Conspiracy Theorists

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There's a ridiculous amount of credulity out there. It's common among those who assumed the SBVfT crowd was telling the truth about everything. As I've been saying in posts and comments for the last couple weeks, I don't think it's a good idea to believe unsubstantiated claims about presidents and presidential candidates, but I also don't think it's always a good idea to believe they're false simply because there's no evidence to prove them true. I don't happen to think there's much strong evidence either way about some key claims of the SBFfT group. The evidence points in Kerry's defense in a couple important spots, and I think it's clearly against him in a couple. Those who believed all the reports simply because Kerry has changed his story a few times on other issues had some evidence of a lack of trustworthiness in the man but none that he lied in the 70s on these particular charges, so I'm going to be as harsh with those who simply believed the Swift Boat Vets for Truth as I am with those who believe Michael Moore, moveon.org, and other 527 groups who offer no or little evidence for conspiracy theories about President Bush. The one difference is that I've never met anyone who simply believed all the things the SBVfT group claimed, and I've met lots of people who believe all these fanciful accounts about Bush, particularly philosophers, who are supposed to have a high threshold for when they should believe something, at least according to them.

This kind of acceptance of conspiracy theories thus seems to me to be much more common on the left, particularly among academics and intellectuals, including philosophers. [That's my experience, and perhaps it's just because of my positioning in a blue state and in academia. Those with conservative tendencies aren't allowed to accept conspiracy theories in that kind of setting.] I think it's pretty clear that I'm no anti-intellectual hick who opposes higher education. This is just something I've observed about some people I know well in academia, and I hate to admit it because this will confirm the anti-intellectualism of those who think academia is a place for people to go when they don't want to deal with the real world and just float around their theories with no concern for reality. This charge has even been leveled against me for saying that we aren't in a war between Christianity and Islam, that most Muslims in the U.S. aren't violent, and that the Qur'an has requirements about jihad that the 9-11 terrorists violated. I was called a liberal for saying such things, and I was told to get out of my high tower and get into the real world, even though I have spent time in an officially Muslim country and know a fair amount about these things from real life experience. So I hesitate to say anything that supports such conspiracy theories against the academy. Yet it seems to me to be true about a large enough group within academia that they are too open to conspiracy theories of their own. In the case of philosophers, some people in my department really do seem this way, but it's not necessarily true about what they're specialists in. It's pretty much restricted to politics and perhaps Christianity. The really ironic thing about all this is that the same people who think it's stupid to believe in God because there's no evidence tend to believe all sorts of conspiracy theories about President Bush with just as little evidence. It's a case of different standards for different situations.

I face this regularly among philosopher colleagues (and a couple of the evening crew of adjunct faculty at the small college where I teach who share an office with me, in this case not philosophers) whenever politics comes up in their presence. This is not the case with all of my colleagues (and I'll mention Mark Steen for being very willing to interact quite a bit on my blog, even when he strongly disagrees with me; even when I don't think he's fair at first, he goes back and looks at it and realizes when he's gone too far, and I hope I do the same to his satisfaction at least as often as he does with me). It's more that some very outspoken people just don't understand that someone can fail to have the assumptions they bring to the discussion, and they talk as if everyone should "of course" hate Bush because he's a jingoistic child of privilege who wishes to shove his religion down everyone's throat and use whatever subversive means he can to achieve that. They just can't imagine that anyone might believe him to be a genuine man of faith who doesn't think God is on his side but is just seeking to be doing what God wants him to be doing, as any Christian should. They can't imagine anyone thinking that his policies could be motivated by compassion rather than controlling everyone, because they can't imagine how a compassionate person could be motivated to support such policies. They can't imagine anyone being sympathetic to his talk of good and evil, because they don't really believe in anything like good and evil. I'm the counterexample to all those assumptions, and it really does show a lack of imagination, given that about half the country shares my views on these issues (broadly construed, anyway).

