Conspiracy by Any Other Name
“We might wonder, for example, whether the activities of intelligence agencies involved in spying and carrying out covert missions count as conspiracies by this definition. They are by their very nature plotted in secret, and they are indeed intended to alter the shape of history, but we might wonder if the everyday machinations of, say, CIA agents constitute a conspiracy because they are merely doing their job. Only in some cases is it immediately obvious that their actions are illegal or improper, and hence a conspiracy rather than merely being a covert operation. The problem with making illegality or impropriety part of the definition of a conspiracy is that it depends who is defining what’s illegal or not.” —Peter Knight, Conspiracy Theories in American History
The above quote underscores something I think is central to understanding the resistance to the notion of far-reaching, long-term, and multi-level global conspiracies. It is all about context.
As Lance deHaven Smith’s Conspiracy Theory in America (University of Texas Press) persuasively demonstrates, the term “conspiracy theory” was subtly promoted by the CIA following the John F. Kennedy assassination. This was done as a means to discredit researchers by creating a “soft” categorization for them, a conceptual climate that would gradually suck all the oxygen out of their efforts and reduce it to a shriveled facsimile of itself. Denial and ridicule are invaluable tools for dealing with anything that potentially threatens to undermine the official narrative about how the world (and the government) operates.
That the CIA covertly introduced the term “conspiracy theory” into the common vernacular (back in the days when going viral took a decade or more) is not, as the uninformed reader might suppose, itself a “conspiracy theory.” Or at least, if it is, it’s backed by academically collated data, source documents, and rigorous analyses generally considered sufficient to constitute historical fact, and not mere theory. My point isn’t to offer up more theories—or even evidence—about CIA skullduggery, but to indicate how what’s often derided as “conspiracy theory” is just business-as-usual for intelligence agencies like the CIA.
Also, how reframing evidence relating to covert operations (to manipulate individuals, society, and even history itself) as “conspiracy theory” has been central to creating a false and unnatural—yet ever widening—gulf in the field of historical research, a gulf between Establishment figures like Noam Chomsky and fringe voices such as Douglas Valentine, Howard Blum, and Michael Parenti, even as conspiratainers like David Icke and Alex Jones enter the mainstream without rocking the ship of state.
If merely naming a thing is, to a large extent, enough to discredit it, this is only possible after a long and concerted effort to create a sociocultural quarantine for certain kinds of data to be confined to. There is an artificial context into which certain kinds of facts (or, yes, theories) are pulled, as if by a psychic gravitational field, and there inducted into narratives that have clearly been marked as “conspiracy theories,” not history, political science, or the study of espionage.
And yet: espionage as a practice, methodology, and central component of statecraft throughout history is so wholly dependent on conspiracy as to be very nearly synonymous with it. Men in rooms (and women), plotting to bring about specific ends via the manipulation of mass media, military and police action, government policies, legal sanctions, assassinations, technology, commerce, and so forth, all done with flagrant disregard for common laws, in secret, on a “need-to-know” basis that ensures there is only the communication between levels of hierarchy that’s strictly necessary, that almost no one has more than one or two pieces of the puzzle, and that everyone has plausible denial—often even to themselves.
How far-reaching is such an ongoing enterprise? The US Intelligence Community is a federation of at least 17 separate government agencies that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities to support the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. Member organizations of the IC include intelligence agencies, military intelligence, and civilian intelligence and analysis offices within federal executive departments. The IC is overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) making up the 17-member Intelligence Community, which itself is headed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who reports to the President of the United States. The Washington Post reported in 2010 that there were 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in 10,000 locations in the US working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, and that the intelligence community as a whole includes 854,000 people holding top-secret clearances. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the U.S. intelligence community and account for 49% of their personnel budgets.
