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News ::
Conspiracy Theories and Clandestine Politics
27 Jun 2002
A useful analysis of distinctions which should be maintained between "conspiracy theory" (a pathological orientation) and "clandestine [or "deep"] politics". From Lobster #29, June 1995.


"Conspiracy Theories" and Clandestine Politics



"Conspiracy Theories" and Clandestine Politics

by Jeffrey M. Bale

Very few notions generate as much intellectual resistance, hostility, and
derision within academic circles as a belief in the historical importance or
efficacy of political conspiracies. Even when this belief is expressed in a
very cautious manner, limited to specific and restricted contexts, supported
by reliable evidence, and hedged about with all sort of qualifications, it
still manages to transcend the boundaries of acceptable discourse and
violate unspoken academic taboos. The idea that particular groups of people
meet together secretly or in private to plan various courses of action, and
that some of these plans actually exert a significant influence on
particular historical developments, is typically rejected out of hand and
assumed to be the figment of a paranoid imagination. The mere mention of the
word "conspiracy" seems to set off an internal alarm bell which causes
scholars to close their minds in order to avoid cognitive dissonance and
possible unpleasantness, since the popular image of conspiracy both
fundamentally challenges the conception most educated, sophisticated people
have about how the world operates, and reminds them of the horrible
persecutions that absurd and unfounded conspiracy theories have precipitated
or sustained in the past. So strong is this prejudice among academics that
even when clear evidence of a plot is inadvertently discovered in the course
of their own research, they frequently feel compelled, either out of a sense
of embarrassment or a desire to defuse anticipated criticism, to preface
their account of it by ostentatiously disclaiming a belief in conspiracies.(1)

They then often attempt to downplay the significance of the plotting they
have uncovered. To do otherwise, that is to make a serious effort to
incorporate the documented activities of conspiratorial groups into their
general political or historical analyses, would force them to stretch their
mental horizons beyond customary bounds and, not infrequently, delve even
further into certain sordid and politically sensitive topics. Most academic
researchers clearly prefer to ignore the implications of conspiratorial
politics altogether rather than deal directly with such controversial
matters.

A number of complex cultural and historical factors contribute to this
reflexive and unwarranted reaction, but it is perhaps most often the direct
result of a simple failure to distinguish between "conspiracy theories" in
the strict sense of the term, which are essentially elaborate fables
even though they may well be based upon a kernel of truth, and the
activities of actual clandestine and covert political groups, which are a
common feature of modern politics. For this and other reasons, serious
research into genuine conspiratorial networks has at worst been suppressed,
as a rule been discouraged, and at best been looked upon with condescension
by the academic community.(2) An entire dimension of political history and
contemporary politics has thus been consistently neglected.(3)

For decades scholars interested in politics have directed their
attention toward explicating and evaluating the merits of various political
theories, or toward analyzing the more conventional, formal, and overt
aspects of practical politics. Even a cursory examination of standard
social science bibliographies reveals that tens of thousands of books and
articles have been written about staple subjects such as the structure and
functioning of government bureaucracies, voting patterns and electoral
results, parliamentary procedures and activities, party organizations and
factions, the impact of constitutional provisions or laws, and the like. In
marked contrast, only a handful of scholarly publications have been devoted
to the general theme of political conspiracies--as opposed to popular
anti-conspiracy treatises, which are very numerous, and specific case
studies of events in which conspiratorial groups have played some role --
and virtually all of these concern themselves with the deleterious social
impact of the "paranoid style" of thought manifested in classic conspiracy
theories rather than the characteristic features of real conspiratorial
politics.(4)

Only the academic literature dealing with specialized topics like
espionage, covert action, political corruption, terrorism, and revolutionary
warfare touches upon clandestine and covert political activities on a more
or less regular basis, probably because such activities cannot be avoided
when dealing with these topics. But the analyses and information contained
therein are rarely incorporated into standard works of history and social
science, and much of that specialized literature is itself unsatisfactory.
Hence there is an obvious need to place the study of conspiratorial politics
on a sound theoretical, methodological, and empirical footing, since
ignoring the influence of such politics can lead to severe errors of
historical interpretation.

