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From Newsweek:


This article first appeared on

The events at Berkeley Wednesday night have been a boon to Milo Yiannopoulos, of Breitbart News, and to Steve Bannon, formerly head of Breitbart News and now Trump’s consigliere.

As you may know, on Wednesday night, February 1, Berkeley gave Yiannopoulos a major forum to spout his racist and misogynistic vitriol. But police had to cancel the talk because about 150 masked agitators threw Molotov cocktails, smashed windows where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak and threw rocks and fireworks at the police – delivering made-for-TV images of a riot. …

Which raises the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Brietbart were in cahoots with the agitators, in order to lay the groundwork for a Trump crackdown on universities and their federal funding.

Thursday night on CNN, I said “I wouldn’t bet against” that possibility. Almost immediately an indignant article appeared in Breitbart News, misleadingly headlined “Robert Reich Lies, Claims Breitbart News Organized Berkeley Riots.”

Hmmm. Connect these dots:

Actual video of Doctor Reich connecting these dots:

(Note: Professor Reich’s height/appearance adjusted in post-production.)

(1) Yinnopoulos writes for Breitbart News, which Steve Bannon – Trump’s strategy director – ran before joining Trump.

(2) Before Yiannopoulos speaks at Berkeley, Breitbart publishes an article saying that Yiannopoulos will call for the withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger their students with their policies.

(3) Berkeley opens its doors to Yiannopoulos, but campus police have to cancel the event because of masked agitators.

(4) Hours later, Trump issues a misleading tweet, accusing the university of not allowing free speech and promoting violence against innocent people with different views and threatening to withhold federal funds.

(5) The next night, Yiannopoulos on Fox News says the incident proves that universities like Berkeley don’t deserve federal grants by cracking down on free speech.

(6) That same night, on CNN, I raise the possibility that Yiannopoulos and Breitbart could have been collaborating with the agitators – saying “I wouldn’t bet against it.” This generates a belligerent column in Breitbart with a misleading headline calling me a liar for claiming that Breitbart News organized the riots.

Inside Professor Reich’s secret dot-connecting laboratory:

I don’t want to add to the conspiratorial musings of so many about this very conspiratorial administration, but it strikes me there may be something worrying going on here.

I wouldn’t bet against it.

In case you were wondering who Professor Reich is, Newsweek appends this remarkably long author’s tag to reassure you that he’s a bona fide member of The Establishment:

Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.

• Tags: Conspiracy Theories 
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Back on January 1, 2014 I published one of my favorite Taki’s columns, The Shadowy Imam of the Poconos, about Turkey’s Gulen Cult:

… For example, the current political shakeup in Turkey turns out to be a mashup of various obsessions and hobbyhorses of mine, such as byzantine conspiracy theories, test prep, the naiveté of American education reform, immigration fraud, the deep state, and even the Chechen Bomb Brothers’ Uncle Ruslan.

This lattice of coincidence begins with Turkey’s prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdoğan, who is presently besieged by graft scandals following police raids on his inner circle.

With Turkey’s traditional ruling class—the secularist Kemalist generals—finally neutralized by the Ergenekon show trial, the Muslim civilian factions now appear to be plotting against each other. It is widely assumed among Turkish conspiracy theorists (i.e., roughly 98% of all Turks) that the prosecutorial assault on the prime minister was at the behest of Erdoğan’s former political ally, Fethullah Gülen, a powerful and mysterious Muslim cult leader holed up since 1999 in, of all places, the Poconos, where he has become America’s largest operator of charter schools.

But things move fast in Turkey. In 2014, Erdogan appears to have made a deal with the defeated Generals (here’s Harvard economist Dani Rodrik’s essay on how the Gulenists tried to frame his Turkish general father-in-law) and struck back against the Gulen Cult. The latest I’ve heard is that the Turkish government this month charged Imam Gulen with plotting a coup and have demanded life in prison for him.

On the other hand, things seem to have calmed down for the Gulenists in America. In 2014, the FBI raided numerous Gulen charter schools to figure out how they were skimming cash for their global operations from American taxpayers. But that FBI investigation has disappeared from the news for unknown reasons.

If I had to bet, I’d guess that the CIA had a sitdown with the FBI and explained that Gulen Cultists embezzling taxpayer dollars from local school budgets is a feature, not a bug, of America’s Global Grand Strategy. The Gulenists are in exile in Saylorsburg, PA in case Turkey ever needs a new government, and then voila we just happen to have a conservative Islamic but pro-American and pro-business government in exile ready to drop in. What’s a few hundred millions per year in skimmed charter school funds compared to controlling the Bosporus?

Or maybe I’m totally wrong about all this. Turkey is opaque to me.

In any case, the Gulen Cult is small potatoes at the moment, as President Erdogan now bestrides the world stage like a colossus, or maybe like somebody who has had one helluva run but whose luck is finally about to run out.

Don’t ask me.

By turning on (and potentially turning off) the outflow of Muslim “refugees” to the E.U., Erdogan has Chancellor Merkel desperately offering Turkey E.U. membership in return for the throttling back the outflow of Syrians and pseudo-Syrians into Europe. This might sound like the definition of Europe jumping from the frying pan into the fire in that the E.U. would grant open borders to 75+ million Turks But it must be a sweet moment for the Islamist Erdogan, who is being asked by Ms. Merkel to help her keep Europe Christian enough that it will elect women rulers like her in the future. Irony …

And then there’s the fighting in Syria. Erdogan has taken this opportunity to pound the Syrian and Iraqi cousins of his domestic enemies, the Turkish Kurds, who denied his party a majority in elections earlier this year.

