Gonzaga Debate Institute 2011 Mercury Conspiracy Theory


AT: Conspiracy analysis challenges power



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AT: Conspiracy analysis challenges power


Conspiracy theories actually prop up and legitimate the power of the current political system

Sternheimer, Professor of Sociology University of Southern California, 7

(Karen, Ph.D in Sociology and Professor at USC, “The Sociology of Conspiracy,” September 26, 2007, http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/2007/09/the-sociology-o.html, 6/26/11 JSkoog)



Sociologists refer to conspiracy theories as a form of collective behavior, something that we engage in together that gains traction as it appeals to many people. Similar to urban legends, rumors, and panics, sociologists seek to understand how and why groups create meaning through claiming that conspiracies have taken place. The creation of the Internet has definitely helped grease the wheels of collective behavior. One of the most fascinating things about collective behavior is that it often starts from the grassroots level, from everyday people rather from those in positions of power. In fact, the very distance from the centers of power fuels conspiracy theories. Let’s think about some other conspiracy theories: some people claim that the Holocaust never happened; perhaps the most famous conspiracy theory is based on the premise that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the work of insiders. The public’s willingness to entertain such theories differs tremendously. For most people, even questioning the reality that millions of civilians were murdered during World War II is incredibly offensive. But there’s something about Kennedy’s assassination that makes millions question the findings of the Warren Commission Report. Why does one conspiracy theory seem outlandish while another one seems plausible? The imbalance of power is a key ingredient. It is not hard to believe that a powerful regime or dictator could slaughter a group of people with little or no social power, as sadly has happened over and over again in human history. But the opposite is much harder to believe: an individual or group with little power harming someone with significantly more power and status doesn’t make sense. It challenges what we think we know about the social order. So the Kennedy assassination--apparently the work of a lone gunman who by all reports was, to put it kindly, unsuccessful in his other ventures--seems hard to believe. That a charismatic, larger-than-life leader of the free world could be brought down by a “nobody” has fueled conspiracy theorists for over forty years. Although solid evidence refutes the idea of a conspiracy, I admit to entertaining this notion myself. I now see that I fell into the power imbalance trap too. In my defense, I also grew up during the 1970s, when network television routinely featured programs about the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and other supernatural “secrets”. The Kennedy assassination was also a big topic during the decade that featured the Watergate cover-up and made many Americans question how much the government could be trusted. In the early 1970s, Skylab, a precursor to today’s international space station, actually fell to earth (which is terrifying if you’re a kid!) and faith in the government fell as well. Flash forward more than 25 years, and you can see why people still might have trouble believing the government. The president's approval ratings have declined in recent years as the war in Iraq has become increasingly unpopular. Conspiracy claims make sense during a time when mistrust and anger toward the government run high. And most of all, it is hard to accept that our powerful military could not protect us that September day. For some, it is easier to believe that our government is all-powerful (even if that power is abused) than it is to believe that the government is flawed. Our Cold War military build-up made us feel almost invincible, and September 11th challenged that assumption. In a strange way, conspiracy theories help prop up the belief in an all-powerful America. Perhaps clinging to this idea is less upsetting than facing what transpired that day.


AT: Jodi Dean


Dean’s argument overreaches and ignores history and fails as a foundation for productive criticism

Luckhurst, Department of English and Humanities, University of London, 98

(Roger , Nov, “BOOKS IN REVIEW”, Science Fiction Studies, #76, Volume 25, Part 3 http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/birs/bir76.htm)



As a narrative of cultural responses to technological change, this is a plausible account. This is the historical framework explored in chapters two and three of the book, but Dean’s interest does not really lie here. In fact, she launches the book by using the pervasive presence of abduction narratives to exemplify her case about a radical relativizing of any claims to rationality or truth in American society. This is where Dean succumbs to a rather alarming chain of logic. "UFO belief is widespread enough to conflict with the concept of a unitary public reason," she asserts (11), having claimed that abduction accounts are symptomatic of "the lack of widespread criteria for judgments about what is reasonable and what is not" (9). From uncertainties of judgment, the argument escalates rapidly to allege that we "can no longer presume a reality based on consensus" (15), and hence have reached a "collapse" of the political sphere and the rise of conspiracy culture. This ultimately means that scientists or cultural commentators cannot contest the claims of abductees because, as Dean concludes, "there is no overarching conception of reality" on which to adjudicate competing claims (170).

And what is the cause of this wreck of reason? Technology, in a series of dispiriting, clichéd guises. "We are all connected in a world wide web, a borderless information economy" (168) where "one site, one link, is as plausible as any other" (132), so that UFOlogists can "reclaim their rationality on their own terms" (9). Abductees also appear on television, and, Dean claims, "their televisual presence...links them with the real, with that which happens" (103), because the measure of the "real"—like History itself—is now televisual. Apparently, an abductee on Jerry Springer is rendered equivalent to a news report, or else Dean presumes the audience too foolish to tell the difference. At least abductee accounts about the strange life of domestic technologies, of VCRs, microwaves and telephones, of secret messages embedded in popular sf films and TV series, are more inventive than this.