Classic conspiracy theories and. . . .

This situation can only be remedied when a clear-cut analytical distinction
has been made between classic conspiracy theories and the more limited
conspiratorial activities that are a regular feature of politics.
"Conspiracy theories" share a number of distinguishing characteristics, but
in all of them the essential element is a belief in the existence of a
"vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial
network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character", acts
which aim to "undermine and destroy a way of life."(5)

Although this apocalyptic conception is generally regarded nowadays as the fantastic
product of a paranoid mind set, in the past it was often accepted as an
accurate description of reality by large numbers of people from all social
strata, including intellectuals and heads of state.(6) The fact that a belief
in sinister, all-powerful conspiratorial forces has not been restricted to
small groups of clinical paranoids and mental defectives suggests that it
fulfills certain important social functions and psychological needs.(7)

First of all, like many other intellectual constructs, conspiracy
theories help to make complex patterns of cause-and-effect in human affairs
more comprehensible by means of reductionism and over simplification.
Secondly, they purport to identify the underlying source of misery and
injustice in the world, thereby accounting for current crises and upheavals
and explaining why bad things are happening to good people or vice versa.
Thirdly, by personifying that source they paradoxically help people to
reaffirm their own potential ability to control the course of future
historical developments. After all, if evil conspirators are consciously
causing undesirable changes, the implication is that others, perhaps through
the adoption of similar techniques, may also consciously intervene to
protect a threatened way of life or otherwise alter the historical process.
In short, a belief in conspiracy theories helps people to make sense out of
a confusing, inhospitable reality, rationalize their present difficulties,
and partially assuage their feelings of powerlessness. In this sense, it is
no different than any number of religious, social, or political beliefs, and
is deserving of the same serious study.

Evil incarnate or?

The image of conspiracies promoted by conspiracy theorists needs to be
further illuminated before it can be contrasted with genuine conspiratorial
politics. In the first place, conspiracy theorists consider the alleged
conspirators to be Evil incarnate. They are not simply people with differing
values or run-of-the-mill political opponents, but inhuman, super-human,
and/or anti-human beings who regularly commit abominable acts and are
implacably attempting to subvert and destroy everything that is decent and
worth preserving in the existing world. Thus, according to John Robison, the
Bavarian Illuminati were formed "for the express purpose of ROOTING OUT ALL
THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS, AND OVERTURNING ALL THE EXISTING GOVERNMENTS
IN EUROPE." (8) This grandiose claim is fairly representative, in the sense
that most conspiracy theorists view the world in similarly Manichean and
apocalyptic terms.

Secondly, conspiracy theorists perceive the conspiratorial group as both
monolithic and unerring in the pursuit of its goals. This group is directed
from a single conspiratorial center, acting as a sort of general staff,
which plans and coordinates all of its activities down to the last detail.
Note, for example, Prince Clemens von Metternich's claim that a "directing
committee" of the radicals from all over Europe had been established in
Paris to pursue their insidious plotting against established governments.(9)

Given that presumption, it is no accident that many conspiracy theorists
refer to "the Conspiracy" rather than (lower case) conspiracies or
conspiratorial factions, since they perceive no internal divisions among
the conspirators. Rather, as a group the conspirators are believed to
possess an extraordinary degree of internal solidarity, which produces a
corresponding degree of counter solidarity vis-a-vis society at large; and
indeed it is this very cohesion and singleness of purpose which enables them
to effectively execute their plans to destroy existing institutions, seize
power, and eliminate all opposition.

Thirdly, conspiracy theorists believe that the conspiratorial group is
omnipresent, at least within its own sphere of operations. While some
conspiracy theories postulate a relatively localized group of conspirators,
most depict this group as both international in its spatial dimensions and
continuous in its temporal dimensions. "[T]he conspirators planned and
carried out evil in the past, they are successfully active in the present,
and they will triumph in the future if they are not disturbed in their plans
by those with information about their sinister designs."(10) The conspiratorial group is therefore capable of operating virtually everywhere. As a consequence of this ubiquity, anything that occurs which has a broadly negative impact or seems in any way related to the purported aims of the conspirators can thus be plausibly attributed to them.

