by Jeff Plude (March 2021)
Self Portrait with a Pipe, Louis Anquetin, 1892
It’s starting to seem more and more like a tinfoil hat is the new Phrygian cap, which was worn by our forefathers during the American Revolution as a symbol of liberty. Similar caps used to be given to emancipated Roman slaves as a sign of their freedom ….
I started to go off on a slight tangent, something that so-called conspiracy theorists are sometimes prone to. Although tangents can prove surprisingly fruitful if pursued selectively, as any investigator worth his salt can tell you. But this whole business of trying to determine what’s true and what isn’t has downsides to be sure. It’s like Thomas Jefferson said about true traveling: “This makes men wiser, but less happy.”
Take the latest episode of Davos Man, which bears the enticing title “The Great Reset.” That was the name of the official agenda at the annual four-day meetup of global elites held by the World Economic Forum in January in the remote swanky alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland. It’s exclusive—not even the press is invited (if there were a true press to invite). But no worries, because in the end the WEF says we’re all included. The elites tell us all about it afterward, so you can’t say they’re hiding anything. Unless you’re one of those people who wear the funny hats.
So I was watching a WEF video about this year’s version and only a half minute had elapsed when my head started to tingle. “Recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity,” announces António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations.
That’s strange. Most people—sane, reasonable people—say the pandemic is a disaster, even people who haven’t lost their jobs or their businesses or their loved ones to COVID. And then there are the closed schools and churches. This is the first I’ve heard anyone call all this an opportunity. Usually people who think of a disaster as an opportunity are opportunists. Like looters, speculators, and of course politicians.
And yes, I realize that Guterres says the recovery is the opportunity. But logic dictates that there would be no recovery without the pandemic. Regardless, he and his cohorts now have their opportunity, which is all that really matters in this context. But opportunity for what?
“We can see rays of hope in the form of a vaccine, but there is no vaccine for the planet,” he informs us. “Nature needs a bailout.”
Bailout flashed me back to 2008. It was AIG et al. that needed bailing out back then. Now it’s Old Mother Gaia herself. But we’ve been hearing that from the climate Chicken Littles for years now. First it was “global warming.” Then when the cold fronts and snow stubbornly wouldn’t comply, the campaign was rebranded to “climate change.” No one (except the tinfoil hatters) was the wiser. If you don’t agree, even if you just believe that climate change may not necessarily be caused by humans, you are outed as a climate denier. Like a Holocaust denier, a neo-Nazi white supremacist redneck.
Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and the author of the seminal Propaganda in 1928, would be proud. Interestingly, he was also the nephew of Sigmund Freud.
But climate change isn’t the half of it.
The voice of the narrator, a young female Aussie accent that sounds like a bot, quickly moves the episode along: “With everything falling apart (onscreen a lone skyscraper implodes), we can reshape the world in ways we couldn’t before…”
I flashed back again, this time to 2001—just as the video makers intended—and 2011.
A couple of months before the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center I met up at a pub-restaurant with a guy I used to work with at two daily newspapers. We hadn’t seen each other in fifteen years. He’s a few years older than me, and he’d just gotten laid off from the paper. He was smart but a little abrasive, sometimes more than a little abrasive. I liked him but was wary of him too.
So the conversation drifted to 9-11. I mentioned that I was suspicious about how Tower 7 was not struck by the two airliners that hit the main twin towers yet it collapsed nearly eight hours later. A group of engineers concluded it was brought down by controlled demolition. Some claimed that internal fires from incendiary debris or even diesel fuel may have caused it to implode, but if that were the case it would be the first steel skyscraper to do so because of fire. The 9-11 Commission never even investigated the issue. Coincidentally (or not) the CIA was later found to have a clandestine office in Tower 7. I expressed some other reservations about the official narrative.
My former journalist colleague seemed outraged and started mocking me. He said something like, “You don’t believe the planes weren’t real, do you?” He was talking about them being computer-generated images or holograms that concealed a missile. In other words, I am an Alex Jones-Infowars type. I assured him that I didn’t believe that, but that didn’t seem to calm him down. Apparently he’d been reading the skeptics online too, some of whom may be shills, straw men to associate dissenters with. Who knows? It’s an old spy trick. One of the Moscow Rules, an informal code of conduct for Cold War spooks in the Soviet capital, warns: “Everyone is potentially under opposition control.”
I think that many Americans don’t believe that fire ultimately caused Tower 7 to just fall into its own footprint in a matter of seconds. It came down like a building wired for demolition. Even some contemporaneous television news reports said the same.
