Wikileaks, Conspiracies, and Revolution

American exceptionalism still makes a difference.

Wikileaks was founded on the belief that ordinary Americans would become enraged and force changes in their government if they could see what their government was doing.  Wiki's foray into persuading Americans to be indignant started when they published combat videos of a helicopter gunning down 12 Iraqi citizens.

Although there was comment about the video, most people chalked it up to "one of those things" that happen in the fog of war and forgot about it.

Wikleaks expected strong protest when they released manuals teaching soldiers how to prevent overthrow of governments friendly to the US, but the reaction was negligible.  Americans were mildly surprised that our government was smart enough to plan how to support friendly governments in dicey places.  That's something we're not usually good at, but the basic goal was fine.  Again, Wikileaks struck out; meddling with foreign governments is something the American people expect their government to do, and trying to do it well is even better.

When Wikileaks released a huge pile of classified Afghan war documents were released in July 2010, their own-goal was spectacular: some polls showed that support for the war actually increased.  Instead of recoiling in horror at the bloody slaughter of Afghans, America was relieved to discover that our soldiers were far more effective at killing the right people and breaking their things than our media likes to claim.  Americans were glad that there might be hope of an actual victory in that particular pesthole.

To the Eurotrash Wikileakers, slaughter was self-evidently bad; to Americans, slaughter of our enemies is self-evidently good.  Wikileaks still hasn't learned the first lesson of propaganda: try to understand the core beliefs of whomever you're trying to propagandize.

The Wiki Weakness

Wikileaks' founding assumption is that the social order is based upon lies, and that it's fragile enough that people will rebel and bring it down if they're told what's really going on.  Unlike most propagandists, Wikileaks doesn't appear to have tried to lie; they tried to reveal the truth because they were convinced that once Americans understood how corrupt their government was, they'd demand change.

It hasn't worked out that way.  When Wikileaks edited their video dumps to emphasize the story they wanted, which is something TV news does every day without question, they were accused of spin and their arguments fell on deaf ears.

The New York Times pointed out that the ACORN leadership also complained about selective editing when they were accused to aiding and abetting child sex traffickers:

Bertha Lewis, Acorn’s former chief executive, contends that the videos were dishonest. “He [James O'Keefe, the videographer] is demon, a liar and a cheat,” she says. “What he did was despicable. He created a fiction.” Bertha Lewis still insists that Acorn did not offer advice on how to break the law. Clark Hoyt, a former public editor for The New York Times, reviewed O’Keefe’s raw footage and edited tapes and concluded that “the most damning words match the transcripts and the audio, and do not seem out of context.”

Accusing accusers of "spin" is the first defense of anyone caught misbehaving.  Unfortunately for Wikileaks, the New York Times didn't endorse their editing of the video, not that it would have made much difference.

The leaked manuals explaining how to support friendly governments didn't arouse much protest - they were so complicated that few read them, and their objective was about as agreeable as can be imagined.

Realizing that their small staff couldn't distill the Afghan cables into a vivid story, Wikileaks turned the vast archive over to the mainstream press.  The New York Times reported the story because they believed that Americans "have a right to know what's being done in their name."  Although releasing the cables to the mainstream media meant Wikileaks lost control, reporters who dug through the material did a better job telling the story than Wikileaks could have.

Even so, it didn't work.  There was embarrassment in foreign capitals, but most Americans seem to have been glad to see that their government was willing to get its hands dirty to support national interests.  Much of the Afgan material was "old news" in that it confirmed what most Americans had known all along even if they'd never have admitted to themselves that they knew.

To the extent that Americans would rather have remained ignorant of the details they already suspected and grudgingly supported, Wikileaks made itself even more unpopular.  As the London Review of Books put it:

The only surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn? The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know. This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything.  [emphasis added]

OK, there's some guy behind the curtain.
So what? We like the Wizard.

The Conspiracy Theorists' Dilemma

This is the basic problem facing conspiracy theorists - if their charges are true and even if everybody knows that what they're saying is true, most people prefer to ignore unpleasant facts.  The worse the conspiracy, the more strongly people try to ignore it because acknowledging a vast conspiracy presents two unpalatable choices:

  1. Admitting awareness of something unpleasant makes life less pleasant.
  2. Taking action against unpleasantness carries risks.

The more credible a conspiracy is, the more powerful the hidden powers behind the throne, the more uncomfortable it would be for most people to admit that the conspiracy exists.  What's worse, if the hidden conspiracy's that powerful, they'll ignore you so long as your protests don't threaten them.  If you start to get traction, however, you'll disappear in the night.  So long as life is reasonably comfortable, why rock the boat?

