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 The Regime of the Sneaky 

December 24, 2002

“When you’re from Mississippi and you’re a conservative and you’re a Christian, there are a lot of people that don’t like that. I fell into their trap and so I have only myself to blame.”

Thus did Senator Trent Lott explain his downfall to the Associated Press. Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio — whom nobody can accuse of being Mississippian, conservative, or Christian — commented that Lott has resorted to conspiracy theories. And dig this paragraph from New York’s Daily News:

“‘This is like Hilary [Clinton] talking about “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” He’s delusional,’ said a GOP lobbyist, whose organization worked behind the scenes to push out Lott.”

Let me get this straight. A guy who “worked behind the scenes” to topple Lott says Lott is “delusional” for thinking people were working behind the scenes to topple him.

How can anyone possibly believe in conspiracy theories, when the conspirators themselves scoff at them? And if you don’t believe that everyone in Washington is honest, you must be paranoid.

What is it about the word conspiracy that provokes the instant smirk and snicker? The world is thick with dishonest people, and they don’t always act alone. They have a way of finding each other and acting corporately. Even “the D.C. sniper” turned out to be a team.

[Breaker quote: My conspiracy theory]That’s why we speak of organized crime, smuggling rings, accomplices, accessories, getaway cars, spies, covert activities, secret and undercover agents, insider trading, collusion, fences, and so forth. We have a fairly large vocabulary of words that recognize the conspiratorial aspects of social life. Secret cooperation isn’t unusual at all.

People in government conspire all the time. In fact, governments budget billions for espionage and other covert activities. These huge bureaucracies keep countless secrets from us, allegedly for our own good; and the inevitable result is that we can never really know what the government is doing. This means that we also can’t know what we are voting about, further proof that the vote is worthless and democracy fraudulent. And in times like the present, the ratio of conspiracy to openness increases, in the name of national security. Naturally the conspirators don’t think of themselves as conspirators. They believe they are our protectors and benefactors.

Of course all this official secrecy ensures that there will be some outlandish conspiracy theories. Such theories can hardly be more than guesses, and some of these guesses are bound to be wild. The wildest of them contend that there is only one gigantic almighty conspiracy, that sees every sparrow fall. There are actually countless conspiracies, often overlapping, intersecting, or competing. Many are quite informal, as in C.S. Lewis’s “inner ring.”

Can any conspiracy theory be as naive as the James Bond fantasy? Bond represents the opposite of such theories: the lone spy single-handedly discovering the enemy’s secrets and then, for good measure, defeating the enemy with a pistol and martial arts. Though Bond is a government agent, the conspiratorial is minimized: he has contact with his superiors only at the beginning and end of the story. No bureaucrat he!

To the extent that government withholds important information from its subjects, it makes nonsense of the idea of self-government, and it can expect to be mistrusted, feared, and hated. When it also constricts their remaining freedoms, it practically makes “paranoia” a necessity of survival.

Thomas Jefferson said that the basis of free government is not “confidence” — trust and faith in our rulers — but “jealousy” — skepticism and suspicion. The more trust our rulers demand of us, the less they deserve to be trusted. Yet many people do trust them and willingly submit, offering reasons like “I reckon the president knows more about this than I do.” Of course he knows more than we do. He sees to that. But what does he do with his privileged knowledge?

Government secrets remain secret long after they have served their supposed purpose. Conspiratorial habits are hard to break. Even when the original enemy has ceased to exist, as in the cases of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the old secrets of World War II and the Cold War are still kept from us.

You could even get the impression that the U.S. Government regards the American people as the enemy.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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