Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Constancy of Conspiracy

In the course of gathering quotes by Left-wingers that mirrored the supposedly 'crazy' utterances of Bobby Fischer, I came across this gem from Arundhati Roy, speaking "in conversation" with Howard Zinn at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Sante Fe, 18 September 2002. I didn't use it in Knave's Gambit, as it didn't have an immediate analog in Fischer's 9/11 radio interview. I'll reproduce it here:

As the War Against Terror casts its net wider and wider, America's corporate heart is hemorrhaging. For all the endless, empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who head them are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything about them, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them. Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf. A world run by a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs whom nobody elected can't possibly last.

This is worth quoting in a separate post because it demonstrates a key intellectual feature of anti-globalization: so much of it rests on conspiracy theory. This is true of all the far-Left and far-Right movements, which are always utopian and thus empirically resistant. Facts threaten the party line, and when they do the propagandist patches tears in the ideological tapestry by blaming remote but all-powerful forces. Totalitarian states systematize this approach on a grand scale. The elements of conspiracy theory become the gears of the propaganda machine.

Although I can't have any readers obtuse enough to require it, I will note that Arundhati Roy appears here to have lifted a passage about Jewish financiers from Der Sturmer and rewritten it with reference to Americans. I don't mean this as a literal methodological claim, of course, but Roy's remarks about American "bankers and CEOs" are identical to conspiratorial blather about international Jewish finance and its war machine.

Anti-Semitism is itself a conspiracy theory, and in turn it is the prevailing conspiracy theory of two great totalitarian movements -- Nazism and radical Islam. It was also an increasingly luminous fixture in the constellation of Soviet Communism, but not its primary driver. Roy shows that anti-globalization, which borrows many Soviet tropes, exhibits a similar intellectual hygiene. While her target is Americans, and never so far as I know Jews, she shows why the far-Left naturally trends toward anti-Semitism, and why it sees an ally in radical Islam despite major ideological incompatibilities.

Mark Strauss explains this with greater depth in Antiglobalism's Jewish Problem, a Socialism of Fools bellwether essay.

Postscript: That Roy is considered one of anti-globalization's lodestars, and can utter such a cartoonish analysis in the promotion of its viewpoint, must be, even granting the intellectual infirmity of that movement, a pitiable product of the "soft bigotry of low expectations".