I just can't imagine being such a conspiracy theorist. How can you have such a predisposition to believe every cockamamie theory that comes up, simply because you happen not to like the guy? Clinton had just as strong a set of detractors, and I didn't see these conspiracy theories popping up all over the place, though again that may be due to my location. People are more likely to believe all the sexual assault charges given his adulterous taking advantage of Monic Lewinsky and the sheer number of such claims, but I didn't see anything like what happened with Arnold Schwarzeneggar in the days before his election as governor of California, and even that's nothing close to the popularity and comprehensive range of conspiracy theories about Bush. The charges of Bush lying about WMD have proved more and more empty over time, and the claim that he based the premise of war on a lie is so far from the truth that it amazes me to see anyone saying things like "no one died when Clinton lied", which if you think about it can only be true if it's true for Bush, since the same statements Bush made were made by Clinton and with the same knowledge. Bush believed in stockpiles of WMD, just as Clinton did. He didn't even emphasize the stockpiles very much. Yet it's so common to hear that the whole premise of the war was a lie is still all too common, due to films like Fahrenheit 9-11 and ads by groups like moveon.org. John Kerry is usually (though not always) more careful than such outright myth-propagation, but Al Gore and Howard Dean have shed no tears in doing Kerry's dirty work for him.

Actor Ron Silver spoke at the Republican convention last nightm and I missed it, but I saw him interviewed afterward. He's a Democrat, and he's surely not on board with this administration in a number of ways, but he looked at the rank-and-file Democrats and the outsiders (or those who wanted to be viewed as outsiders) and saw that their hatred for President Bush was leading them to say things that were opposed to the very things they had espoused under Clinton. They were in favor of humanitarian aid, which was a key component of the president's call to invade Iraq from the very beginning (despite the story told by the opposition that it was added on the eve of the invasion). They had at least let pass all kinds of statements from Clinton that were just like what Bush was now saying. Silver heard this and saw that the mainstream Democrats were being blinded by their hatred of Bush to say and do things that were just insane.

I think the general thrust of what he's saying is exactly right, and Republicans have been saying it all along. It's refreshing to hear it from loyal Democrats. Joe Lieberman was the one candidate who wasn't blinded by hatred of Bush, though it was clear that he opposes Bush on some key issues where I would stick with Bush. I've heard from one conspiracy theorist that Lieberman is basically Bush, and that just shows how slanted the conspiracy theories can make someone's view of someone. Lieberman strongly endorses the current abortion-on-demand policy and merely claims (with no action, of course) that he thinks abortion should be rare. On social issues he's more conservative than some, but he claimed that Bush's tax cut for the richest level of society was more extreme than Reagan's, which just simply isn't the case. Reagan took the tax rate for the rich down to a level lower than Clinton allowed it to remain, and Bush took it back down again, and I don't think he quite restored it to the low level Reagan had it. Yet Lieberman, wanting to reverse the tax cut on the richest bracket, was trying to portray Bush as more conservative than Reagan. Those are just a couple important differences between the two, and I could list a number of others. So when I heard my colleague saying there was no difference, I just couldn't believe he could be so blind.

So why do people believe these conspiracy theories? I can only speculate, but I suspect some of it is from such a vast difference in values leading to an inability to see how someone from a different perspective might see things. To pick on conservatives again, I'll say that I suspect something like this is involved with a lot of the flip-flop charges against Kerry. For instance, most conservatives don't understand the view that at least 99% of philosophers take on abortion, that a fetus is alive and a human organism but not a person. Then they say Kerry is inconsistent for thinking a fetus is alive but supporting laws allowing abortion. He also thinks abortion is often wrong, but he doesn't think there should be laws against it. I think that's a self-undermining position, but what's self-undermining is the thinking of something as very wrong because it harms another being but not wishing to have laws against it. It has nothing to do with abortion. It's a certain sort of libertarianism that I don't like here, in this case used by defenders of abortion rights. It's not the position that a fetus is a human life but not a person that is self-undermining, but many conservatives I've interacted with have thought that to be a flip-flop and not a position. It's a difference of values that prevents someone from seeing that it's a position and not a flip-flop. Those who think abortion is just abhorrent can't see how someone might come to such a view, and that's a failing. Conservatives need to do better at understanding their opponents. This is really to illustrate how easily value judgments can enter into the acceptance of something about someone that simply isn't true, and I think something like that is a big part of the willingness to accept conspiracy theories about the president.

