May 07, 2003

Lefty Marc Cooper, on Anti-...

Lefty Marc Cooper, on Anti-Bush Conspiracy Theories:

Within one 30-minute period during that [L.A. Times Festival of Books] gathering, my friend and I logged the following revelations offered us by some of our fellow partygoers: Bush will steal the 2004 election because "It's all in the voting machines — keep your eye on those machines." There will be no next election because Bush will stage an auto-coup. Bush's 70 percent approval rating for the war isn't real — it's a made-up number. American, not Iraqi, troops set the oil wells on fire in 1991. U.S. Marines directed and orchestrated the looting of Baghdad. Fidel Castro didn't really want to lock up all those writers and execute those three hijackers without a proper trial, but the Bush administration forced him to do it. We've entered a period of cultural repression worse than McCarthyism. And, my current favorite, Michael Moore wasn't really booed at the Oscars — instead, the network ran an amplified and prerecorded loop to discredit him. (I know this one is crazy because I alone booed loudly enough from my Woodland Hills living room to be clearly heard in the Kodak's upper deck.)
After pouring water on the foolishness, then producing his own indictment of the Bush Administration, Cooper then concludes:
As a teenager, I was attracted to the left because of its commitment to rational and cool-headed analysis. It was amusing to watch the Birchers and the extreme right twist themselves up into feverish rants against secret U.N. cabals, one-world government and, yes, water fluoridation. Let's not become like them.

Posted by at May 7, 2003 11:12 PM
Comments

At the end of the day he's just a poorly dressed Rush Limbaugh with different politics, complete with the self-righteous indignation, hypocrisy, half-truths and distorted facts. Definitely not the answer to the Left's problems. And with all the shenanigans Team Rove is perpetrating right out in the open why on Earth would you bother with conspiracy theories?

Posted by: Scott Ross at May 8, 2003 08:23 AM

"Let’s not become like them."

Too late.

Posted by: Telford Work at May 8, 2003 09:08 AM

The striking part of that passage is that he lives in Woodland Freaking Hills! I'd always imagined him between the the 101, the 5, the 134 and the 110. Maybe East LA but certainly no further west than Fairfax. Were I still leftist I'd feel betrayed. Perhaps we're seeing a Hitchenish awakening.

"Feel the power of the Dark Side of the Force!"

Brother Darth, 1980

Posted by: Cridland at May 8, 2003 10:40 AM

Funny, back when Clinton was the President, Cooper and his friend, "Hitch", had no problem inventing conspiracy theories involving the President raping, murdering, and carrying on all sorts of nefarious deeds. Cooper has, on occasion, accused the former President of executing a murderer in Arkansas to draw attention away from a bimbo eruption, and bombing Iraq to deflect scrutiny from l'affair Lewinsky. This is an issue on which Cooper has as much credibility as Bill Bennett now has on moral issues.

Posted by: Steve Smith at May 8, 2003 10:52 AM

Matt:

Surely you're not suggesting that conspiracy mongering be jettisoned in favor of the style of character assasination favored by Cooper and Hitchens? C'mon, how can you take any book seriously that relies on Kathleen Willey and Dolly Kyle Browning as credible sources, and was written by one of the chief proponents of the "October Surprise" conspiracy?

Posted by: Steve Smith at May 8, 2003 02:42 PM

Steve -- I read "No One Left to Lie to" in a vacuum, which is to say, I never did pay any attention to the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal as it was happening (with the exception of the early Salon coverage of Scaife et al), so I don't know & also don't care about the mounds of research and oppo research collected by either side. In that context, I breezed through the Hitchens book, and it didn't set off too many journalistic alarm bells in me (apart from -- and this is from memory -- his contention that Clinton's NATO-expansion drive was due to the all-powerful Central European immigrant voting bloc ... though maybe I'm confusing this with Cockburn's Gore-bashing book).

