2010.01.19 If I Met Poppy in a Pizza Parlor
When I heard about the guy that ran into "Poppy" (George H.W.) Bush in a pizza place in Houston, cussed him out and posted a video about it on YouTube, of course I had to watch it. (Click here fast; it seems to be disappearing.) The names turned out to be "murderous, Zionist piece of s*," without the asterisk.
Mulling this over carefully, especially having just finished Russ Baker's exhaustive (and exhausting) Family of Secrets, I wouldn't call the man a Zionist. I would even agree with the Secret Service agent who said, "This is unnecessary."
Baker doesn't use the word Zionist or Zionism once in his 579-page tome. Nor do the words Israel(i) or Jew(ish) occur anywhere, which is actually kind of strange, since in another book about Poppy those words occur 29, 43, and 21 times, respectively (Webster Tarpley, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography), and in a book by Mearsheimer and Walt called The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy the name Bush occurs 191 times, so there must be a connection.
I think I understand. Despite Baker's care to avoid the subject, it took Alexander Cockburn only two sentences to dismiss Baker as a raving antisemite. After a one-sentence summary of Baker's book indicating “the strong possibility” that Poppy “was involved in assassinating President Kennedy, and that Bush was involved in staging the Watergate break-in (and the break-in at Dan Ellsberg's psychiatrist's) with the purpose of having these break-ins exposed and the blame placed on President Nixon,” all of which is accurate enough, Cockburn concludes:
We’re back with the old notion of a secret, all-powerful permanent government, engendered in the WASP-nest of Skull and Bones, headquartered in Langley and locked in alternate collusion and combat with another permanent secret all-powerful government, headquartered in Zion..." (my emphasis).
Given this breathtaking leap, one can imagine what Cockburn would have said if Baker had actually mentioned Israel, Jews, or Zionism, much less called Poppy a Zionist. Murdering a million people, including President Kennedy, would pale in comparison to such an accusation. Baker must have decided, understandably, that he had enough against the Bushes without mentioning Israel, and that that would keep the worst of the conspiracy-theory-hunting hounds at bay, but he underestimated Cockburn.
Pinhead commentator Bill O'Reilly disapproved of the "deranged" pizza parlor protester so strongly that he replayed the video for his 3.5 million viewers ("Can't let that stuff go"), which is deranged enough, but you expect that of O'Reilly. Cockburn's insanity, on the other hand, is of a different order. He is considered to be intelligent and well informed, but when it comes to "conspiracy theory," he goes whacko.
The same can be said, as we have read recently, of Cass Sunstein, Obama's Minister of Truth. Anyone who thinks the Orwellian terminology is exaggerated cannot have read Crass Cass's truly diabolical treatise on "Conspiracy Theories," which is described (too) generously by Mark Crispin Miller as the product of a "cool authoritarian mind," i.e., a cold-blooded fascist sycophant dressed up in Harvard lawyer's clothes, who "seems to have been crippled, his eyes sealed shut, by his eagerness to serve the powers that be" (cf. also Tencer, Greenwald).
Everything about this paper is revolting -- from the inflated, obfuscatory language in which it is written to its twisted conclusions, all based on no evidence at all, just one sweeping unsupported generalization after another. Most revolting, and frightening, of all is that this kind of garbage is obviously highly valued in the rarefied academic legal circles where politicians look for their henchmen. Even worse, these lackeys can easily wind up on the Supreme Court. (Adrian Vermeule, Sunstein's coauthor, was a clerk to Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who will be best remembered for stopping the Florida vote recount in December 2000 which would have resulted in the election of the rightful winner, Al Gore.)
What Cockburn and Sunstein have in common is a total disregard for facts and information, for evidence, when it comes to "conspiracy theories." Sunstein's concern is with information control, which is the exact antithesis of discovery, transparency, open discussion, and the pursuit of truth. Having this man now as the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is about as Orwellian as you can get.
Sunstein proposes using secret government agents to introduce "cognitive diversity" into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups" to "undermine percolating conspiracy theories," secretly paying people who support the government's position to pose as "independent" experts, banning these theories by law, and imposing "some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate" them. All these measures are not only revolting and Orwellian, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, probably illegal as well, and yet Sunstein can "readily imagine" them. "Each instrument," he says, "has a distinctive set of potential effects, or costs and benefits, and each will have a place under imaginable conditions."
Sunstein is not going to resign just because he has been outed as a believer in thought control. On the contrary, this is no doubt one reason why he was appointed to his present position. Contrast this with the case of Van Jones, who did have to resign because he once signed a petition demanding the truth about 9/11. And consider that these are the messages we are getting from a supposedly "liberal" Administration. A black man in the White House!
In such a climate, is it any wonder that I urge caution in using a word like Zionist? Throwing it around is not going to help the cause of peace or truth. On the contrary, it only serves to fuel the insanity of the Cockburns, the Sunsteins, and the David Dukes -- all of whom in this case serve each other's ends. I have weighed in a couple of times before (here and here) on the dangers, and the pathology, of antisemitism in the 9/11 "truth movement," and the same arguments apply to most other issues (except of course the specific and fully legitimate issue of US support of Israel).
I cringe to think of how condescending this sounds, but it must be said: antisemitism, like racism, is a very old and well-known social (mental) disease. It is important to understand this because we also need to understand that people like Cockburn and Sunstein are NOT out to combat this disease. Sunstein says so explicitly:
Our primary claim is that conspiracy theories typically stem not from irrationality or mental illness of any kind but from a "crippled epistemology," in the form of a sharply limited number of (relevant) informational sources. Those who hold conspiracy theories do so because of what they read and hear.
In other words, he is not concerned about sickos; he's worried about us. We don't read enough. Or hear enough. And what we do read and hear is wrong. That's why we need government agents to enlighten us -- secretly, since otherwise we might get suspicious, given what we have learned about how the government lies to us.
This transgresses arrogance, proceeding to willful ignorance. Aside from knowing nothing about the facts in any of the cases he mentions, Sunstein is risibly unaware that the government's tale of 9/11 is the mother of all conspiracy theories, the most outrageous of all: 19 aeronautically-challenged Arabs with box-cutters directed by a caveman in Afghanistan bring the US Air Force to its knees four times on one day. If anybody's "epistemology" is crippled, it is Sunstein's.
I would be encouraged, rather than dismayed, if Obama were drawn to people who call for Glasnost -- less secrecy, not more, and more disclosure, not more propaganda -- but all is not lost. The fact that Sunstein at least pays lip service to the principle of "cognitive diversity," even though for him this just means propagating the government's point of view, leaves us an opening to exploit. In addition to not using words like Zionist and Jewish, which we know bring nothing but trouble, there is a whole universe of facts that still need to be spread, and though Obama and Sunstein seem blissfully unaware of it, the odds are in our favor. We will win the infowar.