An example on the left is that Bush's selection of Colin Powell and Condi Rice (there's never any bothering to mention all the other minority cabinet members) was simply to make himself look better to liberals by carrying out an action that he's gone on record saying should be illegal -- appointing people who are incompetent except to say things their superiors tell them to say and who are not allowed a word edgewise. Being convinced of his hate for minorities because of his affirmative action views thus fuels the sense that he must hate these two, which fuels the sense that they must have no authority in his administration unless they give in to what others believe, but they as minorities must disagree privately with what Bush expects them to do. How could anyone, particularly a descendant of slaves, ever reasonably think affirmative action could actually harm the groups it was intended to help? Conspiracy theorists about Republicans on race just can't conceive of such a thing, and prior value judgments thus lead to a conspiracy theory with not a shred of evidence and much evidence to the contrary that just gets explained away by further complications that develop within the conspiracy theory.

Another element is just the desire for a weapon to use against someone viewed as truly evil. This can't be the whole explanation, since it assumes the person already views Bush to be evil. Yet once that belief is present, virtually anything that can confirm that can seem likely simply because it fits so well with a portrait already assumed. Then it builds, as the portrait gets worse with each narrative of negativity. At this point we've now got such contradictory yet all-encompassing narratives about Bush that there's no way they can all be true. That doesn't stop the conspiracy theorists from uttering them in all their conflictedness. Someone could believe Bush to be a dunce but Karl Rove a brilliant but evil man who is misleading and using Bush for his own evil aims. That's the only way I can see to put those two myths together.

Other contradictory narratives aren't so easy to put together. Bush is supposedly both a theonomist and a neoconservative (which anyone familiar with theonomists' opposition to Bush and "his neoconservative agenda" will find laughable, and anyone who has read Irving Kristol's complaints about Bush and God will have the same laugh from the other direction). He's supposed to be a dispensationalist who sees the rapture imminent, in which case Israel will become God's people again, yet he's also supposed to be a theonomist who wants Israel's laws to be present in the American system now because America is the refuge of the real chosen people. These views have been on opposite sides (and in fact the extremes, which few have held in their strong form) of theological debates for over 100 years. Conspiracy theorists on the left have him waging a war between Christianity and Islam (even though he's never said such a thing and goes out of his way to say that Islam is a good religion and worships the same God as Christians and Jews), and yet he's also supposed to be a relativistic remover of distinctions between religions, accoding to conspiracy theorists on the right. The truth is that he's in the normal range in between, the range occupied by many Christians. He deliberately caused 9-11 according to one view. Another has his calm composure for the sake of the kids he was with when he found out serving as evidence that he doesn't handle himself well when he's surprised by a devastating event under his watch.

As I said, I deal with this all the time. Those of you in red states who don't know any Kerry supporters are at a disadvantage, because you don't see your own faulty assumptions that parallel the ones I've been highlighting among blue-staters, particularly those in academia who don't know any Bush supporters (or don't know they know any, simply because they assume no one intelligent could think of believing Bush to be a good man). I'm glad to be able to interact with those who don't share my assumptions, but it gets tiring sometimes, and I appreciate having the eight other conservatives and libertarians that I know of in my department. No, I can't count them on one hand (unless I use some fingers twice), but I can count them on two, and I just did, and I'm surprised it's that high. Most philosophy departments are much lower, I'm sure.

So how do I end a long musing on the wall I face in any political discussion with some who are my closest colleagues? I feel like I'm writing a Saturday Night Live skit, because I could keep going with the gag until people laugh, even though it's not funny. I'll just run out of energy, as you probably have. So I'll just conclude with one thought. We all need to be wary of when our value systems, assumptions, and desires to undermine someone we don't like can allow us to be open to conspiracy-theory levels of credulity. Being unwilling to assent to a conspiracy theory is a good thing. Conservatives, who are probably the majority of people who could read through this whole post without giving up on me, have just as much reason to avoid this kind of thing and just as easy a tendency to do it. I'm just less focused on it when it happens because it doesn't belittle my dearly-held beliefs, so I have fewer examples of it that I can recall on command. So I call on conservatives not to do this, not to believe something said about Kerry simply because it fits with what you believe about him or because you hope it might lead him to lose the election. That doesn't mean you should believe they're false, especially if there's some reason to give some heed for those saying it, as with the case of some of the Swift Boat Vets' claims. But don't assert them simply because someone said it. Otherwise, when liberals do the same thing, you'll have no right to complain if you're doing it yourself, and there's no other way to have any moral standing to condemn the Bush-haters if your willingness to believe anything is even remotely near theirs.

