein and/or some high-ranking person in the Port Authority and/or in Securacom, plus maybe a few high-ranking people in the New York City government. (It also requires a larger set of subordinates unknowingly used by the knowing conspirators.) It is possible, though a challenge, for a relatively small group of people to keep a secret, at least for a little while, especially if the people in question, such as CIA agents and military officials, are already accustomed to keeping secrets and trained to do so.

The Z Magazine interviewer says: “Some of the groups that keep turning up over and over again are, for example, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, the Bilderburgers, the Rockefellers, and others.”

To which Berlet replies:

Some of these are institutions that have real power in the world and we should be investigating them as power brokers. The dilemma is assuming because a group has power that it has control. There are many powerful groups that meet and plot strategy. The Bilderburgers are a real banking group, the Trilateral Commission really does affect foreign policy.

That’s Bilderberg, not Bilderburg, and it’s not just a “banking group.” It’s a privately-organized, highly secretive off-the-record gathering of powerful people, both from the governments of many different countries and from large corporations of various kinds. (See Bilderberg: The ultimate conspiracy theory by Jonathan Duffy, Thursday, 3 June, 2004, on the BBC News site.) While it probably does not micromanage the world to the extent that many “conspiracists” believe, it certainly is a vehicle of multinational corporate influence on the governments of many different countries and probably, in many cases, against the best interests of the general publics of those countries.

But there isn’t one group that is the puppeteer over everything; there are a number of groups that are jockeying for power. Sometimes they work together, sometimes they have falling-outs. That’s the distinction here. An institutional analysis would look at the role of these powerful groups and say, “This is where they’ve been successful, this is where they’ve failed. These groups worked together for a number of years. Now they don’t work together.” It’s the insistence on a kind of Manichean thinking: there are evil forces in the world and good people have to expose them, and everything will be fine once they are exposed. This is a magical explanation of how the world works. Power concedes nothing without a struggle, as Frederick Douglass pointed out. You cannot change the way power is exercised in the world simply by exposing a handful of people. There needs to be a struggle to explain how systems and institutions and structures of society affect us.

Even if we could expose a handful of people who are powerful, there would still be powerful forces of capitalism and class exploitation. There would be powerful forces of white supremacy. There would be patriarchy. There would be heterosexism.

I agree with all the above. But it’s irrelevant to the question of whether 9/11 was an inside job.

Berlet then gives an interesting brief history of “conspiracism”:

Skipping over the 2,000 years of Christian millennial, apocalyptic allegations of conspiracy, we can cut to the chase around the late 1700s. The basic idea really starts as a defense of the monarchy and oligarchy in Europe against the Enlightenment, against free thinkers and liberal thinkers in Europe who were demanding that citizens have a right to have a say in their society. People who defended church-state alliance, the monarchy, and oligarchy put out a series of books alleging that calling for voting and democracy and the scientific method and the Enlightenment was all a plot by people trying to destroy society by undermining church and state. The basic allegations of modern conspiracy thinking start out as a right-wing attack in defense of the status quo. Ironically, as more and more democracy was introduced into society, this flips and people now are criticizing the government, claiming that the government is run by the conspiracy.

For many decades these are right-wing theories that surface against the Jesuits, against Jews, against anarchists, and during the McCarthy period, against Communists. The basic theme is that the reason you’re unhappy with the government is that there are these secret elites who run everything. The original allegations started out with the Illuminati, which is said to be controlling the Freemasons. In the 1900s, this gets changed to the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” a hoax document that alleges that Jews run everything.

I agree that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion probably drew inspiration from earlier anti-Illuminist propaganda.

In the 1950s, it’s all about the Communists and the State Department and the CIA versus the really righteous people in the military and conservative groups. Today it filters down so that a number of progressives have adopted this way of thinking and claim that ever since the JFK assassination the government has been run by a handful of secret elites.

