THE REALITY OF CONSPIRACIES
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure (Psalm 2:1-5).
Why do they bother to ask me? Probably because they have spotted my weak point: a near-maniacal addiction to history books. By training, I'm an historian. I even have a Ph.D. in the field. This means that I had three choices when I got out of school: go into teaching and starve, stay out of teaching and starve, or go into business and not starve (maybe). I did the latter, and I haven't starved (so far). But I still read a lot of history books. I just can't stop.
I have a theory of history. It begins with Genesis 1:1: God's creation of the universe out of nothing.
You need to understand something about serious Christians and serious Jews: they have a view of history which is personal. They recognize that God created the world. The world is not now, nor has it ever been, an impersonal product of random material forces. Biblical religion is inescapably a religion of cosmic personalism.1 Men are responsible personal agents responsible primarily to God and secondarily to each other through institutional arrangements: church, State, family, economy. (I capitalize "State" when I refer to civil government in general; I don't capitalize it when I refer to the regional legal jurisdiction known as a "state.") Furthermore, biblical religion sees history as the product of a giant cosmic struggle: between good and evil, between God and Satan, between redeemed men and rebellious men. This struggle is innately and inescapably personal.
This struggle is not simply personal, however; it is inherently conspiratorial. The Bible tells about a great conspiracy against God. It is a conspiracy which affects every area of life, including politics. David describes it in Psalm 2. In David's day, there was a conspiracy among the kings of the earth against God. It was in existence long before David's day. That same conspiracy is still raging, even though there are no more kings of any importance left on earth.2 It is an age-old struggle.
For as long as there are history and sin, members of this conspiracy will be enraged at righteousness. The conspirators "breathe together" (con = with; spire = breathe). They "breathe together" against God and God's law, and also against all those who are faithful to God, or who may not even believe in God, but who are faithful to God's precepts. Western Civilization's moral foundations and especially legal foundations were constructed in terms of biblical morality and biblical law.3 Thus, the conspirators are at war against Western Civilization. It outrages them.
C. S. Lewis
No one has described their outrage more graphically than the English Christian scholar and novelist, C. S. Lewis, in his magnificent novel, That Hideous Strength (1945). It is the third novel in his "space trilogy," and it is by far the most important. In this novel, Lewis creates a "fantasy" about a govern-ment-funded scientific research organization (N.I.C.E.) which is hierarchically controlled by systematically evil men who intend to suppress the liberties of the whole population. These men are part of a conspiracy. They have adopted the traditional organizational structure of occultism: secrecy, inner rings of authority, initiation, and a false front of benevolence for the public to believe in. They seek power with a vengeance, including occult magical power.
Lewis understood that rationalism and materialism can be combined with magic. This was a remarkable insight. That he understood it in the 1940's is astounding. He was virtually alone in this belief then. Events since 1965 have shown how correct he was. Occultism has been on the rise, especially on university campuses.4
(Lewis, oddly enough, died on November 22, 1963, the same day that President John E Kennedy died, and the same day that English novelist-atheist Aldous Huxley died. It was Huxley's grandfather, Thomas Huxley, who first promoted and popularized Charles Darwin's Origin of Species , which has probably been the most important book in the arsenal of the conspiracy vastly more important, at least in the industrialized West, than anything written by Karl Marx, another dedicated follower of Darwin.5)
The Establishment's Conspiracy
I want to make one thing perfectly clear (as Richard Nixon used to say): everyone believes in the existence of conspiracies. Conspiracies are organized groups of people who maliciously plot to undermine whatever it is you believe in. Obviously, what you believe in is good, so they are evil. Since there are always fringe groups who have not yet "seen the light," and who plot against goodness and true justice, those who believe in goodness and true justice need to defend themselves by stamping out (or at least exposing) these illegal groups. These groups are clearly illegal, since good and just people get their rulers to pass laws making such conspiracies illegal. In short, as the Christian scholar R. J. Rushdoony has written, "The commonly admitted conspiracies are those of the opposition."6
There is nothing remarkable in all this. Clearly, it isn't worth a whole book. But what the more recent conspiracy thesis books argue, especially None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1972) and its sequel, Call It Conspiracy (1985),7 is that not only are there conspiracies, but that there is one major conspiracy in the twen-tieth-century, and that this conspiracy has actually succeeded in capturing the major institutions of modern society: church, State, the media, big business organizations, the prestigious universities, and the banking establishment. Above all, the banking establishment.