I really can’t make sense of the new violence in Turkey regarding the Kurds at all.

For years Erdogan had been a force for less violence and better treatment of the Kurds in Turkey. As an Islamist, he was better situated ideologically to work out a friendly deal giving his fellow Muslims, the Turkish Kurds, some kind of federal autonomy within Turkey than had the previous secularist-nationalist governments. Ataturk had wisely forsworn claims to most of the Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire in building a cohesive nationalist Turkish state. Ataturk’s strategy worked pretty well considering the alternatives.

But Ataturk had stubbornly hung onto Kurdish regions by redefining Kurds as “mountain Turks.” As an anti-secularist, Erdogan seemed well situated to work out some kind of win-win federalist deal with the Turkish Kurds.

But the collapse of Syria and the rise of ISIS on the Iraq-Syrian border has brought the Kurds, who had been doing a good job of quietly picking up the Kurdish pieces of failing states like Iraq and Syria, into a more militant pan-Kurdish posture to resist ISIS. This in turn seems to have resurrected Ankara’s nightmare of a united Kurdish state that would detach a big chunk of territory from Turkey.

Recently, a couple of huge bombs went off a Kurdish political demonstration in Ankara. Immediately, the Turkish government blamed the Kurds blowing themselves up to make Turkey look bad.

After a few days, the Turkish government shifted to blaming ISIS. This has proven much more popular with foreign offices since everybody hates ISIS and they really are bad guys. Within Turkey, of course, lots of people believe conspiracy theories about the terrorist bombings being the work of the government. It’s not uncommon in Turkish history for this kind of thing to happen.

But now Erdogan has Istanbul’s ancient enemy, Muscovy, operating militarily in Syria on its Southern border.

Where this will go next, I don’t know.

Like I’ve been saying for a long time, calling somebody a “conspiracy theorist” is not a smear in Turkish culture. In Turkey, pride of place goes to whomever comes up with the most complicated conspiracy theory.

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Academic historians dislike the concept that history is often made by groups of individuals plotting together in confidence, even though one obvious way to get big things done is to make plans with your friends and allies while keeping your rivals in the dark as long as possible.

One exception is the late Georgetown history professor Carroll Quigley, who in 1949 completed a book rather grandly entitled The Anglo-American Establishment.

Decades later Bill Clinton was an undergrad student of Quigley (he got a B from him). In Clinton’s 1992 acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, he cited Quigley as an inspiration.

In reality, Quigley’s book, which wasn’t published until much later, was only very tangentially related to American institutions such as the Council of Foreign Relations. It actually focused on one group of British establishmentarians, the progressive imperialists who set up the British equivalent of the CFR, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (a.k.a., Chatham House), edited The Times of London for most of the first four decades of the 20th Century, and largely controlled the peculiarly influential All Souls College at Oxford.

Quigley calls them the Milner Group after Alfred Milner (1854-1925), an eminence grise who more or less started the Boer War of 1899-1902, then mentored “Milner’s Kindergarten” of bright young men in running South Africa, and finally popped up again in Lloyd George’s five-man war cabinet in 1917. But Milner mostly served behind the scenes.

Quigley traces the Milner Group back to the far more colorful Cecil Rhodes’ desire to start a “Secret Society” to promote Angl0-American unity and global domination. In the first five wills written by the mining tycoon of southern Africa, Rhodes (1853-1902) called for his estate to fund a secret society to reunify America with Britain and promote Anglo settlement of the world. For example, Rhodes wrote in his first will that he was leaving his fortune:

To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.

Rhodes hoped his Secret Society would act as the Jesuits of the British Empire:

I look into history and I read the story of the Jesuits I see what they were able to do in a bad cause and I might say under bad leaders.

At the present day I become a member of the Masonic order I see the wealth and power they possess the influence they hold and I think over their ceremonies and I wonder that a large body of men can devote themselves to what at times appear the most ridiculous and absurd rites without an object and without an end.

The idea gleaming and dancing before ones eyes like a will-of-the-wisp at last frames itself into a plan. Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. …

To forward such a scheme what a splendid help a secret society would be a society not openly acknowledged but who would work in secret for such an object.

I contend that there are at the present moment numbers of the ablest men in the world who would devote their whole lives to it. … There are men now living with I know no other term the [Greek term] of Aristotle but there are not ways for enabling them to serve their Country. They live and die unused unemployed. What has the main cause of the success of the Romish Church? The fact that every enthusiast, call it if you like every madman finds employment in it. Let us form the same kind of society a Church for the extension of the British Empire. A society which should have members in every part of the British Empire working with one object and one idea we should have its members placed at our universities and our schools and should watch the English youth passing through their hands just one perhaps in every thousand would have the mind and feelings for such an object, he should be tried in every way, he should be tested whether he is endurant, possessed of eloquence, disregardful of the petty details of life, and if found to be such, then elected and bound by oath to serve for the rest of his life in his County. He should then be supported if without means by the Society and sent to that part of the Empire where it was felt he was needed. …

Take one more case of the younger son with high thoughts, high aspirations, endowed by nature with all the faculties to make a great man, and with the sole wish in life to serve his Country but he lacks two things the means and the opportunity, ever troubled by a sort of inward deity urging him on to high and noble deeds, he is compelled to pass his time in some occupation which furnishes him with mere existence, he lives unhappily and dies miserably. Such men as these the Society should search out and use for the furtherance of their object.

