Friday, August 21, 2009

On Loony Conspiracy Theories

Remember back in 2004, when liberals were accusing the Bush Administration of manipulating the goofy color-coded terror alert system for political gain? And remember how everyone in the mainstream media and on the right pilloried them for being insane conspiracy nuts?

Well, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge has a new book coming out that basically admits that this was the case, and that this is what drove him out of the Cabinet. (Ridge basically said the same thing back in 2005, just no one paid attention for some reason.)

Greenwald has fun with it, writing what might be the longest "we told you so" in the history of mankind. It's worth a read, definitely, and Greenwald's point has implications beyond just the terror debate.

Greenwald strongly states that skepticism of the administration is a good thing. This is something conservatives, mainstream commenters, and a sizable chunk of Americans forgot during the Bush years, when the reasoned liberal skepticism of Bush Administration motives and actions got lumped in with the loony ideas from the far left Loose Change crowd. But that's worth remembering now that we're talking about conspiracy theories that surround Obama's health care proposals, and Obama in general.

I've lampooned the "birthers" (people who think Obama was born outside the U.S.) and the "deathers" (people who think Obama's health care plan will establish government-run euthanasia) rather frequently, and with good reason - they have no evidence to back up their conspiracy theories, and indeed the evidence we have completely debunks both theories.

So why are conservatives' conspiracy theories so anti-factual while liberals' "loony" theories about Bush's terror policy tended to be correct (no WMDs, use of torture, political manipulation of the terror alert, etc.)? Well, remember there were some bizarre liberal theories about Bush too. I seem to remember one theory going around that Bush intended to use another terror attack to set up a fascist police state, which doesn't sound too different from some of the crap being thrown around about Obama. Most liberals, however, had the good sense to reject the stupid conspiracy theories that lacked evidence and latch on to the ones that were actually believable. That skepticism was rewarded.

What I'm saying is that we ought to remember that for every silly conspiracy theory out there, there's another conspiracy theory that has some truth to it. And this is the shame of the conservative obsession with the "birther" and "deather" crap. By latching on to conspiracy theories that are so easily debunked, they're missing opportunities to examine the evidence and call bullshit on Obama effectively. We shouldn't trust the Obama administration to tell the truth any more than we trusted the Bush administration, but I really wish conservatives would actually put a little effort into separating lies from truth, because doing so requires lots of time and evidence-gathering, as well as an ability to admit when the evidence just ain't going your way.

And for liberals, this means that conspiracy theories, no matter how goofy, deserve to be debunked thoroughly. We've done a good job dispensing of the "birther" and "deather" lies, but conspiracy theories deserve some sort of respect. Remember, it wasn't that long ago when we were the "loonies" - and as we well know, today's loony is oftentimes tomorrow's Cassandra.

1 comment:

lsmsrbls said...

Thanks. I really enjoyed the links/commentary.