Skilluminati Research

The Conspiratainment Complex

Posted Nov 19, 2010 17 comments

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Conspiracy Theory lacks credibility because it has no history. Original research doesn't get cited so much as looted, refitted as filler content to feed new revelations to a hungry audience. They know what they like because they like what they know. It is a product that gets updated for new audiences through a self-selected succession of upstart entrepreneurs. Mae Brussel becomes Lyndon LaRouche becomes Alex Jones.

As a published field, though, Conspiracy Theory has a surprisingly strong foundation. Consider Carroll Quigley's "The Anglo-American Establishment," a masterpiece that completely unravels a powerful, and very real, conspiracy. It's written by an internationally respected Georgetown professor, and it's content has never been disputed. Indeed, it is so meticulously and absurdly detailed that nobody has ever read it. There are lists of names and dates over 10 pages long throughout the text and I find myself skipping whole chapters every time I try and dig in. The information here is seldom referenced today, but it has been co-opted and integrated into the marketplace, too. Professor Quigley becomes Cleon Skousen becomes Glenn Beck.

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The signal always gets distorted, degraded...and more popular every time. Dumb is accessible, people like dumb. They like aliens, they like Satanist bad guys, and they like to buy products that signify their secret knowledge. It's hard to exaggerate how hollowed out the Conspiratainment Complex has become in 2010. Conspiracy Theory is literally being taught to Americans on a chalkboard now. Remote Viewing has gone from a classified project to a mini-industry of competing DVD training packages. Even Tila Tequila is tracking the Illuminati's every move these days. This is an emerging demographic and it's going to be extremely important in the next decade.

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Consider the rise of Evangelical Christianity as a political force, from the fringes to the frontline. It took decades of negotiations to turn dozens of theological disputes into a single policy platform. Once that machine clicked into place, though, things changed very quickly. This is the social movement that brought us Jimmy Carter and Ralph Reed. It's also the story of a conspiracy, involving hundreds of people, to infiltrate powerful organizations and advance a political agenda. How it happened is the real Political Science.

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Jeff Sharlet: Key to the growth of evangelicalism during the last twenty years has been a social structure of “cell groups” that allows churches to grow endlessly while maintaining orthodoxy in their ranks. New Life, for instance, has 1,300 cell groups, or “small groups,” as Pastor Ted prefers to call them. Such a structure is not native to Colorado Springs; in fact, most evangelicals attribute it to Pastor Paul Cho, of South Korea, who has built a congregation of 750,000 using the cell-group structure.

Pastor Ted's insight was in adapting this system for the affluence of the United States. “Free-market globalization” has made us so free, he realized, that an American cell-group system could be mature enough to function just like a market.

In devising New Life's small-group system, Pastor Ted says that he asked himself and his staff a simple question: Do you like your neighbors? And, for that matter, do you even know your neighbors? The answers he got—the Golden Rule to the contrary—were “Not really” and “No.” Okay, said Pastor Ted, so why would you want to be in a small group with them? His point was that arbitrary small groups would make less sense than self-selected groups organized around common interests. Hence New Life members can choose among small groups dedicated to motorcycles, or rock climbing, or homeschooling, or protesting outside abortion clinics.

What, are you too good to learn from Ted Haggard? Anyone who can harness millions of supporters is worth studying and taking seriously. His beliefs are probably not your beliefs, but his goals absolutely are.

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In any market, the focus is on "Conversion" -- Baptists want more Baptists, Catholics want more Catholics, and the whole point of 9/11 Truth is to "wake up" the sheeple who haven't seen the light yet. Conversion is a numbers game, and it's been studied scientifically for several centuries, here in the Land of the Free. From Charles Grandison Finney's clinically detailed market testing to the strange duo of Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, there's always been a quiet elite studying how minds get changed. Preaching has been a precise science for longer than modern medicine has even existed. Behind the scenes, from the Great Awakening to the Moral Majority, men have been watching closely and taking notes on everything. Measure, Model, Calculate, Control. Dwight L. Moody taught John Wilbur Chapman taught Billy Sunday.

