◄►Bookmark◄❌►▲ ▼Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
I believe I first read George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, as part of the reading list for an English 101 college class. I was a teenager at the time and I don’t believe I really understood what Orwell was getting at. I think my understanding was at the superficial level. I mostly just took it to be a screed against crappy writing — which it is, of course. But it is much more than that. Some of the ideas in that essay were later developed in his magnum opus, the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, wherein the government of Oceania are designing a new language called Newspeak, which brings to mind the current-day scourge of “political correctness”. Come to think of it, Nineteen Eighty-Four is also something I first read around that time but did not fully understand.
Now, here we are, 66 years after Orwell’s untimely death and many of these ideas he explores in his writing are still topical and relevant. In fact, increasingly so. When it comes to understanding the pervasive propaganda matrix, one important aspect is seeing how language is manipulated to frame issues. Much of this is quite blatant. Anybody paying the slightest attention ought to notice how different words are used depending on the desired framing. Thus, Osama Bin Laden was a “freedom fighter” when he was fighting the Soviet Union, but when he started opposing the United States, he became a “terrorist”. Likewise, if an enemy uses a torture method like water-boarding, it is simply called torture and is utterly deplorable. When we do it, it is “enhanced interrogation”.
I wonder what Orwell would have made of what happened to the word “gay”. Surely, in his time, it was perfectly normal to say: “You seem in a very gay mood today!” Nowadays, not so much. Granted, language is a living, dynamic thing, and thus tends to evolve over time. However, I don’t think this particular change of meaning happened organically. It seems to be an example of deliberate framing. While there already was a perfectly good, neutral term, “homosexual”, and we still have that word, it seems there was a conscious attempt to promote “gay” as an alternative term with a more positive connotation, what with its normal meaning of “merry” or “cheerful”.
The case where Orwell would have had a field day, though, is with the word “conspiracy”. The official dictionary definition has not changed since Orwell’s day. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary online:
- a secret plan made by two or more people to do something harmful or illegal
- the act of secretly planning to do something that is harmful or illegal
By that definition, a conspiracy theory would just mean some theory that posits that two or more people planned in secret to do some shit. Nonetheless, the very same Merriam-Webster dictionary has a separate entry for “conspiracy theory”.
- a theory that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups
Truth told, I don’t think the above definition of “conspiracy theory” is really adequate, at least assuming that the purpose of a dictionary is to document how words are actually used. This definition comes nowhere near fully capturing to what extent this has become a term of derision. In popular usage, the person who believes in conspiracies, the conspiracy theorist, is taken to be self-evidently crazy and anything he says can be dismissed out of hand.
I assume that Orwell would note that the way this term is used contains built-in question-begging. By all means, tell me that what I am saying is absurd and crazy, be my guest. Except, now, you do have to demonstrate that it is!
Well, apparently not… When somebody says: “Oh, that’s just a conspiracy theory!” don’t hold your breath waiting for the explanation of why the theory is wrong. ‘Cause it ain’t coming! No, somehow the person who trots out this cliché is relieved of any obligation to demonstrate, using facts and logic, that an idea is mistaken. It’s enough to just say “Conspiracy theory!” like some sort of magical incantation that short-circuits all the necessary debate.
Actually, it is well established that this state of affairs did not come about on its own, but rather, was deliberately engineered by the CIA in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. Nonetheless, I do wonder whether they anticipated just how successful they would be in implanting this notion in the public mind — that believing in so-called “conspiracies” was the hallmark of a nutter.
We can read old novels and characters say things like: “I’m feeling a bit queer, it must be something I ate.” But nowadays, most of us find some other way to express the idea. Rage, by all means, that yet another perfectly innocent English word has suffered an identity theft. But know that it serves no purpose. Once you recognize that a word has become effectively unusable, you just have to look for an alternative term to use. In the case of “conspiracy”, I would propose that we talk more in terms of “deep events” and “deep politics”. Using that framing, the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 are quintessential “deep events” that require a “deep political analysis” to be properly understood. I think this is a good counter-framing of the question. If you say, quite correctly, that Lee Harvey Oswald was just a patsy and there was a high-level conspiracy to kill Kennedy, you’ve all but conceded the debate, given how the word “conspiracy” has been hijacked. If you say, on the other hand, that the JFK assassination was a “deep event” that requires a “deep political analysis”, you are implicitly saying that the people repeating this discredited “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone” nonsense are not engaging in a deep political analysis, but rather a shallow analysis. I mean to say, there really is the need to think about how they manipulate language to frame these questions and to come up with a counter to that.
When it comes to this sort of framing, aside from the overloading of already existing words, like “conspiracy” or “gay”, there is also the invention of new words — neologisms to use the more academic term. For our purposes here, there is nothing particularly interesting about the cases where a new word is invented to describe something that really did not exist before and now does — like “smartphone”. What we need to examine are the cases where new words enter common usage for propaganda or framing purposes.
In this vein, the term “blowback” really merits some careful consideration. The aforementioned Merriam-Webster dictionary claims that the first known use of the word is from 1973, while the wikipedia page on the term cites CIA internal documents from 1954. Said documents expressed the concern that the CIA operation to overthrow the government of Mossadegh in Iran could lead to “blowback”. (Boy, did it ever!)
It seems that the discrepancy between Wikipedia’s first usage of the term in 1954 and Merriam-Webster saying that it was 1973 is that Merriam Webster was referring to public usage. It does not seem under dispute that “blowback” began as internal CIA shorthand that meant unintended (and undesirable) consequences of CIA covert operations.
