COURT HISTORIANS


For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish (Jeremiah 27:10).


In Israel, there were priests who taught the people and who administered the sacrifices of the temple. When they periodically grew lax and fell into disbelief, God would raise up prophets who came before the rulers and the people. These prophets would remind them of what God had done for them, what God had done to their enemies, and what God would surely do to them in the future if they persisted in acting like their religious enemies.

The rebellious kings did not appreciate the message of the prophets. To counter this message, and to comfort the rulers, the kings would surround themselves with false prophets. These men would declare in the name of God all the good news that the kings wanted to hear. Some kings may even have begun to believe these court prophets, but not all of them did.

The worst of the bunch, King Ahab, plotted with King Jehoshephat of Judah against the king of Syria. Jehosephat wanted Ahab to ask the prophets if God was going to give them a victory. All the 400 of the court prophets predicted victory. But Jehoshaphat wanted "a second opinion." Wasn't another prophet available for consultation? Only Micaiah, said Ahab, "but I hate him; for he doth not phophesy good concerning me, but evil" (I Kings 22:8). But Ahab called him to the court anyway.

Micaiah gave the standard, "you're a winner, king" prophecy. It was fake, and both of them knew it. "And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord? (22:16). So Micaiah told him the truth: he would be killed. "And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?" (22:18). Ahab knew the difference between a true prophet of God and his 400 hired prophets. He went to battle anyway, and was slain.

Centuries later, Jeremiah confronted another band of hired prophets. They were singing the same old song: the evil king would be victorious. Not so, said Jeremiah: he would lead the nation of Judah into captivity to Babylon, just as Israel had already gone into captivity to Assyria a century earlier for their sins. But the king did not listen. They went into captivity. Instead of telling the king and the people to repent from their sins, the court prophets had proclaimed victory. The result was defeat.


Hired Historians

Kings in the ancient world not only hired court prophets to proclaim future tidings of great joy, they also hired literate record-keepers who would proclaim the wonders of kingly rule. They paid for a glorious past as well as a glorious future. The court historians served enthusiastically. Perhaps the most influential court historian in Western history was the former Jewish zealot and revolutionary, Josephus, who switched sides in the nick of time and became an official historian for the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus, who conquered Jerusalem in 69-70 A.D.

This ancient if not particularly honorable profession is with us still. Governments have numerous historians employed in one capacity or another, and not just as archivists. Private agencies, especially tax-exempt foundations, also employ them. Their unstated purpose is to present in the best possible light — given the limits of public acceptance — past government policies. Their function is retroactively to validate the official explanations.

It is not surprising that the British government has a 30-year "incubation" period for the legal release of its diplomatic files, and that any official who writes memoirs that relate to "protected" documents must have the memoirs approved before publication, in order to guarantee that official secrets are not revealed. It is also not surprising that the Warren Commission sealed off a number of documents (photos) concerning the Kennedy assassination for 75 years, and that the 26-volume compilation of the evidence has no index. (One solution has been to put the entire set on a CD-ROM disk with electronic search software included.)


The Conspiracy View of History

The conspiracy view of history is based on the following presuppositions. First, people make history; impersonal forces do not. Second, events do take place within historical limits: economics, politics, ideas, etc. Third, powerful people are powerful. Fourth, powerful people seek to achieve their goals by means of public and quasi-public institutions that are financed by the general public, including their enemies. Fifth, in order to achieve many of these goals, the planners need to conceal their plans from their enemies. Events must be made to seem spontaneous and beyond the power of the leaders to control. Alternatively, events must be directed and made to appear as side-effects of other policies of which the public approves.

In short, the conspiracy view of history argues that self-interested people do get together to conspire against the interests of the public at large, or at least against the interests of the public as the public would interpret the facts, if they really understood what was going on. These acts need not be illegal in order to qualify as a conspiracy-view version of conspiracy. We are not necessarily speaking here of a violation of a nation's conspiracy statutes. Sometimes, however, we are talking about such a conspiracy. But a successful conspiracy probably cannot be prosecuted within the seven-year statute of limitations because the conspirators control the office of prosecutor.