Fourthly, the conspiratorial group is viewed by conspiracy theorists as
virtually omnipotent. In the past this group has successfully overthrown
empires and nations, corrupted whole societies, and destroyed entire
civilizations and cultures, and it is said to be in the process of
accomplishing the same thing at this very moment. Its members are secretly
working in every nook and cranny of society, and are making use of every
subversive technique known to mankind to achieve their nefarious purposes.
Nothing appears to be able to stand in their way - unless the warnings of
the conspiracy theorists are heeded and acted upon at once. Even then there
is no guarantee of ultimate victory against such powerful forces, but a
failure to recognize the danger and take immediate countervailing action
assures the success of those forces in the near future.

Finally, for conspiracy theorists conspiracies are not simply a regular
feature of politics whose importance varies in different historical
contexts, but rather the motive force of all historical change and
development. The conspiratorial group can and does continually alter the
course of history, invariably in negative and destructive ways, through
conscious planning and direct intervention. Its members are not buffeted
about by structural forces beyond their control and understanding, like
everyone else, but are themselves capable of controlling events more or less
at will. This supposed ability is usually attributed to some combination of
demonic influence or sponsorship, the possession of arcane knowledge, the
mastery of devilish techniques, and/or the creation of a preternaturally
effective clandestine organization. As a result, unpleasant occurrences
which are perceived by others to be the products of coincidence or chance
are viewed by conspiracy theorists as further evidence of the secret
workings of the conspiratorial group. For them, nothing that happens occurs
by accident. Everything is the result of secret plotting in accordance with
some sinister design.

Black holes

This central characteristic of conspiracy theories has been aptly summed up
by Donna Kossy in a popular book on fringe ideas:

"Conspiracy theories are like black holes--they suck in everything that
comes their way, regardless of content or origin........... Everything
you've ever known or experienced, no matter how 'meaningless', once it
contacts the conspiratorial universe, is enveloped by and cloaked in
sinister significance. Once inside, the vortex gains in size and strength, sucking in everything you touch."(11)

As an example of this sort of mechanism, one has only to mention the
so-called "umbrella man", a man who opened up an umbrella on a sunny day in
Dealey Plaza just as President John F. Kennedy's motorcade was passing. A
number of "conspiracy theorists" have assumed that this man was signalling
to the assassins, thus tying a seemingly trivial and inconsequential act
into the alleged plot to kill Kennedy. It is precisely this totalistic,
all-encompassing quality that distinguishes "conspiracy theories" from the
secret but often mundane political planning that is carried out on a daily
basis by all sorts of groups, both within and outside of government. It
should, however, be pointed out that even if the "umbrella man" was wholly
innocent of any involvement in a plot, as he almost certainly was, this does
not mean that the Warren Commission's reconstruction of the assassination is
accurate.

Real covert politics

However that may be, real covert politics, although by definition hidden
or disguised and often deleterious in their impact, simply do not correspond
to the bleak, simplistic image propounded by conspiracy theorists. Far from
embodying metaphysical evil, they are perfectly and recognizably human, with
all the positive and negative characteristics and potentialities which that
implies. At the most basic level, all the efforts of individuals privately
to plan and secretly initiate actions for their own perceived mutual benefit
-- insofar as these are intentionally withheld from outsiders and require
the maintenance of secrecy for their success -- are conspiracies. Moreover,
in contrast to the claims of conspiracy theorists, covert politics are
anything but monolithic. At any given point in time, there are dozens if
not thousands of competitive political and economic groups engaging in
secret planning and activities, and most are doing so in an effort to gain
some advantage over their rivals among the others. Such behind-the-scene
operations are present on every level, from the mundane efforts of
small-scale retailers to gain competitive advantage by being the first to
develop new product lines to the crucially important attempts by rival
secret services to penetrate and manipulate each other. Sometimes the
patterns of these covert rivalries and struggles are relatively stable over
time, whereas at other times they appear fluid and kaleidoscopic, as
different groups secretly shift alliances and change tactics in accordance
with their perceived interests. Even internally, within particular groups
operating clandestinely, there are typically bitter disagreements between
various factions over the specific courses of action to be adopted.
Unanimity of opinion and complete solidarity are not possible in any
organization, though ruthless purges can temporarily contribute to that
impression.