(In every Colonial legislature the Society should attempt to have its members prepared at all times to vote or speak and advocate the closer union of England and the colonies, to crush all disloyalty and every movement for the severance of our Empire. The Society should inspire and even own portions of the press for the press rules the mind of the people. The Society should always be searching for members who might by their position in the world by their energies or character forward the object but the ballot and test for admittance should be severe)

Once make it common and it fails. Take a man of great wealth who is bereft of his children perhaps having his mind soured by some bitter disappointment who shuts himself up separate from his neighbours and makes up his mind to a miserable existence. To such men as these the society should go gradually disclose the greatness of their scheme and entreat him to throw in his life and property with them for this object. I think that there are thousands now existing who would eagerly grasp at the opportunity. Such are the heads of my scheme.

For fear that death might cut me off before the time for attempting its development I leave all my worldly goods in trust to S. G. Shippard and the Secretary for the Colonies at the time of my death to try to form such a Society with such an object.

In his sixth and seventh wills, Rhodes switched from calling for a Secret Society to the Rhodes Scholarships to promote Anglosphere unity. (Probably the most famous living Rhodes Scholar is Quigley’s old student Bill Clinton.) Wills are legal documents, so it’s hard to keep your Secret Society secret if you put it in your will.

In the early versions of Rhodes’ Secret Society in the 1890s, the finances were to be controlled by Lord Rothschild while the propaganda was to be handled by the titanic newspaper editor William T. Stea d (1849-1912, last seen bobbing alongside John Jacob Astor IV amidst the wreckage of the Titanic). But Stead opposed the Boer War of 1899 and was replaced in Rhodes affections by Milner.

A stumbling block to Rhodes’ plan for an English Cape-to-Cairo railroad through East Africa were the Boer Republics of Afrikaners who had fled the English takeover of Cape Town and established their own countries, where gold had now been discovered. In late 1895, Rhodes and his business partner in De Beers, Alfred Beit, financed (with the foreknowledge of British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain) the Jameson Raid out of Rhodesia into the independent Transvaal. The English immigrant miners working there were supposed to violently rise up against the Dutch-speaking government, but largely failed to do so. Rhodes was embarrassed, but attention was distracted from his defeat when Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany sent a telegram to the Boer leader:

I express to you my sincere congratulations that you and your people, without appealing to the help of friendly powers, have succeeded, by your own energetic action against the armed bands which invaded your country as disturbers of the peace, in restoring peace and in maintaining the independence of the country against attack from without.

The Kaiser’s opinion caused enormous indignation in Britain, where Southern Africa was considered to be part of Britain’s sphere of influence. The Jameson Raid / Kruger Telegram are often seen as key early steps in the deterioration of the generally chummy British-German relationships of the 19th Century toward the series of unfortunate events in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

Milner, a career government official, was sent out from London in 1897 to run South Africa. He soon engineered the Boer War of 1899, which Britain eventually, after a much harder fight than expected, won in 1902, taking control of the vast mineral deposits that Rhodes and Chamberlain had tried to seize in Jameson’s Raid.

The South African careers of Rhodes and Milner are reminiscent of the Marcher Lord theory propounded recently by Peter Turchin, in which the metropolitan center declines into soft decadence while power shifts to the hard men of the frontiers.

The South African connection is also reminiscent of the large but now largely ignored Jewish role in British Empire politics. Neither Rhodes nor Milner were Jewish, but their allies such as Beit often were. (Current Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, who was born in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia in 1943, is a late example of the Jewish role in southern Africa.)

Milner recruited a variety of competent and idealistic young Brits, such as John Buchan (future author of the famous suspense novel The 39 Steps and Governor-General of Canada) and Geoffrey Dawson (editor of The Times during most of 1912-1941) to serve in Milner’s Kindergarten in South Africa.

British culture of a century ago looked to Periclean Athens for role models (see, for example, Plato’s Symposium), so it was extremely good at inducing warm relations between older men and the most brilliant younger men.

As far as I can tell, Milner was straight, but that wasn’t the kind of thing that was worried about all that much in youth-worshipping Edwardian England.

As the banker father sings in Mary Poppins:

It’s grand to be an Englishman in 1910
King Edward’s on the throne, it’s the age of men

A culture of male self-admiration tended to elicit high male achievement. (In contrast, in today’s culture of male denigration, males tend to live down to society’s expectations.)

Around 1910, most of Milner’s Kindergarten returned to Britain where they played important roles in foreign policy up through the unfortunate events of 1940, and even beyond.

Quigley claims, for example, that Milner actually drafted the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, a letter from the British government to Lord Rothschild approving Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people . (A more recent author claims it was actually written by Milner’s dynamic protege Leo Amery.)

According to Quigley, Milner’s young men were the low-key, centrist embodiment of the Secret Society dreamed up by Rhodes. They largely took over the Cecil Bloc of Tories assembled in the 19th Century by the masterful Prime Minister Salisbury and then dissipated in the 20th Century by his nephew Prime Minister Balfour, who was too oriented toward philosophy and golf to run a faction.

Quigley wasn’t too perturbed by the Milner Group, although he was annoyed by it’s influence on historiography via its control of many of the best jobs in the history professor business:

I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies, but in general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.

Did the Milner Group really exist?

Quigley claims that although its existence went unsaid among the upper classes, the reality of the Milner Group as a coherent body can be documented from the sentimental obituaries younger members wrote for deceased members in media institutions they controlled such as the Dictionary of National Biography.