These names and figures are of course not even remotely accurate, because they cannot take into account the existence of “black-ops” (and because police forces have their own intelligence branches, as do many corporations nowadays). In 2017, a Foreign Policy article brought public attention to a spy agency even Barack Obama, five months into his presidency, didn’t know about: the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), whose “headquarters is the third-largest building in the Washington metropolitan area, bigger than the CIA headquarters and the US Capitol.” This is to say nothing of all the deep-undercover agents and informers who, for security reasons, would not be included in any publically released statistics.
I think it’s safe to say that the scope and reach of “the intelligence community”—of spooks both on the ground and behind desks, at home and abroad—is something few people can even conceive of, much less guess at. And let’s not forget Google, Apple, and Facebook—and all of them (or us) working day and night to secure and advance the interests of State power.
Reassuring, isn’t it?
David Brock’s Alt-Right
“I’m kind of a builder of institutions. I think I’ve got some ability to look at what’s out here, look at a playing field, and identify gaps and niches.” —David Brock
For an example of how perception management and narrative creation can shape society and influence individual behavior (including the all-essential element of a possible backfire), David Brock’s covert media campaign for the Hillary Clinton candidacy is worth a brief look. David Brock is an American political operative who founded the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America and was described by Time magazine as “one of the most influential operatives in the Democratic Party.” Yet Brock began his career as a right-wing investigative reporter during the 1990s, and wrote the book The Real Anita Hill, which led to Paula Jones filing a lawsuit against Bill Clinton. In the late 1990s, however, Brock switched sides and went to work for the Bill and Hillary Foundation.
Media Matters for America is a non-profit organization that describes itself as a “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media.” Brock also founded the super PACs (political action committees) American Bridge 21st Century and Correct the Record. He was elected chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The Nation described Brock as a “conservative journalistic assassin turned progressive empire-builder”; the National Review called him a “right-wing assassin turned left-wing assassin”; and Watchdog called him “possibly the least honest man ever to succeed in American journalism.” In 2015, he wrote Killing the Messenger: The Right-Wing Plot to Derail Hillary Clinton and Hijack Your Government.
The name of Brock’s game is “astroturfing,” the creation of fake movements to obscure, discredit, hijack or counteract real movements. As described elsewhere (“David Brock, Invasion 4Chan, the Alt-Right, & Pizzagate”), during the lead-in to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign commissioned Brock’s Correct the Record to dispatch Internet trolls to respond to a long running joke on 4chan, where the posting culture revels in absurdity and political incorrectness. Brock and company “lacked the situational awareness and basic intelligence to understand that the posts were not serious and, as a result, began to launch a political attack on 4chan.” This included attempting to tarnish Donald Trump and his supporters with the taint of neo-Nazism, racism, and other deplorable qualities; Brock’s efforts were so successful, they helped give rise to the “Alt-Right movement.”
Here we have another example of the principles of schismogenesis previously outlined (see Part Two of this series), and recently cited in an article in Off-Guardian, “Bateson’s Schismogenesis as a propaganda tool,” which describes schismogenesis as a tool used “in online discussion forums by trolls, supposedly planted by intelligence services or the editorial board itself.” In a similar fashion, Brock’s covert campaign was designed to intensify polarization in the U.S. by strengthening (or creating whole-cloth) associations between Trump-supporters and extreme right-wing and racist ideologies, as already being lampooned at 4Chan. Evidence of the efficacy of this method is now all around us.
Brock’s campaign was so effective in fact that, when factual information came out about (for example) the Clintons’ intervention to protect Laura Silsby, who was arrested for child-trafficking in Haiti, many Hillary supporters dismissed it as right-wing propaganda, and as further evidence of the deplorability of the opposition. Information was now being evaluated on wholly ideological grounds, and the question of its accuracy was no longer considered pertinent. Believing certain sets of evidence—and above all sharing them—has itself become evidence of one’s political affiliations, that and nothing more.
At this point, it is probably impossible (as with the Illuminati meme described in Part Three) to distinguish between elements of the Alt-Right created by Brock’s secret smear campaign, the pranking and acting out of 4Channers, and a genuine grass roots internet movement. What’s indisputable is that—whatever its true origin—the “Alt-Right” now “exists.” Perhaps the same must now be said of the (non-Bavarian) Illuminati?
