March 31, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

Watching Jack Hunter’s latest commentary, reminds me of something I wrote last year on the dividing line that separates “acceptable” conspiracy theories from “crazy” conspiracy theories.  I’m reprinting the bulk of it below.

When San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb broke a story about possible CIA complicity and engagement in the South Central Los Angeles drug trade, his “friends” in the media took potshots at him and the credibility of his story was called into question by numerous news outlets the world over. At the heart of Webb’s story was the allegation that Nicaraguan gangsters were running cocaine onto the streets of L.A. with some of the profits being funneled back to finance the U.S. supported Contras in the countries brutal Civil War. Webb’s work was meticulously documented and the end result was a five hundred page book. Despite the spin coming out of Washington (and the governments obvious interest in suppressing the story), the internal investigations conducted by the Justice Department and the Agency revealed widespread complicity on the part of the CIA with various Central American drug dealers, many of whom were running cocaine into the United States. Even many of Webb’s biggest critics acknowledged after the fact that he had been more right than wrong in his reporting, but it was too late. Webb was persona non grata with the MSM. Left to die by his own newspaper, in 2004 Gary Webb took his own life.

On the other hand the biggest media peddler of the “Saddam-Al Qaeda” alliance myth was Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard. Hayes’ work was riddled with errors and demonstrably false claims. His comprehensive review of the evidence linking the Iraqi government to Osama and friends was a brief book called “The Connection”. Despite the governments obvious interest in supporting Hayes argument, the Pentagon called his work “inaccurate” and much of the rest of the book was discredited by the intelligence community before the book even hit the shelves. Hayes “smoking gun” was firing blanks, but as an active agent of state propaganda he is still allowed to parrot his nonsensical claims on television as a paid pundit.

In one case we have an investigative reporter coming to some inconvenient conclusions based on numerous sources. The crux of his allegations turnout to be true and yet his work is attacked as fradulent conspiracy mongering.

In the other case we have a partisan media pundit coming to some very convenient conclusions, based on widely discredited evidence. His allegations turnout to be almost completely false, and yet they were widely used as a justification for a war of aggression against a third world country.

The dividing line here is clear. Those who side with state and the establishment will always get the benefit of the doubt from the “watchdogs” in the media, no matter how far-fetched their conspiracy theories are. Those that challenge power get the noose.


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