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Real power moves through crooked lines like these. The secret lineage of World Government is more important than the public history. It is more than coincidence that Al Gore and Newt Gingrich were both taught about Toynbee by Alvin Toffler, before they memorized their scripts and walked onstage in the 70s. Alvin Toffler had some zingers of his own, especially the concept of "Ad-hocracy," which describes the flexible and informal power structures that get created by default during times of change and crisis. Conspiracy theory tends towards monolithic explanations, attributing far too much power to far too few people. Political Science assumes the existence of hundreds of co-existing and conflicting conspiracies in any group of over thousand people.

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Most real, successful conspiracies are mundane and barely covert: consider the Council for National Policy, an invitation-only Evangelical Conservative influence network with a membership list so powerful it defies belief. What happens when you get Pat Robertson and John Ashcroft into the same room? Throw in Oliver North, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Jesse "33°" Helms, James Dobson, and big money sponsors like Richard DeVos, Holland Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife and Nelson Baker Hunt. Strangely enough, Lawrence McDonald was also a member -- one of the most vocal and powerful members of the John Birch Society was rubbing shoulders with members of the CFR and Trilateral Commission while publicly demanding those same organizations be investigated for treason. He was assassinated in 1983 and like everyone else in this movie, his lineage becomes sadly degraded, as Ron Paul becomes Rand Paul becomes...well, what do you see coming? Look closely.

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In 2010, The Watchmen is a superhero movie. In 1918, Les Veilleurs was a superhuman movement. The roots of conspiracy theory and modern Political Science emerge from Synarchy and Fabian Socialism -- but names like Antoine Fabre d'Olivet are not easy on American audiences. Which is unfortunate, because the original Watchmen centered around René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz, one of the most amazing non-fictional characters of his age. There will be more like him, though. Things move too fast for history these days, so the saga of super-scientist Camille Flammarion's secret mission for Rudolf Hess amounts to little more than a neat story now that we're almost a century downstream from aftermath of the first World War. Besides, Les Veilleurs fell to pieces, like most conspiracies do.

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Maybe the secret lineage doesn't matter so much after all. Perhaps the dead hand of the past has less influence than we think. The details of how Synarchy was established as a concept, then implemented around the world by dozens of competing conspiracies, probably have no relevance to our situation today. The simple fact It Happened will suffice, as a briefing, because there are more important subjects for us to interact with. Synarchy is not a secret commodity, it's a best-selling business book called The Spider and the Starfish that's been embraced by CEO's and Tea Party organizers in the past year. The New World Order of H.G. Wells has grown into the generic and very exoteric New World Order of market globalization. Fabian Socialism was so successful it became ubiquitous, and even institutionalized as the Council on Foriegn Relations, who openly celebrate their infiltration of US government, business and media.

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This is not about which conspiracies are "real," though -- this is about the bigger picture, where dozens of different subcultures have converged into a single market. It was a 20 year process of enterprising graphomaniacs, like Jim Marrs, Graham Hancock and David Icke, synthesizing hundred of books into "Unified Field" conspiracy theories that offered readers a secret history of the entire world.

Today, these competing meta-narratives are blending into a Conspiratainment mainstream, where the largest possible audience meets the lowest common denominator. Roswell is an article of faith, JFK is holy scripture, and 9/11 is the wedge issue and the litmus test. The Apollo 11 mission exists in a Schroedinger-style quantum state where it simultaneously did and did not land on the moon, although the priesthood agrees there was a cover-up, either way.

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The concept of the Overton Window is essential, especially now that it's being whitewashed into a generic civics lesson. Joeseph Overton created an important blueprint for successful conspiracies, the Window of Political Possibility. The civics lesson whitewash positions Overton's concept as a theory about public participation in government. The reality is that the Window represents a sandbox which is owned and operated by a small, powerful conspiracy. The job of PR and government operatives is move the Overton Window by establishing the limits of "Acceptable Public Discourse." The conversation should be about how we go to war with Iran, not if we go to war with Iran.