Berlet fails to mention one of the most disturbing aspects of “conspiratorialism” among progressives, namely that some of these supposedly progressive folks blame “the Illuminati.” Historically, the Bavarian Illuminati held progressive views and were vilified precisely because of their progressive views. Hence anti-Illuminism, no matter who advocates it, inevitably plays into the hands of reactionaries of the most retrograde sort. (See The recent growth of anti-Illuminism: Dreadful ideology about the dreaded Illuminati.) So, Chip Berlet would indeed have very good reason to be concerned about the growth of anti-Illuminism especially within progressive movements, where it is, most definitely, a Trojan horse, for more reasons besides just its diversion of attention away from the “institutional or structural analysis” that Berlet says he favors:

The reason I get so frustrated with this is that we’re sitting here in a library. Just a few feet from us there are 300 or 400 books written by right wingers over the last 50 years making all of these allegations. Then I have a shelf of books by progressives who have adopted this way of thinking and made it a progressive issue by abandoning any kind of systemic institutional or structural analysis.

I would suggest that Berlet spend more of his time exposing and opposing anti-Illuminism, specifically, if his think tank, PRA, decides to continue its crusade against “conspiracism.”

There is a habit of people who promote conspiracism to delete from the discussion any counterevidence. I think that’s very clearly the case with the people who are talking about 9/11 being a plot by the Bush administration or the Mossad from Israel. They come up with all these tantalizing little facts and then string them together into a conclusion that isn’t borne by the facts. What’s more, the facts they choose don’t include all the facts that would negate their assumption. They delete any evidence that contradicts what they’re saying.

That’s certainly true of some people in the 9/11 Truth movement. However, some people in the 9/11 Truth movement are more careful researchers than others.

Later, the Z Magazine interviewer says: “Two prominent conspiracy theories are the assassination of John F. Kennedy and September 11.”

If indeed the CIA was involved in the the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then that too, like the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, does not require a “conspiracist” worldview.

I personally have not yet studied the Kennedy assassination in-depth and do not yet have a position on whether there is sufficient sound evidence in favor of the idea of government involvement in that particular crime. I’m simply noting a category error here. Whether or not it’s true, the idea of CIA involvement in the Kennedy assassination does NOT belong in the same “conspiracist” category as anti-Illuminism or the idea of a vast, world-controlling conspiracy of Jews. Rather, it would be essentially just another criminal conspiracy within the government, of pretty much the same kind as Iran-Contra, only more blatantly treasonous. Given that the CIA has had plenty of experience doing assassinations overseas, and given the lack of accountability that follows from the CIA’s extreme secrecy, it’s not at all far-fetched that some folks in the CIA might assassinate someone at home too.

Regarding the Kennedy assassination, Berlet concedes that “the basic research of the Warren Commission was terrible,” but then goes on to say:

However, what a lot of people did — and this really starts on the left with Mark Lane and his book — was to valorize Kennedy in some way — this idea that Kennedy represented some ideal, utopian presidency and that his assassination, therefore, ushered in everything that was bad, especially the continuation of the Vietnam War. There are legitimate arguments back and forth about what Kennedy was planning on doing, but the bottom line is that you cannot ascribe everything bad that has happened since November 22, 1963 as flowing from this single assassination. The attacks on the civil rights movements, the escalation of the war in Vietnam, the Iran-Contra scandal, these are not all traceable back to the Kennedy assassination. If you look at some web pages, you will see that when they recommend the books that you need to read to understand U.S. politics—not just the Kennedy assassination, but the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, the Martin Luther King assassination, Flight TWA 800, and the AIDS virus—they’re all somehow connected to this power elite that runs everything and is destroying the world.

All of this is irrelevant to the question of whether the CIA, or some other part of the federal government, actually was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Berlet also says:

The allegation that comes through in JFK really is one that starts in the political right wing, which is that the military-industrial complex killed Kennedy. But you have to understand that this theory came from groups like the John Birch Society, which were so far to the right that they thought the Kennedy government was left-wing. But also, they thought that the military-industrial complex was a liberal, left-wing plot involving internationalism, so that they thought that this was an internecine struggle within liberalism and within the left and within the Rockefeller internationalists.

The left comes along. They don’t like the military-industrial complex. They take this allegation. They delete the right-wing analysis about the military-industrial complex being left wing and internationalist and part of the corporate global elites and they invert it and say, “Well, we know the military-industrial complex is right-wing. Therefore, the right wing killed Kennedy; therefore, Kennedy had to be good.” This is very appealing, but it’s completely nonrational and nonlogical and there is no evidence to defend it.

Again irrelevant to the question of who actually was ultimately responsible for killing JFK. Analysis of possible motives, whether from a right-wing or left-wing point of view, are not the most important type of criminal evidence.