Reading them, I’d say he has a point.

Still, we know a huge amount about the private lives of the British toffs of a century ago, and the lack of follow-up to Quigley’s hypothesis suggests that not much more evidence has surfaced.

But whether you’d call it the Milner Group with a capital G or just a clique or coterie seems to be one of those glass part full or part empty questions. It’s likely that no-drama Milner dispensed with the romantic Mason-inspired silliness that the young Rhodes had come up with in favor of a simple strategy of like-minded friends quietly coordinating for maximum public effectiveness.

As for secrecy, consider the famous Chatham House Rule: if you are invited to a meeting at Chatham House where, say, John Kerry explains the Iran deal, you are allowed to discuss what you learned but not mention the name of whoever you heard it from. That’s a clever way to cut the Gordian Knot of wanting to propagandize without being seen to propagandize.

British institutions such as The Economist continue to utilize anonymity, pseudonyms, and initials to inflate credibility. If, for example, Will Wilkinson signed his names to his columns in The Economist, you’d say, “Oh, that’s just Will Wilkinson’s opinion.” But if he’s identified in The Economist only as W.W. it’s easy to imagine he is some authority.

On the other hand, practically everybody in the British ruling class had social connections to everybody else. The Chamberlain family alone (Joseph, Austen, and Neville) is difficult to disentangle.

In Quigley’s 1949 book, it’s amusing to see 21st Century journalists such as Matt Ridley and Polly Toynbee prefigured by their 19th century kinsman, such as Salisbury’s protege M.W. Ridley, first Viscount Ridley. For example, Milner’s best friend at Oxford and intellectual inspiration was progressive economist Arnold Toynbee (uncle of the once famous historian Arnold J. Toynbee). Margot Asquith, Balfour’s friend in the high brow high society clique of the 1880s, The Souls, was the step-great-grandmother of actress Helena Bonham Carter, whose grandmother Viola, the daughter of PM Asquith, was much disappointed when Winston Churchill didn’t marry her.

(And British all-male institutions tended to create cliques. I’m reading another British history book, Children of the Sun: A Narrative of Decadence in England after 1918. It focuses upon two British literary cliques of young men that emerged after the Great War, the first led by Brian Howard and Harold Acton, whose most famous member proved to be Evelyn Waugh (his memorable gay characters Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited and Ambrose Silk in Put Out More Flags are a combination of Acton’s good characteristics and Howard’s abundant bad ones); the second clique was a few years younger and led by W.H. Auden and included Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender.

George Orwell, who was at Eton with Cyril Connolly, but couldn’t afford Oxford, often felt oppressed by these backscratching coteries. Orwell particularly despised the pervasive influence of the rich, American, gay, Jewish, and pro-Stalin Brian Howard. The only way Orwell could have hated Howard more were if Howard had also somehow been Irish Catholic.

Were these Oxford literary cliques conspiracies? Well, if you were off in Burma shooting elephants while your peers were bonding over luncheons and teas at Oxford, they could seem like them.)

And it’s not hugely clear that the Milner Group had tremendous ideological influence, since, via their mouthpiece at The Times, their voice was that of the British Establishment and it’s not that obvious what the British Establishment would have done all that differently if other personnel had been at key chokepoints.

The Establishment’s undeniable massive screw-up was appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s. Lord Astor became the main financier of Milner Group interests, buying The Times in 1922, and he went along with Milner’s view that the time had come to be nice to Germany. Waugh’s Communist cousin Claude Cockburn (father of numerous journalist Cockburns and grandfather of actress Olivia Wilde) deemed Lady Astor’s friends the purportedly treasonous Cliveden Set.

But Quigley emphasizes that the center of gravity of the Milner Group was somewhat less pro-appeasement than Neville Chamberlain’s inner circle. And Quigley underplays how strongly Milner’s most impressive protege Amery (who was half-Jewish) sided with Churchill for rearmament in the 1930s, being the second most important anti-Appeasement voice in the Tories after the death of Austen Chamberlain in 1937. If Churchill hadn’t lived, I can imagine Amery becoming the fierce wartime Prime Minister.

As the Rhodes-Milner faction became less closely associated with South Africa in the 20th Century, it became less Jewish, although Quigley asserts that Isaiah Berlin was a late addition to the outer circle of the Milner Group.

In any case, Quigley’s explanation of the how the Milner Group coordinated Establishment opinion is relevant in the U.S. today:

The Times was to be a paper for the people who are influential, and not for the masses. … By the interaction of these various branches on one another, under the pretense that each branch was an autonomous power, the influence of each branch was increased through a process of mutual reinforcement. The unanimity among the various branches was believed by the outside world to be the result of the influence of a single Truth, while really it was result of a single group. Thus, a statesman (a member of the Group) announces a policy. About the same time, the Royal Institute of International Affairs publishes a study on the subject, and an Oxford don, a Fellow of All Souls (and a member of the Group) also publishes a volume on the subject (probably through a publishing house, like G. Bell and Sons or Faber and Faber, allied to the Group). The statesman’s policy is subjected to critical analysis and final approval in a “leader” in T he Times, while the two books are reviewed (in a single review) in The Times Literary Supplement. Both the “leader” and the review are anonymous but are written by members of the Group. And finally, at about the same time, an anonymous article in The Round Table strongly advocates the same policy. The cumulative effect of such tactics as this, even if each tactical move influences only a small number of important people, is bound to be great. If necessary, the strategy can be carried further, by arranging for the secretary to the Rhodes Trustees to go to America for a series of “informal discussions” with former Rhodes Scholars, while a prominent retired statesman (possibly a former Viceroy of India) is persuaded to say a few words at the unveiling of a plaque in All Souls or New College in honor of some deceased Warden. By a curious coincidence, both the “informal discussions” in America and the unveiling speech at Oxford touch on the same topical subject. …