Establishment: this is the key word. The oddity of the thesis lies here: the conspiracy is the Establishment. It is not like the conspiracy of the Bolsheviks against the Czar's establishment. Everyone understands that sort of conspiracy: a rag-tag band of vicious outsiders who plot to capture the seats of authoritarian power for themselves. No, what we are facing is a successful conspiracy of the American Establishment against the Constitution of the United States and against everyone who was intended by the Constitution's authors to be protected by that Constitution. Operationally speaking, there is a secret constitution in the shadow of the official one, and the elite governs in terms of it.8 This is a conspiracy of insiders against outsiders, not the other way around. It is a conspiracy of super-rich and super-powerful insiders who quietly captured the seats of power in the name of the "true outsiders," the downtrodden masses. It is a conspiracy of the well-connected against the disorganized and disconnected. In other words, there are conspiracies, and then there are Conspiracies!
The Lone Assassin
Anyone who accepts the existence of such a conspiracy is written off (by whom?) either as a fool or a rogue. Let me offer an example. I have said in the introduction that the interest in conspiracies has been fueled by the question of who shot President Kennedy. I have said that the "lone assassin" theory is the only acceptable theory in "official" circles.
There are always some post-assassination questions that must be raised. Here are four that the public wants answered, and therefore the official board of inquiry attempts to provide answers for:
Who shot him?
Why did this man say that he shot him?
Was he acting alone?
What were the man's previous actions?
Everyone knows that all assassins are madmen who act alone. Everyone knows this, even when the evidence points to other conclusions. The Establishment's committee-approved interpretations of every presidential assassin except John Wilkes Booth invariably conclude this. The "kooks" claim otherwise. Who is a "kook"? Anyone who claims otherwise.
Why is this the standard interpretation? For a conspiracy to have successfully replaced the highest political figure in the land would raise too many questions. If the assassin did not act by himself, people might start asking additional questions, such as:
Who financed him?
What did his financiers expect to gain?
Who replaced the President in office?
Who has gained what from the new man?
Is the public at the mercy of murderers?
Should they, too, be investigated?
In the case of John Wilkes Booth, historians do admit that this was a conspiracy. We know that several boarders at Mary Surratt's boarding house were involved. After all, one of them tried to kill Secretary of State Seward the same night. So there was a conspiracy a conspiracy of nonentities. Then, in 1937, an amateur historian (what else?) named Otto Eisenschiml had his book published, Why Was Lincoln Murdered?, a book which presents evidence that points to Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War, and other anti-Lincoln Radical Republicans as very possibly involved. This book is no longer in print, despite the fact that books on Lincoln seem to sell forever. This is not the sort of conspiracy which is discussed in college classrooms in U.S. history or any other history. This may have been a conspiracy of "Insiders."
A Quiet Revolution
Rushdoony remarked in 1965 that "The successful and continuing conspiracies of history are never admitted to be conspiracies. Their known activities are extolled as virtues and patriotic works, never as illicit activities. Legitimacy is the reward of success, and only that which is seemly is admitted as acceptable party history."9
The offense of Gary Allen and Larry Abraham's book, None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1972, 4.5 million sold), and W. Cleon Skousen's The Naked Capitalist (1970, a million sold) is that they argued that America's present rulers are the organizational and spiritual heirs of a band of bloodless revolutionaries who pulled off a true revolution in the United States, though a nearly invisible revolution, in the early decades of this century.
On the surface, the thesis sounds absolutely crazy. A revolution without an uprising? A revolution without manifestos? But wouldn't this be the best possible sort of revolution from the point of view of the revolutionaries? A revolution which sounds crazy to its victims, even seven decades after it took place?
But what if it had a manifesto? What if' the senior advisor to the President who launched the somewhat more visible phase of the revolution had written it? What about Philip Drew, Administrator (191:2), the anonymous novel by "Col." Edward Mandel House, Wilson's alter ego?10 It featured a hero who takes over the government and imposes a new order on society. Don't ask. And if you ask, don't expect a straight answer from a professional historian.
Setting the Agenda
Here is the offending thesis: through their domination over the major educational, political, and financial institutions, these conspirators have "set the agenda," especially the intellectual agenda, for the last century. The kinds of questions they want asked are the only kinds of questions that wise (and prudent) men do ask. The kinds of answers that they want investigators to come up with are the only kinds of answers that wise (and prudent) men do come up with. In short, they have established that elusive but powerful "climate of opinion" which governs the affairs of men.