What Cannot be Concealed: Marina Abramović’s Blood Puddings
“I test the limits of myself in order to transform myself . . . but I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. It goes back to them in a different way. This is why people in the audience often cry or become angry or whatever. A powerful performance will transform everyone in the room.” —Marina Abramović
In the alt-media shitstorm of 2016 that became known as “Pizzagate,” many of the claims had to do with how the cultural set in Washington DC was signaling a value system comfortable with child sexual abuse, murder, depravity, and occult symbolism (i.e., all the earmarks of a “Satanic Illuminati”). To a degree, this was indisputably the case: photographic images at James Alefantis’ Instagram account of children, accompanied by tasteless sexual jokes; sexually suggestive artwork on the walls of Comet Ping Pong restaurant (a supposedly “child-friendly” environment); a creepy “stand up” performance by a musician (Majestic Ape) in the same locale, including “jokes” (open insinuations) about pedophilia; artwork owned by Tony Podesta depicting children undergoing sexual torture; and so on.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire, the paranoid Hive-mind of the Internet reasoned, not entirely rashly, as it turned out, since there were several smoking guns to “Pizzagate.” Laura Silsby’s child trafficking in Haiti, Dennis Hastert’s history of child sexual abuse and friendship with the Podestas, and Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express constituted three direct links to the Clinton Foundation, which Alefantis, his boyfriend Brock, and Comet Ping Pong were all closely affiliated with. On the other hand, guilt-by-association is one of the easiest traps for conspiracy researchers to fall into, and such ties don’t make all the accusations flying around at the time correct. But they do mean that using the “circumstantial” evidence as “leads” did bear some conclusive fruit (even if today “Pizzagate” is mostly viewed as a “Fake News” debacle).
The inception of the “Pizzagate” online furor (reaching its mainstream—and probably fake—crescendo with a “deranged conspiracy theorist” entering the restaurant and allegedly firing a gun) was the John Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks. Several of these referred to Marina Abramović’s “spirit cooking,” an art project which some (possibly over-zealous) researchers claimed was inspired by an occult ritual designed by Aleister Crowley that included the consumption of blood, breast milk, urine and semen. Besides the Crowley link, this item got my attention at the time because of the possible overlap indicated between occultism, ritual abuse, and the arts and entertainment industry, which is why I am returning to it for the present series.
In her 40-odd years as a performance artist, Abramović has dealt in what she calls “true reality,” often at great physical and psychological cost to herself. She has stabbed her hand with knives, sliced her skin with razor blades, lain naked on a cross of ice for hours, and invited the public to prod, probe and abuse her naked body. Once, she almost died during a performance, lying inside a huge flaming star made of petrol-soaked sawdust. (The fire sucked the oxygen from around her, causing her to pass out. An audience member intervened and she was rushed to hospital with burns to her head and body.)
Spirit cooking, the performance piece and/or occult ritual that caught people’s attention after the release of the Podesta emails, relates to a series of performances from the 1990s in which Abramović used pig’s blood to write phrases on the walls of museums, such as “Fresh morning urine sprinkle over nightmare dreams,” or “with a sharp knife cut deeply into the middle finger of your left hand eat the pain.” One phrase, “mix fresh breast milk with fresh sperm, drink on earthquake nights,” caused WikiLeaks to tweet on 4 November 2016: “The Podestas’ ‘Spirit Cooking’ dinner? It’s not what you think. It’s blood, sperm and breastmilk. But mostly blood.” The implication was that Abramović’s performance art became something more openly satanic behind closed doors, and that this was all part of the evening’s entertainment for the elite. On the same day, The Washington Post ran its non-too-subtle counter-spin, entitled: “No, John Podesta didn’t drink bodily fluids at a secret Satanist dinner.”
So much for non-denial denials, this is an example of the inverse method: repeating the charges in a “playful” way to emphasize the supposed absurdity of them.
