The Librarian Syndrome

poundAlright, okay.  I haven’t written here in eons.  Chalk it up to a perfect storm of soul-searching, personal drama, dwelling on some insignificant details like where the next meal’s coming from, and a well-deserved vacation from, to closely paraphrase Barbara Bush on post-Katrina New Orleans, “wasting my beautiful mind on something like” the news of the day.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the wherefores, because I have a different fish to fry right now.

I do not have extensive experience in politics.  Yes, I helped to lead a political party, but we weren’t exactly in the mainstream; there were many, many backrooms where true political power was exercised that I was not invited to, and I may not have accepted even if I was.  But I can safely say that I have more than the average joe, and from observation, I may have more than the dreadful excuses for punditry whose limp opinions dominate the interminable analysis that news is subjected to, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle.  (That’s a true misnomer, by the way: there simply aren’t 24 hours of news in a day, pretty much by definition, so much of what they say has no value.)  Even if one doesn’t buy that assumption, I would hope I’d be seen as possessing at least a different point of view, informed by different but no less valid information.

With that as prologue, I feel I can say two things are true about politics:

1. The vast majority – and I mean vast majority – of “conspiracy theories” are complete crap and unworthy of any further inquiry.  The whole field, which is fairly homogeneous, if you look at it, is riddled with more than its fair share of mentally ill people.

2. Anyone who believes that politics and current events occur exactly as depicted in the mainstream news sources is an idiot at best, and an ignorant tool of forces beyond their limited conception – or perhaps an informed agent of those forces – at worst.

This twin observation, which the more self-satisfied readers might characterize as internally contradictory, comes as a result of looking up some stuff from a cute outfit called Steamshovel Press, operated by Kenn Thomas.  Steamshovel Press is a magazine which has unfortunately, like so much else of late, fallen on financial difficulties and may be switching to electronic form only.  Its topic is conspiracies of all types, and reflects Mr. Thomas’s omnivorous tastes within the subject.  His writing is lucid, but typical of many in the field: filled with tidbits of questionable veracity which serve to reinforce the idea that not only is everything not all well, but the exact source of what is making things unwell is sitting in the crosshairs of a Google Earth window open on Kenn Thomas’s laptop at that very moment.  Again, as I said before, most of it is nonsense, but I still greatly appreciate the point of view of a Kenn Thomas on politics; it’s refreshingly free of the thought-terminating pablum that a Larry King or a Chris Matthews regularly serves up.  It’s an admittedly poor comparison, but under the absolute best circumstances, Thomas serves the same role for politics that Charles Fort served for science.  Fort, a writer of the early 20th Century, collected all sorts of “weird” tidbits of science gone screwy and subjected them to a whimsical yet skeptical analysis…and then proceeded to wheel the guns to stern and apply the same mix of amusement and logic to the sacrosanct precepts that scientists all agreed upon.  He angered many who needed to be angered, demonstrating in the process that sometimes “science” didn’t have as much science in it as perhaps it should’ve.

Thomas calls his branch of study “parapolitics”, and he equates the term directly with “conspiracy theory”.  It’s a good word as a term; however, I’m not sure if that properly describes what actually happens in most of the political world.  The proper way to describe it from my experience would be not as a conspiracy nor an orthodoxy, a la CNN, though both do exist, but a sort of weird hybrid between the two.  It compares to conventional politics in the same way that abnormal psychology compares to everyday consciousness.  There are a few who are on the up-and-up, and there are a few who are just evil…but most is just deeply, deeply wrong, forced into all sorts of contradictory, unintended, out-of-control situations without intending to be or even being aware of their conditions in many cases.  The film The Corporation logically extends the doctrine of “corporate personhood” to psychoanalysis and comes up with the diagnosis that corporations are sociopathic; I think if we did the same for governments, we’d get a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I call it the Librarian Syndrome, named after a particular scene in All the President’s Men where Dustin Hoffman, in persona as Carl Bernstein, calls the Library of Congress to ask questions about the circulation activities of E. Howard Hunt, the CIA political black ops guy and all-around dick who was implicated heavily (and correctly) at the beginning of the Watergate investigation.  He reaches a librarian who is quite cooperative at first, but then turns around and stonewalls completely, obviously at the order of a superior, which of course is the tip-off to Bernstein that he’s onto something.

Watergate is good to study because it was what it was: a conspiracy, involving multiple actors within a corrupt structure, at the highest levels of government, controlled from right at the top…in other words, the sort that regularly gets debunked by most within the orthodox news community as an impossibility on its face.  Another impossibility is supposed to be that covering up illegal actions by a governmental or quasi-governmental structure involves a huge cast of characters, all working in perfect, unquestioning synchronization – and given that governments are noted for inefficiency and people are noted for self-interest, this just can’t happen…and yet, the tip-off for Watergate was, in part, a nameless librarian at the LoC.  Conspiracy theorists would have us believe that Richard Nixon called this poor librarian and instructed her or her supervisor exactly what to say when a Washington Post reporter called.  The debunkers would say this didn’t happen and therefore the whole “conspiracy”, with the hardy-har quotes, obviously vanishes in a puff of superior and self-satisfied logic, of which they are the sole repository.  Both are wrong.  In a “parapolitical” structure, logical processes can’t be assumed, either for or against.

There’s more to say on this later.  This kind of analysis is extremely apt for the Obama administration, given the climate into which it was birthed and the type of campaign it ran.  There will be quite a few Emperors on all sides to expose as naked in the coming year or so.  The secret is to know how things work.

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2 Responses

  1. “In a “parapolitical” structure, logical processes can’t be assumed, either for or against.”

    Occam’s Razor only applies to natural / mindless phenomena.

    Once you introduce people into the process, Occam goes out the window – people do things for reasons that are far far away from “the simplest explination” (e.g. “If I buy kippers it will not rain”).

  2. @ DeadBytes: okay, I’m in agreement here. But let’s take it a step further – is there a “wisdom of crowds”? If we add more people to the process, is there a better chance that the cream will rise to the top and those who (literally) know better will step forward? Or do they strap on the armbands and begin the totalitarian orthodoxy?

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