The conspiracy view of history has been unpopular in our day. It is especially unpopular in university classrooms, though not so unpopular as it was in the classroom prior to 1965. Scholars prefer to talk more about impersonal historical forces, or the climate of opinion, or random events, or economic determinism, or just about anything except clandestine groups of self-interested manipulators, especially conspirators who have been quietly successful (as distinguished from Lenin and Hitler, who were visibly successful).

The Marxists are more willing to discuss specific manipulations by monopoly capitalists. New Left historians have written histories of America and England that lend themselves to conspiracy historians who do not share their Marxist presuppositions. Perhaps the best example is the use that conservative and libertarian historians have made of Gabriel Kolko's study of the Progressive movement, The Triumph of Conservatism (1963).1 The book made little academic impact when it was first published, but then the Kennedy assassination and the revival of conspiracy theories rescued it. Kolko argues that the liberal, reformist rhetoric of the Progressive movement was in fact a cover for big businesses that used the power of the Federal government to establish monopolies that became insulated from price competition from newer, more innovative firms. This is what the free market "Chicago School" economists have concluded, too, as have Murray Rothbard and his followers, who are in turn followers of free market economist Ludwig yon Mises.

Yet even here, there is an exception: the Federal Reserve System. Free market economists who are ready to label all the Progressive era Federal regulatory agencies as self-interested, competition-reducing bureaucracies accept the Federal Reserve System — privately owned — as a public-spirited organization. Typical is the standard economics textbook by Gwartney and Stroup. Its perspective is that of the "public choice" school of economics, noted for its adherents' rigor in seeking out hidden, self-serving agendas of government bureaucrats and agencies. But not when it comes to central banking: "The major purpose of the Federal Reserve System (and other central banks) is to regulate the money supply and provide a monetary climate that is in the best interest of the entire economy."2 So much for public choice economic theory.

Economic historians are not generally conspiracy theorists. They are ready to discuss personal self-interest of groups that seek power, but they usually shy away from any theory which asserts that economic interests are so uniform that a clandestine group of conspirators can use the State successfully to hold off competitive market forces for decades. They do not want to admit that the public can be hoodwinked that long. They want to see people as rational, and the interests of conspirators are not the same as the interests of voters. The voters will eventually catch on. A century of domination by an elitist group is just not conceivable for your typical economic historian. A decade, yes; two decades, maybe; but not a century. Only if the climate of opinion matches up with economic self-interest could a conspiracy rule that long — and then only if the conspiracy really did represent the people's best interests. But then it would not be a conspiracy any longer.


Relativism

But wait a minute. Those of us who hold a conspiracy view of history are also interested in discussing the climate of opinion, or economic forces that create the historical setting for a shift in the climate of opinion. What is the difference between our interpretation and the interpretations of conventional classroom historians? The difference is this: the conspiratorialists know that there is a continuing ideological and theological war going on. Different players, same issues. New faces, same conflict. Those who favor a conspiracy view argue that there are fundamental issues — moral, religious, and political issues — that divide good from evil, good guys from bad guys. In short, conspiracy buffs usually are opposed to ethical relativism. They tend to be moral absolutists. They view history as a continuing personal struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

This is what outrages professional historians, including most economic historians. (An exception was Murray Rothbard, who believes in natural law and permanent ethical standards, and who was ready to consider almost any conspiracy theory.) They are weaned on a diet of ethical relativism; this perspective is basic to all the social sciences and humanities. They will admit today that Stalin was evil (by today's' standards). "But we need to understand that in his time, and confronting the situation of an economically backward nation, Stalin faced tremendous difficulties in modernizing Russia, so measures that we now regard as extreme had to be imposed... blah, blah, blah."

On the other hand, Hitler was absolutely evil. (Goodbye relativism — or so it initially appears.) Don't push them on why it is more evil to slaughter Jews than kulak peasants. They grow evasive. Why? Because their bottom line on political morality is pure pragmatism. The basis of their absolute opposition to Hitler boils down to this: Stalin, Churchill, and F.D.R. beat Hitler. In short, Hitler was a loser. He was a conspirator who got caught before he had consolidated his power. Herein lies his offense. To use language from another discipline, he went for an inside straight, and missed.