A Real-Life Example

Let's look at a real atrocity.  Both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that government bureaucracies conspire to do whatever they have to do to increase their budgets and power.

Some time back, a college professor took his son to a ball game where his son was accidentally served alcoholic lemonade at a concession stand.  A cop saw an underage child drinking alcohol in a public place and the child was rushed to the nearest emergency room by ambulance.

Even though the hospital couldn't find any alcohol in the child's blood, social workers took the child into custody.  The judge wouldn't give the child back unless the father moved out of the house.

Despite this clear and present danger to families, there were no protests.

It's not that nobody knows about the problem.  The Detroit Free Press quoted Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university's Child Advocacy Law Clinic, as saying that the emergency removal powers of Child Protection Services, though "well-intentioned" are "out of control and partly responsible for the large numbers of kids in the foster care system," which is almost universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened and to destroy the lives of the children sucked into it.

This incident was publicized widely enough that the European press commented, yet there were no protests.

One reason nobody protests is that they're afraid of losing their own children in retaliation.  Child Protection Agencies know parents are afraid of them.  On November 30, 1995, Theresa Reid, Executive Director of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, gave a speech to the Child Abuse Prevention Symposium at the University of Minnesota:

This fear of jack-booted government social workers ripping up innocent families has penetrated well beyond the readership of Family Circle and into the offices of highly educated congressional staff. I have had conversations this year with two influential staff members of different U.S. Senators … Both were new mothers, terrified at the prospect of having their babies taken away from them by strangers working for the government. And guess what? For the first time, the nation's major piece of child abuse legislation requires states to provide detailed information about false accusations of abuse.  [emphasis added]

Here are two influential women - junior members of the elite, even - who're terrified of losing their babies, but the best they can do to fight back is sheepishly require that social workers report details of false accusations?  Lack of imagination is one reason why it's so hard to fight a competent conspiracy.

Some years ago, a state senator had a reputation for criticizing CPS workers.  Shortly before an election, 911 got a call accusing him of beating his children in their back yard.  When the tape came out, it was obvious that the caller couldn't have seen the yard from the location of the call, but that little fact wasn't disclosed until after he'd lost the election.

Very few social workers are named Rothschild or belong to Skull and Bones, yet they understand the use of fear and intimidation to keep their enemies quiet.  You needn't be a member of the ruling elite to know how to abuse citizens - even citizens who actually are associate members of the ruling elite.

If It's True, So Much the Better

We personally know enough about the long-term wealthy to have no trouble believing that they have far more power than the rest of us and that they have lots more experience keeping and using power than we do.  In fact, that's almost a truism - by definition, it takes power to become wealthy and to stay that way over any length of time, particularly when we're ruled by an administration whose rhetoric is just this side of Lenin's.

If unionized government employees who're costing more than we can afford count as a conspiracy, so do our wealthy elites.  As we've seen with the battles over the cost of unionized government employees, it's tough to fight an entrenched conspiracy even if it's only a well-organized interest group.

Let us suppose that the Rothschilds, the Masons, the Illuminati and their ilk have been ruling the world for a couple of centuries.  America enjoyed an economic boom from the early 1800's until recently.

Ordinary Americans like us have become so wealthy that people whom our bureaucrats define as poor have more VCRs, cars, air conditioners, cell phones, and other toys than the population of Europe as a whole.  From the point of view of a peasant at the bottom of the pile, what's wrong with that?

Starting in the mid 1960's, centuries after the Masons et al took power, our visible ruling elite started funding an unsustainable welfare state.  Their obvious plot to buy votes with our money is far too crass to be the product of Skull and Bones.  Jay Rockefeller and the Baron Rothschild would be embarrassed; they were more subtle and much more successful overall.

As our economy collapsed and spending exploded, the Tea Party reacted in anger.  Instead of starting a war, they elected a Republican Congress which has created at least the sound and fury of spending cuts.  In Rockefeller's day, this would have never been necessary - the federal government would have had all the money it required because the economy would be ticking along nicely and churning out ample tax revenue, and certainly not wasting it on buying the votes of unproductive slackers.

We've been predicting a new civil war over the issue of whether our nation can survive with half the population being enslaved to support the other half.  We've also noted that it's pretty hard to inspire people to take action.

Today's Americans aren't responding to a clear and present danger to their children and their wives so they may not respond to a clear and present danger to their wallets.  One wonders how the American Revolution ever got off the ground.

From that perspective, if the Tea Party can peel back excessive government so that America can prosper again, it won't really matter if the Illuminati are secretly ruling the world.  We just need a more competent batch of shadowy powerful forces than the current Resident, his minions, and his puppet-masters.

