Not surprisingly, we've received some feedback regarding Jon Phalen's article on conspiracy, "Let's Step Out Of The Box For A Moment, Shall We? A reply To The Anticonspiratorialists," and on the words of caution by Gilles d'Aymery (Conspiracy Caution - Introduction To Jon Phalen's Article).
On June 3, 2002, Tracy Corral of Mountain View, California:
Ahem. The plane that went down in Pennsylvania wasn't shot down. Or, in Jon's world, is that part of the conspiracy?
On June 3, 2002, Jon Phalen of Athens, Georgia: (the author of the piece in regard to the words of caution)
As modes of interpretation, conspiratorialism and anticonspiratorialism both have a knee-jerk emotional quality, as do atheism and unquestioning belief. When pressed to subscribe to one or another, the truly rational mind will subject all positions to excruciating measurement, carelessly embracing none, nor discarding them out of hand. The possibility exists (and in my experience, it is the usual outcome) that elements of truth will be discovered on all sides, and that acknowledging validity among these in an even-handed way will lead to higher and perhaps breathtaking syntheses.
Giving equal consideration to conflicting scenarios requires no small tolerance for ambiguity, a thing that the brightest minds are notable for, and which is actually the antithesis of the either/or mentality you attribute to conspiracists. As you present conspiracies as simplistically dualistic, you fail to reflect self-critically on the one dualism that is a real feature of the human condition -- not the duality of Good vs. Evil, which is indeed simple-minded to the point of fallacy, but rather that of emotionalism (i. e., instinct) vs. rationalism; these are fundamentally at odds, and alternately cloud and clarify human insight. The first is a mental ground state toward which people unfailingly descend; the second is a triumph of discipline, an act of will on the part of hard-muscled minds striving to soar upward from that ground state. Of course, rationality seldom prevails in the public arena, where gut-level responses are usually experienced as "moral imperatives," while detachment is condemned using this same 'rationale.'
The impulse to discard conspiracy scenarios without consideration is not a triumph of rationality, but rather of the ground state asserting itself in a moment of doubt. This is a point I tried to establish in the opening paragraphs of "Let's step out of The Box for a moment, shall we?" As stated two paragraphs back, the truly rational mind will consider ALL possibilities, and might even find a special appeal in creative scenarios that explain all the pieces while resonating powerfully with the sweep of human and biotic history.
I do not insist that what I say is true. My purpose is rather to demonstrate that it should not be categorically dismissed as untrue. When people in all walks of public life are seen petitioning for deniability, voices such as mine must come forward to announce that the full scope of rational inquiry is not being attended to. To my mind, this is truly a moral imperative. After all, even if I accepted the official scenario without question, I'd still be left subscribing to a wild conspiracy theory, no? Why should I accept this theory as imminently plausible, while dismissing all competing theories as absurd? Wishful thinking? Mental laziness?
Dissidence becomes doubly important when so many civic forces can be seen corraling thought into narrow domains. There are many compelling details that media and the political corpus have actively ignored from the very beginning. Perhaps it is these obvious biases, and not reactionary hysteria, that is driving the popular appetite for conspiracy. And perhaps conspiracists are actually performing a vital public service, by forcing suspicion and critical reflection into minds that might otherwise be totally passive.
On June 5, 2002, C. A. Habel III, of Tacoma, Washington: (Webmaster of The 4th Density)
I just read "Let's Step Out Of The Box For A Moment, Shall We? A reply To The Anticonspiratorialists" by Mr. Jon Phalen and found it very interesting... I then noted some links at the bottom of the page and thought I had better take a look at your introduction to this piece. I figured that I owe it to the editor to read what he has to say about such a controversial article.
I am glad that I did.
I was quite impressed at your willingness to accommodate the wishes of your colleagues and post the work against your gut instinct. This sir (though I disagree with your stance on conspiracies) is a much appreciated act of bravery and I commend you for boldly allowing voice to an opinion that differs from your own. These days, so few display such a sense of fairness and humility.
I wish to belay some of your fears however, as I am one of those people who maintain a news gathering website that is quite similar to the likes of AntiWar and WhatReallyHappened, and have found Mr. Phalen's work to be a much needed "out of the box" experience. I also found your introduction to be quite grounding. Though I don't think you and Mr. Phalen are all that far from agreement.
You see, we conspiratorialists sometimes need to chill out a bit.