15 Comments

Clinton had just as strong a set of detractors, and I didn't see these conspiracy theories popping up all over the place

????
All over the place. Very prominent. Up to and including murder (Vince Foster).

You can't honestly believe that's on the same level. It's just as bad, but it's not nearly as widespread, and it never made the national news on a daily basis.

Some simple Google searches can give a good sense of how much attention the issues related to each conspiracy theory or offensive characterization have been getting:

"Laura Bush" "Mike Foster" 231 ghits
schwarzeneggar hitler 437 ghits
schwarzeneggar nazi 483 ghits
hillary feminazi 1110
clinton philanderer 2980 ghits
"Al Gore invented the internet" 4540 ghits
gropinator 5690 ghits
kerryism OR kerryisms 6640 ghits
rumsfeld "abu ghraib" resignation 15,400 ghits
clinton "vince foster" OR "vincent foster" 21,500 ghits
Algore 22,400 ghits
kerry self-inflicted 28,800 ghits
clinton "sexual assault" 30,800 ghits
clinton adultery 37,500 ghits
clinton "paula jones" 43,600 ghits
"kerry lied" 43,800 ghits
kerry waffle OR waffles 45,300 ghits
hillary nazi 51,600 ghits
kerry "swift boats" OR SBVfT 71,000 ghits
clinton murderer 72,000 ghits
bush chimp 73,700
bush "bin laden family" 74,000 ghits
kerry flip-flop 74,000 ghits
hillary hitler 77,900
"bush lied" 83,300 ghits
kerry "purple heart" 89,000 ghits
bushism OR bushisms 102,000 ghits
bush awol OR deserter 122,000 ghits
clinton whitewater 128,000 ghits
clinton lewinsky 147,000 ghits
kerry medals 196,000 ghits
kerry cambodia 223,000 ghits
bush 9-11 conspiracy 274,000 ghits
bush nazi 423,000 ghits
bush lied 505,000 ghits
bush hitler OR bushitler 589,000 ghits

You can't honestly believe that's on the same level.

Well, I guess here we see things in a completely different way. What I can't honestly believe is that you think it's so one-sided. Where were you during the Clinton years? For just one example, 5 days/wk, 3 hours/day, Rush flooded the nation's radio waves, to literally millions of listeners, with the most awful crap you can imagine, including wild conspiracy stuff. Nothing, nothing was below him. There certainly are irresponsible attackers of Bush on the left, but I'd have to think that anyone who sees this as in a new and different league from what was happening with Clinton just couldn't have been paying any close attention to the right-wing media during the 90's.

I can't say I'm all that familiar with what Rush Limbaugh did during the Clinton years. I do know that such claims barely made a dent in the mainstream media that I did pay attention to, and I didn't see major figures in the Republican party repeating all of it the way Al Gore, Howard Dean, Terry McAuliffe, and Tom Daschle have with Bush (which is part of why it keeps making the news). That's the real disanalogy. If it were just people like Michael Moore and Al Franken doing it, then I'd have a much weaker case, because then it would be the equivalent of Limbaugh with Clinton.

I think you must not have been paying attention.

Jeremy, you totally must no have been paying attention. I was there with you in college. Don't you remember the BDH??? Every day for months regurgitating the lastest conspiracy theories about Clinton (at the time, it was whitewatergate)?

I didn't see major figures in the Republican party repeating all of it the way Al Gore, Howard Dean, Terry McAuliffe, and Tom Daschle have with Bush (which is part of why it keeps making the news). That's the real disanalogy.

?????

If you think that this isn't going on at the highest levels of the Republican party too, then you are being very selective about where you get your news. Let me point out the following interview with Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert (via. Crooked Timber in which he he makes the amazing quote: "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I..."

Talk about conspiracy thinking...we don't know where the money comes from, so we are going to quess that it comes from drug cartels??!!? With no attempt to back it up. Even claiming ignorance as to where it comes from, he still speculates a drug connection. That is a true conspiracy mindset. The liberal leadership is hardly the only ones guilty of this offence.

As a by the way, you need to be careful that when you write a post about how you are immune to conspiracy theories, that you don't include a conspiracy in your post.

John Kerry is usually (though not always) more careful than such outright myth-propagation, but Al Gore and Howard Dean have shed no tears in doing Kerry's dirty work for him.

