Monday, April 19, 2010

More Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Garbage

More Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Garbage

One of my wife's students handed her off a video to watch called Zeitgeist: Addendum, and wanted an opinion.  We watched enough to recognize dishonest and emotionally manipulative propaganda.  After watching it, I found that others have had similar reactions to it and its predecessor (one of those films that manages to combine 9/11 Trutherism, Federal Reserve Bank conspiracies, and Da Vinci Code idiocy).

1. Like most of these films being made by and for the 20somethings, it relies on scary music and unique visuals in the style of The Ring to create a sense of foreboding and discomfort.  As film, it is quite effective.  As propaganda, it probably works on a fair number of people who have not yet learned to recognize these forms of manipulation.  If the goal is to pursue truth, the use of these techniques alone discredit the film.  It's rather like the famous intercutting of the scenes of the rats and Jews in Nazi propaganda films.  It works as a manipulative technique, but it should immediately discredit the maker.

2. Like most of this sort of leftist propaganda, it mixes carefully selected facts, conjecture, and sloppy reasoning to mislead the watcher.  As an example, it gives a reasonably accurate account of fractional reserve banking working, but leaves the impression that all wealth is the result of the Federal Reserve System's deposits of cash, and fails to explain that banks take deposits from private parties, and then make loans against those deposits.

3. It makes the claim that "international bankers" are the cause of the Federal Reserve System established in 1913, and then goes on to claim that the "Hazard Circular" produced by British banking interests in 1862 is the beginning of the conspiracy.  Yet at the same time, it claims that these international bankers were trying to destroy Lincoln's use of "Greenbacks" which were paper money not backed by much except a promise to pay--yet the Federal Reserve Notes are essentially the same system.  I guess that I am not surprised that anti-Semites such as Ezra Pound and Nazi dupes such as Charles Lindbergh were among the early promoters of this claim about the Hazard Circular.

4. This film goes on to claim that the Federal Reserve System was created to enslave Americans.  Sorry, but that's a strong and wild claim, just fine for a John Bircher or other conspiracy buff.  The Federal Reserve System was created with the belief that the boom and bust cycle of the American economy could be controlled and managed if the government had more control over the money supply.  The Federal Reserve System turned out to be a major failure in that respect.  It seemed to some observers at the close of the nineteenth century that booms and busts were becoming more severe, and there was this hope that an actively managed money supply could fix this.  The Great Depression suggests that this was not the case.  The guys pulling the levers of the machine clearly did not know what they were doing.  But this isn't a sign of conspiracy, but of delusions of competence.

5. The film claims that it is impossible to ever get out of debt, because there is always interest on loans, and thus the workers are always enslaved.  Perhaps the guy that made the film feels that way, but this is simply not true.  The U.S. has on a number of occasions made significant progress on it reducing the national debt, and certainly individuals are capable of freeing themselves from debt--although it is sometimes not easy.  This notion that our modern banking system was created to keep workers enslaved by work is preposterous.  There has not been a time in history when people didn't have to work to feed themselves and their families.  If there is something that enslaves most Americans, it is the tax burden imposed by government.

6. The film refers to how the Federal Reserve System means that those who borrow money are "detached from their original debt."  What?  Bankruptcy can do that.  Perhaps they were implying that inflation, because it means that you are paying back loans in devalued dollars, makes a loan less painful than it otherwise would be.  But you are hardly "detached" from that debt.  It's just nonsense that the filmmaker wants to make sure that you don't examine carefully.

7. The film asserts that the Federal Reserve System forces an unnamed someone "to compete for labor."  I can't figure out what they are saying.  That employers are competing for labor?  That's a good thing--at least if you are a worker.

8. The film keeps talking about banks as lenders--with no awareness that a variety of cooperative institutions (such as credit unions) and individuals also operate as lenders--for example, when you carry paper on a land or house sale.  Why?  To give an impression of monolithic operations that doesn't fit the real world--but that many college students won't yet know about.

9. The film relies on the beyond absurd claims of John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man which have been pretty thoroughly demolished.  Even in those areas where there is some factual basis, this film engages in the sort of selective use of facts that shows that the goal is deception, not instruction.  For example, there is no question in my mind that the overthrow of Mossadegh by the CIA in 1953 could have been at least partly motivated by his decision to nationalize the British oil industry in Iran.  It was not the only reason for U.S. concern about Mossadegh, and very likely not even the most important reason.  But an honest discussion of the overthrow of Mossadegh, which put the Shah of Iran firmly in charge, would acknowledge that the Shah did not restore British ownership of the Iranian oil industry.  Mentioning that inconvenient fact would at least suggest that oil wasn't the reason.

10. The film attempts to portray Hugo Chavez as a patriot protecting his country from Yankee control--rather than acknowledging that Chavez is a totalitarian who thinks that Jews are out to take over the wealth of the world.  But you know: the same mentality that worries about "international Jewish bankers" clearly informs the maker of this film: someone convinced that there is a vast conspiracy of powerful people--a conspiracy moving forward since at least 1862--that is the only thing standing between us and paradise here on Earth.

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