Phalens work reminds us that conspiracies are not always pre-planned but as he put it, "sometimes just happen." Also noting that just getting up in the morning and going to work is itself a conspiracy and every conscience, intentional act is by definition, a conspiracy, we must be careful how we use that word ... when eighteen men storm onto a field of grass they are no doubt conspiring to play a game of baseball! "~GASP!~" -- I think the message here is that conspiracies are perhaps, not what we should be worrying about. The astronomical amount of variables that would have to be manipulated in order to create the right environment for many conspiracy theories to work would make such an endeavor virtually impossible, given the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the modern world. Rather than the pre-planned schemes used as plot basis in many a Hollywood production, it is the OPPORTUNISM practiced by so many in positions of power that seize upon tragedy to further their own agendas that are the real cause for concern. For these needlessly perpetuate and compound the severity of tragedy.
It is easy to fall into the intrigue of conspiracy theories. They are exciting and people love a good drama. When one is faced with the actual amount of corruption that exists in society (and there is more than any of us can handle) it is difficult NOT to become so cynical as to see conspiracies everywhere, even where they actually exist!
To say that there are no conspiracies is as irrational as saying that UFOs flew those planes into the twin towers. Were those responsible for the ENRON scandal not conspiring? Was the Catholic Church not actively covering up the crimes of their sex-offending priests? My good sir, these are conspiracies in the strictest sense of the word. There is also that little thing that Mr. Phalen noted called "Watergate" ... and Iran Contra ... the list goes on and on. The fact is that there are plenty of legitimate conspiracies. More than enough to justify constant vigilance, also known as "the price of democracy." Yet it is important for us to realize that too much scrutiny and frivolous conspiracy thinking can potentially rouse enough suspicion to impair the important work of governing. I believe however, that where there is no wrong doing there should be no fear of scrutiny. When one is not open to scrutiny (as the Bush administration has so vehemently asserted) one usually has something ugly to hide. As long as men live and breath, there always will be conspiracies. In any case I would like to believe that our Government can handle being under the microscope. It's part of the job. Always has been ... always will be and if they can't handle it then frankly, they are unfit to hold the office in my humble opinion.
I would also note that to "presuppose evil" is to do nothing more than to state the obvious nature of mankind. Man is evil and that is simply a matter of fact. If this were not so then we would have no need for laws, police or even a military with which to protect society from the constant predatory intent of those who are more than willing to exploit others. This is the basis of our need for spiritual faith, to condition ourselves counter to our basic tendency to do wrong (sin). Goodness is not natural. It must be learned and practiced. It is the constant struggle of Man to defy his own evil nature. That, I believe, is what we call the "Human Condition."
It is essential to the checks and balances of a free (another word to be used with caution) society that conspiracy theories exist. It is our way of telling those who would exploit us that we do not blindly toe the party line and accept that something is so merely because someone tells us it is so. Our way of questioning the official story when we clearly see that things don't add up. Conspiracy thinking is the product of analytical thinkers ... the UN-gullible. As long as there are those willing to believe in conspiracies, then there will be those willing to question, and when questions are asked, answers must be forthcoming. Through this process, the very uncertainty that you have shown to be the cause of conspiratorial thinking may lead to some actual knowing. After all, conspiracies are no more than human speculation and we all know that "theory" and speculation are responsible for creativity, invention and (dare I say it) out-of-the-box thinking. Most crimes require speculation and theory on the part of investigators to generate leads. The process has made crime solving into a "science of speculation" that has proven effective in solving crimes time and time again. Criminal investigators are actually paid conspiratorialists and we should all be grateful that they are.
In any case, thanks to both Mr. Phalen and yourself for your words. As I said, we conspiracy theorists sometimes need a strong tug on our reins ... to be knocked down a peg now and again. I appreciate your rationality even if I think it as dangerous as my cynicism is to you. I hope you find my perspective useful and again thank you for posting Phalen's work and your introduction. I will continue crying "the sky is falling" knowing that few will bother looking up. I will continue to look for conspiracies and in so doing, sending a message to any wolves that may be lurking that we will be watching. Hopefully it will act as a deterrent but I hope (as I am sure you do as well) that I and others like me, are only wasting our time worrying about nothing at all.
On June 5, 2002, Mark Plummer of Carnation, Washington:
In regard to Jon Phalen's rant:
Gawd I had to use this term, but here goes... "DITTO, Man...ditt-OH!"
Yes -- Fossil Fuel and Weapons Addicts are out of control.
There is only one thing I want to add for Mr. Phalen to put into the mix -- the government and the big security/military/control folks knew this long ago -- "compartmentalization."
Everything on a "Need to Know" basis.
For security and "plausible deniability" reasons, there are very few who know 'the whole story'.
There are many within the government and power structure who sincerely think the "terra-ists" did it, because they are not "in the loop" and can therefore speak and act with believable conviction when the cameras point in their direction for the evening soundbite.
Remember we are dealing with folks who suffer from an ADDICTION to fossil fuels AND weapons -- a deadly combination. AND they are in what addiction treatment experts call "denial."