That quote falls exactly into the same category as the conspiracy theory that the SBVfT are doing Bush's dirty work for him.

(And as another by the way, at this point in time, I think that I've seen a refutation of every accusation made by the SBVfT published either in Time, the Washington Post, or the Oregonian. Each refutation includes either official documents, or eyewitness accounts, or both, thus taking the accusations out of he-said/he-said territory. I think it is time for you to drop the "SBVfT have a few agruements in their favor" meme and the "I need to withhold judgement until the more evidence arises" and just go with "SBVfT have made wholly false and unsubstantiated claims".)

Sorry, there should be a ")" after "Crooked Timber" in my comment above.

My point is that I withhold judgment until I see the evidence. I haven't seen anything that reconciles Kerry's story on the Cambodia stuff, for instance. I haven't paid a lot of attention to the details and have been just going with what the people who have analyzed it in detail have come up with. That's where it stood last time I had a chance to check in. I haven't exactly been paying attention to much news in the past four or five days, so maybe more has come out, but I haven't seen it. I was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere for over half that time, and I've been playing catchup the rest of the time.

On the doing Kerry's dirty work thing, isn't it obvious that they are? They're certainly not saying these things for no political purpose at all, and the only person who could be helped by it is John Kerry. Now if I were to say that he was directing them to do it, then it would be a conspiracy theory. If I'm just saying that they're doing his dirty work for him, it's not. Similarly, someone who merely says that the Swift Boat Vets for Truth are saying things that they know will help Bush and hurt Kerry for exactly that purpose is simply stating the obvious. The conspiracy theory is that it's obvious that Bush is pulling the strings.

As for college years, I honestly remember almost nothing about criticisms of Clinton in the BDH. I did read it cover to cover almost every day, and none of that stands out in my memory. There were stories about how people were going after him, but I don't remember detailed stories appearing on a regular basis claiming all sorts of things without evidence, and I don't remember Republican party leaders asserting all the claims as fact when they hadn't been substantiated to any level beyond suspicion. I remember that some people were raising the issue and that an investigation was going on. I don't remember Republican leaders mentioning it at every opportunity or saying things beyond what was established. It absolutely never went to the level I've seen with the Iraq stuff, where I have regularly found news stories that simply say false things (e.g. that no WMD were found, that Bush declared a unilateral war on Iraq, that the war was premised on an imminent threat, that Bush banned stem-cell research). I remember the Contract With America and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, but that was all strictly policy stuff.

On the doing Kerry's dirty work thing, isn't it obvious that they are?

How can fail to see that that can be just as plausibly said on the other side? Big backers of Texas Republicans, some of whom go way back with ol' Rove, funded that stuff. Just as obvious, I'd say. What kind of partial blinders must one be wearing to see this on only one side?

Maybe I don't have the same command as the english language as you do, but I was fairly certain that the common usage of the phrase "X is doing Y's dirty work for him" implies that X has been directd by Y to do a certain job so that Y has (at least at first glance) plausible deniability.

I have never until now heard the phrase being used to mean that X has done the work univited.

If you meant it this way, then thank you for the clarification for I never would have understood your meaning otherwise.

AS to the BDH...I read the BDH slighly less often than you, but I read it plenty. At the time I cared not a whit about politics and I neither liked nor disliked Clinton. I identified neither as a Republican nor a Democrat, and indeed I registered as an Independant. What sticks out in my memory during that time was that Clinton was being attacked constantly regarding Whitewater. I remember thinking that the attacks were extreme and not terribly credible. I also remember them being ubiquitous--though I rarely read other papers or watched the news on TV, the same reports and attacks were there.

So suffice it to say that our memories differ.

If it made that much of an impression on me at the time while I was actively ignoring politics and was living is a very insulated environment, then teh accusations and conspiracy theories were surely not limited to the Limbaughs (for I had no exposure to Limbaugh and his ilk during those years).

I said that in either case it's obvious if it just means that someone is doing it on behalf of the other but a conspiracy theory if it involves postulating that the people behind it collaborated with the campaign. There's a possibility between the two -- that the candidate does it himself occasionally and steps back to allow others to do it on their own initiative. That's what's true of Kerry of your interpretation of 'doing his dirty work for him' is right (see link below).

