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Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground
Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground
by Jonathan Kay
Edition: Hardcover
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book Review posted on Veterans Today, May 22, 2013
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Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground, by Jonathan Kay.

2011.HarperCollins, New York. 340 pages.

This book should be understood as part of a larger effort that encompasses Phil Mole's 2006 "9/11 Conspiracy Theories" published in Michael Shermer's Skeptic Magazine; David Aaronovitch's 2010 book "Voodoo Histories"; and the 2008 essay by Harvard lawyers Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, "Conspiracy Theories", in which, menacingly, Sunstein and Vermeule advocate for "cognitive infiltration" of citizen groups by governmental agents. What unites all of these, despite any pretense of objective academic interest in conspiracism per se, appears to be an underlying dread of a specific species that continues to grow globally and within all segments of society: 9/11.
Kay, a Canadian, is editor of the conservative National Post newspaper and a regular contributor to Murdoch's New York Post and to Commentary Magazine, a neoconservative standard. He coauthored a 2008 book, "The Volunteer", an account of a Canadian working for Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service. He is a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank whose leadership includes Newt Gingrich, Steve Forbes, Eric Cantor, William Kristol, Joe Lieberman, Charles Krauthammer, Gary Bauer and former directors of both the CIA and the FBI. "FDD" is a melding of hard right conservatism, the security state and family values fundamentalism, with Richard Perle adding an interesting Pentagon connection.


While Kay mentions various conspiracies, his book focuses sharply on The 9/11 Truth Movement and Israel as he strives to link the Truth Movement with anti-Semitism. His referential conspiracy/myth is "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to which he alludes throughout the text along with the claim that the 9/11 Truth Movement took its strategy from "anti-Semites working for the Russian czar." Kay states flatly "All conspiracy theories -- all of them -- attract anti-Semites", and he tries to connect any criticism of Israel with the psychology of the Nazi era. As it happens, though, his book comes as ever more observers are, in fact, seeing connections between 9/11 and Israel's Mossad, including former Italian President Francesco Cossiga, who stated flatly in 2007 that Western intelligence services know "the attack has been planned and realized from the CIA American and Mossad" ("attentato e stato pianificato e realizzato dalla Cia americana e dal Mossad").


Kay refers to 9/11 Truthers as "the Enlightenment's enemies", and to their beliefs variously as "mythology", "otherworldly premise", "nonsense", "a rejection of the basic tools of logic", "paranoid fairy tales" and the like. At the same time, there is scrupulous avoidance not only of fact-based arguments presented by the Truth Movement but also of any mention of the growing company of highly credentialed, fine minds all over the world in academe, government, intelligence, the military and every profession one can think of, who have become involved in 9/11 inquiry.

Although his education is in metallurgy and law, Kay's book reads like a psychological/sociological study even as he decries Truthers for not being "accredited structural engineers" (although, of course, many are). He writes that conspiracist's possess particular "psychic appetites" and fall into a "basic template". With such exclusive focus on personality typology, to the exclusion of physical facts, he seeks to lump all conspiracies into the same pool of invalidity. Kay therefore does not serve his argument well with mention of such as Operation Gladio and Israel's attack on the USS Liberty as if they were mere myths. Regarding the latter in particular, he would do well to read the Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into that Israeli attack, signed by a US Ambassador, a general and two admirals.

