Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Fish Story Contest 🎣 Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Puzzles Crime Distribution Locations Obits

OPINION | PHILIP MARTIN: Conspiratorial whispers

by Philip Martin | November 15, 2020 at 8:40 a.m.

Checking the social media feeds of intemperate people is fascinating, a dive into an alternative reality where the "leftist Murdoch brothers" have sold out America and One America News, Newsmax and The Epoch Times are now the only honest brokers of reality.

This is where breaking news reports the 2020 election is an elaborate sting operation organized by Donald J. Trump to bring down the socialists; Trump and/or the Department of Homeland Security somehow secretly watermarked the ballots so he could later prove they were fraudulent.

Allegedly this last theory originated in QAnon circles, the same Dada shop that brought us Trump as pedophile-fighting superhero who was going save us all from cannibalistic traffickers of children. There was going to come a day when thousands of Democrats were going to be rounded up and hauled off to jail. (It still is, some insist: "The news media doesn't get to decide who's POTUS.")

Not that there hasn't always been crazy lurking. Lyndon LaRouche, who ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004, had people believing the Queen of England was a cocaine-dealing lizard who--he told Roger Stone in 2017--"framed Bill Clinton."

I find no firm evidence that LaRouche was one of the architects of the lizard people theory. But many strongly associate LaRouche with the lizard people; I have a distinct memory of a Weekly World News cover story directly linking LaRouche to allegations of the queen's lizardhood. But maybe I'm a victim of the Mandela effect, maybe the LaRouche-

lizard nexus was in some reality I split from years ago.)

LaRouche also contended rock music was invented by British intelligence--specifically he alleged that Bertrand Russell composed all the Beatles' music in order to tweak America--and that white people came up with jazz as a way to enslave Blacks. Which is especially interesting in light of a semi-convincing counter-theory that the Swedish band Abba and the dominance of Swedish songwriter/producers in today's pop music marketplace is at least partially due to a nationalist backlash against immigrant Black jazz.

But LaRouche also proposed the less wacko idea that classical orchestras should return to the slightly lower "Verdi pitch" where the reference A note vibrated at 432 Hz ("Hz" means "per second") rather than 440 Hz that was installed as an international standard in 1938.

LaRouche contended that the higher tuning placed an unnecessary strain on the voices of opera singers--and some 300 artists, including Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballe signed on in support of his measure, which was brought up in the Italian parliament.

A lot of musicians still advocate tuning to 432 instead of 440; some advocates claim that 432 is somehow more natural--a frequency that's in harmony with the universe--while 440 was introduced by Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels as a way to make the world a more anxious and fearful place. If you go on the Internet you can find all sorts of arguments why 432 is a mystical number because ... we humans are pattern-seeking animals?

But LaRouche--and the singers who signed on to the 432 campaign--were mostly just concerned about the additional strain 440 tuning put on the human voice. (Sometimes a cigar ...)

We should probably note that LaRouche ran his campaign for 432 tuning from a prison cell, where he'd been put by Robert Mueller (among others) for mail fraud and tax evasion. He ran his 1992 campaign for president from the Federal Medical Center at Rochester, Minn.

While not saying that LaRouche didn't believe any of the conspiracy theories he peddled--he also promoted run-of-the-mill anti-Semitism and a suspiciously virulent strain of homophobia--he wasn't a flagrant nutjob. He was a smart, maybe brilliant man who had some ugly ideas and ran a misinformation service for profit. He tailored his rhetoric for his audience, carried himself like a tweedy college professor (which he'd been, teaching classes on Marx's concept of dialectical materialism at New York's Free School in the late '60s) and spoke in a measured Brahmin accent.

LaRouche could be impressive. I talked to him a couple of times in the '80s, and he never broke character. He knew a lot and could read a room. There was nothing coherent about his political philosophy--swinging wildly from far-left to far-right positions from moment to moment--but he understood there were people out there desperate to have the confusion of the world explained away.

The problem is the world can't be explained. And the more we know, the less we are able to believe.

LaRouche, who died in 2019 at the age of 96, never had the chance to take full advantage of the Internet. While some people believed his lies, his cult never grew beyond a few thousand hard-core members. He was marginalized and had no real effect on national or global politics; he grifted along nicely, but most people who were aware of the LaRouchies crossed the street to avoid them.

These days, lonely people scour the Internet to seek validation and kindred souls. In many ways this is a powerful social good, a way for a gay teenager living in rural America or a collector of old blues 78s to find community. Opening a Facebook feed provides immediate access to the thoughts of thousands of interesting people from all over the world.

But every dark suspicion is confirmed there as well. Big tech enables the mad and the cynical as well as the thoughtful and sincere. Toxic ideas drive traffic, and it's easy to avoid responsibility for the misinformation you allow to be published. As the Amazing Criswell used to say: Can you prove it didn't happen?

What we used to do was quarantine nutty ideas. We didn't give them play in newspapers or on television; to do so would have been seen as irresponsible. We had a system of quality control. If you wanted crazy, there were tabloid newspapers and programs to consume. Conspiracy theories were traded in back alleys. No one handed the village raver a megaphone.

Now they can be found with a click or two. Or they find us, with their tweets and comments, the cyber-wails of grievance, the plaints of the discouraged and distressed, the howls of the wounded.

I don't find this stuff amusing anymore.

[email protected]



Sponsor Content