The “Blowback” theory of terrorism
At this point in time, the term “blowback” seems to have gone from being internal CIA jargon to being a sort of shibboleth of the left-liberal intelligentsia. The basic idea is that the major terrorist events of recent history, such as 9/11 or 7/7 in London or the recent events in Paris and Brussels, are a natural (yet unintended) result of the brutal policies of Western governments in far off (largely Muslim) countries. Anybody listening to these people would surely conclude that this is a well established phenomenon. But what is odd is that when you step back and look at this with ample historical perspective, the whole concept looks pretty dubious. Let’s consider certain key facts:
The British Empire…
Some people look back on it fondly, but it is safe to say that a lot of people around the world really did not appreciate it; they had their reasons… So, if “blowback terrorism” is a real, important phenomenon, the British Empire should have had a huge “blowback” problem, no? Surely angry Indians or Africans or Arabs were plotting how they would make their way to London and kill some random Brits to express their dissatisfaction with British government policies, no? And surely, the local authorities in the home country of Britain were on constant guard against this “blowback”, right?
Well…. not exactly….
The police departments of American cities have been acquiring military grade weaponry to deal with an alleged terrorism threat, yet throughout the entire period of the British empire, English cops felt no need to even carry a firearm. Ain’t that something?
What is striking about this is that, not only were the authorities of the time not concerned about “blowback”, they did not even have a word for it! The very word had not been invented yet! This phenomenon, disgruntled people showing up in London or Paris or New York and carrying out terrorist attacks as a result of whatever meddling in their country — there was not even a word for it!
Well, the sun set on the British Empire a while back and it could be that something happened since then such that blowback terrorism became a big problem. Scan forward a bit…. the United States carpet bombed villagers throughout Southeast Asia, killing literally millions of innocents, yet I cannot recall a single “blowback” terrorism incident, where somebody who lost his entire family, entire village, decided to get even by blowing up some Americans in California. It never happened, I think not even once. There are large ethnic Vietnamese populations in the U.S. and all it would take is one embittered person, but no… nothing.
Fast forward to the 1980′s and we can make some similar comments about very brutal U.S. policies in Central America, the support for Nicaraguan contras or the Salvadoran death squads. Surely the U.S. suffered a wave of “blowback terrorism” as a result, no? Uh,.. no. There was a large population of refugees from those countries. Most of them, in my own personal experience, are very nice people, but out of hundreds of thousands of them, surely all it would take is one person with a grudge to do a suicide bombing or some such thing. But it doesn’t seem to have happened.
So, on the face of it, so-called “blowback terrorism” is a very dubious concept, no? There are so many situations where, by all rights, there should have been plenty of “blowback terrorism”, or some amount anyway, but it just never happened! And I don’t mean to say that it was rare. No, there simply was not a single case! I think it bears repeating: it was so rare that nobody had yet bothered to invent a word for it!
In the above, I referred to the term “conspiracy theory” as a magical incantation of a sort. Another way of putting this is that the use of the term contains built-in question-begging. The person using this loaded term is strongly implying that the so-called “conspiracy theory” is self-evidently crazy. However, that is precisely what needs to be demonstrated!
The term “blowback” is similar. It contains an implicit theory of events that there should be a need to demonstrate. Specifically, the concept of “blowback” is that a certain outcome is an unfortunate, and unintended consequence of whatever policy. Thus, the rise of these “jihadist” or “islamist” groups such as Al Qaeda or ISIS/Daesh was an unanticipated consequence of U.S. policy. Or to put it another way, this is a bug, as opposed to a feature.
But is that true? Well, maybe… but that is precisely what there is a need to demonstrate, no? The person using this “blowback” term is simply begging the question, assuming the proposition that needs to be proven, that whatever phenomenon is an unintended consequence of the government’s foreign policy — as opposed to it being an intended result.
Of course, more importantly, the people using the term “blowback terrorism” assume invariably that the people whom the authorities claim carried out the terrorist attacks in question actually did so! They always seem to be willfully ignorant of all of the independent research that shows that the people in question were just patsies. But hey, that’s what the other magical incantation, “conspiracy theory”, is for: to dismiss all of that independent research! Don’t even bother to look at any of that. Those are all just “conspiracy theories”.
Now, the foregoing discussion leads us two key questions — well, I think they are two separate questions, albeit rather entangled with one another:
- Given that the “blowback” theory of terrorism is quite tenuous at best (since in situations where there should have been a lot of blowback terrorism, there was none) then why is the entire American “intelligentsia” so invested in this explanation? In particular, figures such as Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges and many others (practically anybody who writes for Counterpunch and other such “alternative media”) never tire of telling us that an event such as 9/11 is “blowback”. Likewise for the recent events in France and Belgium.
- The aforementioned people are not stupid. So, must we conclude that they are being consciously dishonest when they use these magical incantations such as “blowback” or “conspiracy theory”?
I think the first question can be answered with some level of confidence. As for the second question, whether these people are being consciously dishonest, it is hard, maybe impossible, to come to any determination on that. Possibly these various intellectual gatekeepers are not even being consciously dishonest for the most part. In their own minds, they are honest, but they have internalized a kind of tortuous mental gymnastics to such a degree that it has become second nature to them. This is the phenomenon that I shall now explore.