I'm actually quite open to journalistic conspiracy-mongering, or at least fascinated by it. There's a lot of interesting stuff in the margins out there, and many credible journalists have done credible work that was mislabeled as "conspiracy theory," and suffered career damage as a result. Especially as relates to things that were investigated (or not) at the highest levels of government.

Posted by: Matt Welch at May 8, 2003 03:17 PM

"C'mon, how can you take any book seriously that relies on Kathleen Willey and Dolly Kyle Browning as credible sources..."

Entries for the 2003 Assuming Your Conclusion contest arous art of esoteric reading [for which Straussians are famous] are capable if interpreting mysterious intelligence! This is a stretch to say the least. (Though I am reminded of the time that someone--I think it was Kojève--asserted that Strauss’s method, while like detective work, was unlikely to result in a conviction. Strauss responded that he would be satisfied if his arguments did no more than induce suspicion of a crime where before there had been only the assumption of perfect innocence.)


Ultimately, what’s more interesting than Hersh’s view of why Strauss is influential is the question: Why is the media so obsessed with demonstrating that Strauss is influential? I have thought about this a little, and come up with several possible explanations. Not sure which I prefer, but here they are:

It’s News! Most Americans have not heard of Strauss. When a reporter first hears of Strauss and realizes that Strauss has all these followers whom the reporter has heard of, a little light bulb goes on. Aha! I now know something others don’t! I must tell the world!


So That's What They’re All About! Reporters love to ascribe hidden, sinister motives to people they don’t like. This allows them to feel more justified in their dislike. (It’s not that I’m biased! These guys really are bad!) This belief is also what keeps the “news analysis” business alive and thriving. Just reporting what people say and do does not take too many column inches and is not much fun. Writing about what they really think and what they’re really up to: that’s fun! That’s how you get on TV! In Washington, of course, the reporters are liberal and the Straussians are conservative so, ispo facto, the reporters don't like the Straussians. But you can't get much milage out of simply calling someone a conservative. There are too many of them for that to be shocking. And (let's face it!) some are even valued sources whom it would be foolish to offend. But defining "Straussianism" in sinister terms and then calling someone a Straussian and can go a long way.


It’s a Conspiracy! There is nothing reporters love so much as a conspiracy. A good conspiracy can make a reporter's career. Look what one did for Bob Woodward! Plus, conspiracies are rare. The ratio of actual conspiracies to conspiracy theories is impossible to calculate, but is no doubt quite low. That makes uncovering a real one that much more of a status symbol. Now, unlike most conspiracy theories, the Straussians-Run-the-World theory is slippery enough to be all but impervious to falsification. Nixon either did or did not try to cover up the Watergate break-in. Follow the money, and a hard answer is available. Woodward would have ruined himself if, after 18 months of dogged reporting, he was only able to nail Donald Segretti and Gordon Liddy. But journalists can write that Straussians-Run-the-World on the vapors of hearsay and innuendo and just dare people to prove them wrong.


How Did He Do That? Reporters—especially Washington political reporters—love influence, partly because it’s the bread and butter of what they cover, partly because they wish they had some. The type of Washington figure that fascinates them the most is the “grey eminence,” the behind-the-scenes power broker who doesn’t need a high-profile job, shuns a high profile generally, but who everyone knows can nonetheless get the President on the phone at the drop of a hat. The idea of someone like Strauss—who never worked in government, never lived in Washington, and never lunched with Kay Graham—exerting so much influence (from beyond the grave, no less) both fascinates them and arouses tremendous envy.