Karl Rove has known some of these people well, and the one he has known best he's exchanged pleasantries with once over the past year. If that constitutes coordination, then so do Saddam and Usama's dealings before 9-11. That doesn't mean they're not doing it in service of Bush. Anyone who denies that is stupid, and the Bush campaign has not denied that.

On the phrase, 'doing his dirty work for him', either it can mean what I said it can mean or John Kerry has been accusing George Bush of coordinating these attacks. It just seems obvious to me that getting others to do your dirty work is much stronger than others simply doing your dirty work for you (which most of the links on page 1 of a Google search for "dirty work for him" were claiming Bush did with no evidence of anything more than a past friendship between Karl Rove and some people he may not have said more than a couple words to in years.

A quick Google search gave me lots of links supporting my usage of the phrase. This guy thinks Bush's National Guard service was Bush letting others do his dirty work for him. Here's a sermon that uses the phrase about people who lie doing the devil's dirty work. I think it's fair to say that the author the sermon doesn't believe in satanic determinism but thinks someone who lies still does it on one's own initiative for one's own purposes. This satire says something similar but even more clearly involving no coordination on the devil's part. Here's another case. Gollum did Frodo's dirty work for him in destroying the ring in this piece. Here's Tom Daschle using the phrase of his opponent on 527 groups in a context that seems clear to me to be just sitting back and allowing people to do what they want without coordinating it. This film summary has a genuine accident doing someone's work for him. It's used more frequently when someone is getting others to do his dirty work for him, but these were all in the top ten pages of Google searches, so I think there are plenty of uses like mine.

There's one other difference, also. In the context I used it, I had already stated that Kerry sometimes says these things anyway, so it's on record that it is his own dirty work that these guys have been doing on his behalf. I'd have to go back and examine his statements to be sure of this, but I think he has once or twice slipped into suggesting that Bush really is behind these attacks. That's not true in Bush's case. You may think that's pure deceit on his part, but I think that's a conspiracy theory. That's why it seems less ok to use the phrase for SBVfT than it does for Dean or Gore if they're saying things Kerry only will say rarely but will say.

Thanks for the positive mention, 'tho it is too bad I'm too busy to chime in or interact as much as before [b/c of dissertation].
One note. You say credulity is given to conspiracy theories by liberal intellectuals because they hate Bush, or due to assumptions they bring to the table. A lot of liberal intellectuals would point out the reasons for their hatred, and what you call assumptions they would think documented and established, and, it is not irrational but rather rational and reasonable to approach conspiratorial charges within this context. Let's take one conspiratorial charge against Bush--that he's connected or behind the SBVfT ads. Connections--Karl Rove is old friends with SBVfT's key supporter, and Ginsburgh was advising both the Bush campaign and the SBVfT, and, Bush has avoided ever condemning the content of the SBVfT ads, although he has had ample opportunity to [he has succeeded, often humorously, in just changing the subject, by saying he's against 527's--see this press release of McClellan's--scan down, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/08/20040823-2.html
--Now, is it silly to believe there is a connection? It seems pretty well established that , for instance, the Bush-backed medicare bill was understimated by 150 billion, and there have been reports in reputable magazines like Time that political operatives of Bush's pressured key accountants in charge to suppress this data. Also, it's been clearly established that Cheney gave many no-bid contracts to Halliburton. It's also been pretty well established that the Bush campaign ran a smear campaign against McCain in '00, led by Karl Rove, to convince voters that McCain had spawned an illegitimate miscegnated child. Karl Rove also 'found' a bug in his office the day before the voting on the candidate he was advising at one time [I forget who], and the smear helped. Although we don't know who, the Valerie Plame leak came from someone on the White House staff, and, instead of making all his staff sign affidavits saying they didn't do it/know about it, or, in fact, ANYTHING, Bush said "we'll probably never find out who did it."
Anyways, after all this, and much more, is it really irrational to at least ENTERTAIN the idea that Bush was behind, or at least had a connection with, the SBVfT guys? I don't think so. I think it would be irrational to just definitely suppose it is true.
And, as far as the hatred, we don't believe bad things about Bush 'just because' we hate him. We hate him, or, at least despise him, for reasons. The reason I despise him developed over a long, long time of broken promises [no child left behind, money for Aids in Africa], outright deceptions, and cynical exploitations.
To ignore my previous conclusions in attempting to ascertain whether a certain charge against Bush might be true would be irrational.
But, it seems a cheap trick to say that we believe bad things about Bush based on hatred and assumptions--the implication being that our irrational beliefs are based on unfounded, also irrationally founded beliefs. Let's look at the reasons, in any case, for each case.
And, in the case of the SBVfT, the notion that Bush is connected to it is just as strong, if not stronger than, the connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The reason I keep saying that there is a connection between Bush and the SBVfT is that there is a connection between Bush and the SBVfT. See, wasn't that easy? Of course, THAT there is a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq isn't intersting, there was/is a 'connection', just as there is a connection between al-Qaeda and the US [look, we trained their pilots at our own flight schools! Just as Zarqawi got treated in a hospital in Iraq], what is important is whether there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda that justified invading Iraq, to the tune of three Americans dying everying two days. No.
Looks to me like Bush is the biggest conspiracy theorist of them all. One of the key marks of a conspiracy theorist, or a 'true believer', is that their belief is unfalsifiable to them. That is, any evidence against their favorite proposition p is reconstrued as evidence for p, or, if something seems to undermine a position they scramble for any available other reason to believe p.
That an Iraq invasion was necessary is Bush's conspiratorial-like belief. [ok, I know this is a stretch...it's not so much a conspiratorial belief as it is held like one is].
Alright, you rambled, now I rambled. Good day...

