Saturday, July 19, 2014

#1125: Peter Dale Scott

Peter Dale Scott is a batshit insane conspiracy theorist; that is, he rejects the label “conspiracy theory”, of course, going instead for “deep politics”, a branch of pseudoscience for which he may claim to be the proud founder. Scott is also a former English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former diplomat (he is Canadian, though his career in the US arguably qualifies him for inclusion in our Encyclopedia). That doesn’t confer much authority on the subject matter of deep politics, and it is telling that his “research” is published in book-length monologues from non-academic publishers rather than in peer-reviewed journals.

Though he avoids the standard references to organized shadow groups such as the Illuminati, Scott maintains that a large number of terrorist acts and assassinations (including JFK and Anders Breivik) are inside jobs; perhaps not fully, consciously and carefully planned and organized from the top – there is no unified group at said top – but inside jobs nonetheless (he has, though, thus far, as far as I can tell, refrained from proclaiming 9/11 an inside job, though it was, it seems, a result of deep politics – there are some comments on his book on the issue here). Despite the absence of a powerful, single, unified conspiracy, Scott’s theories nevertheless relies on “secret” decisions made by “small cabals” of persons within our (public) governmental institutions, for the deliberate purpose of replacing the “public” dimension. Evidence that these are inside jobs or that such evil, secret plots exist? Well, governments have been involved in lots of shit over the years, so it is not impossible that they could have organized these things as well. “But,” you might object, “could hypothetically have does not imply did.” Ah, yes, but you see, officially Scott is really Just Asking Questions (he just tends to forget sometimes). Besides, he can point to nefarious government schemes at some times in some places in the past (mostly Italian fascists, in fact) – so he has the resources to mingle his narratives with actually documented claims. And when you selectively look at the evidence gathered at various conspiracy sites and fail to distinguish an untested hypothesis from a fact, it all fits. It is worth pointing out that Scott has no background in critical thinking or scientific reasoning, nor does he display any interest in how psychological biases work.

I really don’t wish to link to much of Scott’s drivel, though as a typical example I can give you his “9/11, the JFK Assassination, and the Oklahoma City Bombing as a Strategy of Tension” (here). As usual, he mixes the reasonably well-documented claims about governments being involved in organized crime (and as usual, the examples are from Italy), to claim that at least the following were false flag operations by shady government cabals: JFK, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the 1993 first World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11 or at least “the subsequent false flag anthrax attacks of 2001”. Because these are structurally similar to the other examples and because governments used these events to implement new laws; no, the distinction between using an event for political gain – and it is in most cases pretty unclear what these gains might have been – and deliberately planning and carrying out that event, is not one Scott is overly concerned with. Nor is he very concerned with accuracy or avoiding question-begging (“all of these events were blamed on marginal left-wing elements, but in fact involved elements inside America’s covert intelligence agencies, along with their shadowy underworld connections”).

Diagnosis: Scott is, in fact, among the most influential conspiracy theorists out there, and by mixing his batshit, evidence-free musings with long, more or less accurate explanations of actual, historical events he manages sometimes to create an illusion of carefulness and sensitivity to evidence. But really, there is little to distinguish his claims from those made by your standard mainstay (and Scott is, in fact, one of those himself). 

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