This week, President Trump released thousands of previously classified documents related to the JFK assassination to much fanfare, particularly from his base.
Can we just take a moment to notice where we are? If President Obama wanted to pander to his base, he might have attended a non-binding international climate discussion. President (W.) Bush would have perhaps landed on an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet. President Clinton might have executed a mentally handicapped African-American man. If Hillary Clinton wanted to pander to her base she might call herself a “progressive who gets things done,” or, depending on which base we are talking about, say “Thanks for the couple hundred grand Goldman Sachs.”
These may all be marginally silly in their own way, but… climate change, the military, the criminal justice system, the financial system… fine, whatever.
But now, the current President of the United States panders to his base by playing up historic conspiracy theories. Sometimes it is ok to laugh at “Trump’s America.”
I suppose JFK’s assassination is one of the world’s most historic conspiracy situations. So much so, in fact, that the term “conspiracy theory” was introduced and popularized in the U.S. because of it. The short story: Recognizing the public was not buying the lone gunman story, the CIA instructed its agents and contacts in the media to begin to refer to criticisms of the official Warren Commission storyline as “conspiracy theories.” A weaponized term against public inquiry from its very inception.
But back to Trump.
Unfortunately for all of us who land between curious and tin-foil hat wearing, the released JFK assassination information excluded a few hundred of the most sensitive documents, and thus contained very little factual confirmation one way or the other.
Instead, it came across as more of a movie trailer, or the end of a chapter in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
There was certainly a little something for everyone.
For those deep into the current Russian espionage narrative, there were suggestions that Lee Harvey Oswald was a KGB agent. For those who enjoy deeper conspiracies, there was a teaser that perhaps LBJ was involved. Or maybe it had something to do with the mob and orgies with JFK, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr.
I guess that is kind of the point though.
Weaponized and in the mainstream, the term “conspiracy theory” is meant to be dismissive, a sort of synonym for “move along, nothing to see here.” I tend to view the term more as a red flag than a conversation ender.
Usually, something being deemed a conspiracy theory is one of two things. Sometimes it is something so obviously ridiculous — bad news, Putin didn’t actually ride a bear — it takes very little time or mental effort to disprove or invalidate.
But if the term has crept into the mainstream discussion, if you are hearing something called a “conspiracy theory” on mainstream news, it seems most often to be directed at topics which objectively appear to warrant further investigation. Whether this week’s released JFK documents provided anything close to concrete truth or not, we can at least now be more certain than ever that the assassination, the original “conspiracy theory,” warrants further investigation.
A different example? How about: I am not entirely positive what happened on 9/11, but I do wonder why the opinions, questions, and debates of very credible experts and academics are portrayed as “conspiracy theories.”
I bring all of this up partially because I am a fan of conspiracy theories in general. But also because I have a conspiracy theory for you.
On Friday, it was announced that the U.S. economy, as measured by GDP, grew at a 3% annual rate during the last quarter. For only the second time during his presidency, Trump was receiving near universal praise across mainstream media platforms — the first, of course, being when he dropped the “Mother Of All Bombs” on Syria — for this apparent rousing economic success.
But, alas, lies, damn lies, and statistics.
What interests me most, is the context behind this supposed success. Despite a growing GDP, wages have not grown accordingly. Neither has disposable income. Further, some have suggested that the GDP growth has come in large part from companies and investors taking action based on a prediction of more favorable conditions in the future — “stocking up” (pun intended), if you will — because of Trump’s proposed tax cuts.
Ahhh, Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and the uber-wealthy.
I wonder if Trump pushing JFK conspiracies so hard is related to his attempt to bring about tax cuts which sell his base out. His tax cuts might also have something to do with the glowing “GDP is up!!” reviews of the economy presented in a mainstream media run by five large corporations and the uber-wealthy.
But really, the problem is with GDP itself; with its definition and its usage as an indicator of success despite the fact that its composition does not take into account cost of living, inflation rates, income distribution, environmental concerns, or the health and education levels of the public.
GDP almost sounds like a unit of measurement created by predatory capitalist corporations for predatory capitalist corporations — one which defines societal progress through indicators which benefit the 1% and ignore the general population.
It reminds me of when companies in the 80s started cutting wages and benefits, laying off employees, cutting funding for research and development, yet created enormous profits for shareholders and were thus touted in the mainstream narrative as rousing success stories.
Societal success as rising stock prices, not accessible hospitals and functioning schools; as the number of goods moved, ignoring the environmental costs of the transactions, or the starvation wages being paid to those doing the moving.
Here is the conspiracy theory: The GDP is bullshit and money is made up.