Anyone who has ever had to deal with a family member or friend who was an addict or had a substance abuse problem knows well that neither love, reason nor money will deter the addict until they have reached a personal realization that they are "in deep trouble" and make a personal commitment to "recover."
Therefore we are in for a rough ride unless we can somehow stage a massive "intervention."
On June 6, 2002, Michael Pyshnov of Toronto, Ontario:
I have not seen in the article by Mr. Phalen the most important question answered: Why they (whoever) did it? As soon as response began, before any evidence was shown, I drew my conclusions. Arabs were accused, the whole Islamic world. But, did Arabs need 9/11? No, they were exactly at a point when the public opinion was turning against Israeli occupation. Only Israel needed it, to begin the final assault on "terrorism," an assault in which occupation will cease to be noticed at all. So, 9/11 was a provocation, nothing else. To my surprise, it was poorly concealed. I do not easily accept technical "proofs" of conspiracy, but the whole thing, with the war on Afganistan, with the prospects to attack other Moslem countries, with clear treats to throw nukes, with the prospect to introduce nukes through India/Pakistan conflict as much needed precedent for the subsequent use of nukes by Israel/American coalition, this whole thing points in one direction. Mr. Phalen speaks of oil as the object of capitalist desires, continuing the deceit used during the war against Iraq. But, Iraq supplied oil before this war; after this war it was prohibited to supply oil. No, it never was oil, it was Isroil, all the way. We need another book by S. Hirsh!
On June 6, 2002, Gregory Clark of Kansas City, Missouri:
Bravo [for Jon Phalen's piece]. The article is a breath of clean air in an otherwise putrid cesspool of lies, misinformation, empty air (no responses) and outright threats by our own government against all and sundry who dare speak out. Seig Heil seems to be the mantra of choice among our, so-called, elected officials.
Day after day we are cowered, coerced, and ignored by a government that was once a freely elected body but is today no more than a collection of self serving corporate and intellectual (I use this term loosely) humans, calling them Americans would be an insult to us real ones, who's real agenda few of us know of and when we do our lives suddenly "shorten."
They say there are threats all around us, that we must be ready to suspend our judgment, bow our heads and march to the tune of "Deutschland uber Alles" so that our heroic leaders can bring down the enemies banging on our frontiers and invading our cities. We must preserve our way of business, uh, way of life, defend capitalism, uh freedom, and preserve our corporations, uh liberty, from those who seek to deny us, these our God given rights.
The single most important job that a citizen, regardless of country has, is to question and hold accountable every decision or action made by their government, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. There is no get out of telling the truth card in government service which absolves officials from what they do and say in our name. That is the key phrase, in our name, because it became a powerful indictment against the German people during the time of Herr Hitler and a lunacy which we westerns thought was only possible among savages. Yet, the German people, a nation of great Philosophers, writers, poets and Thinkers, chose to bow their heads while one group after another of their own were marched off to be "dealt with."
No country has long held the position in world affairs of being great when their citizens slowly but surely abdicate their human responsibility for their nation's actions in exchange for material and monetary bribes. Rome did not last because of it and they were our direct spiritual ancestors. They chose to become corrupt, they chose to wallow in an orgy of blood, gold and slavery because they came to believe they could never be wrong. England did not last because they held themselves above the "natives," and as a result they lost their moral high ground and their empire. Mr. Gandhi showed the entire planet the fallacy of England's moral leadership, no matter how many Indians they killed trying to defend it.
Today, our nation is ruled by a Federal government, one which ejected the Republic at the close of the Civil War, in order to place the corporation before the people in terms of rights. (How it was that humans became secondary to nonliving corporations under the Constitution is for another time.) The result has been a complete destruction of everything our Founding Fathers worked to overcome, the King has returned and he brought all his institutional tyrannies with him. Our governmental leaders, many of whom are lawyers, and therefore agents of the Crown by definition, tell us that our rights as defined by the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights is merely what the Government deems necessary and can be taken away without comment or consent. End of story. If you don't like it, complain, at which time we will bring down the full force of Caesarian Justice upon you and you will cease to matter, literally.
The die has been cast, our duty to ourselves, our future generations and to history is clear. Whether we as a nation resolve to live up to our heritage, or deny it will decide just how great a nation we truly are.
As Mr. Gandhi observed, "The English may starve us, beat us, imprison us, even kill us, but in the end they will still be morally wrong and will leave because of it."
On June 7, 2002, Jon Phalen of Athens, Georgia: (the author of the piece in regard to his initial comments regarding Gilles d'Aymery's words of caution!)
My original response to Conspiracy Caution was a bit of a shot from the hip, and I've grown unhappy with the way it represents me. Looking at it now, I'm repelled most by all the flowery fat that needs trimming. If you choose to include it in the next edition of Swans, I would appreciate it if you would substitute the following version, which is somewhat less pompous and more effective.
