Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. . . . So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.

Philip K. Dick (1928–1982)

Nearly every reference to “conspiracy“ is stupid.

People use “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracist” often incorrectly, and with baggage from their benighted instruction in public schools and from the hectoring of major media news readers.

It is common to accuse someone of [unwarranted] belief in [non-existent] conspiracies at the first drop of the hat, upon almost zero evidence. Mere association of an idea with even the whiff of “conspiracy” taints it like the lingering body odor of Seinfeld’s toxic valet.

The funny thing is, this inculcated fear of “conspiracy theory” is very likely the result of a conspiracy. Tales of Operation Mockingbird tell how the very term ”conspiracy theory” itself was encouraged by the CIA to its cadres of news readers and reporters, to dismiss anyone who brings up critiques of the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination.

Are these tales true? That is, are the reports that the CIA directly told its moles within the news media to dismiss those who question the Lone Gunman Theory as “conspiracy theorists” true? We hear this a lot online, especially from . . . conspiracy theorists.

Wikipedia belittles the lore of Operation Mockingbird as “an alleged large-scale program” of the CIA, despite quite a lot of evidence for the operation’s existence (most of it not mentioned), and despite the many, many links between the legacy media’s news staff and the CIA (not to mention the dominant Ethnicity We Must Not Mention), but I have had enough run-ins with Wikipedia’s editorial staff to understand that Wikipedia was long ago taken over by the same kind of propagandists who overrun most successful start-ups of influence-peddling. The history of non-profit foundations is littered with ideological takeovers. This shouldn’t be surprising. It is more class-based than anything else, and much of what is condemned as “conspiracy theory” is actually some sort of class-based analysis.

But in American intellectual culture only leftists are allowed to engage in class analysis. All others are “conspiracy theorists” — and even the left is controlled, somewhat, by the obsessive implementation of the “conspiracy theorist” charge.

It is nevertheless the case that all conjectures about conspiracies should be judged on their factual merits, with recognition that conspiracies are evasive phenomena that do not present evidence in the innocent manner that we see the phenomena of the natural world. Clues of a conspiracy often appear first as evidence of a cover-up. Elementary praxeology should warn scientists of the danger of using the smell test in these areas, pro or con, for scientists generally do not have to fight against consciously withheld data.

”The greatest trick the devil ever pulled”: successful conspiracies would hide behind a taboo against looking into conspiracies for the same reason that true, exploitative egoists would hide behind the smoke of official altruism.

Don’t be a stooge. Reject the lore that says ”conspiracy theory” must be the province of the psychotically paranoid.

For if “they” are out to get you, it is not paranoia to notice. And there are a lot of theys out there in the business of defrauding us, stealing from us, subjugating with us.

More importantly, we must not be shamed by the shameless.

To be a conspiracy theorist should be no more controversial than an “invisible hand” theorist. A conspiracy theorist is someone who has theories about conspiracies, and considers conjectures about conspiracies as legitimate subject for inquiry and disputation. Someone who believes in a conspiracy is not necessarily a conspiracy theorist. Someone who merely suspects a conspiracy lurks behind some observed events would better be labelled a “conspiracy conjecturer”!

The first question to ask an actual conspiracy theorist is not “what conspiracies do you believe in?” but “how can we learn which proposed conspiracies might be real?”

twv

There are many documents, obtained through leaks and FOIA requests, of reports about UFOs to and from military brass and naval and air forces and nuclear installations. This particular document, offered as public evidence by Luis Elizondo, late of AATIP, to Fox’s Tucker Carlson, may be new, but there are many others, such as the Admiral Twining Memo.

Now, what we have to understand is that the military has never (to my knowledge) repudiated these documents. This means, if UFOs are hoaxes or mistakes and illusions, these many documents are fakes. Which means that the U.S. Government would rather have its citizens speculating about nonsense while thinking the Government is engaged in a huge cover-up conspiracy than disabusing the alleged sovereigns of these United States of the public fraud perpetrated at their expense.

What this says about the government is obvious: it is conspiracy and psy-op no matter what, and an unconscionable one either way.

Scoffers and “skeptics” who take comfort in the notion that UFOs amount to a scientific zero somehow also must either ignore or take comfort in the Government’s complicity in a pattern of deluding its citizens.