Furthermore, the operational sphere of particular conspiratorial
groups is invariably restricted in time and space, though the precise extent
of those temporal and spatial boundaries can vary quite widely. There is
probably not a single secret organization anywhere which has existed
continuously from antiquity to the present, and only a small number could
have had a continuous existence for more than a century. And, with the
possible exception of those which are created and sponsored by the
governments of major nations and the world's most powerful business and
religious institutions, the range of activity of specific clandestine groups
is invariably limited to particular geographic or sectoral arenas.

Given these great disparities and divergences in range and power, it is
obvious that actual conspiracies operate at varying levels of effectiveness.
Although they are a typical facet of social and political life, in the
overall scheme of things most conspiracies are narrow in scope, restricted
in their effects, and of limited historical significance. But this is not
always the case. It should be obvious that whenever powerful political
figures engage in secret planning, the impact of their decisions on others
will be correspondingly greater and more difficult to resist. Therefore,
when such influential figures meet to hatch and coordinate plots, these
plots may well have a disproportionate impact on the course of events, and
hence a broader historical significance. There is nothing mysterious about
this, however. It is simply a covert reflection of existing and sometimes
readily visible power relations, and should be recognized as such.

The Protocols

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to clarify the distinction between
"conspiracy theories" and genuine conspiracies is by reference to the
notorious anti-Semitic tract, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This
document, which purports to be the minutes from a secret meeting of a
conspiratorial Jewish leadership group aiming to take control over the
world, has played a major role in stirring up fears of a Zionist conspiracy
and catalyzing repressive actions against Jewish communities throughout
Europe and beyond since its appearance in the late nineteenth century. Even
today, it continues to be cited by conspiracy mongers and anti-Semites of
all stripes as proof that there is a secret Jewish cabal which is carefully
planning and directing worldwide efforts to subvert and destroy all that is
good in the world of the goyim.

It provides a perfect example of classic conspiracy theory literature,
one which further exacerbated the "paranoid style" of thinking already
characteristic of many of its readers. Of course, as Norman Cohn and others
have conclusively demonstrated, the Protocols are not what they purport to
be. Yet even though they are not ascribable to a hidden group of Jewish
plotters, they are nonetheless the product of real conspiratorial politics,
since they were forged by persons affiliated with the Tsarist secret police,
the Okhrana. In short, they were produced at the behest of a genuine
clandestine agency in order to fan anti-Semitism and otherwise exploit and
manipulate popular fears.

It is clear, then, that there are fundamental differences between
"conspiracy theories" and actual covert and clandestine politics,
differences which must be taken into account if one wishes to avoid serious
errors of historical interpretation. The problem is that most people,
amateurs and professionals alike, consistently fail to distinguish between
them. On the one hand, the vast majority of the self-appointed "experts"
who concern themselves with alleged conspiracies are in fact "conspiracy
theorists" in the negative sense outlined above. They seriously and
passionately believe in the existence of vast, preternaturally effective
conspiracies which successfully manipulate and control historical events
behind the scenes, though they typically disagree with one another about
exactly who is behind those conspiracies. This vocal lunatic fringe tends
to discourage serious researchers from investigating such matters, in part
because the latter do not wish, understandably, to be tarred by the same
soiled brush. In the process, however, most have unfortunately failed to
heed the important qualification that Richard Hofstadter made in his
analysis of the "paranoid style" of political thinking - that real
conspiracies do exist, even though they do not conform to the elaborate and
often bizarre scenarios concocted by conspiracy theorists. How, indeed,
could it be otherwise in a world full of intelligence agencies, national
security bureaucracies, clandestine revolutionary organizations, economic
pressure groups, secret societies with hidden political agendas, and the
like?