Can I Join? Now, I don’t believe that most journalists who become aware of Strauss want to become Straussians. Too many hard books to read! Plus, those people are geeks! And worse, conservatives! And yet . . . Modern journalists do like to think of themselves as intellectuals--actually, as a special breed of intellectual who has shunned the comforts of the ivory tower to use their gifts and their learning to benefit all mankind in the cause of justice in the rough-and-tumble real word. Many of them have read—or at least were assigned—the books in the Straussian canon. They feel in their bones that whatever status they have in some way depends on their having something intelligent to say about said books. When they realize that there are these other folks who seem to really know something about these books and who also work in the real world, they get intrigued. The fact that these folks seem to be part of a secret society is all the more intriguing. What’s the secret? Can I know? Not that the journalists want to join, necessarily. I’ll bet that relatively few of the thousands of journalists who went to Yale had any real desire to join Skull & Bones, for instance; in fact I have little doubt that they publicly scoffed at the idea. And yet. . . the mystery! The élan! Something about the notion of esotericism works the same magic on the journalistic mind. Secret teachings, you say? Dangerous thoughts accessible only to the worthy, eh? I could figure it all out if I wanted to. Or could I . . . ?


That’s Not Fair! Pulling them in another direction, however, is the burning sensation that there is something terribly elitist and anti-democratic about the whole Straussian thing. Esotericism is by definition an exclusive doctrine. Seen from the outside, the Straussians seem awfully clannish. They don’t much respect the work of non-Straussians. They have their own schools, their own foundations, their own . . . wait, that’s taking us in a different direction. Anyway, journalists think of themselves as the arbiters of fairness and the guardians of democracy. Even if they don’t believe that Straussians have genuine insight into the mysteries of existence, they believe that the Straussians believe this of themselves. Since it is a short step from this to believing that genuine insight gives one a title to rule, even the possibility of said belief is unacceptable and must be exposed, ridiculed and—if necessary—punished.


Knock That Smirk Off Your Face! To the extent that some Straussians really do believe that they have special insight into the mysteries, it can make them seem smug and insufferable—especially to a journalist gnawed by self-doubt. There’s nothing like a printing press or a TV camera to knock a pompous know-it-all off his high horse!

Posted by: Robert Light at May 10, 2003 04:42 AM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






ugh-and-tumble real word. Many of them have read—or at least were assigned—the books in the Straussian canon. They feel in their bones that whatever status they have in some way depends on their having something intelligent to say about said books. When they realize that there are these other folks who seem to really know something about these books and who also work in the real world, they get intrigued. The fact that these folks seem to be part of a secret society is all the more intriguing. What’s the secret? Can I know? Not that the journalists want to join, necessarily. I’ll bet that relatively few of the thousands of journalists who went to Yale had any real desire to join Skull & Bones, for instance; in fact I have little doubt that they publicly scoffed at the idea. And yet. . . the mystery! The élan! Something about the notion of esotericism works the same magic on the journalistic mind. Secret teachings, you say? Dangerous thoughts accessible only to the worthy, eh? I could figure it all out if I wanted to. Or could I . . . ?


That’s Not Fair! Pulling them in another direction, however, is the burning sensation that there is something terribly elitist and anti-democratic about the whole Straussian thing. Esotericism is by definition an exclusive doctrine. Seen from the outside, the Straussians seem awfully clannish. They don’t much respect the work of non-Straussians. They have their own schools, their own foundations, their own . . . wait, that’s taking us in a different direction. Anyway, journalists think of themselves as the arbiters of fairness and the guardians of democracy. Even if they don’t believe that Straussians have genuine insight into the mysteries of existence, they believe that the Straussians believe this of themselves. Since it is a short step from this to believing that genuine insight gives one a title to rule, even the possibility of said belief is unacceptable and must be exposed, ridiculed and—if necessary—punished.


Knock That Smirk Off Your Face! To the extent that some Straussians really do believe that they have special insight into the mysteries, it can make them seem smug and insufferable—especially to a journalist gnawed by self-doubt. There’s nothing like a printing press or a TV camera to knock a pompous know-it-all off his high horse!

Posted by: Robert Light at May 10, 2003 04:42 AM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






= true; } else { document.comments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //--> /body> ments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //--> = true; } else { document.comments_form.bakecookie[1].checked = true; } //--> /body>