Monday, June 18, 2007

Replace one bad idea with another.

I have commented on the lunatic theory of the “North America Union” conspiracy. And I was pleased to see AlterNet taking on this paranoid delusion. As with much you find at AlterNet it is some good and some bad. And I thought I’d mention what they had to say and respond.

First, they poo-poo the idea of an international plot of “globalists” to set a transnational government. And they are right when they say it is “an offspring of the John Birch Society right, with its attendant xenophobia and paranoia.” The conspiracy theory of the Birchers is bizarre.

First, the founder Robert Welch, went on about the Communists “conspiracy”. Now he was fairly solid ground except in thinking that there was a monolithic agreement among Marxists. There never was. The Soviets did present a problem and were a monolithic government which did do some horrific things. But the Left was not in lock step with the Soviets.

Welch got even more bizarre when he wrote that President Eisenhower was a communist agent controlled by his brother. Welch did have many loose screws.

Then in the mid 60s the Birchers latched on to the ideas of Dan Smoot that the Council on Foreign Relations was involved in a plot to merge the United States with the Soviet Union and to establish a one world government. He laid out his theories in his book The Invisible Government which was published by the Birchers. Smoot presented himself as an FBI expert. He did serve as a field agent in the FBI but the Bureau was rather unhappy with the quality of his work and he left under a cloud. He was reprimanded on several occasions. Smoot also claimed he was an “administrative assistant” to J. Edgar Hoover but the FBI says this was entirely false.

The Birchers, however, moved on. Now they started looking at the “banking conspiracies” espoused by various groups, especially by anti-Semites who argued the bankers were “Jews”. At this point Welch started concocting a grand conspiracy theory tying all this strands of conspiracism together. Welch was reading the wacko conspiracy books about Freemasons and such and came across the idea that an obscure order, the Illuminati, was involved. Eventually they became the main culprits controlling, from behind the scenes, all the other conspiracies.

Normally one would say: “And the rest is history.” But very little of what the Birchers claims holds up well when scrutinized. One ends up on an endless loop of conspiracy claims using the books of other conspiracy nuts to back up the book being read. Along the way there is a conspiracy for everyone. If you hate Catholics you can find books documenting the Vatican’s involvement with the plot. Hate Jews and there are hundreds of books you can turn to for “proof”. If you hate Protestants you can find Catholic conspiracists arguing that the Protestants are part of the conspiracy. Some argue the Mormons are and others argue the Mormons are good guys.

So out of this jumble of bad history and delusional thinking has emerged the “conspiracy” to merge the US with Canada and Mexico. That’s today. Tomorrow the world.

AlterNet, however, goes off the deep end as well. They pull in their left-wing obsessions. They argue that people are attracted to such wacko ideas as “an entirely logical reaction to the process of corporate-driven global integration that feeds in Americans’ very real and wholly valid economic anxieties.” This would be a good time to throw up.

The movement for free trade is often opposed by corporations who don’t want the competition locally. Everyone wants to be able to sell abroad and to have a protected market at home. So many corporations are leaders pushing for protectionist measures to limit their own competition.

But the really asinine comment is that the fears of the public are “real and wholly valid economic anxieties.” That is just garbage. It is mostly based on fallacies and economic illiteracy. It is not true and the economists of the world are pretty much in agreement on the benefits of free trade.

To back up the claim that these economic fallacies are legitimate the author of this piece resorts to counting heads informing us that 46 percent of the public thinks free trade deals are bad for America. And they believe they lowered wages -- in spite of rising wages to the contrary. Yet the same site laughs hysterically went Right-wing nuts pull out public opinion polls against evolution.

So the author realizes that the conspiracy theory is fringe material but is convinced that his own fringe economic theory (at least among professional economists) is absolutely valid. And he finds the fault to be the very thing he himself hates: free trade. How convenient. He speaks in way that implies he was one of “those” “who have spent years in trying to raise awareness of what’s really going on in the movement to blanket the earth in “free trade” deals...” In fact the author sounds like a nutter when he says: “Make no mistake, I’ve shed blood opposing corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the Free Trade Areas of the Americas, and there are very real and very significant problems with the push toward harmonization.....”

By the way harmonization is not the same thing as free trade and it is not good. It is a means by which bad policies are imposed on nations that have decent policies to limit competition. For instance the old EU countries are lumbering dinosaurs unfit to survive the modern world. They face stiff competition from the rising stars in Eastern Europe. So the old countries, instead of reforming their failed policies, are trying to impose the same burdens on the emerging markets in order to stifle their growth and make them less attractive.

The major difference between the AlterNet author and the lunatics he sets out to debunk is that he wants them to concentrate on his favorite hate group: corporations. He hates free trade, corporations and I would guess he isn’t found of free markets in general. And he wants the lunatic fringe on the Right to adopt his targets. I’m glad to see him debunk some of the lunatic conspiracy theories that he does. I’m disappointed to see him replace those Right-wing wacko theories with Left-wing wacko theories of his own.

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