The HIQI revisited and introducing the concept of TITT
In a previous article, I introduced the concept of the HIQI, which is the “High IQ Idiot”. A HIQI is a person with a fairly high IQ and typically a high level of formal education (the two things usually go together obviously…) who has an abysmally low BDQ, Bullshit Detection Quotient.
Now, nobody really took much issue with the HIQI or BDQ concepts. I guess it corresponds to most people’s casual observation: somebody can have an arbitrarily high IQ and still be utterly incapable of seeing through political propaganda (a.k.a. bullshit). In fact, the bullshit can be really laughably absurd, cartoonish — hence my terminology of RRN, Roger Rabbit Narrative — yet the HIQI in question cannot see through it. So I made that observation in the article and I don’t think hardly anybody really disagreed with me, but what I didn’t do was make any attempt to explain why.
Well, actually, I don’t even presume to know fully the reasons why so many high IQ people are so easily taken in by absurd political propaganda. What I’ll attempt to do though is to lay some groundwork that could be useful in exploring the question. What I shall do now is go off on what looks like a tangent and introduce a sort of archetypal situation. My point may not be initially obvious but please bear with me.
Let us consider an intellectual figure in the Middle Ages, who has a great interest in understanding celestial phenomena. Let’s say this early astronomer has developed a theory to explain a certain phenomenon — the solar eclipse, let’s say. Let us call this theory A.
Theory A is a very clear, very elegant model of the solar eclipse. However, it has a very major problem. Theory A is based on the heliocentric model, i.e. the earth revolves around the sun. Well, that is not the problem precisely. After all, the earth does revolve around the sun. The problem is that, at this point in time, this was considered to be heresy. (Heresy, by the way, is the older term, what they used to call inconvenient truths, long before the CIA came up with the term “conspiracy theory”.)
Or, alternatively, the real problem is that our medieval astronomer does not fancy getting burnt at the stake, which is what they used to do to
conspiracy theorists heretics back then. (Medical knowledge was not as advanced as it is now, but it was generally understood that this was not good for one’s health.)
So what is one to do? Well, let’s say that the not so heroic hero of our story decides to tear up his elegant theory A and comes up with a new theory, theory B.
Theory B is very inelegant and complicated compared to theory A. It has a very contrived feel about it. Despite having invented the theory himself, our astronomer is not really very happy with it, thinking that it is actually kind of self-contradictory and doesn’t withstand very much scrutiny at all.
The advantage of theory B — actually its only positive point — is that it is not heretical. Theory B is based on the sun revolving around the earth, as Church doctrine claims. What happens now in the story is that, much to this person’s surprise, theory B is widely lauded and accepted by the leading minds of the day.
Okay, this is the story and we can make certain observations about it. First of all, we do not need to introduce any new terminology to describe theory A. Theory A is simply the correct explanation, the truth. Yes, it runs counter to Catholic Church dogma, but hey, guys, check out this radical concept:
Objective reality simply exists. It is not the slightest bit constrained by Catholic Church dogma… OR any other dogma!
Now, theory B is, of course, not the correct explanation. In fact, it only comes into existence because the correct explanation, theory A, is taboo, heresy. And that, obviously, is why the leading thinkers of the day rush to endorse theory B and disavow theory A. Theory B is not a very good theory, it doesn’t withstand much serious scrutiny, but it won’t get you burnt at the stake!
Now for some new terminology. The phenomenon that the above story illustrates is Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking (or Theorizing) which we can call TITT for short. Such tortuous thinking leads to Taboo Induced Tortuous Theories, or TITTs, of which theory B above is an example. (As for the approved pronunciation of TITT, I’m not going to be very prescriptive. I always assumed that the pronunciation of HIQI was pretty clearly “hickey”. As for TITT, if the final T is pronounced separately, it is Tit-Tee. If the term really catches on, we could have a vote. It does not strike me as such an important matter to resolve in any case. For example, if British readers prefer to think that BDQ stands for “Bollocks Detection Quotient”, I have no particular objection. A native speaker of Spanish would tend to pronounce TITT more like “teat”, which also seems appropriate. So I’m willing to leave this up to the reader.)
Now, once you understand this concept, then (as per Doctor Freud) you start seeing TITTs everywhere! You open the op-ed page of the New York Times or some such mainstream publication and you just see nothing but TITTs — explanations for events that are very tortuous and contrived and you realize they are necessary because the correct, simpler explanation is a taboo. It dawns on you that many of the conventional explanations of events that you were taught as part of your (mis)education are actually just examples of Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking. Thus:
- The mainstream history of the Second World War is chock full of TITTs.
- The Warren Commission explanation of the Kennedy assassination is a TITT.
- The 9/11 Commission Report is a TITT.
- All the mainstream media explanation of what happened in Ukraine in the past few years is TITT.
- The theory of “Blowback Terrorism” is a TITT.
This is a very incomplete list, of course…
Yes, WW2, a.k.a. the “Good War”. I was hesitant to go there for obvious reasons, but aspects of the conventional history are such major examples of TITT that I think we really need to examine it a moment. So here goes:
On 22 June 1941, Germany launched an invasion of the Soviet Union. Some months later, the German army was occupying a large part of the country, had encircled major Soviet army groups, taking millions of prisoners. And not long after that, German troops were on the outskirts of Moscow and Leningrad. So, at this historical juncture, when this country, the Soviet Union, the flagbearer of international communism, was on the verge of collapse, what did the major capitalist countries do?