This is an explicit statement about media control. Overton never saw this as a natural process, but as a managed project. It wasn't a social theory so much as it was ad copy for his Mackinac think tank. It's a visualization of what Think Tanks do: taking privately-funded business goals, positioning them as important public policy reforms, and then working with the media to push the message until it becomes normalized enough to pass into law without controversy.

The window is a scale that claims to run from "More Freedom" to "Less Freedom," but this is not a system of measurement. You simply position the policy you don't like as "Less Free," and then you designate your current sponsor's goals on the other end of the spectrum...and through the magic of Framing, Americans aren't less safe, they're "More Free."

That much is true. We're more free every year.

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So what will the Conspiratainment Complex grow into? Who is doing the polling work to determine where this emerging demographic stands on The Issues? What is the common ground between Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and Rand Paul? Will Stanton Friedman ever pay for his sins?

More importantly, could all this have played out any other way? People are wise to mistrust "Marketing," but naive to think they'll be able to know it when they see it. Marketing has consumed everything in our culture, and there is no way to build a mainstream political movement without some serious merchandising involved.

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"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." That's Andrew Card, talking about the Iraq War. It's too late to mistrust marketing: We won. It's too late to lament about how far we've fallen. Everything is marketing and we have to engage reality. Stickers and shirts, baby. Business cards and style guides and databases, too. The metrics of conversion.

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I don't like Ed Dames and Richard Hoagland, but I don't hate them, either. I understand why Richard Dolan made the decisions he's made to get a larger audience for his work. Every single guest on Coast to Coast AM is a true American entrepreneur, trying to find a business model that clicks with the masses. Conspiracy Theory has no history because it's never been about history -- it's about product testing.

These guys are all just doing their jobs. Ultimately, that's the worst I can say about any of them. They're building their email lists and trying to get as much media coverage as possible. They're all doing the same radio shows and conferences. They're all showing up on each other's blogs and podcasts. Thus do you make money in the Conspiratainment Complex. It might be less profitable than mortgage modification, but it's more interesting.

I'm not pointing fingers, I'll sell out eventually, too. Skilluminati becomes MSNBC becomes TMZ. And I'll be selling your email address to the highest bidder, every step of the way. Tell Warren Tompkins I'm coming for him.

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Comments

  • 1. Sean Powers on Nov 20, 2010 at 4:35 PM permalink

    Sir, every time you do an excellent job of fleshing out a developing idea in my mind more thoroughly than I could have ever hoped to.
    Thank you for your efforts and your insights.

  • 2. Eric Patton on Nov 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM permalink

    Conspiracy entertainment gives people a better illusion. they no longer need to reflect about how good or not good or a person they are, or how they have lived up to societies definition of success. Instead you only need to know that everyone is either a complete sellout psychopath or a blind sheep. There is no middle-ground and you become better simply by being aware (no work needed). I remember a deep turning point in my research into conspiracies, when Alex Jones become so popular that I had teenage girls sending me information about his crap and 9/11.

    No doubt you’ve already heard of these two bits, but I’ll drop it here anyway:

    These guys work the BITE - Behavior - Information - Thought - Emotion Control model quite well:
    http://www.ex-cult.org/bite.html

    Drew Whitman’s book Ca$hvertising has refined the process of manipulating the ego to make sales down to natural desires and learned wants (cultural), obviously the natural ones are much stronger:

    Natural Desires:

    Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension

    Enjoyment of food and beverages

    Freedom from fear/pain danger

    Sexual companionship

    Comfortable living conditions

    To be superior, winning, keeping up with the joneses

    Care and protection of loved ones

    Social approval

    Learned Wants:

    To be informed

    Curiosity

    Cleanliness of body and surroundings

    Efficiency

    Convenience

    Dependability/quality

    Expression of beauty and style

    Economy/profit

    Bargains

  • 3. Justin R. on Nov 21, 2010 at 9:06 PM permalink

    Any “Conspiratainment Complex” T-Shirts available at all?