Conspiracy theorists, Kay writes, need to "create larger and larger metaconspiracies that sweep together seemingly unconnected power centers." Their conspiracism, he claims, is "a symptom of a mind in flight from reality", such flight induced by causes that include "radical nationalism, tribalistic hatred, midlife ennui, narcissism, profound psychic trauma, spiritual longing, or even experimental drug use." Never is there acknowledgment that obvious conflicts between official accounts and observable facts might provide grounds for disbelief. Regarding his suggestion that drugs play a part in conspiracist psychology, he quotes an "ex-Truther" as having smoked a lot of pot with "those guys", then reports the person left the Truth Movement after "going clean".
Among those inclined toward conspiracism Kay includes antiwar and antinuclear activists, English professors, cultural-studies specialists, modern language "types", experts in "globalization studies" and poets "perhaps because their day jobs already require them to weave a self-invented reality...". His broad categories of the vulnerable include midlife crisis cases, angry "cranks", "evangelical doomsayers" "failed historians", "damaged survivors", "cosmic warriors" (aka "the hippy of conspiracist typology [who will] often follow eccentric food regimens, dabble in Eastern religious doctrines and exhibit a pronounced suspicion of conventional medicine") and "the clinical conspiracist -- out-and-out insane". Most are male, he declares, because "the male mind tends to become more easily obsessed with abstract logic puzzles and eccentric ideological systems that are disconnected from the reality of day-to-day human existence."

In a chapter titled "The Church of Conspiracism" Kay writes that conspiracism plays a "common psychological role as a form of ersatz religiosity" [italics in the original], and that "When we can't control something directly, we invent gods and witches who can." The instinct toward conspiracism, he reports, has been intensified by the Internet where there are "professional-seeming `journals' that lend a scholarly prestige to their fantasies, such as the `peer-reviewed' Journal of 9/11 Studies" [italics in the original]. Kay's derogatory "professional-seeming" is ironic in that his book is without footnotes or a reference section even as he poses as a professional psychologist. He is angered that 9/11 has become a topic of serious discussion at university level and comments derisively about "faculty-lounge guerillas" and "the usual left-wing digressions into state terrorism and Western imperialism". A particularly sinister proposal by Kay, one reminiscent of Sunstein's "cognitive infiltration", is for an educational project with an "anticonspiracist curriculum".

A problem facing the 9/11 Truth Movement, beyond governmental/media hostility toward its existence, is that such critics as Kay have so long been able to avoid face-to-face debate situations with leading scholars in the Truth Movement, of which there are plenty. Kay's contorted excuse for avoiding such debate is therefore ridiculous. He claims his attempts to debate Truthers using "all of my accumulated knowledge" have been useless, because they "focus the discussion on the handful of obscure, allegedly incriminating oddities [and] my debating opponent always has more on hand". This, he maintains, is why "experts" avoid debating conspiracists, and he illustrates this by citing disastrous TV exchanges with Holocaust deniers. Such seamless transitioning from 9/11 Truth to conspiracy theory to thoroughly unrelated Holocaust denial is an appropriate metaphor for the entire book.

Those such as Kay who seek to delegitimize the 9/11 Truth Movement infer that one should accept official explanations however ludicrous, and that to go off as individuals searching for veracity indicates defective cognition. But conspiracy theories, like scientific theories, gain strength as attempts to disprove them fail. The effort to stop the 9/11Truth Movement has been a bust. The Movement continues to attract well-informed critical thinkers, and Kay's book does nothing to slow the momentum. And while all of this is good, there is also threat implied, because those who attack the 9/11 Truth Movement appear to link to politically powerful elements known to be ruthless.

The Wandering Who
The Wandering Who
by Gilad Atzmon
Edition: Paperback
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26 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review, May 9, 2012
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This review is from: The Wandering Who (Paperback)
Book Review: The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon. 2011. Zero Books, Hants, UK.

This book describes the experience of an Israeli Jew who, while in the IDF, sees Israel as on the wrong side. Atzmon presents his understanding of Zionism, contemporary "Jewishness" and Jewish Identity politics. His is an excellent complement to Shlomo Sand's 2009 book "The Invention of the Jewish People". Atzmon's personal account, alongside Sand's scholarly history, should give a reader a broad understanding of contemporary Israel as it relates to the rest of the world.