Another Abramović performance that raised internet eyebrows was a Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) show she did with Debbie Harry in 2011, which raised over $2.5 million for the museum. The event was attended by an impressive roster of Hollywood Illuminati, including Kirsten Dunst, Will Ferrell, Pamela Anderson, Rosanna Arquette, and Tilda Swinton, all of whom were obliged to don white lab coats as worn by the staff. “At each of the round tables, a nude woman was stretched out, draped with a skeleton . . . instructed to show no emotion and remain immobile. At the rectangular tables . . . heads popped out of the middle of each rectangular table, and rotating slowly, the actors seated, below the table, on lazy Susans.” (Ref.) “For dessert, 12 bare-chested young men carried in two life-size cakes representing Abramović and Harry in the nude that had been created with disturbing anatomical precision by the food artist Raphael Castoriano.” At the end of the night, the female body replicas were cut up into slices so “the well-heeled guests could indulge in the visually absurd bacchanal of devouring the artists’ various body parts.” (Ref.)
Visually absurd bacchanal? Only to some.
“That which cannot be wholly concealed should be deliberately displayed.” —Quentin Crisp (a line my brother later stole)
Some dismissed all this as simply a case of bad-taste/bad-art from the liberal progressive avant-garde, and maybe it was. On the other hand, this avant-garde also involves high-level political figures with a presumably acute awareness of just what the lower classes, the “Philistines,” and the plebeians think of them and their costume parties. Can their eyes really be that widely shut? And if not, if they are aware of people’s growing suspicions about dark rituals occurring in their midst, why would they deliberately play into those fears?
Consider: If you knew your neighbors suspected you were a closet Satanist, would you start playing tapes of children’s screams at night and hanging inverted crucifixes on your door to make fun of them? If you wanted to drive them insane and risk being murdered in your sleep, you might. At what point does bad taste, bad art, mischievous humor, and elitist arrogance become a malicious kind of psychological operation?
Something else I learned while listening to the audio commentary for David Fincher’s Se7en: After completing the film, Brad Pitt wanted to buy the obese corpse model from the autopsy scene, cut it open, and serve bean dip from its entrails at the after-shoot party. Isn’t that just the sort of mischievous humor we have come to expect from our Brad? Was Pitt unaware of the hidden backdrop to his joke—any less than Abramović was—or was he subtly playing off of it?
When Jimmy Savile openly joked on national television and radio about hating children and sexually molesting teenage girls, it seemed like cheeky bad taste at the time. After he died and it came out he was actually molesting children, and a lot more besides, the jokes became something much more sinister, something strategic. Sometimes Savile’s victims were even sitting or standing right beside him while he let slip his creepy insinuations—insinuations designed to communicate to them just how untouchable he was.
What greater show of power exists than to flaunt abuses openly, and suffer no consequences?
Continued in Part 6
 “The pejorative dimensions of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ were introduced into the Western lexicon by CIA ‘media assets,’ as evidenced in the design laid out by Document 1035-960 Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report, an Agency communiqué issued in early 1967 to Agency bureaus throughout the world at a time when attorney Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment was atop bestseller lists and New Orleans DA Garrison’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination began to gain traction.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article42768.htm
 “Drawing the Public Eye: The Unintentional Consequence of ‘Astroturfing’ by Political Organizations,” The Web of Slime, Nov 10, 2016. https://sites.google.com/view/webofslime/article See also: “Hillary PAC Spends $1 Million to ‘Correct’ Commenters on Reddit and Facebook: FEC loopholes mean Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign,” The Daily Beast, April 2016. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/21/hillary-pac-spends-1-million-to-correct-commenters-on-reddit-and-facebook.html And: “If You Really Want To Get Rid Of “Fake News,” Start With David Brock,” Medium, Nov 28 2016. https://medium.com/@mtracey/if-you-really-want-to-get-rid-of-fake-news-start-with-david-brock-918224966c4b.