April 03, 2007

The Dangers of Conspiracy Theories

Polly Toynbee illustrates today in the Guardian the dangers of thinking in terms of conspiracies. She alleges that there has been a vast rightwing conspiracy to undermine the present budget and attack Gordon Brown, she cites the usual suspects, thundering editorials from the Times and Telegraph, slips by ex-cabinet secretaries and the murmerings of Blairites. Anyone attacking Brown is performing a role in a drama scripted by the Tories who are merely copying, George Bush. Anyone- even Sir Andrew Turnbull- who speaks out against Brown cannot claim that they are making an innocent mistake or criticising Brown on honest grounds: everyone must unite to repel the darkness.

Polly doesn't mention one leading candidate for such a role, a piece in a popular daily newspaper, by a leading leftwing commentator, which lambasted Brown as giving a budget which allows Cameron to attack him easily, a budget which removed his room for movement and made him a sitting target for the Conservative party- a budget which has disappointed his friends and cheered his enemies- a budget which confirms the impression that Brown is a cautious Scot stuck in a 'twilight zone of uncertainty'. And who wrote this piece, it must have been upon the orders of George Osborne in this new Bush-lite campaign to attack the Labour leader presumptive- who wrote it, who has joined the conspiracy.

Why Polly its you- welcome to the fold- now do you see the dangers of thinking that every comment against Brown is part of a strategy against him- methinks a bit more caution in the future about generalisations like that would be in order. There is undoubtedly a campaign to get Brown- and the Tories would be pretty pathetic if there wasn't, just like Labour have a plan to get Cameron- but not every hostile comment to Cameron or Brown is part of the campaign- or Polly we might have to ask you about your article of a couple of days ago.


Vino S said...

I don't think that 'conspiracies' really explain that much. It is _common interest_ rather than conspiracies which often govern the way things turn out.

The right-wing press is not attacking Brown because of a conspiracy. They are attacking him because they disagree with him. Its as simple as that. He is not right-wing enough for them [although, of course, from my point of view he is too right-wing]

Gracchi said...

I tend to agree with you about the reasons for the rightwing attacks- they are motivated out of principle but that is not what Toynbee is implying. She is implying that there is more to it than that. I think she is wrong and wanted to illustrate it and found one of her own columsn.

ashok said...

Hahahahaha - that is an excellent post.

I have oral exams coming up, and I'm soooooooooooooooo lazy about studying. I'm doing my work, but for every page of say Aquinas I read, I read 3 poems, 10 articles, bookmark tons of stuff...

Goodness, I'm all over the place.

Btw, what do you study?

Gracchi said...

I'm just finishing a PhD in seventeenth century English political thinking- which sounds much more impressive than it is- I look at the New Model Army and its political ideas- I'm almost finished but a couple of months to go!

Thanks for the applause- and yeah I understand about Aquinas! What's your degree.

ashok said...

I do political theory, but from a wholly Straussian perspective. A lot of Straussians complain about being persecuted, but I don't share that complaint, because most Straussians don't get hired in the first place. I mean, I don't understand how anyone can complain about being persecuted when they aren't even in a position to be persecuted! Those Straussians really need to learn to be quiet.

The downside to my work is that I can't really say I have a specialty, what am I gonna say, "I'm interested in the history of Natural Right?" The upside is that whatever primary sources are covered, they get covered. The dissertation is going to be on Aeschylus, but I have oral exams coming up and goodness gracious I'm scared, which is why the Aquinas is being covered.