It was at the Ansar Internment Camp in 1984 that Atzmon, seeing PLO prisoners, realized "the inmates were the 'Jews', and I was nothing but a 'Nazi' ". He subsequently moved to England and has since sought to deepen is understanding of contemporary "Jewishness", which he differentiates from Judaism the religion. While the religion interprets Jewish "Chosen-ness" as a biblical order to serve as models of ethical behavior, Atzmon writes that the secular Jewish approach is "a crude, ethno-centric, blood-oriented chauvinism". Jewishness, he writes, is a "mind-set ... an ideology driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation." It sees a threat in every "goy".

The separatist orientation of "Jewish Identity" has led to what Atzmon terms a "schizophrenic ideology", because so many Jews attempt to be, and to depict themselves as, citizens of the world. But the deep conflict between the tribal orientation so central to secular Jewishness, on the one hand, and inclusiveness, on the other hand, makes it impossible to form a "universal humanist ideology". Accordingly, although Israel is promoted as a democracy, it is a "racially-selective" one.

Zionism is a global effort that has turned the Holy Land into a "Jewish bunker". It has thus far been successful because, Atzmon writes, it has "no head but a lot of hands". And here he spotlights the "Sayanim" (assistants), thousands of Diaspora Jews to be found in Jewish communities throughout the world, ready to serve covertly the Zionist cause. A Sayan "would betray the nation of which he is a citizen out of devotion to a nation of clannish brotherhood".

Political Zionism focuses on getting superpowers to serve the Zionist cause, and this is why Israeli control of American foreign policy is a growing concern in the US. This Zionist project has been successful due largely to the "Wolfowitz Doctrine" and the Project for a New American Century that incorporate a strategy for "merging American and Zionist interests into a unified practice." Atzmon writes that the US and British have been made into a "Zionist mission force", and at one point he wonders "How did America allow itself [to] be enslaved by ideologies inherently associated with foreign interests?"

While the early Zionist campaign for recognition involved contempt for Diaspora Jews, its ideology, rightist and separatist, has over time permeated the larger Jewish world -- "the Zionification of World Jewry" in Atzmon's words. Thus Zionised, Diaspora Jews become influenced by Zionist politics within the countries in which they live and thereby are "intrinsically associated with a bigoted, ethnocentric ideology and an endless list of crimes against humanity."

Central to Jewish political identity is a lack of interest in history (Aside: This claim links to Shlomo Sand's revelation that departments of Jewish history may be separate from departments of history at Israeli universities). Atzmon states that the Bible has been "hijacked" by Zionism, stripped of religious meaning, and portrayed as an historical document - a history he considers invented and "phantasmic" - in order to serve political ends and to justify a "tribal expansionist invasion ..... in the name of home-coming". There is a sly humor to Atzmon's writing, as when he cites the fictitious Exodus story -- millions wandering in the desert for decades without leaving "a single Mazza ball behind."

Those who see a Jewish "conspiracy" are wrong, according to Atzmon, simply because the Zionist offensive is out in the open for all to see. As an example, he cites Israel-American billionaire Haim Saban, who overtly declared in an interview in The New Yorker his three ways to be influential in American politics: political donations, establishment of think tanks, and control of media.

Atzmon argues that the Holocaust is the true religion of Jews now, with its commandments, dogmas, rituals, museums and a worldwide financial support system. He considers it a particularly "sinister" religion in that it is free to kill, to loot and to ethnically cleanse in the name of Jewish suffering. "It has made vengeance into an acceptable Western value", he writes. At the same time it is unique in that it is protected by laws that make it closed to "critical discourse".