Elsewhere, I have called this process "capturing the robes."11 Those institutions in Western Civilization that have been marked by robes the clergy, the judiciary, and university professors were targeted a century ago by conspiratorial groups. These groups did everything they could to capture the leadership of each group, in order to mold public opinion. They have been remarkably successful in their efforts.
We might also call this process "capturing the minds." It is incorrect to say that a man is what he eats. It is also incorrect to say that a man is what he owns. No, a man is what he thinks, what he truly believes in. Shape his thinking, and you can manipulate the man. Shape the thinking of the spokesmen of the activist minority in any society, and you can manipulate that society (within shifting limits historically, of course). Political or financial control over institutions is not enough. Temporary political power is not enough. You can eventually lose control to other dedicated conspiratorial groups. Therefore, control over people's access to information, and more importantly, control over the moral and theoretical principles that govern their interpretation of information, is essential. Lose this, and you have in principle lost control. You will eventually lose control. No civilization has ever fallen to outsiders that did not first suffer a loss of faith in its first principles. The failure of faith always precedes the failure of will.12
In the United States, the conspirators understood the nature of the conflict from the time of the Abolitionist movement.13 Consider the career of Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higgenson, a Unitarian minister. He once wrote a letter to the murderous John Brown in which he announced: "I am always ready to invest money in treason ...."14 Higgenson had a long and perverse career. He was an active supporter of Horace Mann's Massachusetts experiment in state-supported public education, a member of the Secret Six which financed John Brown in the 1850's, and a founder of the Intercollegiate Society of Socialists in 1905, along with Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and others.15 The I.S.S. later became known as the League for Industrial Democracy, a first cousin (or closer) of the British Fabian socialist society.16
These sorts of men, and others far richer and with more capital to defend, saw to it that they and their allies gained control of those institutions that can legally sound the alarm against any infringement of the people's Constitutional liberties: the courts (especially the Supreme Court), the Congress, and the Executive (especially the Cabinet). Also, they captured the institutions that teach and inform the people who generally become the senior decision-makers in society: the media (the three major T.V. networks and the major journals of opinion), the major book publishing firms, the public schools, and most importantly, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Chicago, Berkeley, Michigan, and the other prestigious universities.
Interpreting the U.S. Constitution
What the conspirators have done is to short-circuit the true meaning, and true limitations on the Federal government, of the U.S. Constitution. They have nationalized and centralized a political order which was deliberately created to be a decentralized system. As Professor Miller has described in detail, they have in effect substituted a secret constitution for the official one.
Most people are afraid of calling attention to this capture of power, for in doing so, they would themselves become targets of the accusation that they had become "treasonous" or "conspiratorial" conspirators against those who seem to be able to announce the standards of goodness and true justice. In short, the success of the conspirators can be seen in their ability to make their critics look like conspirators. Or fools. "You mean you think that the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't understand the Constitution, and you do? Why, you must be crazy!" Who wants to appear crazy?
And yet, and yet .... More and more people have looked at the decisions of the Supreme Court on compulsory busing of public school children, on striking down state laws against abortion, on the insanity defense which allows someone to shoot the President of the United States and escape prison and they have concluded, "The Supreme Court is crazy, not me."
This shift of thinking, above all else, is what the conspiracy fears. It is a shift in the "climate of opinion." It is a shift which they find difficult to control any longer, and which threatens their monopoly of influence. This shift has taken place since 1970.
The offense of pages 936-956 of Prof. Carroll Quigley's Tragedy and Hope (Macmillan, 1966), None Dare Call It Conspiracy, and similar conspiracy thesis books, is found in the thesis that a dedicated conspiracy has quietly captured the power centers in order to further its own ends against .... Against what?
To identify a conspiracy, you must also identify the "conspired against." The identification of the "conspired against" establishes which kind of conspiracy thesis the author is promoting. There are Marxist-written conspiracy books that criticize the Rockefeller interests as pro-capitalist. There are "right-wing" conspiracy theses that are anti-Rockefeller because of the State capitalism aspect of the Establishment. Usually, the focus of concern is on politics and/or economic monopoly. Very seldom is the conspiracy traced back farther than two centuries, with the exception of anti-Semitic conspiracy theses, and even these generally begin with the Rothschild family in the late 18th century.