Moreover, the right wing origins of an idea do not prove it to be false. Berlet here is committing the fallacy of guilt-by-association.

Nor does the idea that the CIA killed JFK have, in and of itself, the same kind of Trojan-horse consequences for progressive movements as does full-blown “conspiratorialism” (especially of the anti-Illuminist and Jew-hating varieties).

As is true of the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, it may also be true that many of the same people who say that the CIA killed JFK are also “conspiracists” in the sense that Berlet defines and denounces. But it is certainly possible to believe that the CIA killed JFK without being a full-blown “conspiracist.”

About the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, Berlet then says:

Have the people that have alleged these things to be true met the requirements of either basic logic or conventional journalistic practices? I don’t think so.

As I said, some researchers are more careful than others. I would suggest that Berlet look at the websites I’ve listed on the sidebar of this blog, under “Links – 9/11 – what happened?”

Regarding the “PATRIOT” act and the wars that followed 9/11, the Z Magazine interviewer says: “… The thinking here is that these outcomes clearly benefited the Bush administration agenda so that it must have been involved” in the 9/11 attacks.

To which Berlet replies: “That’s the basic fallacy of logic, sequence implies causation. If sequence implies causation, then anything that happens before and after can be linked. And that’s not true.”

No, the point of explaining how the Bush administration benefitted from 9/11 is to establish a possible motive. Of course, a possible motive, by itself, does not establish guilt. (Otherwise, for example, everyone who inherits some money would automatically be guilty of killing one’s parents.) However, evidence of motive is a valid part of a criminal case in conjunction with many other kinds of evidence, of course.

Berlet then says:

What’s more, it erases a whole history. We know, for instance, that almost all of the aspects of the Patriot Act had been proposed for ten years by conservatives who were horrified by the regulations and the restrictions that were put on government intelligence agencies after the FBI COINTEL program was exposed. When Reagan took office, he began to unravel regulations and restrictions. Clinton continued this policy. So it’s both Democrats and Republicans. We know from reading reports from the Heritage Foundation and from conservative pro-intelligence agency journals that these folks wanted a whole lot more power in the hands of law enforcement and the intelligence agencies.

Far from being “erased” by the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, the above only establishes even more of a likely motive.

What is a much more logical explanation is that, given the horrendous events on 9/11, this gigantic wish list from conservative pro-intelligence agency people was put back on the table, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had the backbone to stand up against it so it passed into law. That is a much more rational and reasonable explanation for what happened and it assumes that whenever there is some amazingly tragic and focusing event, there are people ready to exploit it to pursue their own ends.

Which explanation is “more rational and reasonable” depends on other kinds of evidence, most of which Berlet does not examine in this article, though he does comment on some of it.

Nowhere in this article does Berlet address what I consider to be some of the strongest evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, such as the Straight-down collapse of WTC 7 For other strong evidence, see 911proof.com.

Nor does he address the way the investigations were carried out and the substantial evidence of a coverup. The latter evidence is very solid and has been raised by many mainstream media sources and in some mainstream professional journals, not just by people in the 9/11 Truth movement. (See, for example, various articles linked on this page of 911proof.com.) The evidence of a coverup does not, in and of itself, prove that 9/11 was an inside job, but it does prove the need for a new and more truly independent investigation.

One issue Berlet does address is the apparent NORAD stand down. Berlet claims that NORAD just wasn’t able to respond in a timely fashion. This is an area I personally haven’t yet researched in enough depth to comment, except to note that the changing NORAD timelines are one of the many pieces of evidence suggesting a coverup.

On another issue, Bush’s behavior on 9/11, Berlet says:

If you’re going to try to argue that Bush set up this whole chain of events, or at least knew about it and did nothing, then you would think that his reactions during the day could have been better and more skillfully plotted out by his handlers, who obviously tell him what to say, where to go, and what to think. We have a situation where Bush seems to act in an inappropriate way. He then went into hiding, which certainly didn’t help him because it was the wrong thing to do in terms of his image. So if you’re arguing that this was all skillfully plotted, then why was his reaction that day and his handlers’ reactions so inept?

Perhaps because most of his advisors were not in on the plot? Or perhaps to help plant the seeds of an incompetence theory?

Berlet then responds to the claim that something other than a 757 hit the Pentagon. As I said earlier, this is an allegation which the more careful 9/11 researchers do not make.