The narrator goes on to inform us that “Everybody is calling for a Great Reset.” That’s strange. Nobody I know is calling for anything but an end of the global internment-style lockdown. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, mentioned a great reset but he’s not exactly regular folk. The chipper fembot then checks itself in an ironic tone:
A Great Reset? That sounds like some buzzword bingo (onscreen a disembodied hand holds the globe by strings like a puppeteer) masking some nefarious plan for world domination (the front page of a newspaper called “Daily News” spins into focus from the presses in the background with the banner headline: “Global Elite’s Plan for Your Future”)
You could almost hear the tinfoil vibrating. It was the Alex Jones-Infowars thing again: nefarious plan for world domination.
Nobody knows exactly when the label conspiracy theorist became a stigma, but it has become an efficient and effective way to smear and straitjacket critics of all stripes. Conspiracies have been around, of course, since the fall of man. History teems with conspiracies—Judas, Brutus, Benedict Arnold. All a conspiracy really means in a legal sense is that two or more persons agree to commit a crime, or to accomplish a legal end through illegal acts. It’s subversive and implies secrecy and deceit.
I certainly am not implying that all conspiracy theories are worthy. Maybe Shakespeare really did write all those plays and sonnets without leaving hardly a trace of himself behind. Bigfoot seems to have returned or retired his costume. But there are many others that are far from trivial or hilarious.
The mother of all American conspiracies, of course, is the Kennedy assassination. Though the term conspiracy theorist was in use long before this, it seemed to come into its own after the brazen murder of the country’s youngest elected president.
The CIA, in fact, seemed very concerned by the extent of conspiracy theories about who actually took part in blowing President Kennedy’s head partly off as the first lady sat next to him in an open-top limo, which the whole nation saw, to its horror, thanks to the Zapruder film. So the agency geared up. Not quite a year after the assassination, in October 1964, it produced a memo called “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report” to give its agents tactics, or talking points as we might say nowadays, to neutralize the apparent widespread disbelief in the Warren Commission’s conclusions. The memo was about 1,400 words long and uses several forms of the word conspiracy eight times. It reports as background that an opinion poll at the time found that almost half of Americans (46 percent) weren’t buying that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to kill the president. What was the CIA so worried about? “Just because of the standing of the Commissioners,” it said, “efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.”
So doubt was undesirable, or unacceptable is more like it.
What’s especially interesting, I think, is that a decade and a half later, in 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations issued its report which concluded that the conspiracy theorists were indeed right—there was another gunman besides Oswald, and likely other conspirators too. However, the committee was careful to point out that it did not believe that the CIA, the FBI, or the Secret Service was involved. The CIA memo expresses dismay in its memo that “there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination.” Cui bono, in other words. And President Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Lyndon Johnson’s home turf. There’s more, much more, of course. But I digress.
So conspiracy theory was officially declared conspiracy fact for once. And there have been others, like the CIA’s MK-Ultra project after World War II that experimented with mind control on its own citizens, using LSD no less. But the other gunman in the Kennedy assassination was never identified, not to mention other possible accomplices. It might’ve turned out very differently if Congress had acted sooner.
Perhaps this is why conspiracy theorists must be taken seriously at least in private, as the CIA memo clearly demonstrates. The makers of the WEF video seem well aware of this, and they do an about-face right after they have a little good clean fun with the tinfoil hatters:
But all we really want to see is that we all have an opportunity to build a better world. And it’s not surprising that people who have been disenfranchised by a broken system and pushed even further by the pandemic will suspect global leaders of conspiracy. But the world’s not that simple.
So they understand why regular folks, not just your garden-variety tinfoil hatter, would suspect them of a conspiracy. Such suspicions are somewhat understandable, they seem to concede for a nanosecond, but the world’s not that simple. That is, don’t be so ignorant. Critical thinking is the buzzword bingo here, something tinfoil hatters are accused of not possessing. This is the sole possession of useful idiots who are well paid for their loyalty.
And I wonder which broken system the WEF is talking about? Or maybe that’s the problem—each country has its own system and there needs to be one big system? For the sake of equality, of course. Though of course some may still be more equal than others, like Davos Man, but equal nevertheless.
Now as we rush toward the climax, the fembot gives us some sobering numbers: before the pandemic 1 percent of the world held 44 percent of the wealth, and during the pandemic they have increased that wealth by 25 percent (the rich get richer); while during the same period 150 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty.
Note the sleight-of-number here. We’re given percentages and then a raw number. But let’s convert the first figure: 1 percent of the world population (about 8 billion) is about 80 million people. The 150 million people suddenly doesn’t seem so large in comparison—about 2 percent. How accurate the WEF figures are is another story.