It is not the technological determinism or the familiar postmodernist rhetoric of "crisis" and "collapse" that is worrying here; it is the poorly premised relativism of the argument. Leaving aside the constant leaps from epistemological uncertainty to claims of ontological collapse, is it really the case that abduction discourse, because it is relatively organized on the Net, and because it mimics the methodologies of science, marks a crisis of reason? Apparently so: "heretofore reasonable procedures take an alien form. As the criteria for legitimacy are themselves abducted, the mainstream, the serious, the conventional, and the real become suspect" (58). Carl Sagan is held as being "nostalgic, even naive" compared with Budd Hopkins, "because he, Sagan, works within a world view that he doesn’t question" (170). Such absurd statements might benefit from historical perspective. In one footnote, Dean hopes "to investigate more thoroughly in the future" the world of nineteenth century Spiritualism (221). She should do so: the Spiritualists were highly organized at the local and national levels, had three newspapers in London in the 1870s and thousands of supporters. Spiritualists were linked to both radical politics and the heart of the political establishment; they ceaselessly appropriated both the language and methods of science and the newest technologies as "vehicles" for belief. A number of eminent men of science became Spiritualists, and offered scientific rationales for communication with the dead. There was no crisis of reason, no collapse of the Real (whatever that means); Spiritualism at its height remained a definitively marginal science. Jodi Dean sets off on the wrong foot in making abduction narratives evidence of the relativizing of any possibility of truth; it means she ends up losing any possibility of critique, which requires, after all, some kind of ground on which to argue a case.

Clinical Paranoia


The clinical paranoia and political paranoia are not mutually exclusive

Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and FBI consultant, 03

(Michael, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, pg. 16, SL)

Unlike Hofstadter, some have argued that the clinical and the political may overlap. Robert Robins and Jerrold Post assert that the domain of political paranoia encompasses a range of exemplars, including such clinical paranoids as James Forrestal and Joseph Stalin; borderline paranoids whose “delusion is likely to involve exaggeration and distortion of genuine events and rational beliefs rather than pure psychotic inven- tion”; and cultures in which, at least temporarily, conspiracy beliefs be- come a culturally defined norm. In this view, conspiracy beliefs become neither determinative of paranoia nor divorced from it. Instead, con- spiracism straddles a blurred and shifting boundary between pathology and normalcy. 7



AT: Biopower Impacts


Biopower is neither inherently good, nor bad. Our specific context is more important than their sweeping generalization.

Dickinson, UC Berkeley - Associate Professor History, 4

(Edward Ross, “Biopolitics, Fascism, Democracy: Some Reflections on Our Discourse About “Modernity,” Central European History, vol. 37, no. 1, 1–48)

This notion is not at all at odds with the core of Foucauldian (and Peukertian) theory. Democratic welfare states are regimes of power/knowledge no less than early twentieth-century totalitarian states; these systems are not “opposites,” in the sense that they are two alternative ways of organizing the same thing. But they are two very different ways of organizing it. The concept “power” should not be read as a universal stifling night of oppression, manipulation, and entrapment, in which all political and social orders are grey, are essentially or effectively “the same.” Power is a set of social relations, in which individuals and groups have varying degrees of autonomy and effective subjectivity. And discourse is, as Foucault argued, “tactically polyvalent.” Discursive elements (like the various elements of biopolitics) can be combined in different ways to form parts of quite different strategies (like totalitarianism or the democratic welfare state); they cannot be assigned to one place in a structure, but rather circulate. The varying possible constellations of power in modern societies create “multiple modernities,” modern societies with quite radically differing potentials.91
Biopower is not genocidal when it is deployed by a government which also respects rights.

Dickinson, UC Berkeley - Associate Professor History, 4

(Edward Ross, “Biopolitics, Fascism, Democracy: Some Reflections on Our Discourse About “Modernity,” Central European History, vol. 37, no. 1, 1–48)

At its simplest, this view of the politics of expertise and professionalization is certainly plausible. Historically speaking, however, the further conjecture that this “micropolitical” dynamic creates authoritarian, totalitarian, or homicidal potentials at the level of the state does not seem very tenable. Historically, it appears that the greatest advocates of political democracy —in Germany left liberals and Social Democrats —have been also the greatest advocates of every kind of biopolitical social engineering, from public health and welfare programs through social insurance to city planning and, yes, even eugenics.102 The state they built has intervened in social relations to an (until recently) ever-growing degree; professionalization has run ever more rampant in Western societies; the production of scientistic and technocratic expert knowledge has proceeded at an ever more frenetic pace. And yet, from the perspective of the first years of the millennium, the second half of the twentieth century appears to be the great age of democracy in precisely those societies where these processes have been most in evidence. What is more, the interventionist state has steadily expanded both the rights and the resources of virtually every citizen — including those who were stigmatized and persecuted as biologically defective under National Socialism. Perhaps these processes have created an ever more restrictive “iron cage” of rationality in European societies. But if so, it seems clear that there is no necessary correlation between rationalization and authoritarian politics; the opposite seems in fact to be at least equally true.
Biopower is inevitable

Wright, Fellow at the Centre for Global Political Economy 2008

(Nathan, “Camp as Paradigm: Bio-Politics and State Racism in Foucault and Agamben”, http://ccjournal.cgu.edu/past_issues/nathan_wright.html)



Perhaps the one failure of Foucault’s that, unresolved, rings as most ominous is his failure to further examine the problem of bio-political state racism that he first raises in his lecture series, Society Must Be Defended. At the end of the last lecture, Foucault suggests that bio-power is here to stay as a fixture of modernity. Perhaps given its focus on the preservation of the population of the nation it which it is practiced, bio-power itself is something that Foucault accepts as here to stay. Yet his analysis of bio-politics and bio-power leads inevitably to state-sanctioned racism, be the government democratic, socialist, or fascist. As a result, he ends the lecture series with the question, “How can one both make a bio-power function and exercise the rights of war, the rights of murder and the function of death, without becoming racist? That was the problem, and that, I think, is still the problem.” It was a problem to which he never returned. However, in the space opened by Foucault’s failure to solve the problem of state racism and to “elaborate a unitary theory of power” (Agamben 1998, 5) steps Agamben in an attempt to complete an analysis of Foucauldian bio-politics and to, while not solve the problem of state racism, at least give direction for further inquiry and hope of a politics that escapes the problem of this racism.




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