No monolithic conspiracy

There has never been, to be sure, a single, monolithic Communist Conspiracy
of the sort postulated by the American John Birch Society in the 1950s and
1960s. Nor has there ever been an all-encompassing International Capitalist
Conspiracy, a Jewish World Conspiracy, a Masonic Conspiracy, or a Universal
Vatican Conspiracy. And nowadays, contrary to the apparent belief of
millions, neither a vast Underground Satanist Conspiracy nor an Alien
Abduction Conspiracy exists. This reassuring knowledge should not, however,
prompt anyone to throw out the baby with the bath water, as many academics
have been wont to do. For just as surely as none of the above-mentioned
Grand Conspiracies has ever existed, diverse groups of communists,
capitalists, zionists, masons, and catholics have in fact secretly plotted,
often against one another, to accomplish various specific but limited
political objectives.

No sensible person would claim, for example, that the Soviet secret
police has not been involved in a vast array of covert operations since the
establishment of the Soviet Union, or that international front groups
controlled by the Russian Communist Party have not systematically engaged in
worldwide penetration and propaganda campaigns. It is nonetheless true that
scholars have often hastened to deny the existence of genuine conspiratorial
plots, without making any effort whatsoever to investigate them, simply
because such schemes fall outside their own realm of knowledge and
experience or - even worse - directly challenge their sometimes naive
conceptions about how the world functions.

They do exist

If someone were to say, for example, that a secret masonic lodge in Italy
had infiltrated all of the state's security agencies and was involved in
promoting or exploiting acts of neo-fascist terrorism in order to
condition the political system and strengthen its own hold over the
levers of government, most newspaper readers would probably assume that they
were joking or accuse them of having taken leave of their senses. Ten years
ago I might have had the same reaction myself. Nevertheless, although the
above statement oversimplifies a far more complex pattern of interaction
between the public and private spheres, such a lodge in fact existed. It
was known as Loggia Massonica Propaganda Due (P2), was affiliated with the
Grand Orient branch of Italian masonry, and was headed by a former fascist
militiaman named Licio Gelli.(12) In all probability something like P2 still
exists today in an altered form, even though the lodge was officially
outlawed in 1982. Likewise, with the claim that an Afrikaner secret
society, founded in the second decade of this century, had played a key role
in establishing the system of apartheid in South Africa, and in the process
helped to ensure the preservation of ultra-conservative Afrikaner cultural
values and Afrikaner political dominance until 1990. Yet this organization
also existed. It was known as the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), and it formed
a powerful "state within a state" in that country by virtue, among other
things, of its unchallenged control over the security services.(13) There
is no doubt that specialists on contemporary Italian politics who fail to
take account of the activities of P2, like experts on South Africa who
ignore the AB, are missing an important dimension of political life there.
Nevertheless, neither of these two important organizations has been
thoroughly investigated by academics. In these instances, as is so often the
case, investigative journalists have done most of the truly groundbreaking
preliminary research.

The furtive fallacy

The above remarks are not meant to suggest that conspiratorial groups are
the propulsive force of most historical change, or that they alone are
capable of controlling our destiny, as legions of "conspiracy theorists"
would have us believe. For one thing, no group of individuals has that
capability, no matter how powerful they are. Fortunately for the rest of
us, even powerful human beings are inherently flawed creatures who regularly
commit errors of judgement and other sorts of blunders. They not only have
to cope with the formidable problem of unforeseen and unintended
consequences, but also have to contend with other powerful groups, with
broader social forces which are difficult if not impossible to control, and
with deep-rooted structural and cultural constraints which place limits on
how much they are able to accomplish. Moreover, to attribute that degree of
power and influence to secret conspirators would be to commit what David
Hackett Fischer has dubbed the "furtive fallacy": that is, to embrace the
idea that everything tht is truly significant happens behind the scenes. On
the other hand, Fischer goes too far in the other direction when he implies
that only that which is above board is worth considering and that nothing
that happens in the shadows has real significance.(14) To accept those
unstated propositions uncritically could induce a person, among other
things, to overlook the bitter nineteenth century struggle between political
secret societies (or, at least, between revolutionaries using non-political
secret societies as a "cover") and the political police of powerful states
like Austria and Russia, to minimize the role played by revolutionary
vanguard parties in the Russian and Communist Chinese revolutions, or to
deny that powerful intelligence services like the CIA and the KGB have
fomented coups and intervened massively in the internal affairs of other
sovereign states since the end of World War II. In short, it might well
lead to the misinterpretation or falsification of history on a grand scale.