The interview ends with a dismissal of the whole 9/11 issue as a waste of time.

In other words, just because the question of who really did what on 9/11 is complicated, we should be satisfied with sloppy official investigations and let the possible real criminals get away with it???

P.S., 10/17/2007: This blog entry has been linked to by one on Screw Loose Change, The Chameleon Truth Movement, where I’ve been implicitly accused of being a “Bilderberg conspiracy nutbar.” I’ve posted, as a comment there, a clarification to my paragraph about the Bilderberg group.

P.S., 12/11/2007: See the very interesting blog entry Conspiracy is an Absolute Fact by John Doraemi. I have not researched all the specific instances of wrongdoing by government officials that he alleges, so I can’t vouch for all of them, but the following is undoubtedly true:

When high level government officials agree that the Geneva Conventions are “quaint,” “obsolete,” [2] and that they are not going to follow the letter of the law [3], and that they are going to condone torture [4], this is a conspiracy, simply one of many that remains unprosecuted at this time.

Another very interesting article I came across which, in different words, makes some of the same distinctions I made in this blog entry, is “Of Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories: The Truth Buried by the Fantasies,” by Robin Ramsay, written back in 1996. (A copy of this article can be found on a website I prefer not to link to, but it can easily be Googled.)

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22 Comments »

  1. Hi Diane,

    I appreciate your attempts to see the complexity in this matter.

    Please note that I have continuously supported an independent investigation with subpoena power into the events before, during, and after 9/11. I have publicly suggested that those government employees who failed in their assigned duties and then covered it up after the fact should be indicted.

    I also support the issues raised in James Ridgeway’s highly critical book The 5 Unanswered Questions about 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us.

    An article I wrote objecting to conspiracism in the 9/11 movement appears in the October 2007 issue of the New Internationalist, already stolen and scanned online:

    http://www.nineeleven.co.uk/board/viewtopic.php?p=90365

    This article in the New Internationalist criticizes Tarpley, but was written and submitted before Tarpley attacked me online for my appearance on the History Channel. Another article critical of conspiracism and Tarpley will appear in a forthcoming issue of Z Magazine.

    You should know that Mark Robinowitz took what was a private e-mail correspondence with me and made it public. I do not challege the quotes, however, just the ethics. People who think of themselves as progressive should not violate trust and stab a supposed colleague in the back. Principled criticism is one thing; self aggrandizing bullshit is quite another.

    My private correspondence with Robinowitz took place in the summer of 2004. I had just completed a study of some of the 9/11 claims I considered dubious, and engaged in a critical (yet respectful) dialogue with David Ray Griffin posted online:

    Following my private correspondence with Robinowitz, I reluctantly decided I needed to keep up with the constantly changing sets of claims about 9/11 being an “Inside job.” Since then I have continued to study these many claims, and find that none of them have any merit whatsoever. Nonetheless, I still call for an independent investigation and promote the book by Ridgeway.

    Claims that I am some type of government intelligence agent are false, defamatory, and presume that the scores of nationally-known civil liberties and anti-repression activists that I have worked with for over 30 years are morons. This is divisive arrogant and offensive. Agent-baiting is a destructive macho tendency on the left. It should be opposed. As examples of my ongoing civil liberties work, I am currently on the board of the Defending Dissent Foundation, and co-wrote:

    Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain. 2003. “Resisting Repression: Executive Orders and Legislation Curtail Civil Liberties.” Resist Newsletter, Vol. 12 No. 5, July 2003, pp. 1-3.

    _______. 2003. “Déjà Vu All Over Again: A Capsule History of Political Repression in the US.” Resist Newsletter, Vol. 12 No. 5, July 2003, p. 3.

    _______ and Abby Scher. 2003. “Political Profiling: Police Spying on Peaceful Activists.” Amnesty Now, Amnesty International, USA, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring, pp. 20-23, 27.

    and wrote:

    Chip Berlet. 2002. “Encountering and Countering Political Repression.” In Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond, eds., The Global Activists Manual: Local Ways to Change the World. New York: Thunder Mouth Press/Nation Books (with United for a Fair Economy).