There was a period before the War when he looked as though he would be successful. In this period (you will never be told in any university classroom), some very powerful and influential Americans were sending him money. The same sorts of people who sent Lenin money. The same sorts of people who got Franklin Roosevelt elected. People on Wall Street. People who belong to, or have belonged to, the Council on Foreign Relations (1921-), the Trilateral Commission (1973-), and similar organizations.


The Wall Street Connection

Want to become unemployable at any university in the United States? Write Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, and have it published by Arlington House, the conservative publishing company. Demonstrate that the "kook" theory that New York bankers and big business leaders financed the Bolshevik revolution is really not so far off base. Name those businessmen who actually did it. Show why they did: to win lucrative trade monopolies with the new Communist government. Show that Lenin paid off, and that his successors did and still do.

Then write Wall Street and FDR. Have Arlington House publish that, too. Show that Franklin Roosevelt began his career as a lawyer with the law firm whose principle client was the New York banking firm of J. P. Morgan. Show that he got his first appointment in government, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, because of the intervention of Morgan partner Thomas W. Lamont. Show that after his ill-fated candidacy for Vice President in 1920, he became vice president of something else: Fidelity & Deposit Insurance Co. of Maryland, and resident director of the company's New York office. Franklin Roosevelt was on the board of directors of eleven corporations, the president of a large trade association, and a partner in two law firms, 1991-28. Show that, by profession, FDR was a banker and an international speculator. Entitle Part III, "FDR and the Corporate Socialists."

Give an account of his relatives, who were also well-connected on Wall Street. FDR's favorite uncle, Frederic Delano, was appointed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson to the Federal Reserve Board, and he was later chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (1931-36). He was the president of three railroads along the way.

Then go the whole nine yards. Write Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler. Even Arlington House won't touch that one. Get Gary Allen to publish it.

That, of course, is what Antony Sutton did. But why not? He was already unemployable in high-level academia. He was a judicious and remarkable scholar who wrote himself out of an academic career, despite (possibly because of) the erudition of his performance in Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development (3 volumes, Hoover Institution Press), which shows that 95% of all Soviet technology had been imported from, or stolen from, the West, 1917-1967. Because of what he discovered when writing this academic study, he concluded that the Soviet Union must have purchased most of its military technology from the West, too.

He then made the mistake of publishing this conclusion, along with the evidence, in a popular form through a conservative publishing house: National Suicide (Arlington House, 1973). He demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that profit-seeking U.S. firms have gotten rich by selling the Soviet Union the military technology that alone made it a credible threat to the West. One doesn't voice such embarrassing conclusions to "the conservative rabble" if one is on the staff of the Hoover Institution, a respectable conservative Establishment think-tank. So he got fired. (Amazingly, Harvard University's distinguished historian and Sovietologist, Richard Pipes, acknowledged in his book, Survival Is Not Enough, that Sutton's thesis regarding the Western origins of Soviet technology is essentially correct, and he also admitted in a footnote that the academic world has deliberately ignored Sutton's three-volume work because his conclusions embarrassed them. This admission came about a dozen years too late for Sutton's academic career.)3

Well, then, why not blow the whole career deal? Once blown, Sutton really took the plunge: with a book on "The Order," which Sutton believes (though has not yet proved) is an international conspiracy.4 Its one visible manifestation in the U.S. (as far as the evidence now indicates) is Skull and Bones, Yale's ancient secret society, which President George Bush (Council on Foreign Relations — resigned) and William E Buckley, Jr. (C.F.R.) belong to. This thesis was too much even for Gary Allen. "I find it hard to believe," Allen told me, "that the conspiracy's control over America is ultimately determined by the Registrar at Yale University." Sutton got a newsletter publisher, Research Publications, to publish the initial versions of the book. Think of the challenge: "You, too, can become Gary Allen's Gary Allen." He did it. Fringe City.

