Robin Ramsey. The Pocket Essential Conspiracy Theories. Pocket Essentials, 2000.

Robin Ramsey, editor of the 'parapolitics' magazine Lobster, takes a swift look at the rise of the conspiracy theory. He contrasts what he calls megaconspiracy theories, those which claim that all of history is controlled by, and all the heartbreak, pain and suffering in the world is caused by 'them', the terrible others who are incarnations of cosmic evil; with the limited conspiracies of small groups who act in limited fashions. These latter, he is much more disposed to believe in, and he spends some time attacking the media and academic establishments for rubbishing conspiracy theories.

Some of the usual suspects such as the Bilderburg group and the Trilateral Commission get a look in. Whether these groups are 'conspiracies' I suppose depends on what you mean by conspiracy. That they act to ensure the leading politicians are 'on side' and support policies which favour international capital seems obvious, but that they do any detailed actual 'conspiring' much less so. I have my doubts whether the Bilderburgers have much real influence these days. Their vaguely centre-left planned welfare capitalism seems very 1970's. Arguably life in Britain in the 1980's might have been less traumatic if they had have been in charge, as opposed to the cowboy capitalism of Reagan and Thatcher.

Ramsey points out that the United States is especially liable to conspiracy theories, because it is essentially an ideological state. The ideology of 'Americanism' is seen by most people to be perfect, so when life is anything but, this cannot be seen as the fault of the ideology but must be due to the machinations of evil individuals. Conspiracy theories have, in the X-Files years, developed a close relationship with the paranormal, but this goes much further back than the publication of Dawn of Magic. It was there in the crazy theories of Tiffany Thayer right at the start of Forteanism, and it goes without saying that they were there from the beginning of ufology. But surely it is older still, for the 'conspirators' are but partially secularised witches and demons. Even today conspiracy theories ascribe quasi-supernatural powers to the 'terrible others'.

The latest incarnation of this is the ascription to various demonic others of 'mind control', the same powers of enchantment that the devil once gave to witches. Conspiracy theories also view the world in a Gnostic light: it is a false face, an illusion, and history a marionette show manipulated by the 'powers and principalities' of cosmic evil.

Though Ramsey argues for the above dichotomy between 'mega' and 'real' conspiracies, in practice the line becomes extremely blurred. For example, Ramsey champions conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy, and says that perhaps only a couple of dozen people were involved. Later on, he favourably comments on theories arguing that the Zapruder film has been manipulated. Other writers argue that the autopsy has been faked. More and more people arc getting involved, more and more of the documents of history are claimed to be false.

Lobster itself demonstrates the blurring of the boundaries; during much of its life it was devoted to 'rational' conspiracy theories, involving intelligence agencies and shadowy private groups, often targeting the Left. Since the end of the Cold War, it has increasing been drawn down the paranormal road, endorsing characters such 'Armen Victorian', and tales of mind control.

Ramsey says kind things about Uri Geller and crop circles, and hints of intelligence activities in alien abduction stories. There might be a bit of truth in the later. Intelligence agencies have probably played little or no role in the modern abduction epidemic, but there is some evidence that they were involved in the Betty and Barney Hill story. Given that the Hills were a mixed-race couple activc in the civil rights and labour movement, they were almost certainly under FBI surveillance. The strange characters who first suggest missing time to Betty look like intelligence agents. Pushing her over the edge to discredit her seems like the sort of thing that Hoover's FBI might well have done. - Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 74, April 2001.

1 comment:

Terry the Censor said...

> they were almost certainly under FBI surveillance

That's highly speculative. Has anyone ever done an FOIA request of the Hills' FBI file?