    I have written about the Illuminati conspiracy theory at great length in several places, including:

    _______. 2005. “When Alienation Turns Right: Populist Conspiracism, the Apocalyptic Style, and Neofascist Movements.” In Lauren Langman & Devorah Kalekin Fishman, (eds.), Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium: The Evolution of Alienation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    _______. 2004. “Anti-Masonic Conspiracy Theories: A Narrative Form of Demonization and Scapegoating.” In Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, eds., Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    and my study “Dances with Devils:” the specific section is online at:
    http://www.publiceye.org/apocalyptic/Dances_with_Devils_1-01.html

    As for the Bilderberg Group, I have studied them…and sometimes a typo is just a typo. As you must know, many of the conspiracy critics of the Bilderberg Group (and the Illuminati) are neofascists and antisemites. I believe that any discussion of the Bilderberg Group needs to briefly discuss and reject the claims of neofascists and antisemites. For me this is a matter of principle. It appears you share this view.

    I am a critic of the 9/11 Truth movement; and a supporter of the antiwar movement. In both cases I think it is important to discuss issues of bigotry–especially antisemitism and Islamophobia–and to confront those who attempt through ignorance, insensitivity, or design, attempt to bring bigotry into the progressive movement for social change.

    In that light, I thank you for your thoughtful criticisms of my work. While I disagree with many of them, I consider this to have been a constructive dialogue.

    Sincerely,

    -Chip Berlet

    Comment by chipberlet — October 14, 2007 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

  2. Hello from Germany,
    I did just spend 2 hours at least, reading this article and the article about “anti-illuminism”. Great work and really inspiring!
    Dirk

    Comment by dwpe — October 15, 2007 @ 5:31 am | Reply

  3. To Chip Berlet:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I’m glad to hear that you support a new investigation of 9/11.

    Sometime within the next week or so, I’ll post here a collection of links to what I think is some of the best evidence for 9/11 being an inside job. I would be interested in your specific comments on those specific pieces of evidence. I think there IS some real evidence, although I also think there is plenty of bogus “evidence” as well.

    As for Bilderberg, I do agree with you that “any discussion of the Bilderberg Group needs to briefly discuss and reject the claims of neofascists and antisemites.” I meant to hint at this with my brief statement that I don’t believe the Bilderbergers micromanage the world to the extent that some people think. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    I certainly agree with you about confronting those who bring bigoted ideology into progressive movements for social change.

    I also agree that some folks seem a bit quick to jump to the conclusion that other people are agents.

    Comment by Diane — October 15, 2007 @ 9:59 pm | Reply

  4. Chip Berlet’s statement, “Since then I have continued to study these many claims, and find that none of them have any merit whatsoever” is — to use a term he likes to apply to his critics — MORONIC.

    Whether he is a paid agent or not is irrelevant.

    That he now advocates an investigation is merely a ploy to attempt to escape the truth which is ineluctably closing in on him.

    I have heard his interview on Alternative Radio with David Barsamian where they frantically used every propaganda ploy they could think of to try to slime ALL of the 911 Truth movement (not just the crazies, which are found in ANY movement).

    Comment by myra99 — October 16, 2007 @ 6:36 am | Reply

  5. Everyone, please try to be civil and reasonable here. Please avoid further personal accusations and insults, from either side, and try to focus just on the relevant ideas and evidence.

    Anyhow, a further reply to Chip Berlet: I would be interested to hear some specific comments from you about the distinction I’ve made between full-blown “conspiracism” (as per the definition of yours that I quoted) and theories (justified or not) about possible instances of government wrongdoing. To lump these two very different kinds of things together under a label like “conspiracy theory” or “conspiracism” is, in my opinion, prejudicial and propagandistic. What do you think?

    Comment by Diane — October 17, 2007 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  6. “Conspiracism” or a (good)conspiracy theory? – It’s all in the nature and quality of the evidence. For example, in the e-mail exchange between Mr Rabinowitz and Mr Berlet, Mr Rabinowitz’s ‘evidence’ is a series of assertions posed as questions. This is not evidence. Moreover, Mr Rabinowitz’s assertions are based on factual errors, false premises, speculation and conjecture. Mr Rabininowitz is a “conspiracist”.

    Comment by charlienneb — October 18, 2007 @ 9:00 am | Reply

  7. What Rabinowitz was presenting, in his email correspondence with Berlet, was brief mentions of issues that Berlet had not explored. Those emails did not contain a presentation of Rabinowitz’s evidence, so the quality of his evidence cannot be judged from those emails. To judge that, one would have to explore Rabinowitz’s website in more detail. Have you done that?