- Simply stay out of it and hope that Hitler’s Germany would finish off the USSR, and thus remove the specter of communism for good
- Actively join in with Germany to make sure they finished off the USSR
- Pull out all the stops in order to save the USSR, economic aid, lend-lease, sending supplies and equipment…
Well, it’s a silly question, right? You all know the answer. (I hope to hell you know the answer. If you don’t, go get some remedial education…) What happened is number 3. The question to consider, though, is this: let’s say you didn’t know that the answer was 3, let’s say you are Rumpelstiltskin and you went to sleep on 21 June 1941 and just woke up. And now you are catching up on the last 75 years of history, what would you guess?
I put it to you that option 3 is very surprising. In particular, why would the United States, the pre-eminent capitalist power in the world, be so intent on saving the Soviet Union? My own guess would be that option 1 is the most likely as there is no strong reason for the U.S. in particular to want the Soviet Union to survive. Surely the owners of the country, the capitalist corporate elite, would very much like to the see the Soviet Union destroyed.
Now, option 2 seems less likely than option 1 because, okay, they may not like the German regime that much either, not enough to actively ally with it. In any case, in principle, you need a positive reason to actually get involved in a fight; simply remaining neutral in a conflict so far away is the default option, no? So option 2 seems less likely than option 1. However, a priori, option 3 seems even less likely, since it is very hard to understand why the capitalist elite of the U.S.A. would prefer Stalin over Hitler, certainly not enough to get involved actively on Stalin’s side.
Yet we know what happened: option 3. But why? It is pretty well established that Hitler never had any designs against the West and his war aims were in the East. In 1941, Hitler would have been delighted to make a separate peace with Churchill, thus freeing him to concentrate on smashing the Soviet Union. He hated the idea of a two-front war which had been Germany’s downfall in the previous war. No, certainly after Germany invaded the USSR, Britain was, effectively, staying in the war against Germany specifically to save the USSR, to save Stalin.
Well, the intent of this essay is not to be a lesson in World War 2 history any more than to discuss medieval astronomy. I just want to make a simple point here.
If you believe that you can explain this episode of history without any reference to the political power of world Jewry, I believe you have your work cut out for you.
I suppose few readers need it explained to them that Jewish power generally is a very major taboo. To engage in “conspiracy theories” is one thing, but to engage in “anti-semitic conspiracy theories”? Hardly the way to advance your academic career if you are an ambitious historian, eh?
So, again, just like the medieval astronomer who does not want to be branded as a heretic, you must come up with an alternative explanation that avoids the taboo. So you engage in some “Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking”. You publish some TITT. Pass Go, collect tenure….
Now, okay, if you were up to that, and you’ve come up with your TITT explanation of why Britain and the U.S. helped Joe Stalin in his hour of need, it’s time for the next exercise in TITT and… boy, it’s a doozy:
Explain how, some 60 years later, the same countries basically, America and Britain, got embroiled in something called the Global War on Terror, all of these disastrous military adventures in Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…. (Actually, one should mention Iran, where they have tried but not been successful in getting something going. Yet….)
Explain how we got into this huge mess BUT:
- WITHOUT any mention of the Jewish lobby, a.k.a. the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC, to use the term of James Petras)
- WITHOUT any mention of false flag terrorism (specifically as a tool to manipulate public opinion in favor of the disastrous wars)
I welcome you to have a go at it, but I am pretty sure that any explanation that you come up with which fails to mention both the ZPC and false flag terrorism will be yet another example of pure TITT.
Earlier, I posed the question: given how tenuous and implausible the blowback theory of terrorism is when you examine it, why is the the left-liberal intelligentsia in the U.S.A. so committed to it? Well, I think the foregoing analysis basically answers the question. “Blowback” is a perfect example of TITT in action, Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking. The correct explanation is taboo so there is a need to come up with an alternative. The “Blowback” theory of terrorism is a TITT but there are many other examples of TITT as well.
Doublethink, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Emperor’s New Clothes
When you reach a certain adult understanding of the world, sometimes you look back on stories you heard or read as a child with a much greater understanding. We all probably heard some version of the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in our childhood. We have the little naive child who just says: “That man is naked”. And we have the adults in the story, courtiers… sycophants… who fulsomely praise the emperor’s fine new clothes. I suppose that the idea is that the sycophants in the story know perfectly well that the king is naked but pretend that he is clothed. What I wonder nowadays is whether the courtiers, at least some of them, actually believe somehow that the king is clothed despite the fact that their own eyes tell them that he is not! In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell introduces doublethink, the capacity of the indoctrinated person to hold contradictory views at the same time.
So, applying it to this story, doublethink would allow somebody to see a naked man right in front of him with his own two eyes and simultaneously believe — I mean sincerely believe — that he is dressed in a fine set of clothes! In light of this, I now wonder whether some of the courtiers really possess this Orwellian doublethink capability and thus believe (on some level, somehow) that the king really is wearing clothes, while others are just pretending.
In this whole doublethink/emperor’s new clothes vein, consider a video that I found quite appealing, entitled “This is an Orange”:
I later learned that the man who created that video, the late Anthony Lawson, was a retired advertising professional. It shows. In just over two minutes, he really gets to the heart of the issue. At the end, he shows the viewer an orange and basically says: “Are you going to believe somebody if they say this is an apple?” That is a rhetorical question obviously, but I guess the retort could be: “Damn right. I’ve gotten so good at doublethink that you can show me an orange and I can sincerely believe it is an apple.” (Okay, I know these people would never really say that. They aren’t that self-aware!)
