Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean ...

Dr David Grimes from Oxford University recently claimed that conspiracies would unmask themselves in direct proportion to the number of people involved in keeping the secret. "Specifically, the Moon landing 'hoax' would have been revealed in 3.7 years, the climate change 'fraud' in 3.7 to 26.8 years, the vaccine-autism 'conspiracy' in 3.2 to 34.8 years, and the cancer 'conspiracy' in 3.2 years."  The Moon hoax would have been hard to sustain because so many people were involved in the Apollo project.

But there are several reasons why conspiracies can be kept secret indefinitely.  One is that arithmetic whittles down the number of conspirators over time through natural life expectancy.   In the 50 years that have passed since the JFK assassination the conspirators if any, would have most likely died from old age.  Dead men tell no tales.  The process is often given a little push.  Alexander Litvinenko, for example, is now believed to have been poisoned on orders of Vladimir Putin after having exposed his involvement in organized crime, something which may discourage others from imitating Litvinenko's actions.

A second reason is conspiracies may be so audacious their unmasking would require too much proof to be easily presentable.  Only one eyewitness is needed to allege a murder.  But the world needed thousands of witnesses, documents, a war crimes tribunal and many feet of photographic film to accept the existence of the Holocaust -- and many still don't.  Hitler called this defense The Big Lie, "a lie so 'colossal' that no one would believe that someone 'could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.'"

A third reason conspiracies may long remain undetected is because they are named nice things.  The word "bribery" is such an ugly word and would probably incense Bernie Sanders.  But would "confidence-building measures" anger him?  Not to the same degree. Reuters reports that the Obama administration dropped millions of dollars in legal claims against the government of Iran to remove obstacles to its diplomatic legacy.  That's not greasing Iranian palms.  It's peace-building.  In the same vein, the Malaysian government dismissed charges of corruption against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak after it was revealed that the $681 million deposited into his account was merely a "gift" from the king of Saudi Arabia.  A "gift" was it?  That makes it alright then.  Who can be against a gift?

Malaysia's attorney general revealed on Tuesday that the early-2013 payment, the subject of months of speculation, had come from the Saudi royal family and involved no corruption or improper conduct. Malaysia's prime minister had previously said that the cash was a private donation from a Middle Eastern donor that he declined to name.

The Saudi king's largesse may arouse suspicion that if the puny prime minister of Malaysia is worth $681 million then "world leaders" are worth much more in gifts. But only among cynics.  To conceive of bribery on such scale would be to engage in conspiratorial thinking, as Dr David Grimes might say, about something hard to keep secret. Hard. But not impossible, and definitely understandable. In a world where open interstate conflict has been abolished (it is certainly out of fashion) money becomes the principal mode of exercising power. One doesn't bomb anyone any more, unless they are disposable thugs about who nobody cares if Obama drones them.  The modern way to conquer a country is to bribe its president.  Bribery is unthinkable, but not as unthinkable as war to modern sensibilities.

The Washington Post notes estimates that Vladimir Putin has a $200 billion fortune.  If true it is powerful circumstantial evidence for the existence of the buying and selling of political favors in the world. It is also proof that he is well stocked with the munitions of power. It would take a whole lot more than $681 M lousy bucks to impress him, unlike some low rent Malaysian politician.  On the other hand, Putin can spend his cash in the European Union, an organiation which former Thatcher adviser Bernard Ingham called "useless and corrupt".

"The European Union is useless, corrupt and riddled with fraud, Sir Bernard Ingham has said.

In a withering attack, Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary asked: "Why should the UK throw another £12 billion a year down these mafia and assorted criminal drains?"...

"Europhiles might usefully address themselves not to the question why we should stay in the EU, but why we should ever want to be a member of it at all when the institution is corrupt and so riddled with fraud that the auditors have felt unable to sign off its accounts for nigh on 20 years."

If the world were "so riddled with fraud that the auditors have felt unable to sign off its accounts" it would largely explain why authoritarianism is back in style. Tyranny is busting out all over because stopping tyrants is bad for business. The Wall Street Journal writes that political rights and civil rights have been declining ever year since 2006. The "annual Freedom in the World report [finds that] In all, 110 countries, more than half the world’s total, have suffered some loss in freedom during the past 10 years."

the most powerful dictatorships—China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia—have extended their antidemocratic influence abroad. Especially disturbing is the way indirect effects of oppression and misrule have seeped into established democracies in North America, Europe and elsewhere.

This decline is no coincidence.  Tolerance of tyranny has been normalized, even in Western democracies. It is disturbing that president Obama is politically embracing Hillary Clinton just as she expressed delight at the prospect of appointing him to the Supreme Court. But they would understand such quid pro quo in Obama's home town, where according to Chicago Magazine, it has long been custom to buy off gangs in exchange for political support.

Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance ... In some parts of Chicago, violent street gangs and pols quietly trade money and favors for mutual gain. The thugs flourish, the elected officials thrive—and you lose. ...

During the meetings, the politicians were allotted a few minutes to make their pitches. The former gang chiefs then peppered them with questions: What would they do about jobs? School safety? Police harassment? Help for ex-cons? But in the end, as with most things political in Chicago, it all came down to one question, says Davis, the community activist who helped Baskin with some of the meetings. He recalls that the gang representatives asked, “What can you give me?” The politicians, most eager to please, replied, “What do you want?”"

It is not therefore surprising that the administration's Smart Diplomacy so closely resembles Chicago's gang policy. He's trying to buy the bad guys off -- and they don't come cheap. The trouble is, that like the Chicago gang policy, it only fertilizes the growth of gangs. Following Obama's grant of $150 billion to Iran, the Ayatollahs embarked upon a massive purge of moderates, banning thousands from politics. According to Reporters Without Borders Iran is now one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists. The administration's rapproachment toward the Castro regime has been similarly one sided. It has cozied up to the Castros while distancing itself from the dissidents. Just like in those gang meetings.

In a way, this represents a conscious choice, a shift to a strategy of absolute cynicism. The Western left lost confidence in democracy in 2006, if it ever had it, after  its indignation with George Bush and openly declared against overthrowing the Saddams, preferring to leave them alone.  In 2008 the Western political classes supported a leader whose avowed program was to reach an arrangement with the worst regimes in the world.

We are now in the 7th year of that policy.  That democracy has been in retreat since then, and that the West is being invaded by millions fleeing the collapsing totalitarianisms is less surprising than inevitable. The Guardian bemoans the fact that Chinese snatch-squads are roaming the world, kidnapping dissidents from anywhere on the planet without so much as raising a whimper from the Western governments. But what did they expect? If it is now immoral to defend Western borders against "migrants" then there is no case for defending anyone from foreign strongmen who might be worth a couple of billion in donations.

Ironically the result of normalizing corruption will not be greater stability, but less of it. Regimes that are built on crony economics, upon the dominance of special classes, whether they are called a nomenklatura or simply "the community" simply don't last very long. What stabilized the West after World War 2, what made the Long Peace possible, was the democracy, core Western values and borders that survived until the elites decided to kill it.

By abandoning these and tacitly embracing authoritarianism the modern elites have not bought themselves safety. On the contrary, they've unleashed all the perils from which they were formerly safe; they have mounted a scaffold from which it will now take every ounce of effort to escape. If at the last pinch of the vise a noose is tightened round their necks, they would do well to remember for edification at least, if for nothing else, a paraphrase of Leon Trotsky's. "You may not be interested in tyranny, but tyranny is interested in you."

Ker-thunk.

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