[Marxism] Truthers and Conspiracy Theory

James Holstun jamesholstun at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 24 12:21:04 MDT 2010

Stanley Fish has a venerable history of anticommunism, stretching back to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, at which he sneered, as a very young prof. in the English Department. The Red he baits in this article is Professor Paul Zarembka, my colleague at SUNY Buffalo. With David MacGregor, Professor Zarembka recently co-authored an article entitled "Marxism, Conspiracy,
and 9-11,"in SOCIALISM AND DEMOCRACY, vol. 24,
no. 2, July 2010, pp. 139-163.  

As Truthers argue ad nauseam but rightly, all theories of 9-11 are conspiracy theories, whether "the official conspiracy theory" about Al Qaeda or the various "inside job" Truther arguments. And conspiracy theory should never be off the table for marxists. After all, monopoly capitalism, perhaps capitalism as such, is, among other things, a sort of conspiracy. One man's "conspiracy theory" is another woman's "structural analysis." And the first part of this article is pretty good, particularly the connection to 18th BRUMAIRE and Adam Smith's discussion of conspiracy and combinations.

The real problem is that the Truthers' conspiracy theory isn't good enough. Notoriously, they never assemble the various "troubling questions" into a coherent whole, a coherent counter-theory with the explanatory power of the "official conspiracy theory." In response to various troubling counter-questions that trouble their troubling questions, they typically plug up their ears, or reiterate the earlier troubling question, as if it had never been answered. For instance, in response to various lengthy and plausible explanations of why WTC7 collapsed due to being struck by flying debris, fires that weakened support members, etc., they retreat to the incredulity of "And WTC7 fell despite never having been struck by an airplane!" The Zarembka and MacGregor article, which is about as good as this stuff gets, does this.

The result of this failure to totalize is that Truther discourse leaves the realm of science (i.e., the realm of provability and disprovability), while remaining a very insistent explanation that provides a great solace to many people. I think that Bebel referred to anti-Semitism as "the socialism of fools" because it DOES provide a sort of incoherent explanation of pretty much everything. Truther discourse provides something similar. But that's not to say it isn't a form of mental illness, too. See Matt Taibbi's discussion in THE GREAT DERANGEMENT.

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