Despite his harsh interpretation of Zionism and its impact on contemporary "Jewishness", Atzmon appears hopeful in many respects. A musician, he once played for the Israeli Air Force Orchestra and reports that Orchestra members hated the military. He also writes that native Israeli Jews tend not to be zealous Zionists to the same degree as much of the world of Diaspora Jews. And like Sand, he points to the fact that emigration is outpacing immigration. In sum, he states flatly, "Israel's days are numbered".
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2014 7:15 PM PST

The Invention of the Jewish People
The Invention of the Jewish People
by Shlomo Sand
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.02
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review, March 29, 2011
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The following is a book review that was published on OpEnNews in February, 2011
Book Review: The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand. 2009. Verso Books, London and New York. English translation from the Hebrew by Yael Lotan.

by Bill Willers

Justification for the Zionist venture that has displaced Palestinians and resulted in the nation of Israel hinges on the story of a Semitic ethnic group exiled from its homeland in 70 CE, thereafter to wander during a two-millennium "Diaspora". In this book, Shlomo Sand, an historian at Israel's University of Tel Aviv, and part of a "post-Zionist" movement contesting this "imagined universe" with its "mythological kingdom of David", accuses rabbinical Judaism of avoiding its own history. He is firm in challenging "the nationalization of the Bible and its transformation into a reliable history book" and its basis for "the sacred trinity of Bible-Nation-Land of Israel".

Nowhere within Rome's detailed records is there documentation of an expulsion from Judea that could be a basis for an "Exile" and a "Diaspora". Rather, Judaism's history has been one of converting non-Semitic peoples. Judaism was historically evangelistic, and within officially polytheistic Rome, itself struggling with hedonism and corruption, the monotheistic religion offered moral grounding for converts. From there Judaism spread throughout the Empire, only to slow in the fourth century when a repressive Christianity, having become differentiated from its Judaic root, became official state religion.

Proselytizing and conversion to Judaism was widespread in the Mediterranean and north into the Caucasus. In particular, the now vanished empire of Khazaria, which extended from the Black and Caspian seas well into Russia, underwent massive conversion to Judaism in the eight century, thereafter to become the primary source of Jewry in Eastern Europe. This was an accepted history among scholars until the 1970s, when it became condemned as anti-Semitic by what Sand refers to disparagingly as "Israel's establishment historians ". occupied in inventing the eternal history of the "people of Israel' ". Sand writes that the "Exile", in fact a creation of early Christians, was ultimately accepted by Jews and evolved into "truth engraved in history".

Zionists have concealed the historical conversions to Judaism, adopted the Old Testament as the "storehouse of national memory" and created a "metanarrative" of contemporary Jews as stemming from the Jews of the Bible. Sand refers to this ethnic identity as "wholly fictitious [but] discriminatory" and portrays Jews as "a heterogeneous mosaic of human populations" emanating from "a great variety of cultural-linguistic groups, each with a distinctive origin" and no more a race than Christians are. But "[W]ithout the Old Testament in its hand and the "exile of the Jewish people' in its memory, it would have no justification for annexing Arab Jerusalem and establishing settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and even the Sinai Peninsula."

Meanwhile, periodic emigrations out of Judea through history were voluntary, not forced. Also, in the seventh century there was an invasion by Arabs leading to a mass conversion of Judeans to Islam due to an imposed tax system exempting Muslims. Until the rise of contemporary Palestinian nationalism, it was widely accepted that Palestinians were descended from original Judeans, with admixtures of other bloods. However this view is now condemned, as it is obviously inconsistent with the Zionist mission.

Sand describes Judaism as "a major religious culture" in which, over time, "communal isolation " eventually became their distinguishing mark." The nationalistic Zionism seen now on the world stage arose in 19th century Europe not through religion but within a secular and separatist Yiddish culture unlike Jewish communities elsewhere that were inclined toward association with surrounding cultures. It is this distinctly Yiddish brand of Judaism that has yielded an Israeli nationalism that "explicitly and culturally segregates the majority from the minority [and that] promises eternal proprietary rights to an even greater human mass that does not choose to live in it."