The other question I posed above is whether the people pushing the “blowback” and the other TITT explanations are being consciously dishonest. This is a tough question. How many people, for example, really believe in “gender fluidity”? Do so many people sincerely believe that Bruce Jenner is really, somehow a woman? I have no idea, it’s mind-boggling. There really is this problem when you live in a society that is so utterly suffused with… drenched in… bullshit; it can be very hard to know who really believes all of it and who is just playing along. There can be massive rewards for going along with all the bullshit, and though they no longer burn people at the stake, the personal cost people pay for going against it can be very high. My own speculation is that, in most cases, somebody whose entire career in academia or as a commentator is based on espousing TITTs is never going to admit even to himself that he is basically a charlatan. That is simply too disturbing. If so, this means that many people really have mastered doublethink. The problem is that doublethink produces a lot of mental tension. In fact, there is a technical word in psychology for this: cognitive dissonance.
TITT Monger Tactics (TMTs)
Now, regardless of whether they are being consciously dishonest or really have mastered Orwellian doublethink, the various intellectual gatekeepers, the TITT mongers, do not debate in an intellectually honest manner. Their discourse is invariably chock full of all manner of illegitimate argumentation: straw men, arguments from ignorance, you name it. Especially question-begging. They just constantly assume as a given the proposition that they need to demonstrate.
The basic problem they have is that they are espousing an explanation of events that does not really fit the available facts. Not only that, but there is usually a competing explanation (the taboo explanation like the earth going round the sun) that does fit the facts. In my last article, I wrote a section about how the most basic HIQI approach to defending ridiculous stories (WOP, Wings on Pigs narratives) is that they simply never cede the initiative. So there is always an onus on you to respond to them, but they never have to respond to you. I got a fair bit of positive feedback about that and I think that it is maybe the most practically useful part of the article.
As infuriating as it is, one should probably not take it too personally. When somebody is up bullshit creek without a paddle, they must resort to illegitimate tactics. They have no other option. So, as a public service, it could be useful to outline the basic tactics they use. Also, I find it useful, just for myself, to sit down and delineate it all.
So, let’s look at it from their point of view. If you are committed to your TITTs, you will typically resort to a set of basic tactics. These, we can call “TITT Monger Tactics” or TMTs for short:
- Guard the Gate! Suppress or disallow the competing explanation that actually does explain the facts.
- The Memory Hole. Suppress or ignore the facts that do not conform to your explanation.
- Coincidence Theory. Also Lower the Bar. Recognize the facts that do not fit your theory but attribute it all to “coincidence”. What you will typically need to do is to “lower the bar” such that you no longer need to prove that your theory is true, just that it is possible.
- Blowhard Tactics. This is a grab-all category, a varied repertoire of bullying methods — pseudo-intellectual browbeating, hyper-emotionalism… Also, never concede a debating point.
The first tactic above, guard the gate, is self-explanatory. Actually, it’s not really a debating tactic per se; you just don’t let the other people into the debate. Typically, you just say that’s a “conspiracy theory” and it’s like: “We’re a respectable venue, we don’t discuss conspiracy theories here!” Well, if they do discuss a so-called “conspiracy theory”, it’s some sort of hit piece in which a straw-man version of the theory is presented and then lampooned. The actual independent researchers (whom they call “conspiracy theorists”) will never be allowed to present and defend their case in an open, intellectually honest setting.
The next TMT, the memory hole, comes from Orwell of course. The protagonist of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth (sic) and when he comes across some item, like a photo or news clipping that contains one of these pesky facts that do not support the current official dogma, it goes down the memory hole. I think the single most glaring example in recent history of this is the collapse of the third building, WTC7, on the day of 9/11. How do they explain the fact that a third building collapsed into its own footprint and was definitely not hit by a plane? The most important component of the establishment strategy is simply to suppress the fact, just never mention it. In fact, the 9/11 Commission issued a report and simply never mentioned the third building.
Another example of the memory hole in action is when the coup in Ukraine against the constitutional, elected government, is presented as some sort of popular revolution. People who depend solely on Western mainstream media for their information are not likely to know about this:
Yes, two American functionaries discussing who will form the next Ukrainian government after the
U.S. instigated armed coup popular revolution.
In this vein, “doublethink” (again from Orwell) can be understood as a fallback. Let’s say some pesky little fact, like the above video, pops out of the “memory hole” and you are confronted with it. (Poor little things, they must hate it when that happens.) Now, if you are one of these TITT mongers, obviously you never concede that this pesky little fact refutes your TITT. For example, in this case, the TITT you would be embracing is that there was a popular revolution in Ukraine and that the new government was put in there by the Ukrainian people. Say you are shown the above video, two unelected American officials deciding who will be in the next Ukrainian government, with no input from any Ukrainian. Of course, you will never admit that it is what is clearly is, proof that “Yatz” is an American-installed puppet leader of a puppet regime. No, you just keep hanging onto the TITT. When shown the orange, you maintain that it is an apple. Maybe you can give way a tiny bit to appear reasonable. “Okay, I know it looks a little bit like an orange, and yeah, I can see why an uneducated person such as yourself would be duped into thinking that it is, but I’m a Harvard-educated expert and I can assure you that this is definitely an apple.” So, there, you make a show of being open-minded and reasonable while still maintaining the appropriate arrogant condescending tone. Anyway, you can vary the parameters on all that a fair bit, but of course, I’m sure you understand, whatever you do, you never admit that the orange actually is an orange! “The collapse of building 7 does look a tiny bit like a controlled demolition and those “conspiracy theorists” try to make a big deal out of that, but we know those people are all whack jobs….”