There is no effort here to contend that the Milner Group ever falsified or even concealed evidence (although this charge could be made against The Times). Rather it propagated its point point of view by interpretation and selection of evidence. In this fashion it directed policy ways that were sometimes disastrous. The Group as a whole was made up of intelligent men who believed sincerely, and usually intensely, in what they advocated, and who knew that their writings were intended for a small minority as intelligent as themselves. In such conditions there could be no value in distorting or concealing evidence. To do so would discredit the instruments they controlled. By giving the facts as they stood, and as completely as could be done in consistency with the interpretation desired, a picture could be construed that would remain convincing for a long time.

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In the Weekly Standard, Elliott Abrams — who was convicted of lying to Congress in Iran-Contra, pardoned by George H.W. Bush, and then became the Go-To Guy on the Middle East in the GWB Administration, and remains an in-law of the Podhoretzes — blogs enthusiastically:

For 22 years, Bandar bin Sultan was Saudi Arabia’s influential, irrepressible ambassador in Washington. After years in eclipse, he has just been named as head of the kingdom’s intelligence service. What does it all mean? 

Prince Bandar lived large: Not only did he have the official ambassador’s residence, but also his own 32-room mansion in Aspen

In 1992, I had meetings down the street from Bandar’s Aspen place at my boss’s 17,000 square foot house, which was the size of Bandar’s guest house. The Saudi’s main house was 55,000 square feet. I talked to a whitewater rafting guide who had once had a construction job installing the deadman security system in the Ambassador’s driveway. If suicide terrorists driving a truck bomb shot their way past the guardhouse, so nobody could hold their hand on the safety switch, giant steel spikes would automatically shoot up from the pavement to stop the terrorists’ vehicle.

and a 2,000 acre estate in England. He was a very visible figure from 1983 to 2005 as the Saudi envoy in Washington. This was partly due to the parties he gave, and the very wide network of connections he built, but also because he was an effective diplomat. Spanning the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and second Bush presidencies, he made sure Saudi views were known, dealt directly with officials at the top of the U.S. government (including presidents), and could get things done. … Now they may return, with an energetic and experienced player who can match anyone in the Arab world for charm, a network of contacts, and the financial resources of a rich government. Bandar is a spinner of webs, a dealmaker, a man who—assuming he is healthy—can bring Saudi views and interests back to the center of Arab decision making as well as the inner circles in many other world capitals.

On the other hand, there’s a rumor going about in the Israeli newspapers that Bandar has already been assassinated by the Syrians in retaliation for organizing, with American help, the July 18 bombing in Damascus that killed some of Assad’s inner circle.

Obviously, anybody who wonders about Saudi-raised Hilary adviser Huma Abedin’s contacts is some kind of lunatic conspiracy theorist. Everybody knows there are no such things as conspiracies, especially not in the Middle East. That Syria was once part of the Byzantine Empire doesn’t mean there is anything Byzantine about affairs of state there.

Anyway, if this really is the end for Bandar (and who knows?), I hope there is a safe deposit box somewhere in Switzerland containing a final draft of The Autobiography of Prince Bandar bin Sultan. I bet even the thought that such a manuscript might conceivably exist makes numerous Important People sweaty.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Conspiracy Theories 
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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

The flagrant stupidity of most conspiracy theories popular during my lifetime, as epitomized by Oliver Stone’s 1991 masterpiece/fiasco JFK (in which the entire military-industrial complex plots to murder John F. Kennedy by hiring some flaming French Quarter homosexuals), serves to inoculate the powerful against the suspicion that they have influence (or responsibility) regarding events. 

It wasn’t always like this. Until recently, it was widely understood that numerous turning points in history—such as the assassinations of Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand—were the results of conspiracies.

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Conspiracy Theories 
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The Bilderbergers are an invitation-only group of rich and powerful people who have been getting together secretly in expensive hotels since 1954 to discuss how to make the world a better place for rich and powerful people. Not surprisingly, the Bilderbergers are the subject of much conspiracy theorizing.
In recent years, they’ve been overshadowed by the Davos confab, which cleverly took the opposite tack: maximize publicity. Sure, it’s fun to secretly hang out with your fellow Bilderbergers, but it can be more fun to boast about your invitation to Davos. The Davos strategy is to invite journalists to lecture rich and powerful guys. The rich and powerful guys treat the journalists like peers with fascinating insights, then the journalists go home and write articles about how today’s crop of rich and powerful guys are so much more wonderful than you might think.

There is less conspiracy theorizing about Davos than Bilderberg because Davos hires platoons of PR flacks to tell everybody that, yes, the people who get invited to Davos do Run the World. So that takes all the fun out of it for the conspiracy theorists.