I find this so irresponsible and anti-republican that the confident superiority of these scoffers and “skeptics” strikes me as almost more chilling yet.

Or else they are just not very bright.

Yet these “very bright people” sure pride themselves on their savvy intelligence!

Pride goeth before a disclosure?

twv

(1790–1864)

Why are marginalist ideas and economists mainly antagonistic towards their classical predecessors?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

Is this true? Are they? Were they? Of the marginalists I have read, they acknowledge the great successes of their predecessors.

Indeed, after writing the Grundsätse — which provided a more coherent foundation for value and price — Carl Menger went on to tutor Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, and spent most of his economic teaching effort emphasizing, not disputing, classical doctrines.

W.F. Lloyd, a brilliant precursor, built off of Say’s Law of Markets, sparing us the invective.

W.S. Jevons, the most anti-Ricardian of the bunch — and it was against David Ricardo whom he directed most of his ire, if memory serves — was filled with admiration for predecessors in the French Liberal School, and his never-finished Principles of Economics contains this reverential preamble:

An excellent way to begin a treatise on economics is to notice and analyse the manner in which [Nassau] Senior treats the subject in his work on Political Economy. It would be difficult, indeed, to find anything more logical and accurate than the few first pages of this excellent introduction to the science. As we shall afterwards see, Senior may not have followed his own ideas to their ultimate result; but, so far as they go, they form the best exposition of the basis of economics.

Now, I read Senior before Jevons, and I heartily concur. What a mind Senior had! He is my favorite classical-era economist. But he was also part of the Oxford catallactic trend, which was mostly uncomfortable with Ricardian economics and labor theories of value and cost. It was filled with proto-marginalists, like Lloyd. And, as H. Dunning Macleod later indicated, it might best be regarded as part of what he called “the Third School of Political Economy,” which dominated French and even American discussion. That is, it was a separate thing.

The marginalists of the last third of the 19th century were plying a new, more precise and even revolutionary theoretical toolkit. But it fit within much of classical theory, and the marginalists on the whole were not too proud. If Jevons seems cantankerous on occasion, remember, it took a long time to get the new ideas accepted, and not a few of those that did accept the ideas, like Alfred Marshall, did so by trying to incorporate the new with the old as half-measures. Austrians and Walrasians, for example, came to hone their ideas over time, making them more sui generis, inevitably finding the Marshallian/Clarkian mainstream antagonistic to them. So some of the later antagonisms to the classicals we cannot help but note — especially among some of Ludwig von Mises’ students, like Murray N. Rothbard — are no doubt the result of long-festering disputes in which the dominant school was more dismissive than anything else . . . in the manner dominant schools tend to be. And those dominant schools (which went through a Walrasian phase, to make this more complicated) tend to carry on old mistakes while scoffing at the objections of the economists they, in effect, “marginalize.”

twv

The analytic mindset is geared towards monocausal explanations. Duo-causal and multi-causal explanations offend against the rule of thumb known as Occam’s razor. Even theories that technically incorporate many causes are usually framed as mono-causal. Example? The Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.

And it is fun to watch the schoolmen fight it out, so to speak, to see who can toe their chosen line with the most singular ferocity.

This is a huge problem for the UFO issue. Of the persistently unexplained aerial phenomena, I suspect that Deep State players are trying like heck to keep people thinking of One Explanation, and away from Many.

Some UFOs are no doubt poorly understood plasma phenomena; others are man-made craft of an “experimental” nature; still others are perhaps developed from wrecks from extraterrestrial civilizations’ excursions; others could be incursions from extraterrestrial elsewheres; there could be time-travelers and other interdimensionals (I place my bets heavily on this latter, alas); and crypto-terrestrial breakaway and remnant civilizations are I suppose possible.

The common lurch towards ET hypothesis is interesting. We should wonder to what extent our opinions on such matters have been sculpted not merely by science fiction, but by psy-ops behind sf, especially sf TV and movies.

Meanwhile, the debunkers’ “UFOs Are All Illusions” Theory seems untenable. I wish it were true, though. All of the possible explanations (listed causes), above, are uber-creepy.