What is my point? Simple. Any graduate student or untenured scholar who starts writing articles demonstrating how self-interested, super-rich groups have captured America's liberal, democratic, and progressive institutions, and still control these institutions, will find himself isolated and ultimately unemployed. If he is incorrect about the details of his thesis, he will be easily dismissed as a crank, and I do mean dismissed. If he is correct, and his case starts getting a hearing, those who set the climate of opinion need only make a few discreet phone calls, or publish a devastating review or two in prestigious academic journals. Such things as existing conspiracies that are successfully misleading the people are simply not supposed to be mentioned by prudent scholars. Heads, he loses; tails, he loses. Right or wrong about the conspiracy, he loses.


A Crucial Alliance

People with Ph.D.'s are not stupid people. Narrow-visioned, perhaps, but not stupid. They respond to sticks. They also respond to carrots. Carrots have been made available. A cozy relationship has grown up between "public-spirited" foundations — Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, etc. — and departments of history and social science at major graduate schools. That relationship is marked by the presence of "research fellowships." But we are not supposed to think of this arrangement as a form of bribery. No, it is simply the enlightened funding of much-needed scholarship.

Lest readers be skeptical of this accusation, be it noted that the Rockefeller Foundation's Annual Report in 1946 announced that it was going to give the Council on Foreign Relations $139,000 (1946 dollars!) to produce a history of the United States' entry into World War II. This assignment, which was subsequently written by Harvard historian William L. Langer, was designed to counter any "revisionist" histories that might argue that we were tricked into war by the Roosevelt Administration. The Council sought to avoid a repetition of the post-World War I episode in revisionism, when several highly successful academics demonstrated that the U.S. was tricked by Wilson into entering the War.5

What I am saying is that there is an alliance between professional historians and the manipulating Establishment.6 This alliance is not easily proven. The ties are elusive. But that, too, is to be expected. Successful conspiracies are elusive. No one issues direct orders to history departments or publishers. There may or may not be a C.F.R. member as chairman of the department. But there are unquestionably unwritten rules of the game. It is more like etiquette than anything else: there are standards of proper behavior, and people who consistently violate these standards just don't get invited to the really nice parties. Those who never attend nice parties don't get to meet important people, either.

There are few aspects of successful conspiratorial groups more important for both recruiting and control than people's desire to be in the presence of powerful and famous people. The C.F.R. uses this weakness of men — and it is a dangerous weakness — to manipulate local leaders and businessmen through regional World Affairs Council meetings. Entrance into the C.F.R. itself is very important as a motivating device. Once in, the road to the top (or is it the center?) becomes confusing. How, precisely, do people get chosen? And how are they initiated? This is an important theme in Lewis' novel, That Hideous Strength. In a little-known but important essay, "The Inner Ring," Lewis warned young men against the quest for what I call the "unholy grail" of the inner circle.7


Non-Profit Restrictions

Another factor is also very important. In non-profit institutions, performance is judged by one's peers, not by consumers, as it is in a free, competitive market. People who work for universities or foundations must please their peers and their immediate superiors. A person cannot prove his or her importance to the organization by pointing to the corporate profit-and-loss statement. There is no profit-and-loss statement in a non-profit organization. Thus, scholars are figuratively held captive by their peers. Ideological deviation in such an environment can be fatal to a career.

These people are usually petrified of the free market. They have spent all their lives in academic bureaucracies. The uncertainties of market competition scare them, which is why most of them work for comparatively little money (although they don't have to work very hard, either). They are psychologically tied to their jobs in a way that people in the business world are not. The tighter the academic .job market — and it grew incredibly tight in 1969 and has remained so — the more fearful they are. They can imagine few employment alternatives outside their non-profit universe. Thus, a raised eyebrow from a superior, especially if an assistant professor has not received tenure — a legal guarantee of lifetime employment — can work wonders.

Something else must be understood. Advancement — either upward or outward (a better place of employment) — is essentially medieval. It is not what you know but whom you know. Especially in your first few jobs, you need the support and recommendations of senior professors. Personal recommendations are major screening devices for hiring. This is why people try to get into prestigious departments in graduate school: better-known senior professors have a wider group of contacts. Contacts are vital.

