Manufacturing Consent for a Looming Disaster

After my piece about Alex Jones and weather weapons ran at the Spectator, I was interviewed by Ian Masters at Pacifica Radio. What is it about Alex Jones, he asked, that fools so many young leftists into thinking that he speaks for them?

Part of it is that Jones is non-partisan; part of it is that he styles himself as a freedom fighter, a resistor of the Corporate-Fascist establishment. He sounds like an anti-globalist anarchist, and in some respects he is—but he is not even remotely a figure of the left.

Why do leftists believe that libertarians speak for them?

Going back to Josiah Warren and Lysander Spooner in the 19th century, there is a long-standing strain of American anarchism that turns on a notion of the inviolate sanctity of private property and the sovereignty of the individual. During the 1960s, it evolved into the form of libertarianism known as anarcho-capitalism that is associated with Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell, the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Listen to this conversation between Rockwell (pictured, who has worked closely with former presidential candidate Ron Paul for years) and Jones that was recorded last January; as professorial as Rockwell’s style of speech may be, his rhetoric about the U.S.’s “rapacious and predatory” government makes Jones’s sound comparatively restrained. “The U.S. system is fascist,” he says, “and they want to increase the fascism … big corporations and big government are aligned against tax victims.”

Elsewhere, Rockwell says that “anything other than free enterprise always means a society of compulsion and lower living standards … dictatorship and the total state.” To Rockwell and Jones, giant banks and corporations are not capitalist institutions but the parasitical enablers of the super-state; their leaders not only conspire with politicians, they control them like puppets.

That isn’t leftism.

With its demonic international financiers, it evokes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style conspiracy theories that undergirded much of the populism of the last two centuries—and has animated right-wing movements from the John Birch Society to this day.

In April, in an interview in Modern Success, Noam Chomsky identified himself as an anarcho-syndicalist, defining the term (in the past tense, tellingly) as “a particular variety of anarchism which was concerned primarily, though not solely … with control over work, over the work place, over production. It took for granted that working people ought to control their own work, its conditions, [that] they ought to control the enterprises in which they work.”

Libertarianism, he added dismissively, “permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power … The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society.”

Chomsky’s low-key take on anarchism—that it is less a system than a “a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy,” and as such a litmus test for the legitimacy of existing systems, makes me think that if anarchy is mostly aspirational, anarchists can do much to keep the left honest.

While anarcho-capitalists like Rockwell and his ally Jones categorically reject all but the most minimal state, an anarcho-syndicalist like Chomsky is not averse to working within existing systems, however flawed they may be.

Jones and Chomsky agree that elites unfairly influence the system, but they disagree about who those elites are.

Things like “insuring that people have decent health care,” Chomsky notes, are “not going to come about through private power. Quite the contrary. But they can come about through the use of the state system under limited democratic control … to carry forward reformist measures.”

The politics of reaction, Chomsky adds, “manufactures consent” for its anti-democratic principles with propaganda, just as consumer enterprises drum up demand for products.

Jones and Chomsky would both agree that privileged elites are unfairly and dishonestly influencing the system, but they have very different ideas about who those elites are. And make no mistake: there are real elites and real conspiracies, and they propagate real lies on a global scale.

Since 1997, the Koch brothers have invested some $61 million in climate-change denialism, pressuring politicians to oppose carbon regulations, sponsoring op-ed writers at The Wall Street Journal, and even influencing academics through strings-attached donations to universities.

Though Jones denies that he works directly for the Koch brothers—and there is no evidence that I am aware of that he does—it’s remarkable how in sync he is with their larger agenda.

By loudly claiming that the New World Order has access to weapons that allows it to control earthquakes, volcanoes, and tornadoes, while at the same time insisting that anthropogenic climate change is a fraud, perpetrated by globalist minions like the UN and Al Gore to extort the carbon taxes that they need to run their global government, he is surely sowing mass confusion.

And by diverting attention from imminent dangers like rising carbon-dioxide levels to imaginary ones like “false flags” in Newtown and Boston, by discrediting and undermining the very idea of government, he has helped manufacture consent for a looming disaster.

It almost sounds like a conspiracy theory.


Arthur Goldwag is the author of Isms & Ologies; Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, and most recently The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. Follow him at @ArthurGoldwag.

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