The other major approach to pesky facts is coincidence theory; you explain away the pesky fact by saying that it is some sort of “coincidence”. Well, of course, what that really means is that your TITT offers no explanation of the fact. Now, in a normal, non-corrupted intellectual process, if a theory doesn’t fit the facts and another theory does, you eventually must abandon the first theory in favor of the second one. But that doesn’t happen here. (Surprise, surprise…) No, if you’re committed to your TITT — “blowback” or “lone nut gunman who self-radicalized” — you never let go of it. But you do have a problem. What you need to do now is you need to drastically lower the bar. Rather than having to prove that your theory, your TITT, is true — or even likely — you only need argue that it is within the limits of the possible. That’s a great trick because all kinds of utterly far-fetched things are still possible. For example, if I told you that a monkey banged away at a keyboard randomly and produced a Shakespeare sonnet, you would (quite reasonably) say that this is impossible. But no! It’s not absolutely impossible! So in a mode of absolute logical rigor, we cannot say it is impossible. The problem is that the probability, while not a true absolute zero, is so infinitesimal that, in terms of everyday common-sense use of language, it is perfectly reasonable to say that this is simply impossible!
So if your TITT, to be viable, requires some event of a very low order of probability, you simply argue that it is possible, i.e. it is not absolutely impossible….
So…. therefore it happened.
(Did you catch the sleight of hand there?)
And then you dance your victory dance, chant your victory chant: “I really showed those conspiracy theorists, kicked their asses!”
The classic example of “lowering the bar” would surely be the “single bullet theory”, which is part of the Warren Commission report on the assassination of President Kennedy. The JFK research community tends to call this the “magic bullet theory”, to emphasize the far-fetched nature of the story, one bullet causing seven different wounds on two men.
In any case, this “single/magic bullet theory”, proposed by an ambitious young lawyer by the name of Arlen Specter, is really an archetypal TITT. The task of the Warren Commission was to issue a report saying there was only one shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was acting alone. They had some thorny problems though. Oswald’s alleged murder weapon was a cheap Italian-made WW2 surplus bolt action rifle. Given the very short window of time, Oswald could only have fired at most three shots (and even that is in dispute) yet they had to explain eight wounds on two different men, Kennedy and John Connally. The utterly obvious explanation is that, in fact, there were other people shooting. However, that is the theory that could not be admitted, it’s the taboo, thus the need for this very contrived explanation, the TITT, the magic bullet theory.
Now, I do not know offhand precisely how unlikely the magic bullet story is — assuming that it even is possible. However, I think it is quite safe to say that it is pretty damned unlikely — sufficiently unlikely that a reasonable, honest person, given the available facts, would conclude that Oswald could not have acted alone. What you’ll notice when you look at the arguments of people who defend the Warren Commission story is that they have set the bar very low for themselves. They don’t even try to argue that the single bullet theory is particularly likely, or that it is more likely than the alternative theory of more than one shooter. They simply set out to argue that it is possible. Nothing more. It’s possible, therefore it happened, so I win the argument…. And, of course, you should know that, not only do they set the bar very low for themselves, but they also set the bar impossibly high for anybody on the other side of the debate.
With so many of these deep events, they are running a drill of the event on the same day. If this were a crime mystery from Agatha Christie, surely something like this would be a very big clue. For example, with the Sandy Hook shooting, Adam Lanza (for no obvious reason) decides to get a gun and shoot his momma and then go to the nearest primary school and shoot a bunch of cute little kids. On the very same day, they are running a “live shooter drill” which is a simulacrum of the event that actually happens. This was also the case with 9/11. The actual attacks coincided with large-scale drills in which a scenario being drilled is multiple plane hijackings.
Here is an article I came across a couple of years ago and I think I belly laughed when I read it.
The author of the article, one Mike Rothschild, outlines a large number of cases in which a terrorist attack coincides with a drill, at a level that it is beyond belief that this is a pure coincidence, and then argues that the so-called “conspiracy theorists” are crazy because they do not accept that all this is just a coincidence. It’s a funny article because the author seems so oblivious to the fact that what he has written refutes itself! In any case, it’s the same sort of thing. The rock-solid chain of reasoning goes something like this: “It is possible that the conjunction of drills and real events is a coincidence, therefore it is, therefore people who suggest otherwise are crazy.”
What I call blowhard tactics is really a set of different things. I already outlined some of them in my previous essay. One is simply never relinquishing the initiative. Now, any game or sport with formalized rules is structured in a fair manner. Consider tennis. The serve (the initiative) alternates: if I play a tennis match with you, and in this game, I am the one serving, then the next game, you serve. Well, needless to say, to the people we are talking about here, a fairly structured situation like that is anathema. They need to play a rigged game. So, for them, it’s more like a tennis match in which they always get to serve, and even if their opponent executes a perfect return of serve, they don’t recognize any need to respond to that. They just grab another ball and serve again and never concede the previous point. Actually, this is what characterizes the blowhard tactics in a debate generally speaking: never, ever concede a point. Like so:
Monty Python meant this as a comedy skit, but little did they know that it would prove to be invaluable training material for participants on Sunday morning talk shows.
