Friday, October 31, 2008

Conspiracy Theory and its Discontents

In 2006 the Reform Caucus radically watered down the LP platform. In 2008 the Reform Caucus pushed forward Bob Barr and Wayne Root as the nominees. Due to these two efforts it is now difficult to distinguish the Libertarian Party from a watered down Republican Party. The Drug War is perhaps the only area of clear difference, as the War Caucus (misnamed as the Defense Caucus) insists that it is wrong to list being against wars of aggression as a libertarian value.

In 2008 Alan Keyes also attempted to gain the nomination of the Constitution Party, but succeeded only in getting their ballot line in the state of California. Being the most populous state that ballot line is crucial to any party that seeks to grow large enough to be considered a major party someday, and the vote is split between Keyes and the actual Constitution Party nominee. In 2000 Patrick Buchanan sought and won the nomination of the Reform Party, and that party has since disappeared.

It would not be far fetched to suggest that the Republican Party has been cynically manipulating third parties for their personal gain. It would not be far fetched to suggest that Buchanan, Keyes, and Barr are all Republican Party plants to either neutralize or destroy third parties that are perceived as threats. It’s not a secret that Republicans have also donated to Ralph Nader and the Green Party in order to bolster threats to the Republican Party.

The problem with saying that that is the case is that there is insufficient proof. Every bit of evidence is circumstantial. None of it proves an actual policy on the part of Republicans or the Republican Party.

That’s the problem with conspiracy theory. It’s obvious who would benefit if there is a conspiracy of this sort. What is missing is any actual proof.

In all attempts to participate in the political process, roadblocks are placed in the way of anyone outside of the party machinery to get anything done. These roadblocks are said to be there to regulate what is done, not to prevent people from acting. They do, in fact, prevent people from acting. If two people get together to make signs against a ballot proposition, they are in fact an unregistered political action committee and their signs therefore do not contain the appropriate legal notices of the committee that put them up, and therefore those two individuals could be subjected to thousands of dollars of fines for violating campaign finance laws.

The authors of those laws claim that the purpose of those laws is to regulate the process, not to exclude. In no public statement have they said otherwise. Therefore to suggest otherwise is to engage in conspiracy theory, since actual proof is lacking. It’s obvious by effect what these laws do, but one cannot prove that the effect is the desired effect of the law.

The First Brigade has been deployed to the United States. The major media doesn’t cover it, much as major media doesn’t cover third parties and the major media doesn’t cover non-mainstream candidates from the major parties. All four of the Campaign for Liberty candidates aren’t covered (Barr is one of them whether he admits so or not) just as the founder of the CfL wasn’t covered when he was a candidate for a major party. Some suggest they aren’t newsworthy, because that is the non-conspiracy viewpoint. It can be shown that they are newsworthy but still not covered. To suggest there’s a deliberate effort to exclude these stories is to engage in conspiracy theory as there is no actual proof, only circumstantial evidence.

Is there a police state coming in the United States? The expanded police powers of the USAPATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and similar laws, coupled with the domestic deployment of the First Brigade suggest as much, but since nobody in any official position of power has come out and said "yes, we are planning on a police state" the position that there may very well be a police state coming is not considered a credible position and is considered instead to be conspiracy theory in spite of the circumstantial evidence.

The problem with asserting these as true is that there is no proof that it is true. The problem with asserting these as false is that the circumstantial evidence all points the other way. The problem with dismissing these as conspiracy theory is that just because something is a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean that it is false, only that it is unproven.

If there are these conspiracies, then the labeling of anyone who investigates them as a “conspiracy theorist” and then to have anyone with that label considered mentally unbalanced would be their biggest triumph. Anyone who looks for anything beyond what the media reports is therefore unbalanced.

To be fair, many conspiracy theorists brought this on themselves because faced with circumstantial evidence but no proof too many have declared that to be sufficient and declared their theory to be true. Having found who benefits they decide that the same are the initiators of the conspiracy itself.

Also the question needs to be asked of those who harp on insufficient proof if they actually expect those who would be the conpirators to confiess to what they are planning? If there is a plan in the Republican Party to nullify third parties (or take them over) would Republican leaders admit to this? If there is a plan for a police state, would politicans admit to this? If there is a conspiracy to black out certain candidates and parties from the media, would the media cover it?

The rational and skeptical point of view is that there may be truth to these conspiracies, that they should not be dismissed out of hand, but not proclaimed true until further proof is forthcoming. Those who benefit from these measures should be treated with suspicion instead of being treated as guilty (as the theorists do) or as innocent (as the critics do). Those who are interested should work to find proof or disproof, using qui bono and circumstantial evidence as a starting point.

On a final note, is it possible that Republicans, anticipating the demise of their own party, degraded the Libertarian Party platform in 2006 and alienated the "purists" in 2008 so that the LP could be a replacement of their own party in 2012?

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