Hot Air: A Comforting Power

Imagination Nation

Time for my yearly screed against conspiracy theorists and their flights of fancy. This one has to do with Hillary Clinton and, naturally, murder.

See, my old pal Tom from Chi. seemed a bit miffed re: the comments I and another old pal from the same locale, Rich, made under his social media post about the death of some heretofore anonymous United Nations official.

This official, a fellow named John Ashe, was the ambassador to the UN from the tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda, population a shade over 91,000. A few years back, Ashe served as the president of the UN, meaning he held the gavel during meetings and tsk-tsk’d at ambassadors who violated Robert’s Rules of Order. There’s a new president each year, selected by a vote of the all the ambassadors in the General Assembly and usually awarded to the ambassador from some innocuous, minuscule dot of land. For instance, the incoming president for the 71st session of the General Assembly, scheduled to begin in September, is a chap named Peter Thomson of Fiji.

I will state without fear of being wrong you have never heard of him. He is, in the scheme of global affairs, probably only slightly more influential than is Bloomington’s newly-installed Director of Utilities, Vic Kelson. Similarly, when Ashe was UN prez, he ranked a hair’s breadth more important than former Utilities boss Pat Murphy.

John Ashe up and died last week. Acc’d’g to news reports he was working out in the gym when one of his weights fell, crushing his throat. Coincidentally, Ashe was scheduled to go on trial this week along with four other co-defendants on bribery charges. The FBI says Ashe was given “Rolexes, bespoke suits, and a private basketball court” as well as cash and a family vacation in exchange for greasing the path for his co-conspirators to launder money through Antigua and Barbuda.

It turns out one of his co-conspirators was Ng Lap Seng, a Chinese billionaire. Ng, it seems, was once the subject of a couple of investigations looking into charges he’d laundered money through both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Foundation.

Like most such schemes, Ng’s, Ashe’s and the others’ was convoluted and involved too many people to insure secrecy. The FBI flipped a guy and next thing you knew, indictments flew.

And like most such schemers, Ng had connections in all sorts of places. Why, he even had his picture taken once with Hillary, acc’d’g to the London Daily Mail.

Tom, normally a fine and smart fellow, likes to speculate about shadow gov’ts and arch-villianous cabals meeting in secret to control our lives. Once he heard about Ashe’s untimely death, Tom immediately concluded that Hillary must have something to do with it. Whether she personally or some highly-paid stooge crushed Ashe’s throat, Tom won’t say. He did take to social media, though, to imply Hillary must somehow have had a hand in Ashe’s demise.

After all, Hillary is a known homicidal maniac, starting with the execution of Vince Foster.

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Cold-Blooded Killer

Rich, shocked, responded first. He wrote: “Seriously?”

I followed with, “Of course he’s serious. Hillary murdered him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Tom was put out by our belittling attitudes. He wrote:

Try looking up rash of climate scientists that died under unusual circumstances before you trash me. Your complacency is the problem. Not my paranoia. Then try reporters who died under unusual circumstances when reporting on the media-cracry consolidation too.

While I accept the possibility — even the likelihood — that corporate and/or governmental interests have been criminally responsible for deaths of critics and “enemies,” these are perforce extremely rare cases, especially outside of countries that repress freedom of speech and the press. Even in Russia or Turkey they’re rare and undertaken as an absolute last resort. A politician or CEO would have to be absolutely certain that the act would remain secret because the risk of exposure would be too great to take.

Problem is, there is no absolute certainty when it comes to planning and executing a conspiracy. The individuals involved would, of necessity, be far too amoral and self-interested to be trusted to keep their mouths shut, especially if investigators came snooping around.

Conspiracy theorists, though, don’t see things that way.

See, we all stand powerless as individuals before the might of government and corporate interests. That’s a terribly uncomfortable way to feel. My way of coping with it is to accept it and acknowledge my impotence, which took a long time and a lot of psychological energy. Others cope by aligning themselves with “insightful” observers who have nebulous “access” to secrets and have been able to connect the dots and put the pieces together. This way, they comfort themselves that they have the tiniest bit of power against those malign interests.

No one wants to be powerless but in reality, in a world of seven billion-plus souls, each one of us has the capacity to affect the affairs of humankind as much as a single cell of John Ashe’s biceps would have been able to prevent that barbell from falling on his throat.

An affinity for conspiracy theories is a way to convince yourself you’re smarter than the average citizen. You’ve machete-d through the lies, you’ve grasped the complexities, you’ve uncovered the cardinal sins that the rest of the fools have bought hook, line and sinker.

Coincidentally, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg writes today of his own tiny slip into conspiratorial thinking. On a trip to Washington, DC, he came to a building that had two flags on prominent display out front. One was the American flag and the other was this one:

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What could this flag be, Steinberg wondered. Looking around, he saw several cars that had the flag image emblazoned on their doors. Could it be the flag of some secretive international banking consortium? An arcane global policing agency?

Turns out the damned thing was the flag of Washington, DC.

Steinberg wrote:

Like somebody turning a reflection on their glasses into an alien mothership, I instinctively thought up a wild, complicated, wrong solution before the simple correct one, creating a shadow government in my head before I thought of the unique little district we were traipsing through. The typical crazy fiction rushing in to fill a vacuum of fact.

Whenever I’m confronted with a conspiracy theory, I think of journalist Matt Taibbi’s take on the 9/11 truth movement. In his book, The Great Derangement, Taibbi writes:

The movement is really distinguished by a kind of defiant unfamiliarity with the actual character of America’s ruling class. In 9/11 truth lore, the people who staff the White House, the security agencies, the Pentagon, and groups like PNAC [the Project for the New American Century] and the Council on Foreign Relations are imagined to be a monolithic, united class of dastardly, swashbuckling risk-takers with permanent hard-ons for Bourne Supremacy-style “false flag” and “black bag” operations, instead of the mundanely greedy, risk-averse, backstabbing, lawn-tending, half-clever suburban golfers they are in real life….

The people who really run America don’t send George Bush and Dick Cheney to the White House to cook up boat-rocking, maniacal, world-domination plans and commit massive criminal conspiracies on live national television; they send them there [to do] shit that never makes the papers but keeps Wall Street and the country’s corporate boardrooms happy. You don’t elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal.

IDK, perhaps people are bored. Perhaps they’ve read too many suspense novels or watched too many spy movies. In any case, this bizarre, baffling, nutso world isn’t interesting enough for a lot of people. They find it necessary to create an imaginary world filled with plotters and arch-criminals. For some odd reason, Hillary seems to bring out the the wildest in many people’s imaginations.

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