    Everyone, from henceforth, instead of making general statements about someone’s evidence, please address specific issues and raise specific objections.

    Comment by Diane — October 18, 2007 @ 10:02 am | Reply

  8. Diane, if by Mr Rabinowitz’s site you mean OilEmpire.US, then yes, I have looked. Could you recommend one of Mr Rabinowitz’s assertions that I should take a closer look at?

    Comment by charlienneb — October 18, 2007 @ 10:41 am | Reply

  9. To charlienneb:

    I just now finished writing War games, etc.: A preliminary overview of Mark Robinowitz’s evidence about 9/11, in which I discuss some of his assertions.

    Comment by Diane — October 19, 2007 @ 6:47 am | Reply

  10. […] Truth — Diane @ 5:45 am For whatever reason, Screw Loose Change has noticed my post about Chip Berlet and “Conspiracism”. In the post at Screw Loose Change, The Chameleon Truth Movement, Pat seems to have jumped to the […]

    Pingback by Reply to some folks at Screw Loose Change « New York City activist — October 20, 2007 @ 5:45 am | Reply

  11. For me, Mitchel Cohen made a much more compelling argument about what’s wrong with Tarpley’s style. After getting Tarpley’s book today, thanks to Berlet’s article, I agree with Cohen that Tarpley provides good information and analyses. But even if he has broken with LaRouche, I can see the similarities in style. Calling Berlet a “gutter thug” speaks volumes.

    http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2007/09/365580.shtml

    Tarpley talks about a secret government backed by Wall Street and City of London. Is this really so surprising after Iran-Contra, BCCI, etc.? Treating this as an anti-Semitist’s code for “Jew bankers” serves to make off-limits a lot of analysis of obvious power centers. One would expect a leftist “structuralist” intellectual to have lots to say about this. And leftist intellectuals talk about murderous covert actions of the U.S. government — why the refusal to consider false flag terror when it so obviously highly effective and profitable?

    Comment by dwightvw — October 29, 2007 @ 6:37 am | Reply

  12. Tarpley’s argument about the Ford Foundation’s influence on leftist intellectuals, if based in fact, would fit right in with Chomsky’s structuralist argument about which journalists tend to rise to prominent positions.

    Comment by dwightvw — October 29, 2007 @ 6:53 am | Reply

  13. I’m backing off on my criticism of Tarpley. Yes, he’s a bit grandiose, and yes, some commonalities with Larouche’s ideas appear to remain (e.g. Leipzg, Schiller Institute), but just reading the prefaces to his book 9/11 Synthetic Terror (4th ed), the man is spot on. He’s obviously brilliant and well-informed, and he points the finger at rogue elements in U.S. institutions, not some secret, ill-defined Illumninati-type group. His general analysis cogently expresses the ideas that I, much less of an intellect, have come to develop about what types of people and entities are involved in 9/11.

    Chip Berlet, on the other hand, offers nothing but character assassination, just as Tarpley states in his book, and does not address obvious facts about 9/11 other than to say he’s not convinced.

    I know someone who used to be a LaRouchie, and harbors some misogynistic and homophobic views that I find both ludicrous and appalling. Maybe he got those views from LaRouche, or liked LaRouche because he had those views. Maybe Tarpley still holds such views. So what? That’s not what he writes about in his book.

    Mr. Berlet would have me apply an analysis from queer theory or ecology to 9/11, or just ignore it. That’s absurd. You apply the intellectual tools that fit the problem, and in the case of 9/11, the synthetic terror theory obviously applies. That doesn’t mean it applies to all social, political, and economic problems, and it doesn’t negate other intellectual tools where they apply.

    I should thank Mr. Berlet for convincing me to buy Tarpley’s book. The LaRouche past has always made me hesitant to read the book, but so far, I see that was a big mistake. If Tarpley is like LaRouche and wants to be the Great Leader when the current corrupt system implodes, I’ll deal with that then. What I won’t do is ignore his good analysis because he made a homophobic remark 20 years ago, or because ZMag wants to avoid being criticized by Sean Hannity, Bill Clinton, or Noam Chomsky.

    Perhaps ZMag wants some space to criticize Israel’s occupation of Palestine, or perhaps ZMag is just too cowardly to address 9/11 in a serious manner. Regardless, Tarpley is right — the left is bankrupt when it comes to 9/11, both intellectually and morally. That makes them complicit in my book.