Actually, thinking of Sunday morning talk shows, this immediately brings to mind another major blowhard tactic, the resort to hyper-emotionalism. Basically, you affect that you are infuriated at the person who brings up whatever uncomfortable fact. For example, somebody asks legitimate questions about 9/11 and you angrily claim that they are dishonoring the memory of the victims of that day. Don’t concern yourself that it doesn’t make any sense. (Does it have to? Does it make sense to say that an orange is an apple?) The idea is that if somebody’s brother or best friend died in some murky incident, then a person who investigates and tries to get to the bottom of what happened is dishonoring their loved one’s memory. Or, conversely, the people who are trying to cover up the circumstances of the death of one’s spouse or family member are honoring them?! Go figure that one out.
The key thing to understand here is that if you can say something, even something nonsensical, with enough emotional intensity, it somehow becomes convincing — for weak-minded people, I suppose, but that is most people and is good enough. They’ll tell you as much in any sales training course: emotional intensity sells… excitement… So this is well understood by sales people. It is less well understood by bookish, intellectual types.
Counter-Tactics, Turning the Tables, Fighting Fire with Fire
While I think it is already somewhat empowering to outline all the illegitimate tactics these people use, the real question is now how to counter this. I don’t presume to have all the answers. It’s easier to say what not to do than what to do. The old adage that the best defense is a good offense has a real core of truth to it. As I said in my previous essay, regardless of the game or contest, a passive, reactive stance is almost never a winning strategy — in any activity. Another way of putting this is that we must be on the lookout as to how to seize the initiative — to turn the tables. What this amounts to, I think, is not accepting the preset framing of the issue and finding the appropriate counter-framing.
Take the JFK assassination, which is really the canonical “conspiracy”. After all, the whole weaponized “conspiracy theory” construct was created by the CIA as part of the subsequent cover-up. What has happened is that they have managed to create such a stigma around the term “conspiracy” that, as I point out earlier, we probably should do our best to avoid using the very word — just like we avoid using “gay” or “queer” for their original meanings.
One does have to hand it to them. They really have created a bizarro inverted world. A HIQI can fall for any bullshit and there is really no attached stigma. He can believe in the magic bullet that caused seven wounds on two people. He can find it perfectly normal that a reporter announces the collapse of a steel-framed skyscraper (from fire) before it happens. He can believe that cartoon characters portrayed by actors, like Jihadi John and Jihadi Joseph, are real people. He can fall for any crude hoax and nobody questions his sanity. But if you say that there was a “conspiracy” to kill Kennedy (when there obviously was) then you are crazy. Go figure…
I guess the perceptive reader will have noticed that I have invented some rather… well… silly sounding terminology. The High IQ Idiot, the HIQI… or, a Taboo Induced Tortuous Theory, i.e. a TITT. And saying that somebody who espouses such theories however badly they fit the facts is “grasping TITTs”. This is not just sophomoric humor (though, okay, there is a bit of that) but rather, an attempt to turn the tables. They say: “You’re crazy, you believe in conspiracies”. Now we can say: “Get real, you HIQIs. Let go of the TITTs.” So, yes, I am very consciously inventing terminology to cast these people in a ridiculous light. If they are going to have these question-begging magical incantations, like “conspiracy theory” to smear us as crazy for telling the truth, then it’s high time we fight fire with fire. Rather than deal with the truth, that these are Deep State false flag operations, they invent these pathetic silly theories like “blowback”. To call their silly explanations TITTs and refer to these people as “TITT mongers” seems right and proper to me. Who knows? Maybe other people feel the same way and my terminology will catch on.
In my last essay, I started with the Matrix, and developed the idea of the Roger Rabbit mental world, in which cartoons are superimposed on reality. In this essay, I started by riffing on George Orwell and ended up developing the idea of magical incantations and TITT. Somehow this reminds me of the proverb of the blind men and the elephant. Are we not all blind men groping at the same creature and reporting different things? Or finding different terms to describe the same thing? There is Orwell with “doublethink” and the “memory hole”. Ron Unz refers to “American Pravda”. Here I am with Roger Rabbit narratives and Taboo Induced Tortuous Theories. Well, hey, there is nothing wrong with having more than one term to refer to roughly the same thing — slime, ooze, goo… twaddle, nonsense, bullshit, bollocks… Whether you call it the Matrix or the Roger Rabbit mental world, or American Pravda, there is this feeling of a need to reclaim reality.
We live in a world of great specialization. Given the vastness of human knowledge at this point in time, few people can have expert domain knowledge in more than one or two fields. The optimal career strategy for most people (assuming they have the capacity and the follow-through) is to develop deep expertise in some fairly narrow field. This means that, when it comes to anything outside that narrow field in which you are a specialist, you would defer to the corresponding experts in that domain. In principle, that sounds right, but as we see, there really is a need to be able to detect bullshit, to be able to discern when the alleged experts are bullshitting you. But how can you tell if you are not an expert in the relevant field (or fields)?
For example, suppose we are watching CNN and some general or expert on military affairs is on there explaining how they had to incinerate some isolated village in the Hindu Kush, using a drone or cruise missile or whatever…. in order to defend America. I ask you: do we need domain expertise to know that this is absolute bullshit?! (Criminally insane bullshit to boot…)
Or suppose some economist from Harvard or some place comes on espousing “austerity economics”, telling us, essentially, that the way a country gets rich is by impoverishing itself. Can a non-specialist, a generalist, figure out that the prestigious professor is, in fact, talking shit?