    Less facetiously though, you’ve articulated what I’ve been thinking on this subject for some time, and more besides.

  • 4. Darby Jie on Nov 22, 2010 at 9:42 PM permalink

    Not bad for a first draft, but it needs a lot more work before it would merit publication.

    First of all, you have to decide whether you agree with yourself or not; i.e. either (a) there are REAL conspiracies, as you so clearly point out for us that there are, or (b) conspiracies are simply vapid, senseless nonsense-tales used by unscrupulous (but very clever!) marketers to satisfy curiousity and thereby line their own pockets..  So, which argument do you subscribe to?  Up to this point, you’ve made BOTH points, but was that your intent?  You certainly haven’t discredited conspiracy theories, if that was your intent—you’ve only discredited what you have dubbed “conspiratainment”,i.e., “wacky” conspiracy theories.

    The point is, one of the primary rules of good writing is: have a ‘point’ you wish to make AND THEN MAKE IT. You haven’t done that yet, so you really should go back to the drawing board and do a rewrite. 

    Good luck,and cheers.

  • 5. Justin R. on Nov 23, 2010 at 3:44 AM permalink

    One correction to the article though I think: Quigley was a Georgetown University professor for most of his career, never an Oxford one, as far as I know.

  • 6. slew on Nov 23, 2010 at 4:23 AM permalink

    Quite honestly, this “under"-view, if you will, was not what I was expecting when I clicked on this link, which showed up on a google search for Mindwar paper on psyops by the occultist-Lt. Colonel Aquino. That was a fascinating read, also, and I highly recommend it to you, particularly the updated version (2003) with a new forward by Acuino and updated biblio-notes. In fact, the synergistic flow from his work to yours caught my attention almost immediately.

    I would need more time to formulate my thoughts before a meaningful reply could possibly find form, but I was most struck by the general deduction regarding the 2-faced nature of gaining mainstream acceptance, the relative false-ness of a mainstream movement or uprising - I think the Tea Party is an excellent example of what gets lost in the “making of” something tangental on that scale.

    There is, of course, much more to sink one’s teeth into - this is really a brilliant treatise that could benefit all amateur conspiratorial researchers (like myself) and I will be bookmarking this for future readings - but I would like to say, again without the benefit of soaking this up and hashing it out in my mind over the course of time, I am not so sure that I agree with the general skepticism, although I understand - with the Tea Party sitting there as a shining tribute - where it’s coming from, because
    everywhere you look you see the same ugly process, the same Potemkin Villages being erected. The “media”, however slow or fast, is losing credibility precisely because of the level of falsity that it projects, but there’s no guarantee that its replacement won’t be ultimately funded by the same corrupt forces (under the “newer”, more palatable quise, of course). Sorry for the ramble, and thanks for the unexpected and thoughtful prose.

  • 7. Noble on Nov 23, 2010 at 3:14 PM permalink

    Now if we could just get these people to actually read Quigley, Toffler, Toynbee, and Brzezinski instead of speculating on who they might’ve taught in college (not that I haven’t done my share of speculating in my lifetime), we might be getting somewhere.

    I cut my deep-politics teeth on The Anglo-American Establishment and Tragedy and Hope. Real conspiracies are usually a little more insidious and fleshed-out than the “Crime, Inc.” nonsense Beck scribbles on a chalkboard for his mass. We could only wish the Powers That Be were so simple-minded. They can afford to publish their crimes in voluminous, 1,000+ page tomes because most people won’t read or can’t comprehend them.

