The Power of Unreason
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The Power of Unreason
Wikispooks interest in the paper
The paper is of interest to Wikispooks less for its analysis and prescriptions, and more as an example of the way in which unspoken Official Narratives dominate even the most thoughtful, carefully researched and well meaning of commentary on security and foreign policy matters.
The unspoken assumption and bias of the paper
In company with all mainstream analysis - Left, Right and all points in between - the fundamental assumption underlying the paper is that the motives and consequent agendas of society's Elites are benign. That is to say, that they are in service to the common good of the mass of the population - or rather that the interests of the mass of the population and the State are, almost by definition, coincident.
It is an unstated assumption. Unstated because it is in fact an unwritten article of faith which cannot be questioned without jeopardizing ones aspirations to career, rank, position and place in society. In other words, to question it is a taboo in modern Western so-called democracies; a taboo that can be raised only as a means of ridiculing or demonizing its questioners as mad, bad or treasonous.
And so it is with this paper. Its authors, Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller, clearly have academic ambitions to further. They conclude that the Security Services should be more open (i.e. less secret), as though the fundamental tenets of espionage can somehow be made more palatable to sane, normal people. In doing so they will undoubtedly be indulgently applauded and criticised in equal measure by the the arbiters of the State's secrets. After all it is proof, is it not, of our society's openness to 'free-speech' and uncomfortable criticisms - even if the criticism is 'wrong'?
'Infiltration' of 'Conspiracy sites' by the SIS's
The paper recommends infiltration of internet sites that 'promote conspiracy theories'. This from page 43:
... For obvious reasons it is extremely difficult for the government to infiltrate effectively closed networks of disinformation. However, open infiltration is possible in some limited instances.
Introduce some limited, open infiltration of Internet and physical sites by government to introduce alternative information. Government agents or their allies should openly infiltrate the Internet sites or spaces to plant doubts about conspiracy theories, introducing alternative information
The naivety is breath-taking - as though such tactics are not meat and drink to the Spooks from the outset of ANY grouping with the potential to be either threatening or manipulable to official narrative purposes. They really do need a 101 course in spook tradecraft
The paper's advocacy of official efforts at 'conspiracy Theory' debunking echoes a corresponding section of an official US government site headed "Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation":  and an academic paper by Cass Sunstein that underpins it. 
Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts, and evidence is ignored. As a superpower, the United States is often cast as a villain in these dramas.
As an example of pap for the gullible it is exemplary.
Pathological secrecy of the State
Any possibility that the pathological secrecy of departments and agencies of the State where foreign affairs and "Security" are concerned, might have something to do with defense of the indefensible - in furtherance of agendas which the mass of the population might be less than enamored with - is neither explored nor explorable. The "Official Narrative" is sacrosanct and must be defended at any cost.
After all Daddy always knows best; Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are very real and will not like it if you don't believe in them - The only problem with that analogy being a total absence of corresponding altruism-in-the-telling on the part of our Lords, Masters and Betters.
The lessons of history
Think of the hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded foot-soldiers in the trenches of the First World War, in pursuit of the 'Official Narrative' agendas of THEIR Lords, Masters and Betters.
Then ponder the REAL reasons for our latter-day interference in Iraq and Afghanistan (and anywhere else that declines to see things the US/UK/NATO way). With 1.5 million or more dead, 4 million plus homeless/refugees - and counting; a country (Iraq - the cradle of civilisation) looted of its historic treasures; its entire infrastructure destroyed, and reduced to factional civil war by those claiming to be its liberators! - and weep at the vicious sanctimonious lies of Empire and the docile, self-deluding blindness of the Sheeple that are its enablers.
Wikispooks letter to Demos
The following is the text of an email sent to the publisher of the paper, Demos on 29 August 2010:
Your paper "The Power of Unreason" by Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller has been posted on Wikispooks. It is accompanied by a 'Wikispooks comment' which is, to put it politely, critical.
No doubt its authors will add Wikispooks to their list of "Conspiracy Theorists", defined by them as those in thrall to "accounts of events as the deliberate yet concealed product of a powerful few, regardless of the evidence".
Wikispooks has already added them to its list of "Coincidence Theorists" defined by Wikispooks as those in thrall to "accounts of events per 'The Official Narrative' (give or take the odd innocent cock-up-or-two), REGARDLESS OF THE EVIDENCE".
EVIDENCE being the key.
For example, I can find just 3 examples of 'Conspiracy Theory' turning into 'Conspiracy Fact' in the entire paper, (Northwoods, Overthrow of Salvadore Allende, Claudy Bombing). I suggest the authors understanding of their chosen subject would benefit from a little more research into theory-proven-as-fact. For example into the involvement of the CIA and/or our own MI6 into such matters as the Installation of the Shah of Iran, events in Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and the whole of South/Central America to name just a few; in fact anywhere where governments decline to see things the US/UK/NATO way - Oh, and of course the daddy of them all in their own back yard - "Operation Gladio"
Their mention of such groupings as al-Qaeda, The Red Brigades, The Red Army Faction, The Angry Brigade etc suggests they are entirely oblivious of the extent to which so-called 'extremist groups' were and are the 'agent-provocateured', manufactured, organised, trained, supplied, and used PATSY products of - schhh you know who - oops more conspiracy theory.
IOW, their piece serves the covert interests of the spooks they so ardently criticise rather well. So I guess they still believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. They should go far.
Update - reply received 20 October 2010 - see the discussion page (tab above)
- Cognitive Infiltration A review of a book by David Ray Griffin debunking the Cass Sunstein paper
- File:Demos-Conspiracy theories.pdf - pdf of the paper on Wikispooks.
- Conspiracy Theories - 2008 paper by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule
- Demos website - link to The Power of Unreason
- Secret services 'must be made more transparent' - Independent 29 August 2010
- Secret Services Should Be 'Less Secret' - Sky News report 29 August 2010
- Demos fears government terror strategy 'fuels mistrust' - BBC News 29 August 2010