    Comment by dwightvw — October 30, 2007 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  14. dwightvw wrote:

    Tarpley talks about a secret government backed by Wall Street and City of London. Is this really so surprising after Iran-Contra, BCCI, etc.? Treating this as an anti-Semitist’s code for “Jew bankers” serves to make off-limits a lot of analysis of obvious power centers. One would expect a leftist “structuralist” intellectual to have lots to say about this.

    Three problems here:

    1) Although people who complain about “the banking system” aren’t necessarily Jew-haters themselves, some of the allegations popular among critics of “the banking system” are indeed derived from anti-Jewish propaganda and, apparently, not from any reputable source. (An example is the claim that the Federal Reserve System makes huge profits that go into the pockets of the owners of member banks. See my post Some of the rhetoric against the Federal Reserve System. I subsequently learned that one of the sources for the more extreme claims about the Federal Reserve System is Eustace Mullins, a notorious Jew-hater.) While this doesn’t mean that the banking system is above criticism, it does mean any and all claims about the banking system, including some of the more widely-circulated claims, should be double-checked very carefully, not repeated uncritically.

    2) I personally think that we should be more concerned about the military-industrial complex than about the banking system. Although bankers do profit from war too, they profit only indirectly, via the military-industrial complex, primarily. Banks do not depend on war, or the threat of war, in the way that the military-industrial complex does. Banks are quite capable of making huge profits in peacetime too.

    3) From a leftist perspective, the source of many of the world’s ills is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a relatively few people. The banking system is only one aspect of this, and is not the crux of the problem.

    Comment by Diane — October 30, 2007 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

  15. […] as I pointed out in a comment after my post on Chip Berlet and “conspiracism”, there are at least three reasons to be wary of some of the allegations about the Federal Reserve […]

    Pingback by Fractional reserve banking: A response to some of the hullabaloo « New York City activist — November 1, 2007 @ 12:05 am | Reply

  16. Well, here is a problem…

    >>>I know someone who used to be a LaRouchie, and harbors some misogynistic and homophobic views that I find both ludicrous and appalling. Maybe he got those views from LaRouche, or liked LaRouche because he had those views. Maybe Tarpley still holds such views. So what? That’s not what he writes about in his book.

    So we are building a movement based on what principles of unity? Misogynistic and homophobic views are OK? Antisemitism is OK? What else is OK? Do we pay no attention to who our allies are?

    Can we build a broad antiwar movement with tactical alliances without debasing ourselves by becoming apologists for bigotry? When we build uncritical alliances with bigots it reflects badly on the movements we try to build.

    It is one thing to recognize that there are bigots in any movement. It is quite another to pretend they do not exist; to encourage the spreading of their toxic ideas; and to appear to build their credibility without reservations.

    Many of Tarpley’s articles written while in the LaRouche group were really whacko; and often involved invoking historic antisemitic claims about Jewish bankers…the Merchants of Venice. Why look to Tarpley for any type of leadership? He helped build up the LaROuche group–notorious antisemites and neofascists. What type of alliance is this?

    Comment by chipberlet — November 7, 2007 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  17. Chip Berlet wrote:

    When we build uncritical alliances with bigots it reflects badly on the movements we try to build.

    It is one thing to recognize that there are bigots in any movement. It is quite another to pretend they do not exist; to encourage the spreading of their toxic ideas; and to appear to build their credibility without reservations.

    I share your concern about the spread of bigoted ideas within the antiwar movement and related movements such as the 9/11 Truth movement. Please see my blog post Taking responsibility for counteracting bigotry in our midst, and see also the blog posts of mine that are linked within that post.

    Sorry it is taking me a lot longer than expected to put together everything that I had indended to invite you to comment on. It will probably take me several more weeks to put together an organized collection of evidence regarding 9/11.

    In the meantime, I would very much appreciate a response from you to comment #5 here in this thread.

    Comment by Diane — November 7, 2007 @ 11:13 pm | Reply

  18. To Chip Berlet:

    In reply to my post Reply to “Nerd World Order” about the page “The 9/11 Conspiracy guys are retarded”, I’ve been challenged to look at and respond to two technical papers, one of which is quite long, so they’ll take me quite a while to go through.