But this inequality is not primarily the result of the pandemic, according to Davos Man: it has just made an already unfair situation much worse. And it’s especially not the result of the global internment-style lockdown and the selective and contradictory shutdown or curtailing of many businesses, especially smaller ones. All of which has been arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed by presidents, prime ministers, and governors instead of democratically elected legislatures that are supposed to represent the people. And it goes on with no end in sight, even though COVID infections are for the most part decreasing. According to any respectable dictionary, that is disenfranchisement.
So what is the culprit? Marc Benioff knows. He’s the billionaire cofounder and CEO of Salesforce, which sells software for customer relation management. He proclaims smugly:
Capitalism (slight pause) as we know it is dead.
This bombastic declaration of war is intoned over a still shot of an animated metallic-blue tombstone flanked by two other tombstones facing the opposite direction. They’re on top of a globe covered by grass and with a menacing background of dark clouds. Black capital letters on the center tombstone read:
(I appreciate the video makers throwing us tinfoil hatters a bone here: what are the other two tombstones for? and what can the missing period between I and P and after the P mean? That will give me something to think about for a while. Though the missing periods are probably just sloppy but fortunate typos. On the other hand one missing period is probably an accident, but two missing periods…)
You shouldn’t mourn for capitalism though, considering its great crime against humanity:
This obsession that we have had with maximizing profits for shareholders alone has led to incredible inequality and a planetary emergency.
But hold on! (something tinfoil hatters are prone to exclaiming). I quickly put my funny hat back on. I had instinctively taken it off out of respect for the deceased, I couldn’t help myself. After all, capitalism and the United States of America, the country of my birth, are like one and the same, a political marriage made in heaven. I put my funny hat back on because I suddenly remembered something: But the world’s not that simple. That’s what the Aussie fembot said.
What’s going to take capitalism’s place?: stakeholder capitalism. Sounds like buzzword bingo to me. But if capitalism is so bad, why didn’t they just scrap the word altogether? Edward Bernays to the rescue again. It sounds a lot like capitalism but isn’t, which is the best of both worlds for Davos Man. It sounds a lot better than “Stakeholders of the world unite!”
Unlike a shareholder, a stakeholder can also include the government. But the U.S. hasn’t had laissez-faire capitalism for many years; after all, we have labor laws and an antitrust provision, if only the attorney general would enforce it. But apparently that’s not enough, not by a longshot, for the WEF. The fembot says the idea is to shift businesses away from profit. But that depends how big a business it is, as we all know. Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the WEF, enters stage left to say that the “new dashboard for the new economy” (any time you can throw in geek lingo the better off you are in the neverland of social media) “… needs to encompass people, planet, prosperity, and institutions.”
Now there’s a snazzy slogan—I like how it breaks the pattern of p words at the end for even more oomph. The only problem is that institutions equals anything that’s not a business and doesn’t make a profit. Like government and other government-like mutations.
Think of stakeholder capitalism as capitalism’s woke child, they seem to be saying. Even though according to the video the dutiful offspring has already committed patricide. Though profit-obsessed Dad deserved it.
To wind it all up, the fembot says everybody will be involved in the decision-making. Only three simple things are needed to bring about this profitless new world:
… getting the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
Now don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t start conjecturing and speculating and fantasizing that this seems to fit perfectly with the dubious election that put Joe Biden (the right man) in the oval office (the right place) just when the pandemic gave the Davos gang an opportunity (the right time) for the Great Reset. It’s pure coincidence. But I can’t help but think of James Bond’s creator, a former intelligence man himself, who wrote: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
Just past the four-minute mark and near the end, all that’s needed is a good call to action. It’s unfortunate the global elites can’t get better copywriters, since the video stooped to a jingle that was retired a half century ago. It was from one of America’s most successful and infamous con-men, so maybe that was the rationale:
So if you want to be part of the change, then tune in, turn on, and get involved.
As a late Boomer, I smiled but then frowned. The first two phrases are transposed: you have to turn on before you tune in, man. I can almost see Timothy Leary’s pied-piper grin. As for me, I think I’ll drop out of the Great Reset. Reality is psychedelic circus enough nowadays.
Meanwhile I’ll wear my tinfoil hat whenever I need to. It’s not exactly comfortable or fashionable, but at least it’s functional. Which is more than I can say for a dunce cap, or I should say a dupe’s cap.
Jeff Plude, a former daily newspaper reporter and editor, is a freelance writer and editor. He lives near Albany, New York.
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