It appears the Bilderbergers may be slowly moving in the Davos direction. (Here’s Charlie Skelton’s BilderBlog at the Guardian.) This year, a website called has appeared. It could be a hoax or it could be the real deal. (The Guardian says one delegate confirmed it’s valid.) It’s certainly sober and understated enough.
It even features a purported list of this week’s participants: Niall Ferguson, Bill Gates, Donald Graham (Washington Post publisher), Richard Holbrooke, James Johnson (ex-Fannie Mae), Henry Kissinger, Henry Kravis, John Micklethwait (editor of The Economist), Peter Orszag (OMB), Richard Perle, Charlie Rose, Robert Rubin, Erich Schmidt of Google, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Jose Zapatero (PM of Spain), Bob Zoellick (World Bank), and a whole bunch of CEOs. Last year’s guests included Max Boot, Vernon Jordan, David Rockefeller, and Paul Wolfowitz.
Sounds kind of dull.The two years’ worth of attendees would be a useful source for a study of the characteristics of the Trans-Atlantic elite.

That the Bilderbergers feel they need the insights of Max Boot and Charlie Rose reminds me of Greg Cochran’s insight: There is no Inner Party. There’s no Mustapha Mond who understands how it all works. At the end of 1984 [spoiler alert!] O’Brien of the evil Inner Party gives poor Winston Smith of the Outer Party a lecture explaining how the whole system works, just as at the end of Brave New World, Mond explains to the main characters how and why he and his fellow World Controllers control the world.

On a fashion note, the Guardian’s series of 19 photos of big shots arriving suggests that the Obama Look — a suit or a sports jacket and a dress shirt, but without a necktie — has become the Bilderberg standard, unless you are an old coot like Volcker.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and a long-time mentor to the President, suggested in his 2008 paper Conspiracy Theories that the government engage in “cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories.”

I guess that finally explains why in 2005-2007 Sunstein’s protege, U.S. Senator Barack Obama, made tax-deductible contributions totaling $53,770 to the church of Rev. Jeremiah “the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color” Wright. Obama must have been, obviously, Sunstein’s undercover agent infiltrating Wright’s conspiracy theory-promoting organization for two decades.

What other possible explanation could there be?

Sunstein’s success having Obama infiltrate Wright’s church was the perfect test case proving his theory in Conspiracy Theories: look how moderate Wright became!

It will all make sense, you see, once Cass Sunstein explains the hidden pattern to you. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs sees all, knows all, understands all. You have nothing to worry about. Nothing, I tell you, nothing!

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David Willman of the LA Times breaks a big story on the post-9/11 terrorism wave that is one reason why we’re in Iraq:

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator’s office in Washington.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI. …

The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The extraordinary turn of events followed the government’s payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI’s chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.

Early in the year, I took a look at a third Ft. Detrick scientist (since moved on to other jobs) — i.e., neither Ivins nor Hatfill — whose name has been fairly widely tossed around as the possible anthrax assassin. The more I Googled, the more the pieces seemed to fit together. I was about ready to post my conspiracy theory when I took one more look at it and — poof — I realized that I didn’t have any real evidence at all. So, thankfully, I didn’t post his name, and instead wrote:

“I’m not going to mention his name, but if you know who I’m talking about and think he did it, try to force yourself into a gestalt where you assume he didn’t do it and see if you can think of less sinister explanations for the facts known about him.”

As far as I can recall, Ivins’s name, in contrast, didn’t come up much in the conspiracy theorizing. Here’s a Google search that shows relatively little in the way of theorizing about his involvement — even though his name was published in USA Today in 2004 in regard to some dodgy doings at Detrick.

His name was featured suspiciously in the book Vaccine A by investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto about the anthrax vaccine that Ivins helped develop. But I don’t see anything on Google suggesting Matsumoto linked Ivins to involvement with the 2001 terror attacks.

In general, it appears that almost nobody — whether government investigators, professional journalists, or lone obsessives in their bathrobes — suspected Ivins, at least not enough to leave much of a trace on Google. (Indeed, most of the Google searches on “Ivins anthrax” turn up references to the late pundit Molly Ivins.)

For example, here’s the part of Ed Lake’s website where he collects all the published facts on the anthrax attacks where he speculates on traits of the supplier and who the mailer might be. He doesn’t sound too far off, but neither set of traits seems to fit Ivins terribly well. Lake’s profile is in bold:

1. The supplier probably took the Ames anthrax from a government facility.


2. The supplier was probably fired from that facility.

Not when Lake wrote this a few years ago.

3. The supplier is probably considered an unstable personality, perhaps even a “drunk”.

Sounds more like delusions of grandeur, according to Ivins’s brother.

4. The supplier is almost certainly unmarried.

No, Ivins was married.

5. The supplier is a loner with few friends – if any.
6. The supplier is disgruntled and uncomfortable working with others.
7. The supplier probably uses phrases like “I keep telling them, but they don’t listen.”
8. The supplier doesn’t care much about “rules”.
9. The supplier believes that a free exchange of information is key to advancements in science.
10. The supplier may have had knowledge needed by the refiner/mailer.

I don’t know about 5-10.

11. The supplier is probably in his late 40s or early 50s.

A little older.

12. The supplier probably lost his security clearance as a result of his actions.

No, Ivins got off scot-free despite admitting to breaking rules regarding handling of anthrax.

It’s striking that here’s one of the big historical mysteries of recent years, and yet nobody, official or unofficial, seemed to have had a clue for at least five years. I thought the Internet was supposed to make this kind of thing untenable.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Anthrax 2001: A reader in the Comments points out one of the key events in recent history — the anthrax poisonings right after 2001 that helped stampede the national elite into the Iraq War — remain unsolved and nobody much cares.