It is easier to recognize such dangers when relatively well-known
historical developments like these are used as illustrative examples, but
problems often arise when the possible role played by conspiratorial groups
in more obscure events is brought up. It is above all in these cases, as
well as in high-profile cases where a comforting "official" version of
events has been widely diffused, that commonplace academic prejudices
against taking covert politics seriously come into play and can exert a
potentially detrimental effect on historical judgements.

There is probably no way to prevent this sort of un-conscious reaction in
the current intellectual climate, but the least that can be expected of
serious scholars is that they carefully examine the available evidence
before dismissing these matters out of hand.



Footnotes

1. Compare Robin Ramsay, 'Conspiracy, Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Research', Lobster 19 (1990), p. 25: 'In intellectually respectable company it is necessary to preface any reference to actual political, economic, military or paramilitary conspiracies with the disclaimer that the speaker "doesn't believe in the conspiracy theory of history (or politics)".'This type of disclaimer quite clearly reveals the speaker's inability to distinguish between bona fide conspiracy theories and actual conspiratorial politics.

2. The word 'suppress' is not too strong here. I personally know of at least one case in which a very bright graduate student at a prestigious East Coast university was unceremoniously told by his advisor that if he wanted to write a Ph.D. thesis on an interesting historical example of conspiratorial politics he would have to go elsewhere to do so. He ended up leaving academia altogether and became a professional journalist, in which capacity he has produced a number of interesting books and articles.

3. Complaints about this general academic neglect have often been made by those few scholars who have done research on key aspects of covert and clandestine politics which are directly relevant to this study. See, for example, Gary Marx, 'Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant', American Journal of Sociology 80:2 (September 1974), especially pp. 402-3. One of the few dissertations dealing directly with this topic, though not in a particularly skilful fashion, is Frederick A. Hoffman, 'Secret Roles and Provocation: Covert Operations in Movements for social Change' (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation: UCLA Sociology Department, 1979). There are, of course, some excellent academic studies which have given due weight to these matters--for example, Nurit Schleifman, Undercover Agents in the Russian Revolutionary Movement: The SR Party, 1902-1914 (Basingstoke: Macmillan/ St. Anthony's College, 1988); and Jean-Paul Brunet, La police de l'ombre: Indicateurs et provocateurs dans la France contemporaine (Paris: Seuil, 1990)--but such studies areunfortunately few and far between.

4. The standard academic treatments of conspiracy theories are Richard Hofstadter, 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics', in Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Knopf, 1966), pp. 3-40; Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Chico, CA: Scholars, 1981 [1969]); J. M. Roberts, The Mythology of the Secret Societies (London: Secker & Warburg, 1972); Johannes Rogallavon Bieberstein, Die These von der Verschwrung, 1776-1945: Philosophen, Freimaurer, Juden, Liberale und Sozialisten als Verschwrergegen die Sozialordnung (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1976); and Carl F. Graumann and Serge Moscovici, eds., Changing Conceptions of Conspiracy (New York: Springer, 1987). See also the journalistic studies by George Johnson, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and paranoia in American Politics (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1983); and Jonathan Vankin, Conspiracies, Cover-Ups, and Crimes: Political Manipulation and Mind Control in America (New York: Paragon House, 1992).