    This “demographic” has been slowly growing since the Cold War, and has recently reached some sort of critical mass that has allowed it to break out into the mainstream, with all kinds of ramifications. I think it’s a natural by-product of a culture of secrecy, shadow governments, information warfare, and 5GW tactics. As you’ve said before, we now live in the post-reality age. There is no consensus anymore.

    Of course, conspiracy culture IS the only place you can find born-again Christian fundamentalists rubbing shoulders with crystal-toting New Agers without burning crosses or voodoo hexes being exchanged.

  • 8. Thirtyseven on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:07 PM permalink

    @Justin—quite right. Georgetown, not Oxford, thank you very much for the correction.

    @Darby—sent you an email to follow up. Thanks for the, uh, encouragement.

    @Slew—I recently deleted a page that hosted Aquino’s MindWar document, I guess google hasn’t indexed that it’s gone yet. Either way, false advertising leads to a happy coincidence. Pleased to meet you.

  • 9. eric on Nov 23, 2010 at 7:17 PM permalink

    “Of course, conspiracy culture IS the only place you can find born-again Christian fundamentalists rubbing shoulders with crystal-toting New Agers without burning crosses or voodoo hexes being exchanged. “

    Yes, but only for a short time. I’ve seen tons of infighting in person and on forums from those types in their own groups. Rigorous Intuition is a living example, anytime they go deeper than just dumping data it seems like they try to slaughter each other. That forum is not designed for solidarity, on the contrary it’s designed to be a melting pot where different forces and ideas conflict and attack each other. Noise is ultra high.

    For example (no I’m not spamming keywords): Keyword highjacking, missle hit the pentagon, scalar weapons 9-11, suitcase nuke 9-11, bush did it, israelis did it, xyz knew 9-11 was going to happen, saudis did it, explosives were built into the world trade center decades in advance, orgone/cloudbusting, physical UFOs, shape shifting reptiles, admirality law, common law, house of windsor (or xyz royal family) conspiracy, trauma based (I have to specify now?) mind control, remote viewing, in the closet nazis, bohemian grove, pedos in positions of power, al queda in iraq/ect is fiction, anything suicide related, anything to do with banking, roswell, satanic sacrifices, anything related to the CIA/NSA(why never the DIA?), any of our troops in any country ever, the vatican doing anything, and I’m going to stop because I can keep going forever. I’m not disputing the facts on any of these given topics, I’m simply making the point that no one has anywhere near enough background knowledge and experience or intuition to be an expert on this range of topics. Too much distance and too many variables. But they casually discuss them and switch between them as if they can really KNOW about them.

    Most of the people who do “conspiracy research” on an amateur basis don’t have a goal or an agenda per se. They have a worldview but not a clearly defined goal to go with it. Many times they are simply anti-xyz, with no individual drive other than “MEvTHEWORLD”. The anti-war movement, for a mainstream example, faded away once Obama got into office.

  • 10. YodaBorg on Jan 06, 2011 at 7:52 PM permalink

    The problem confronting every student of history, especially current history, is to keep his or her analytical perspective focussed away from petty conspiracies, etc., and to recognise that conspiracies in and of themselves cannot determine the course of history. The analyst must break free of the naive empiricist conception of history.

    He or she must avoid all accounts of which purport to explain the course of major developments as a kind of sum of autonomous local events, or, autonomous (if interacting) “molecular” within a mass of individuals and parochial institutions. Conspiracies of real significance to the course of history derive their origins and substance from broad movements whose principal features are substantially independent of the will of any particular set of conspirators, however powerful those conspirators may be.

    In the terse aphorism of the sociologist, W. I. Thomas: ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’ Social and behavioural scientists suffer from the reciprocal of Cassandra’s curse. You will recall that the daughter of Priam, the last king of Troy, was granted the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo on condition of fulfilling his desires. When she obstinately refused him her favours, he took revenge by adding the proviso that no one would believe Cassandra’s prophecies. The problem for social scientists is quite the opposite: because we may be believed, and often are, our theories become part of the ‘connecting principles’ we seek to discover.