To make it into the academic "big time" in social science, you have to be an absolute genius, as well as someone who has a knack at writing articles for professional journals, or you have to have the right contacts. But few people are geniuses. Thus, contacts are probably 80% of the game for 80% of the players in the big time competition. (Yes, the same rule applies to the "hard" sciences like chemistry and physics, although the presence of jobs in private industry — free-market, profit-seeking firms — reduces the level of control. Consider: Who hands out the big money for research projects? The Federal government and private foundations.)

The manipulators offer young, aggressive, ambitious men the necessary contacts.


The Ethics of Babel

There is yet another factor which seals the alliance: shared presuppositions. The manipulators, like the academics, are usually ethical relativists. They believe that there are no permanent standards of national morality. There are only "interests." Interests are shifting and temporary. (And who is best equipped to interpret changing conditions, identify today's "true" national interests, and formulate the appropriate national policies? Guess who.)

Check the title of Robert Osgood's (C.F.R.) 40-year-old, but still in print college text, which defends our C.F.R.-controlled foreign policy: Meals and Self-Interest in America's Foreign Relations (University of Chicago Press, 1953). You get the picture. The book's subtitle is also interesting: The Great Transformation of the Twentieth Century. Indeed, it was!

Don't these scholars at least understand that nations, like individuals, are marked by certain ultimate commitments? Don't they understand that there are fundamental principles that divide men permanently? Don't they understand that the story of the Tower of Babel really tells us a fundamental truth about the limits on men's ability and willingness to join together politically? No, they don't. There is only one overarching ethical premise for them, one which unifies all mankind: the brotherhood of man. This must eventually lead to a new community of man. It must lead to a New World Order.

What Osgood wanted was a New World Order, although this term was not in use in academic circles back in 1953. He wanted to see it established, however, in the name of what he thought should be (but obviously isn't) acceptable to good, realistic, pragmatic Americans, meaning people without fixed moral principles. Flexible people. Deal-doers, but of a very special variety. Deal doers who do deals with our declared mortal enemies. You know, the kind of people who sold repeating rifles to the Sioux Indians in 1875. When Custer got killed a year later, the salesmen no doubt blamed Custer for foolhardiness. No doubt today's generals would agree. They have learned from MacArthur's experience — and, indirectly, from Singlaub's8 — that critics of the foreign policy which is designed to assist the rifle salesmen don't survive either the Indian chiefs or their Commander-in-Chief. (Interesting, isn't it, that every Commandant of West Point for a generation has been a C.F.R. member?)9

In history and political science departments around the country, this commitment to pragmatic flexibility has also long been recognized as the highest moral ideal for nations. The manipulators and the academics share rhetoric because they share basic principles. Principle Number One: There are no ethical norms that inherently divide "the community of man." (Principle Number Two: don't go out of your way to aid the career of anyone who rejects Principle Number One, unless you are trying to work some sort of deal.) Ethics without permanent norms! Here is an ethical ideal dear to the hearts of pragmatists — and also to thieves, traitors, and other skilled professionals in search of new victims. Osgood writes:

Idealists must recognize as a basic condition for the realization of the liberal and humane values the creation of a brotherhood of mankind in which all men, regardless of physiological, social, religious, or political distinctions, will have equal partnership and in which human conflicts will be settled by reason, morality, and law rather than by physical power, coercion, or violence. And idealists must seek, as an integral part of this brotherhood, a progressive command over nature, to the end that every individual may share the material benefits essential to a full and happy existence on earth" (pp. 6-7).

In short, dig down deep into your wallet, American taxpayer: you owe it to the world. And by the way, you also owe your country to the world:

The pursuit of a universal goal may demand the practice of that extreme form of idealism, national altruism, according to which men dedicate themselves to the welfare of other nations and peoples without regard for their own nation's welfare. But the ultimate form of idealism is national self-sacrifice, which demands the deliberate surrender of one's own nation's self-interest for the sake of other nations and peoples or for the sake of some moral principle or universal goal. Every ideal demands that nations place some restraints upon egoism and renounce the more extreme forms of self-interest, but the ideal of self-sacrifice must countenance even the surrender of national survival itself (p. 7).