5. See Hofstadter, 'Paranoid Style', pp. 14, 29.

6. Although conspiracy theories have been widely accepted in the most disparate eras and parts of the world, and thus probably have a certain universality as explanatory models, at certain points in time they have taken on an added salience due to particular historical circumstances. Their development and diffusion seems to be broadly correlated with the level of social, economic, and political upheaval or change, though indigenous cultural values and intellectual traditions determine their specific form and condition their level of popularity.

7. As many scholars have pointed out, if such ideas were restricted to clinical paranoids, they would have little or no historical importance. What makes the conspiratorial or paranoid style of thought interesting and historically significant is that it frequently tempts more or less normal people and has often been diffused among broad sections of the population in certain periods. Conspiracy theories are important as collective delusions, delusions which nevertheless reflect real fears and real social problems, rather than as evidence of individual pathologies. See, for example, Hofstadter,'Paranoid Style', pp. 3-4.

8. See his Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, Collected from Good Authorities (New York: G. Forman, 1798), p. 14. This exhibits yet another characteristic of 'conspiracy theorists'--the tendency to over-dramatize everything by using capital letters with reckless abandon.

9. See his 'Geheime Denkschrift uber die Grundung eines Central-Comites der nordischen Machte in Wien', in Aus Metternichs nachgelassenen Papieren, ed. by Richard Metternich-Winneburg (Vienna: 1881),vol. 1, p. 595, cited in Rogalla von Bieberstein, These von der Verschwrung, pp. 139-40.

10. Dieter Groh, 'Temptation of Conspiracy Theory, Part I', in Changing Conceptions of Conspiracy, p. 3. A classic example of conspiratorial works that view modern revolutionary movements as little more than the latest manifestations of subversive forces with a very long historical pedigree is the influential book by Nesta H. Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (London: Boswell, 1924). For more on Webster's background, see the biographical study by Richard M. Gilman, Behind World Revolution: The Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster (Ann Arbor: Insight, 1982), of which only one volume has so far appeared.


11. Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief (Portland: Feral House, 1994), p. 191.

12. For more on P2, see above all the materials published by the Italian parliamentary commission investigating the organization, which are divided into the majority (Anselmi) report, five dissenting minority reports, and over one hundred thick volumes of attached documents and verbatim testimony before the commission. Compare also Martin Berger, Historia de la loggia masonica P2 (Buenos Aires: El Cid, 1983); Andrea Barbieri et al, L'Italia della P2 (Milan: Mondadori, 1981); Alberto Cecchi, Storia della P2 (Rome: Riuniti, 1985); Roberto Fabiani, I massoni in Italia (Milan: L'Espresso, 1978); Gianfranco Piazzesi, Gelli: La carriere di un eroe di questa Italia (Milan: Garzanti, 1983); Marco Ramat et al, La resistabile ascesa della P2: Poteri occulti e stato democratico (Bari: De Donato, 1983); Renato Risaliti, Licio Gelli, a carte scoperte (Florence: Fernando Brancato, 1991); and Gianni Rossi and Franceso Lombrassa, In nome della 'loggia': Le prove di come lamassoneria segreta ha tentato di impadronarsi dello stato italiano. Iretroscena della P2 (Rome: Napoleone, 1981). Pro P2 works include those of Gelli supporter Pier Carpi, Il caso Gelli: La verita sulla loggia P2 (Bologna: INEI, 1982); and the truly Orwellian work by Gelli himself, La verita (Lugano: Demetra, 1989), which in spite of its title bears little resemblance to the truth.

13. For the AB, see Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, The Super-Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 1978); and J.H.P.Serfontein, Brotherhood of Power: An Expose of the Secret Afrikaner Broederbond (Bloomington and London: Indiana University, 1978).Compare also B. M. Schoeman, Die Broederbond in die Afrikaner-politiek (Pretoria: Aktuele, 1982); and Adrien Pelzer, Die Afrikaner-Broederbond: Eerste 50 jaar (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1979).

14. See his Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp. 74-8.

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