The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A Liberal Looks at Zeitgeist

Posted on | January 20, 2011 | 31 Comments

She hates conservatives and doesn’t seem to care too much for me, but Sarah Posner at Religious Dispatches is at least willing to take a serious look at the Zeitgeist phenomenon:

Because the film draws on a jumble of disparate conspiracy theories — from religion to 9/11 to the Federal Reserve — to paint a vision of secretive, dark powers controlling our economy, politics, and social systems, it’s hard to characterize it as left or right, as Mike [Altman] discussed in his post about the religion section of the film. The film, a repository of conspiracy theories, seemingly incongruously is connected to a movement that has claimed its chief mission is sustainability.
While the Zeitgeist Movement sells itself as being about peace and sustainability, though, the film about the Federal Reserve draws mostly on conspiracy theories favored on the far right about “international bankers” controlling the economy, theories with anti-Semitic roots (replace “international” with “Jewish” — although the film doesn’t describe any of its villains as being Jewish). At one point the film flashes a scare quote attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws”– oft recycled on right-wing conspiracy websites, even though there’s no proof that Rothschild ever said it. . . . Conservative writer Byron York might believe they “resemble far-right paranoia from many years ago,” but if he pays a visit to the John Birch Society table at CPAC next month, he may be able to discuss similar conspiracy theories there.

OK, I’m going to interrupt here to point out that, whatever you say about them, the John Birch Society has never been anti-Semitic (or racist, for that matter). That the Birchers view the world through a conspiratorial prism, no one can deny, but it’s unfair to brand them Jew-haters when they’re not. And when you associate “right-wing” with anti-Semitism, you’re talking about a “right-wing” that hasn’t had any significant, practical influence among American conservatives since the days of Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters. (That rara avis — a “peace” movement liberals hate.)

While I’m on this topic, how is it that, on the one hand, the Left gets away with Hamas-hugging and portaying the GOP as controlled by “neocons” — nudge, nudge — while on the other hand the Left routinely accuses conservatives of being anti-Semitic? It’s another one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t traps where liberals arrange the terms of discourse in such a way as to put conservatives in a no-win situation.

OK, so we return to Posner’s Zeitgeist article:

Even though it draws on the right’s conspiracy theories, the film is disdained by the segments of the right, even before it was linked to Loughner. As Julie [Ingersoll] has documented, Christian Reconstructionists share a disdain for the Fed and believe it to be “unbibilical.” But the Christian Reconstructionist group American Vision years ago ripped into Zeitgeist’s segment on religion, calling it “cavalier nonsense.” . . .
But unpacking Zeitgeist may be more interesting than for understanding Loughner. The movement has a following, and unknown numbers — perhaps millions — of people have watched the films. . . . How those conspiracy theories made their way into a film which claims to be about peace and sustainability, and were blandly accepted by people buying the sustainability narrative, might be more interesting than how the film influenced Jared Loughner.

Exactly. Forget about trying to play a partisan game of pin-the-tail-on-the-scapegoat. The apparent connection between the Zeitgeist phenomenon and the Tucson massacre is such a potentially fascinating story that it frustrates me to no end that major news organizations are ignoring it.

Y’all hit the tip jar. I’m going to keep digging on this story.


Comments are closed.