Huey Long – He was a controversial governor and senator with plans for running for President against FDR on a populist platform before being gunned down in 1935 by a doctor (or perhaps by one of his own security guards trying to shoot the doctor who was brandishing a gun at Long) for reasons that still remain murky. Nobody cares.

Martin Luther King – After being arrested in London for the murder of MLK, career criminal James Earl Ray plea-bargained his way out of trial, accepting life in prison, where he eventually died. He eventually tried to recant his plea, spinning various theories about a man named Raoul (Duke?), although admitting to have at least some involvement. Ray certainly shot King, but did Ray act completely alone? Was there any offer of money from someone? Who knows? I would imagine there remains active interest in the black community in this case, but the mainstream media is totally apathetic after a flurry of stories in the 1990s.

Watergate – All along, it looked like the FBI and/or CIA was more heavily involved in the end of the Nixon presidency than in the end of the Kennedy presidency, but nobody cared. J. Edgar Hoover’s left hand man, Mark Felt, eventually came forward as Deep Throat, but nobody bought Bob Woodward’s book about it.

Pym Fortuyn – The Dutch immigration restrictionist politician was murdered by environmental lawyer Volkert van der Graaf in 2002, the day after Chirac defeated Le Pen in the runoff for the French presidency, the climax of a “two-week hate” in which all right-thinking people in Europe virulently denounced anti-immigrationism. The initial general opinion of Europe’s great and good was that Fortuyn had it coming. The consensus later changed to blaming it all on the gunman being one of those animal rights crazies, and that it didn’t actually have anything to do with immigration, a position that was debunked by the killer himself in court testimony. Outside of Holland, Fortuyn has largely been forgotten, with Americans more familiar with the subsequent murder of a less important figure, Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim. Did anybody encourage Fortuyn’s killer — I mean, besides the entire political elite of Europe?

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Here’s a top of the head list of the most important assassinations of political leaders in America since WWII, plus attempts on the life of Presidents and Presidential candidates, with a rough grouping of the assassins in terms of left, right, or apolitical crazy.

Harry Truman – Left — Puerto Rican terrorists – Left
John F. Kennedy – Left — Lee Harvey Oswald – Left
Malcolm X – Left — Nation of Islam hitmen – Left
Martin Luther King – Left — Conspiracy of white racists and criminals – Right
Robert F. Kennedy – Left — Sirhan Sirhan – Left
George Wallace – Right — Arthur Bremer – Apolitical Crazy
Gerald Ford – Right — Squeaky Fromme — Left or Crazy?
John Lennon – Left — What’s His Name – Apolitical Crazy
Ronald Reagan – Right — John Hinckley – Apolitical Crazy

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To call an observation a “conspiracy theory” is widely treated as an argument-winning move. Yet, which of the major historical events of the 20th Century did not have at least some aspect of conspiracy about them?

Start with the event that set in motion the main currents of the century, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. This was the result of a conspiracy right out of an Oliver Stone movie: Elements high up in the Serbian government and military, organized in a secret paramilitary society with the comic book name Black Hand, infiltrated nine assassins and their weapons into Sarajevo and had them sit around for a month waiting for the Archduke to show up so they could ambush him. (They proved incompetent and all missed, but then the Austrians proved incompetent too and made a wrong turn and then stalled the Archduke’s car right in front of the despondent Princip.)

Next, the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the rest of the Bolshie boys were classic cafe conspirators who got lucky. Lenin’s deal with the German high command to be transported from Switzerland to the Finland Station in order to undermine Germany’s Russian enemy is straight out of the conspiracy nut’s textbook.

The Depression, however, is the most striking exception to this tendency of major 20th Century events to in some way partake of the conspiratorial. It just sort of happened.

What about the rise of Hitler? You might call the political maneuverings by the conservative Weimar powerbrokers who gave Hitler the Chancellorship in January 1933 a conspiracy, although that’s stretching the term. Hitler’s manner of government — midnight meetings to plan great crimes with a few henchmen where no notes were taken (a particularly un-German way of running a government) — was that of a conspirator rather than a national leader.

Japan’s path to Pearl Harbor was laid down in the 1920s and 1930s by conspiracies of Army officers who assassinated all the moderates in the Japanese government.

On a strategic level, the Cold War was not particularly conspiratorial — it naturally grew out of the radically different interests of the two major victors of WWII. But — probably fortunately — both sides preferred to wage it largely by conspiratorial means rather than by tank battle in the Fulda Gap.

According to Paul Johnson’s Modern Times,

“Eisenhower’s chief fear, in the tense atmosphere engendered by the Cold War, was that the government would fall into the grip of a combination of bellicose senators, over-eager brass-hats and greedy arms-suppliers — what he termed the ‘military-industrial complex.’” [p. 464]

Eisenhower preferred to fight the Cold War using cheaper means — building a nuclear deterrent and using CIA covert operations, as in Guatemala and Iran.

Finally, the fall of the Soviet Empire doesn’t seem terribly conspiratorial at this point, but the history hasn’t all been written. I’d be particularly interested in what promises, if any, were made by the American government to Saudi Arabia in 1985 to persuade the Saudis to pump so much oil that the world price plummeted and the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, went broke.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that most (or any) of the popular conspiracy theories are true. Most are obviously pretty stupid.