Mark, I see what you see as a solid chain of arguments for Bush as a deceiving, corrupt cheat as a bunch of not-so-damaging claims, not all ones I even approach agreeing with, that don't add up to that much once each piece is taken down a few notches. It was just one piece of a larger puzzle. Halliburton has been explained, for instance, because there aren't many companies that could do the work immediately, that had a good reputation for doing excellent work in that specialized sphere, and that also had government experience and wouldn't need to wait for all the red tape to go through. Given Dick Cheney's lack of financial ties to the success of Halliburton, the more serious claims were completely erroneous anyway. Oh, and the lawyer claim applies equally to the Kerry lawyers. I don't see anything illegal there, but the people who do need to acknowledge that Kerry has at least 2-3 lawyers doing the same thing with his campaign and 527 groups. It disgusted me to see major headlines at all the major news sites about this lawyer for Bush and Swift Boats, while the 2-3 lawyers working for both Kerry and moveon.org or both Kerry and other groups didn't get any mention except at Fox and at conservative blogs.

As for the connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, there was never any claim that the al Qaeda/Iraq connection was sufficient to justify invasion. Still, I think communications that involve potential plans to work together in the event of the Taliban falling constitute enough of a link between a terrorist and a terrorist sympathizer when national security is at risk, whereas claiming coordination (which the Bush Administration never claimed about al Qaeda and Saddam) between two people who happen to be good friends simply because they're good friends is not justified, especially given that there's a perfectly good explanation why they'd do it without positing such a connection. If Rove is good friends with someone, wouldn't you expect that someone to want to use his resources to help his friend out even if, as Rove says, they haven't done more than exchange pleasantries in the last few years? This so-called proof of a connection is nothing more than an explanation for why there's no reason to believe coordination has taken place.

My main problem with your argument is that it engages a view I never defended. I never said that merely entertaining a conspiracy theory is irrational. I've entertained the conspiracy theory that Bush was a CIA agent during the time he was officially with the National Guard. It's an interesting theory. I have no reason to believe it's true, but I've entertained it. When I first heard the Swift Boat ads, I entertained the possibility that they might be true while entertaining the possibility that they might be false. This was what I want to say about any claim until good reason has been presented to dismiss it. I think that was done with most of the Swift Boat claims, though factcheck.org had some questions still about some last I checked. I never wanted to say entertaining the possibility that Rove and the Swift Boats might be working together is irrational. The people I've been targeting are those who believe these things with no evidence or very little evidence, particularly if they're the sort of person who will dismiss theism on the grounds that there isn't any or enough evidence. I know that's not true of either of my primary interlocutors on this issue, so obviously my more serious charge doesn't apply to either of you. You seemed to think my argument was directed at you. It wasn't.

Good reply. I'm too tired to reply to some of the things I want to just now, just wanted to let you know I read it. G'night!

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