    I’ve decided to defer doing that for now, and instead, give priority to looking at non-technical issues. Over the next week or two, I’ll be reviewing the evidence presented on the website 911proof.com. After that I’ll post a summary of what I think is the best non-technical evidence I’ve seen so far.

    In the meantime, I would appreciate it very much if you could look at my comments # 3, 5, and 17 above. I would be very interested in your response to comment # 5. Also I would appreciate your response to my post Taking responsibility for counteracting bigotry in our midst and the other blog posts of mine linked therein.

    You might also want to take a look at the blog Crimes of the State, which contains lots of non-technical evidence and appears, at least at first glance, to be quite sound. (I have yet to explore its claims and evidence in detail, though.)

    As for the technical issues, I still have not yet come across a good answer regarding the straight-down collapse of WTC 7, though I’ve looked around at what many different “debunkers” have to say about WTC 7. (On the other hand, the demolition arguments regarding WTC 1 and 2 involve matters more complex and quantitative, and I’m not as sure about them, at least not yet.)

    Comment by Diane — November 8, 2007 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

  19. (This comment is an edited pingback.)

    Pingback by The 9/11 Truth movement and me: Further reply to Pat Curley « New York City activist — November 22, 2007 @ 7:19 am | Reply

  20. The below message about H.R. 1955 from Chip Berlet was forwarded to me today.

    I notice that here again he uses the term “conspiracy theorist,” or this time, “paranoid conspiracy theorist.” The person that sent this to me related that back in the 1990s, he was called a “conspiracy theorist” by Chip Berlet for questioning Outcome Based Education, which many thought was favored by big business as a means of inculcating compliance in future workers. This was apparently considered by Berlet to be a paranoid conspiracy theory originating from the right. And I thought we were supposed to be taking a structural view. Business roundtables are structures, but they do have real people meeting in real rooms, breathing together. Berlet would have us not question their goals, it seems. Even with HR 1955, he subtly promotes a view that questioning the government is inherently paranoid and “conspiratist.”

    ======
    Below is the first few paragraphs of a larger post that offers a
    comentary on the issues. The link to the full text is at the end.

    -Chip Berlet

    ===

    Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism?

    Who doesn’t want to prevent terrorism and violence? Not many folks I
    would imagine. So why am I in a snit over the federal legislative
    proposal H.R. 1955: the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism
    Prevention Act of 2007”? Because it is a $22 million foot in the door that
    could lead to the same type of government surveillance abuse that was
    denounced by Congress, the media, and activists in the 1970s.

    Liberal congressional representatives apparently were sucker punched by
    the language; and oddly forgetful of past government intelligence
    gathering abuses. It could easily turn into another privatized

    federally-funded giant slush fund for politically-connected hacks.

    Anyone who remembers the infamous FBI Counterintelligence Program
    (COINTELPRO) will recall how compiling files on the ideological leanings of
    dissenters opened the door to a systematic campaign of illegal
    surveillance and disruption, spawned tens of millions of pages of spy files,
    and even led to the murders of political activists-primarily people of
    color. Just read the text of the legislation, and these claims of
    potential abuse seem absurd. Have I become a paranoid conspiracy theorist? I
    don’t think so, but explaining why takes some doing. But isn’t
    protecting our civil liberties worth a little effort?

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/11/26/85326/401

    Comment by dwightvw — November 30, 2007 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  21. […] Anyhow, as I’ve said elsewhere, I also have two problems with the term “9/11 Conspiracy Theory”: (1) Every version of what happened on 9/11, including the official story, involves a conspiracy of some kind. (2) The term “conspiracy theory” has often been used in a propagandistic way to lump together truly wacky ideas, such as Henry Ford’s The International Jew and David Icke’s claim that the Queen of England is an alien lizard, with more reasonable hypotheses about possible government wrongdoing, thereby discrediting the latter. […]

    Pingback by Reply to “9/11 Guide,” part 1 (to ref1) « New York City activist — December 12, 2007 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

  22. […] before, during, and after 9/11. For example, Chip Berlet voiced his support for an investigation in his reply to a post of mine back in 2007. Also, in the spring or summer of 2008, I participated for a while in the Democratic Underground […]

    Pingback by On “conspiracy theory” and democracy — Important P.S. to “To debunkers” « New York City activist — September 8, 2009 @ 3:09 pm | Reply


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