What it does show is that, like with predictions, people are easily bored and depressed by true conspiracy theories. For example, the fact that WWI, the catastrophe of catastrophes, was set in motion by a classic large-scale conspiracy is of almost no interest to anybody — I was only vaguely aware of that fact myself until I looked up the history tonight.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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[Links fixed]
The Man Who Is Thursday offers “The Steve Sailer Rule of Conspiracies:”

Over the past couple years, Steve Sailer’s writings on conspiracy theories (see below) have intrigued me. Like most educated Westerners I don’t think much of conspiracy theorizing, but the examples Steve has given got me thinking. …

More interesting though are some of Steve’s other examples: the Mafia, the 90s Russian oligarchs, the Donmeh, the diamond business. What these all have in common is that they all involve closely knit ethnic groups or people with close family ties. To be precise, actual conspiracies tend to be found only among family members or, what amounts to the same thing, closely knit, endogamous ethnic groups. Therefore, in honour of Steve’s abiding interest in family, I give your the Steve Sailer Rule of Conspiracies. So far as I know, Steve hasn’t spelled this out explicitly, but I’ll do it for him:

Click here to find out what Thursday proposes.

When you get back, I want to raise a related issue: the declining value of covert conspiracies relative to overt conspiracies.

Say we were sitting around in a dorm room in 1978 and I told you that each winter the world’s richest men gather in an obscure village high in the Alps to discuss how to impose economic policies in their self-interest on the nations of the world.

You’d say I had seen too many paranoia thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, Parallax View, and Winter Kills. Surely, if this conspiracy existed, enterprising journalists like Woodward and Bernstein would expose it.

Then, I’d say, no, you don’t understand: the rich guys invite Woodward and Bernstein to the meetings (well, maybe not Bernstein, he’s not really important enough anymore). Journalists all compete with each other to be big enough celebrities to get invited to this meeting, where they and the rich guys can all bask under the TV lights in their mutually-reinforcing celebrityhood.

The secret is that there is no secret. In fact, everybody invited immediately notifies his publicist to spread the word that he’s going.

And, you’d say, that’s crazy! A conspiracy in plain view? Who ever heard of such a thing?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The wave of bioterrorism that killed five people shortly after 9/11 is unsolved and largely forgotten, but it played a role in sending us off to war in Iraq, so it is of considerable historical importance in understanding how we got to where we are.

Feeling cocky after my recent run of investigative successes, I sat down last week to solve the anthrax case. A quick scan identified a character who many on the Internet had wondered why he, rather than the hapless Stephen Hatfill, hadn’t been put through the ringer. He’s a microbiologist, retired Army officer, worked at the Army base where they keep lots of anthrax, had been mean to an Arab colleague, was involved in lots of unseemly stuff, etc etc. The more I Googled, the more the pieces fell into place … until, pffft, I looked at the evidence again from a different angle and it all blew away.

Sure, I could make the bits and pieces fit into the notion that he was the anthrax mailer, but then a simpler explanation occurred to me: He was just a jerk who had done some jerky things over the last 15 years. I’m not going to mention his name, but if you know who I’m talking about and think he did it, try to force yourself into a gestalt where you assume he didn’t do it and see if you can think of less sinister explanations for the facts known about him.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The port city at the north end of the Aegean Sea, spelled Thessaloniki since Greece seized it from the Ottoman Empire before WWI, would be a fine setting for an Umberto Eco novel or a Dan Brown knock-off of an Eco novel.

Salonika had an appropriately Byzantine social history a century ago. It was the home of both Mustafa Kemal, founder of modern Turkey, and of the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the 17th Century false messiah Sabbetai Zevi, who comprise much of the secular elite of Istanbul today. (In Turkey today, “Salonikan” is a synonym for Sabbatean.) Also, Masonic Lodges in Salonika played a role in the emergence of both the Young Turks who deposed the Sultan and, more indirectly, of the modern yogurt industry. I haven’t found any links between Salonika and the Knights Templar yet, but I’m sure I just haven’t burrowed deep enough into the fever swamps.

Salonika is back in the news as the birthplace of new French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s beloved maternal grandfather Benedict Mallah, who was the scion of a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in that remarkable city. Salonika was about half Jewish early in the 20th Century, before the great fire of 1917 scattered much of the Jewish community, and then the rest were murdered by the Nazis. (The Donme, as nominal Muslims, were shipped to Turkey in the population exchanges of 1923 that, at great cost, brought peace between Turkey and Greece, so they escaped the fate of the Salonikan Jews.)

Sarkozy’s father, an anti-Communist Hungarian refugee of castle-owning minor aristocratic stock, abandoned his family, so little Sarkozy grew up in the small mansion of his maternal grandfather, who had converted to Catholicism upon marrying a French war widow in 1917 and then became a respected Parisian clap doctor.

“To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world,” says the Australian Jewish News:

Sarkozy’s grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Beniko, was born in 1890.

Beniko’s uncle Moshe was a well-known Rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited “El Avenir”, the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time.

His cousin, Asher, was a Senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion – the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel.

In 1919 he was elected as the first President of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930’s he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934.

Another of Beniko’s cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the position of Greece’s Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country’s first diplomatic envoy to Greece.

During the Holocaust, 57 members of the Mallah family were murdered by the Nazis. Sarkozy’s grandfather, who had changed his name to Benedict upon his conversion, had to lie low during WWII to keep from being caught by the Nazis in France.

Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the “Maquis” (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.

During a visit to Greece in 2006, a visibly moved Sarkozy received a family tree album from a delegation of Thessalonikian Jews, saying “My roots are here.”

By the way, each time I’ve tried to post something about Salonika, my computer acts up and tries to swallow my entry. I blame albino monks.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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