Posted on April 5, 2022

Sam Francis on Conspiracy Theories

Chris Roberts, American Renaissance, April 5, 2022

In 1996, the great Sam Francis wrote a long essay on conspiracy theories. After noting that not since the 1940s “has the American presidency been as engulfed in distrust and suspicion as it is today,” he wrote:

Whatever else conspiracy theories prove, their prevalence at certain periods of history invariably shows the impending collapse of public trust in the way things are, a readiness to ascribe to the occupants of a society’s most visible and respected positions of leadership the most villainous purposes and the most ruthless means of attaining them.

None of the Presidents who followed Bill Clinton managed to regain the majority of the public’s trust. During George W. Bush’s presidency, leftists spun tales about how both the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen, and warned of a looming authoritarian evangelical theocracy. During Barack Obama’s tenure, many Republicans had theories about the President’s true place of birth and real religious beliefs. Some foretold that millions of Americans would soon be herded into FEMA concentration camps. In 2016, the pendulum swung back, with liberal claims that Russian hackers had elected Donald Trump, and that our President was controlled by foreign intelligence agencies.

Russian Birth Certificate

At the Women’s March in Washington DC, January 2017. (Credit Image: Chris Roberts / American Renaissance)

Now, with the Democrats again in the White House, the Right has harvested another batch of doubts, suspicions, and recriminations. All the whispers of the last two years have reminded me of Sam Francis’s three reasons to doubt the theories of his day: “[their] absence of reliable evidence . . . distraction from issues of more substance . . . and the delusion of an invincible enemy that they spawn.” Drawing from Murray Rothbard, Francis expanded on the first point by saying that “simply showing that an event benefited a particular party (the cui bono argument) does not prove that that party was behind the event; y0u have to produce empirical evidence of the party’s causal role in bringing the event about.” This addresses the laziest conspiracy theories I see, such as:

Yes, the slap caused more  talk about the Oscars than usual. But that isn’t proof of a “conspiracy.” Moreover, although the smack may be surprising for “celebrities,” it wasn’t surprising for blacks. Wealth doesn’t change that. There’s no evidence the people who organize the Oscars planned the slap.

For many people on the Right, everything is a conspiracy, and many of these new conspiracies are contradictory. In early 2020, many maintained that COVID was not serious, something akin to a cold or the flu. Then came the claims that it was a very serious bioweapon from China. Others maintained that it was an American bioweapon used against China, but got out of hand. Then came the claims that being asked to wear a mask was a grievous attack on our freedoms. Now we have the theory that whatever the origins or seriousness of COVID, the vaccines are worse.

The reactions to the events of January 6, 2021 are similarly schizophrenic. First came “reports” that antifa had infiltrated the ranks of peaceful Trump supporters and led the charge. Then came claims that the whole thing wasn’t a big deal, whoever might have done it. Now it’s FBI agents who infiltrated to cause violence, not antifa. Perhaps someone think antifa and the FBI infiltrated together, and that the events were of no consequence and basically legal.

It’s hard to keep up with these contrasting theories and their updates and alterations, but as Sam Francis noted almost 30 years ago, they all distract from more serious matters. America is facing sharp increases in violent crime, an immigration crisis, and the possible start of World War III. Conspiracy theories are also divisive. Few liberals will be convinced to vote GOP because of the origins of COVID or possible malfeasance by law enforcement during one incident over a year ago. Many more can be convinced to ditch the Democrats because of their soft stance on crime and punishment.

When Democrats retook Congress in 2006, they campaigned on how badly George W. Bush had mishandled our wars in the Middle East, which cost lives and money and didn’t make us safer. That was tangible. The Democrats would not have done so well if they had focused on any of the many popular leftist conspiracy theories of the day: 9/11 was an inside job, the 2004 election was stolen using Ohio’s voting machines, Republicans orchestrated the death of progressive Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. This was all (and to some extent still is) leftist “insider baseball.” Normal Americans don’t care, and few can be bothered to look into the evidence. But in 2006, all Americans knew the Iraq War was going badly, and whom to blame.

Bush Killed Wellstone

A protestor at the 2008 Republican National Convention. (Credit Image: Jake Mohan via Wikimedia)

The MAGA movement should imitate the Democrat strategy of 2006. Many, many Democrats can be swayed from their party over law and order and trade protection; that’s how Donald Trump won in 2016. But white America is never going to be uniformly convinced that vaccines are evil. And that’s just as well, because quality of life in American cities in the decades to come will be determined by demographic change and crime control, not by mask or vaccine policies.

To the extent that one or another conspiracy is true, Sam Francis is again worth quoting:

[H]uman societies are composed of contending political forces that seek power [“power bloc” or “political force”], and these forces include all groups able to organize and mobilize considerable numbers of people and resources around them. In the late Roman Empire, Christianity and (for a time) Mithraism were such forces, able to attract a large following and to compete for power in the crumbling imperial state. In other periods of history, significant political forces have mobilized around certain military technologies or forms of organization (the Greek phalanx or Roman legion, the mounted warriors and English longbows of the Middle Ages), or economic interests (industrial wealth in the early 19th century). What may be a significant political force, one able to win the support of followers and adherents and exercise power in one historical epoch or circumstance, may cease to be significant when other forces are able to resist, overcome, or replace it. Those political forces or power blocs that are most successful in mobilizing power then constitute an elite or ruling class . . . .

The problem with this concept of conspiracy as “power bloc” or “political force” is that it tends to take all the fun out of conspiracy theory. Instead of locating villainy in a small, monolithic, invisible, and all but invincible band of plotters, it offers a sociology of elites as the main explanation of the dominant historical trends of the age. But truth, if it is less fun than fiction, is at least more useful. The power bloc model ought to dispose of several of the wackier conspiracy theories without further discussion. We are not talking about Freemasons or Illuminati or Satanists or rabbis who pore over the Talmud in a millennium-long quest to make us believe in evolution, but about which groups control the instruments of political, economic, and cultural power and how they organize and use their power . . . .

Once Middle Americans begin to grasp the truth that it is the power structure rather than a man, a woman, or a small gang of swindlers and sex fiends that lies behind the dispossession of their country and their cultural and economic destruction, then they will begin to understand that what really goes on behind the scenes

The truth is less exciting than fiction, and dissidents should focus on what matters most.