The Biblical View
The Bible reveals a much longer conspiratorial time frame: a continuing conspiracy against God and His revealed law-order. The faces change, but the issue remains the same: ethics. Money, power, prestige, and influence all flow out of this fundamental issue: Which God should men worship? As the prophet Elijah presented the issue before the people of Israel when they gathered on Mt. Carmel during the reign of Israel's evil king, Ahab: "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." The next sentence is most revealing: "And the people answered him not a word" (I Kings 18:21). They never do, until they see who is going to win the confrontation.
The biblical view of conspiracy neither overestimates the power of conspiracies nor underestimates it. There is one conspiracy, Satan's, and ultimately it must fail. Satan's supernatural conspiracy is the conspiracy; all other visible conspiracies are merely outworkings of this supernatural conspiracy. This is the testimony of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible's account of the Tower of Babel records one unsuccessful effort of the conspiracy, and it ended in the defeat of the conspirators. The cross of Calvary is the ultimate example: satanically successful on the surface, but it led within three days to the definitive defeat in principle of Satan and his host. Christ's resurrection definitively smashed in principle the satanic conspiracy. History since Calvary is simply the outworking of that definitive victory.
The one overarching conspiracy is therefore in principle disunited. "He that is not with me is against me," Jesus said, "and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12:30). This was the conclusion in a line of reasoning which began when the Pharisees criticized Jesus for having exorcised demons. He did it, they argued, by the power of Satan. Jesus knew their thoughts, and He replied: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 12:25-26).
This is the biblical view of the conspiracy of Satan against God: Satan has power even to exorcise his own followers, the demons, but this very power points to his divided kingdom and his coming defeat. He can divide his own earthly followers, engaging them in endless wars, so great is his hatred of man-' kind, but he cannot defeat God and God's covenantally faithful people.
There is a surface unity among the conspirators: unity against the enemy, God. This illusion of unity has confused many Christians and almost all conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, the conspirators understand each other. They distrust each other, for they know how ready and willing one subgroup is to subvert and overturn the plans of a rival group. When they forget this lesson, they pay the price. Stalin is a good example. Despite continual warnings from his spies and military advisors, he trusted Hitler right up until the day that the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941. From that time on, Stalin's paranoia increased exponentially (and it had always been high). He never trusted anyone again. Why should he? All those around him were miniature dictators. Like he had always been, they were conspirators. There was no one worth his trust.
Try building a long-term civilization on paranoia. It cannot be done. The power religion eventually collapses. There is no honor among thieves; there is only suspicion. In the long run, conspiracies against God and His law must fail.
1 Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), ch. 1: "Cosmic Personalism."
2 King Farouk, the deposed puppet monarch of Egypt, put it very well when he announced: "There are but five kings left in the world: the king of England, and the kings of clubs, diamonds, spades, and hearts."
3 Harold J. Berman, Last, and Revolution: The Formation of the the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983).
4 Gary North, Unholy Spirits: New Age Humanism and Occultism (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics,  1994).
5 Marx wrote to Ferdinand Lassalle in early 1861: "Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history." Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, Correspondence, 1846-1895, edited by Dona Torr (New York: International Publishers, 1935), p. 195. He had written to Engels a few weeks earlier: "... this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view." Ibid., p. 126.
6 R.J. Rushdoony, The Natare of the American System (Fairfax, Virginia: Thoburn Press,  1978), p. 143.
7 Larry Abraham, Call It Conspiracy (Seattle, Washington: Double A Publications, 1985).
8 Arthur S. Miller, The Secret Consitution and the Need for Constitutional Change (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1987).
9 Rushdoony, Nature of the American System, p. 149.
10 On House's authorship, see The Intimate Papers of Colonel House, edited by Charles Seymour, 4 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926), I, p. 152.
11 Gary North, Backward, Christian Soldiers? (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), ch. 7.
12 Gilbert Murray, The Five Stages of Greek Religion (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor; ).
13 Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (New York: Times Books, 1979).
14 Cited by J. C. Furnas, The Road to Harpers Ferry? (New York: William Sloane, 1959), p. 337.
15 Rushdoony, Nature of the American System, p. 19n.
16 Rose L. Martin, Fabian Freeway: High Road to Socialism in the U.S.A. (Boston: Western Islands, 1966), pp. 191-92.