    “To the discoverer...the constructions of his imagination appear so necessary and so natural that he is apt to treat them not as the creations of his own thought but as given realities.” - Albert Einstein (1934)

  • 11. Matt on Jan 17, 2011 at 1:54 AM permalink

    I was angry when I first read this but now I pity you, you are a man who clearly believes in nothing and you must be without solace in tough times like these. Your mental poverty is pitiful if you truly believe that the conspiracies polluting world government need to be REPLACED, that is insanity. You should google Jacques Fresco and the Venus Project, there is a way forward. I would urge you to seek Christ but you are surely too cynical for such spiritual comforts. Just remember it is never too late to accept Him and be accepted by Him and you will never defeat the forces of evil UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOOD.

  • 12. Publius on May 01, 2011 at 1:47 AM permalink

    There is only one conspiracy, There are many little streams.  Unsurprisingly people are confused and think their little stream is the entire conspiracy.  The conspiracy is a game of let’s pretend.  The principle object of the conspiracy is active denial of Tat Tvam Asi.

  • 13. Justin Boland on Jun 27, 2011 at 8:22 PM permalink

    Matt, that is probably the single greatest comment I’ve ever received and I’ve been doing this for years. Thank you, man.

  • 14. Tiger on Sep 07, 2011 at 12:33 PM permalink

    It’s a shame, you’re a good writer but crap like this is just part of the problem.

  • 15. Dead Skin Mask on Sep 17, 2011 at 3:55 AM permalink

    I think it’s safe to say you know too much.

    Since most real conspiracies have to operate in the open thanks to information technology, the priority has shifted from concealing plots to merely obfuscating them, muddying the waters at every possible turn. This is why so many “Conspiratainment” gatekeepers are intel assets. They all hide behind the same absurd defense that Glenn Beck always invokes… “I’M JUST ASKING QUESTIONS” ...and it becomes an open air market of stupid. Look at Coast to Coast AM. Millions of listeners who really think they’re onto something. So sad.

    Heaven forbid any of those questions actually get answered. Then the game is over. Then you have to start, like, doing things.

  • 16. DeadlyGrim on Sep 27, 2011 at 4:33 PM permalink

    @Darby Jie: Why is it an either/or question? Why must all conspiracies be real or all conspiracies be false? Sometimes, people can merely be wrong - they see a conspiracy where one isn’t or assign a real conspiracy to the wrong group. Consider an Evangelical Christian, convinced that all the problems of the world come from Satan and his minions. Such a person would re-contextualize all information to fit their framework e.g. JFK was killed by Oswald but Oswald was possessed by the devil or worked for one of the devil’s minions (the USSR, for instance).

    Here’s another thing to consider. A car crash is one of the most common and simple accidents there are. After a car crash, ask people what they saw. Some people will stick to only what they directly saw - a blur of movement, a loud crash. Other people will - consciously or unconsciously - extrapolate from what they did see and make conclusions - the other car must have been speeding, the driver must have been distracted. Other people will swear, on a stack of Bibles, that they saw the entire accident from beginning to end, saw the face of each driver, was able to clock exactly how fast each car was going, despite the fact that they would have to combine the observational prowess of a hunting tiger with the ability to be in three places at once. If such a simple and commonplace thing as a car accident can get dozens (or hundreds) of different, contradictory versions, what about something big and unexpected like the assassination of JFK or the attacks on 9/11? More importantly, does the mere fact that there are so many versions of events imply that the car crash never happened?

    Sorry, those sounded like rhetorical questions. The answer to the first is that any big, unexpected event you are going to get thousands, if not millions, of competing theories. Some might be close to the truth, others definitely aren’t, and, of course, all of them might be wrong. As to the second, the answer is a resounding “No”.

  • 17. Que Bert on Apr 08, 2012 at 9:27 PM permalink

    I read this expecting you to be an asshole skeptic but this was great.

    I have a lot of names to look up now, thank you for being a surprise.

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