Thank you, Jon Phalen
As modes of interpretation, conspiratorialism and anticonspiratorialism both have a knee-jerk emotional quality, as do atheism and unquestioning belief. When pressed to subscribe to one or another, the truly rational mind will examine all positions, carelessly embracing none, nor discarding them out of hand. The possibility exists that elements of truth will be discovered on all sides, and that acknowledging validity among these in an even-handed way will lead to higher and perhaps breathtaking syntheses.
Giving equal consideration to conflicting scenarios requires no small tolerance for ambiguity, a thing that the brightest minds are notable for, and which is actually the antithesis of the either/or mentality you attribute to conspiracists. Your discussion of dualistic fallacies was itself structured around a dualism that is a real feature of the human condition: emotionalism (i. e., instinct) vs. rationalism. The first is a mental ground state toward which people unfailingly descend; the second is a triumph of discipline, an act of will on the part of hard-muscled minds striving to soar upward from that ground state.
The impulse to discard conspiracy scenarios without consideration is not a triumph of rationality, but rather of the ground state asserting itself in a moment of doubt. This is a point I tried to establish in the opening paragraphs of "Let's step out of The Box." Again, the truly rational mind will consider ALL possibilities, and might even find a special appeal in conjectures that explain all the pieces while resonating powerfully with the sweep of human and biotic history.
I do not insist that what I say is true. My purpose is rather to demonstrate that it should not be categorically dismissed as untrue. When people in all walks of public life are seen petitioning for deniability, voices such as mine must come forward to announce that the full scope of rational inquiry is not being attended to. After all, even if I accepted the official scenario without question, I'd still be left subscribing to a wild conspiracy theory, no? Why should I accept this theory as imminently plausible, while dismissing all competing theories as absurd? Wishful thinking? Mental laziness? What of the investigators who would examine the possibility of misconduct on the part of various agencies and officials; should they discard certain scenarios as beneath consideration? And if they shouldn't, why should we?
Dissidence becomes doubly important when so many civic forces can be seen corraling thought into narrow domains. There are many compelling details that media and the political corpus have actively ignored from the very beginning. Perhaps it is this obvious and ominous bias, and not reactionary hysteria, that is driving the popular appetite for conspiracy. And perhaps conspiracists are actually performing a vital democratic service, by forcing suspicion and critical reflection into minds that might otherwise be totally passive.
On June 13, 2002, Elaine Supkis of Petersburgh, New York:
Just writing in to tell you that buzzflash.com -- a web site that tracks the news for us lefties has URLed your article! Expect others to respond. This is good news for you for Buzzflash is quite popular.
About the "conspiracies" -- I grew up in Shadowlands. My father was OSS and then part time CIA, he was one of the chief interrogators of the Nazis during WWII...we know about fascists.
They feel that they can do whatever they want and they are "me, myself and I" totally and this drives them to commit crimes which they view as simple protection or servicing their personal needs. Not a trace of humanity. They also whine alot if hurt.
Sounds like the Republicans, no?
Will our Empire become as corrupt as all others before us? Most likely. It is so easy to be corrupt and self centered.
Keep up the good work, and trust me, there IS a conspiracy and go to the Skull and Bones if you want to check out criminal satanic ritualistic activities.
On June 13, 2002, Jessica Mang of Citrus Heights, California (The Note from the Editor prompted these comments)
Dear Sir, I found your site quite by accident. After reading your opinions, suppositions, accusations and rhetoric I am left wondering... are your leanings toward communism? You seem to have a complete disdain of property rights. You also believe the US government is killing innocent civilians at random and without provocation or reason. Are you not aware of all the unprovoked attacks on US military worldwide in the last eight years that went unanswered or uninvestigated? Are you aware that Americans are not safe anywhere in the world today? What are your solutions to the problems of terrorism? It must be very comfortable to be able to criticize and have no solution or responsibility for the outcome. Do you have solutions? If so, why have you not stated them here in your opinion column? Anyone can sit back comfortably and criticize any government in power because all governments have corruption. But it is a very different and more honorable thing to try to get involved and change things from within. It is not as easy as sitting in your ivory tower I must admit but it certainly is more constructive. If you are not a part of the solution, are you a part of the problem? Visiting the "ground zero" point of any warzone is a chilling experience no matter what side you are on. War will remain with mankind as long as mankind exists. Politics will always be corrupt no matter the party or type of government. If Americans were truly governed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights and if these documents were adhered to scrupulously we would have a country to be envied. But since these documents have been corrupted and discarded by men in power and judges sitting on the bench without regard to the incredible truths held within them we will live in the world you see today. I have no idea what your core beliefs are; I only know what you despise, you have left half your story untold.
- Conspiracy Caution (Introduction To Jon Phalen's Article)