On the other hand, we wish our conspiracy theorists every good fortune and all success in arousing the sheeple.  A frightened citizen who's armed against an alien invasion will be far better prepared, even if it's the TSA who shows up bearing anal probes instead of ET.

Anyone trying to awaken the American people from their Oprah-induced slumber is on the side of the angels, but they'll need all the angelic help they can get.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Picture caption:

"OK, there's some guy behind the curtain.
So what? We like the Wizard."

Good point. And for those that missed it - the Wizard is the invisible hand of the market, not an actual person or group of people.

August 8, 2011 11:53 AM

So, to recap:

1. There really are shadowy individuals and groups manipulating our society from behind the scenes

2. They're powerful enough, and willing, to use unethical means to make the lives of those who protest or even point out their actions very unpleasant, short, or both

3. The average citizen knows this and therefore does his or her best to ignore them

4. Get used to it

I hope the author is merely trying to state fact, and not push a philosophy. At best this article seems an admonishment for Willie and others to sit down and "play the game", because anything else is a waste of time.

Good call on using CPS as an example of an organization with much too much power and no real oversight. I would link state DCSE's to this also, given than they have in fact extorted hundreds of dollars from me that I never owed anyone, kept it for themselves, and threatened to extort more if I protested after I investigated and got one of them to admit that it looked like someone had just edited their computer records to create a debit out of thin air. A blatant intimidation tactic that worked. This is how these people operate.

August 8, 2011 12:05 PM

Werebat, I think Offensicht is making a hypothetical argument here.

He's not asserting that your bullet points are true, but saying that *IF* bullet 1 and 2 are correct, then "American Exceptionalism" has made them unimportant. A different twist on the conspiratorial element.

Or perhaps Offensicht and Petrarch disagree, and this is a debate between two different schools of thought? :-)

August 8, 2011 12:16 PM

This is one of the things I like about Scragged: it forces you to think, and induces you to discuss the issues at hand.

I think the point being made here is that there are indeed evil powers at work, CPS being one of them, but that "retail" evil like that isn't really part of a vast world-girdling conspiracy. But it's OK if people THINK there's a conspiracy as long as it induces them to rise up and throw out the incompetents at the helm, and to be suspicious of petty officialdom in general.

August 8, 2011 12:25 PM

Your layout of your thoughts was orderly, point vs point, with what I gathered was, not much will or can be done in your estimation. There are factions that try to influence events, but they too, have their limits, even the wealthy. Capitalism, and the purer the better, is the one thing that breaks the shackles from the Wikileaks, Rothschilds, Rockefellers, government agencies, and the overall apathy of the world to not rock the boat. "Why expose myself to potential aggravation or worse?" is the attitude. In my opinion, man's self centered interest in his own well being is the one thing that can bring us back from the edge that we find ourselves on at this moment. Not everyone can be wealthy simply because people are different. Some people find wealth in gold, some in leisure time, some on others. It is up to the individual to decide for himself what wealth is and not for government or some regulatory agency to put everyone into a one size fits all. Is there any question why people gladly accept "free money" from the government when it is available? That accepting of money is in that person's best interest because he did not have to work for it. This attitude has to be broken and the way is to abolish the entitlements for people. It can't be done overnight but needs to be done in an orderly way with it spelled out how the entitlements are ending over a given period of time. When people are self sufficient they will be better informed and most of the stuff that Wikileaks points out will be curtailed as people will realize that those escapades are coming out of their billfold. There will always be two sides to each story but an informed society will make better choices because once again, people will do what is in their best interests. As for the mega wealthy, get used to it, there will always be those with more material wealth than others, besides, society needs the wealthy for jobs. Not everyone wants the responsibility of being wealthy. After they buy their toys what can they do to an informed society? Not much.

August 8, 2011 12:35 PM

I think, bassboat, the somewhere in the federalist papers or something written around then was an observation that our form of government would work only as long as the people were educated. That is one of the reasons that Dewey, the father of "progressive education," tried to take content out of education and put in social engineering, self-actualization and other edubabble. The less people know, the more easily they can be manipulated.

August 8, 2011 6:14 PM

you are spot on. They were also smart enough to not allow everyone to vote.

August 8, 2011 7:54 PM

@Bassboat - I'd forgotten that part. UR right, deciding who can and who can't vote is really important. Notice all the hooraw about wanting to make voters show ID to vote? Who is for it? Who is against it?

Anybody who can't get an ID is too dumb to vote.

August 8, 2011 10:06 PM
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