Obviously, I think the answer to the above two questions is yes. Yes, I believe that, armed with only generalist knowledge and a certain baseline BDQ level, we can state that the aforementioned “experts” are full of shit. (Shout after me: Yes, we can!) It occurs to me that some of what I’m talking about here, the HIQI/BDQ concept, is reclaiming the ability of the generalist to come to some understanding of the world. We need not (and must not) be so utterly defenseless against all this pompous bullshit.
If we were to form a new 12-step group, HIQIs anonymous, the redemption of the chronic HIQI must start with some first step, and what would that be? Well, I guess like with Alcoholics Anonymous, it would start with a recognition of the problem.
HIQI: Hi, my name is Jon and I’m a HIQI.
Group: Hi, Jon. (in unison)
HIQI: You know, I used to read the New York Times every morning.
Group: OMG! (collective gasp)
HIQI: Yeah, and I believed every word of it.
Group: (another collective gasp)
HIQI: Yep, I ate up all that shit with a spoon — every morning with my corn flakes. etcetera, etecetera
Step by step. Reclaim reality. There are things one can know without being a specialist. Pigs cannot fly. If a naked man is standing in front of you, you believe what you see. If somebody tries to tell you otherwise, he’s bullshitting you. If somebody tries to tell you that an orange is an apple, it doesn’t matter how many phD’s he’s got, he’s talking shit… Just tentatively, these might be some initial steps towards reclaiming reality.
When they show you something that is basically a cartoon and ask you to accept that this is real, you do not need domain expertise to reject it. This is for a very simple reason: a grownup knows that the real world ain’t a cartoon. And getting back to a main theme of this essay, TITT issue, a theory is a TITT if the only reason for its existence is to avoid a taboo, i.e. it’s taboo-induced. So another rule could be:
If you can see that something is a TITT, then you don’t need specialized domain knowledge to know that the theory is not correct.
Or, to put it more succintly, TITTs are always bullshit. (A Brit would say that TITTs are always bollocks, which, I know doesn’t make a lot of sense to the uninitiated, but never mind…)
I must make a point about one aspect of this essay. I’m quite aware that I broke a major taboo by alluding to the revisionist history of the Second World War. Asking people to reconsider the conventional analysis of WW2 is akin to heresy. Well, actually, it is not akin to heresy. It is heresy! The History Channel Atlanticist version of WW2 is, to all intents and purposes, a secular religion at this point in time.
Arguably, I did not have to go there at all. There are so many examples of what I call Taboo Induced Tortuous Thinking, TITT, that I did not need to use this one. But, finally, I think I did have to go there because it makes no sense to decry all these taboos and then consciously skirt around one, especially when it is the biggest taboo of them all.
Now, if you want to attack what I am saying, feel free. However, I would dissuade you from one particular line of attack (that I already anticipate). I anticipate people asking me (quite aggressively) why I think I am such an expert on the Second World War. Since I anticipate the question, I answer it in advance.
No, I do not consider myself very knowledgeable about WW2. In fact, many people who comment on this very website have a much more detailed knowledge of the history of that period. But, you see, that is a completely invalid critique of my point in this article. My first example of what I call TITT was the medieval astronomer. Was I implying at all that I myself have any expertise in astronomy? No, actually, I was implying the opposite! I was saying that, even given my lack of expertise, I can say with absolute confidence that an explanation of the solar eclipse that is based on the sun going round the earth cannot be correct.
So, if your line of attack is that I am not an expert in WW2 history, or that I lack expertise in whatever other thing, then you might as well save us both the bother. In fact, such a critique would mean that you don’t understand what I am saying. You see, I’m not claiming any particular expertise in anything. I am reclaiming the ability of the generalist, with a certain level of BDQ, to come to some understanding of the world. We have to stop being so defenseless against all the bullshit, stop being such HIQIs. Truth told, all the right/left sorts of debates are starting to bore me. I now tend to believe that the central front in the battle for the future is…. Roger Rabbit!!!
Now, when it comes to all these various big honking issues — capitalism versus socialism, religion versus secularism, ethno-nationalism versus multiculturalism, right to bear arms versus gun control, spank your kids or don’t spank your kids… — I don’t mean that these various debates are not important. The problem is that I have this growing, gnawing sense that one cannot really debate these things or anything else if one does not escape from the Roger Rabbit mental universe. In other words, when people end up allowing the various debates to be framed for them by the MSM via Roger Rabbit narratives, the situation is hopeless from the get-go. Whatever your mix of views on these issues, if you insist on believing in cartoons, you can really only be part of the problem, not any solution. Not to say that taking the red pill or putting on the sunglasses solves things on its own. It’s not sufficient, but it is a necessary initial step.
On or around September 11 of every year, we have articles that come out, especially in the left-liberal media, decrying what has happened since that fateful day over a decade ago. What has become of the country: the loss of basic constitutional freedoms, the perpetual paranoia and state of warfare, the criminality, the wars, the torture… But such articles will still pretend that the official Roger Rabbit narrative is true — the bearded religious fanatic in the cave and the nineteen suicide hijackers.
Well, guys, if you really care so much, really care — I mean care more about it than about your career in the commentariat — maybe it’s time to let go of all the TITTs and grow yourselves a pair of bollocks.
Fan mail (as well as hate mail) can be directed to revusky at gmail.