There ARE conspiracies: a rejoinder to Domhoff

In an article hosted on the website of University of California, Santa Cruz, a G. William Domhoff boldly proclaims “there are no conspiracies” utilising political or economic power for ends other than “usual reasons, such as profit-seeking motives and institutionalized roles as elected officials”.

Domhoff’s article, it seems to me, must either be considered as deliberate disinformation on behalf of those who I will prove in short order are conspiring in ways contrary to his thesis, or, more likely, the article is typical of just how blinkered or steeped in denial it is possible to get when in the sheltered garden of ignorance that is establishment academia.

Let’s take a comprehensive look at Domhoff’s claims, and highlight the major misconceptions found in the dominant view of this topic.

1. Secrecy of agendas

“Many people seem to believe that America is ruled from behind the scenes by a conspiratorial elite with secret desires”.

Really, the whole crux of Domhoff’s argument is that no secrecy can exist, because otherwise it would be leaked; and that meeting outside of the public eye does not amount to conspiracy. He also assumes that the existence of propaganda that suggests a more readily-understandable and politically-palatable agenda negates the possibility of other agendas, or of a complex situation wherein the various players are each simultaneously pursuing many different agendas, at any given time.

Since Domhoff admits that America is ruled by an elite, I do not have to waste the time demonstrating that. However, it is largely a straw man argument to claim that most students of ‘conspiracy theories’ (or ‘conspiracy factualism’, or ‘alternative contemporary history’, to name but two less stigmatic euphemisms) argue that there is anything particularly secret about their desires.

I will grant Domhoff the fact that there are some rather gullible and non-intellectual ‘conspiracy theorists’ who are not particularly interested in discerning truth from entertaining mythology, but I do not think that these people form the majority of those investigating alternatives to the ‘official line’. Granted, this particular ‘corner’ tend to think in terms of a single organisation (usually ‘the Illuminati’) meeting around one boardroom table and plotting – something I call ‘the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. model’. But most of the people that research these topics do not succumb to that view, and understand that reality is a lot more complex and nuanced than that.

Actually, the word ‘conspire’ has only, etymologically speaking, taken on the notion of secrecy comparatively recently. Furthermore, I would argue that much of the agendas that so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ seek to bring to public attention are not very secret at all. The perpetrators tend to see their selves as the ultimate social scientists, and so have long developed a tradition of publishing their studies for one another to read. Academic journals, and the ‘public policy papers’ of the think-tanks and ‘discussion groups’ that Domhoff insists are entirely benign, are full of elite plans that the majority of people have very little, if any, awareness of.

However, they have also developed a different picture for public consumption, and there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, most people would have absolutely no clue what they were saying, since the background knowledge and terminology necessary to engage with their material is beyond them. Which brings us onto the second reason, which is that it is in the interest of these elite planners to have a credulous body of subjects, to make their task of study and control far easier. If the majority of people had a good understanding of what the elite were up to, they would not be so docile, and of course the elite know this very, very well, and even make reference to it. So we have the presentation of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the ‘exporting of democracy’, an idea which I cannot dismiss as entirely unconvincing, since I myself was mired in it only four years ago (Ed. – Oh how I’ve come on in those four years – unbelievable!)

Putting aside the genuinely secret or ‘classified’ material, there exist two channels, neither of which are secret in the sense that the material is unavailable or legally protected, into which the elites release information. There is what you might call the ‘specialist’ channel, where an intrepid researcher can find literally hundreds of sources to prove conspiracy; and the ‘popular’ channel, in which the credulous masses are spoon-fed the idea that everything is OK, there is nothing to see, and, of course, ‘there are no conspiracies’.

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