Feed this one-world drivel to a generation of college students, and you have sown the seeds of surrender within the next generation's educated elite. You have also screened the next generation of college teachers.

The universal goal is "the brotherhood of man." (You remember the first great demonstration of the brotherhood of man, don't you? Cain killed Abel.) Nelson Rockefeller used the phrase "brotherhood of man, fatherhood of God" so often that reporters invented an acronym for it: bomfog.10 Thus, conventional liberal historians deny the operating principle of those who hold a conspiracy view of history, namely, that there is a continuing war between good and evil, between good men and bad men, and (if you happen to believe in a literal Bible) between good angels and fallen angels (demons). Having denied such a world view, "true" scholars can then all agree: the conspiracy view of history is infantile. They can all applaud David Rockefeller's letter to the editor to the New York Times (August 25, 1980), which begins: "I never cease to be amazed at those few among us who spot a conspiracy under every rock, a cabal in every corner." And we know who conspiracy theorists are! They are people who might dare to disagree with Rockefeller's conclusion in his letter:

My point is that far from being a coterie of international conspirators with designs on covertly conquering the world, the Trilateral Commission is, in reality, a group of concerned citizens interested in identifying and clarifying problems facing the world and in fostering greater understanding and cooperation among international allies.

This sounds like a public relations bulletin from the League of Women Voters. (Would you deposit your life savings in a bank whose president writes like this?) "Concerned citizens ... clarifying problems . .. greater understanding." You can almost hear the committee that must have edited this letter getting the giggles. You can almost see them nudging each other in the ribs and guffawing. "That ought to silence the rubes!" somebody blurts out. Yes, it ought to. The rubes who regularly read (and believe in) the New York Times.

The anti-conspiratorial perspective of most academic historians obviously works to the advantage of conspirators. Let's face it, if voters believe in manipulators, it is much more likely that they will become alert to the ways by which conspirators are manipulating the public. This "ill-informed rabble" might take steps to reduce their vulnerability to the manipulators. Clearly, outraged rabble-rousing voters can fight a self-interested group of monopoly-seekers a lot easier than they can fight "the forces of production" or "the Volk." (Have you ever heard that "the forces of production" have been convicted for having attempted to bribe a U.S. Senator?)

But once in a while, some bright inner circle member gets out of line. He just can't keep a secret any more. That is the trouble with scholars: their careers are made by discovering some new fact or other, and yet they are supposed to know when to keep certain facts secret. Sometimes they forget. It can be very embarrassing.

Footnotes:

1 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conseratism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963).

2 James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup, Economics: Private and Public Choice (4th ed.; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982), p. 281.

3 Richard Pipes, Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America's Future (New York: Simon & Schuster; 1984), p. 290, footnote 99.

4 Antony C. Sutton, America's Secret Establishment: An lntroduction to The Order of Skull & Bones (Billings, Montana: Liberty House, 1986).

5 Harry Elmer Barnes, Genesis of the World War (1926); C. Hartley Gratten, Why We Fought (1929); Walter Millis, The Road to War: America, 1914-1917 (1935); Charles C. Tansill, America Goes to War (1938). See Warren I. Cohen, The American Revisionists: The Lessons of Intervention in World War I (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967).

6 Don Fisher, Fudamental Development of the Social Sciences: Rockefeller Philanthropy and the United States Social Science Research Council (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993). See also Barry D. Karl, Charles E. Merriam and the Sturdy of Politics (Chicago: University), of Chicago Press, 1974).

7 C. S. Lewis, "The Inner Ring," The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1980), pp. 93-105.

8 Major General John Singlaub protested once too often against Jimmy Carter's announced intention to pull U.S. troops out of South Korea. Singlaub's career ended, but the troops stayed.

9 Susan Huck, "Lost Valor," American Opinion (October 1977); "Military," American Opinion (July/August 1980).

10 "In Rockefeller's Shadow," The Economist (April 6, 1996), p. 34.

 

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