A distinct Israeli culture has now developed in which privilege is reserved not only for the Jewish majority within Israel but also for the world's Jews. As the old Yiddish culture has waned, Israel has been able to consolidate substantial political power through its worldwide Zionist network. But although overseas Zionist Jews who live close to the "centers of power and communications" of Western democracies may see Israel as a potential "reserve home", they prefer to remain in the "rich, liberal, comfortable "diaspora' ". Sand points out that emigration now exceeds immigration in Israel, and he warns that Jewish Israeli society will endure only if it can "cease isolating itself in the name of a fanciful history and dubious biology and excluding the "other' from its midst." Support for Zionism among Jews of the world is now found primarily in those over 60, but it is waning among the young, and mixed marriages are on the increase.

The scenario of people largely of Euro-Russian blood, armed with myth and a religious book, displacing in the name of "return" the people genetically best representing original Judeans, is irony of colossal proportion. Still, understanding the events coming out of what Sand calls a "surgically improved" Jewish history is important for all Americans wanting to understand current events. America's global reputation is due, in no small way, to her lead in creating and maintaining the state of Israel and, by extension, in the assault on a blameless people -- facts carefully sidestepped in U.S. news coverage but nevertheless at the heart of much rage in the world that is directed at the U.S.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 3, 2012 1:17 AM PDT

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History
by David Aaronovitch
Edition: Hardcover
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29 of 84 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A piece of disinformation, June 1, 2010
As the Internet has made it possible for everyone to be "investigative", and as the level of disinformation to which the masses have been exposed becomes verifiable, there has emerged a spate of attack on "conspiracy theorists" from self-appointed "skeptics" who seem skeptical of everything except formal, official, governmental accounts that stink. And here comes Aaronovitch whose book is so shallow, so empty of opposing and compelling information that has been available for years, that he is beyond merely ill-informed.

Because he covers a host of conspiracies in this book, I will deal with only two about which much has come to light: the assassination of JFK and 9/11. As to the first, his coverage is shamefully superficial. Regarding the Warren Commission Report he writes that skepticism "was catching ... housewives turned themselves into assiduous researchers... ", and he refers to Gerald Posner's dated (1993) and discredited book "Case Closed" as "one of the best debunkings of Kennedy conspiracy theories", while he fails to mention James Douglass's 2008, 500-page "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters", the result of a 12-year investigation that includes recently-released archival material and 100 pages references and notes. Really, I have to wonder how Aaronovitch ever garnered the reputation he has, or, for that matter, how he can justify the arrogance that spills onto his pages.

He has special venom for the 9/11 Truth Movement, which he characterizes as "... an assortment of geeks, teenagers, far leftists, far rightists, strange millionaires and perpetual dissidents." Amazingly, to support the 9/11 Commission's account he cites the discredited 2005 Popular Mechanics article on 9/11 but fails to mention the abundance of physical evidence for internal demolition amassed by the (at the time I write this) 1,200 physicists, architects and engineers in Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth who have staked their professional reputations to defend their thesis.

As an aside, he uses personal attack to diminish, as when he refers to David Ray Griffin, a soft-spoken scholar with impeccable credentials, as having a "boring voice and low-key didacticism" or his description of Webster Tarpley as "a wide, shiny sixty-year-old, bald and slick, who possesses the menacing amiability of a big-tent evangelist smilingly consigning sinners to eternal torment".

Important material is so scrupulously avoided as to make the book a piece of disinformation. As I "researched" Aaronovitch, I had to laugh at his having won an Orwell Award in 2001. Really, some things are so absolutely ironic that you want to freeze dry them for posterity. On the back of the book's jacket is a comment from The Times (UK) that refers to Voodoo Histories as a "tasty loaf". Right on. But a loaf of what?
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2015 10:22 AM PST

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
by James W. Douglass
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.32
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate scholarship, April 25, 2009
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James Douglass spent 12 years researching and writing an amazing book that, by connecting some heretofore unpublicized aspects of the political, military and intelligence worlds into a coherent narrative, offers huge insight into some "unspeakable" aspects of our culture. This is book to keep. The 95 pages of references and notes offer avenues for those interested in pursuing details further.

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