As would be the religious folks’ go-to theory: “Angels and Demons.”

twv on Gab

The reason the analytic mindset exhibits a prejudice for mono-causal explanations should be obvious, but will nevertheless be explained at greater length in a future entry here, no doubt.

Why are QAnon followers suddenly saying that there’s no such thing as Qanon?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

Well, few of the promises/prophecies made by the QAnon group panned out. So of course many people who had once expressed hope in Q came to accept the irreality and spurned it.

Now, I follow some Trumpsters on Gab.com, and a few of them are doubling down, repackaging Q-like rumors into a sort of neo-QAnon Q2. Very much like the Millerites did in the 19th century, they are rebooting the cult.

But most folks lived and learned.

One of the things they have learned, though? Never cease mocking your enemy. And the “No Such Thing as Q” meme may very well be a play off of Democrats’ all-too-common Antifa Denial. It is not just the new president who has argued that since there is no centralized control of Antifa, it really isn’t a thing. That is obvious nonsense, of course, so we may assume that some Q-adjacent folks are pulling our leg in a parodistic manner.

Which probably would be the wisest course. QAnon was something. We have heard a few exposés, revelations of “Q’s” alleged real identity, and maybe some day we will know for certain. But mysterious or no, it was a psy-op. It had real effects. Followers of Q may some day learn what really went on, and precisely what agenda was being served.

Maybe they already know. I do not. While I was always interested in Q, and never contemptuously dismissive, my interest was limited and I never immersed myself in the culture. Most of it seemed unbelievably fabulistic, but I possessed few facts to falsify the tales.

I do know this, though: the left has no cause to gloat. QAnon was not the only bad faith player engaged in a psy-op this past half-decade. The left is, generally, as deluded as the right.

I think we should all let up on our enemies long enough to realize that we are all being played. (Some folks are even “playing” themselves!) Maybe we should take comfort in the likelihood that being made to look foolish is a common feature of politics, as is the self-delusion that only others are deluded.

twv

As a libertarian, are you more of a conservative libertarian, a centrist Libertarian, a bleeding heart Libertarian, or somewhere in between two of the three given choices?

…as answered on Quora….

I am closest to a centrist, but with a caveat: I regard liberty itself as a moderating principle, as “centrist,” and always have. Liberty is the middle ground between you killing me and me killing you; you enslaving me and me enslaving you; you stealing from me and me stealing from you.

Liberty is an ideal compromise.

But since we live in an unfree, illiberal world, compromises with the existing order are inevitable but not easy. Still, most of us pay our taxes, and I am not advocating a tax rebellion. We muddle through all this, and I am open to alternative notions of reform, acceptance, resistance, and rebellion. Libertarians should be able to argue about this sort of thing. Rationally.

I am not much tempted by either the left or the right, though I respect the good intentions of both movements while rejecting the vices of both. That being said, the silly, witless “bleeding heart” metaphor is not for me, and though I am not a conservative, I have gotten rather tired of typical lefty attitudes on a whole bunch of issues, so I often sound more conservative now than I used to: I don’t think “slut-shaming” is a moral horror, I am not into “trans acceptance,” and I think immigration is a bigger challenge to beltway bleeding-heart-ism than most of my friends do. Further, I do not think that racism and sexism are any more inimical to liberty than older-style vices like greed and pride. Bleeding Heart Libertarians — who think that liberty should promote “social justice” and oppose icky “reactionaries” — don’t like this take.

I just think people should treat each other with respectful reciprocity, granting each other their baseline freedoms while holding each other responsible for their actions. But if most of us ignore most others, and fall short of the rigors of Universal Love and Full Dignity, I think that is OK. Similarly, as useful as religions are for in-group cohesion, all of them are wrong and I can accept none of them, which makes me a non-conservative, I think. My commitment is to philosophy, not tradition or religion, no matter how useful they may be for the masses.

“As a libertarian,” I think we should emphasize liberty, not these other standards, like Tradition or Social Justice. Liberty should adjudicate between the competing claims of these other paradigms.

twv

…as posted on Gab.com….

Once again, many of my opinions barely climb to the level of “belief”: they are suspicions.

For example: I suspect that had Americans been polled prior to 2020 about a new strain of virus that would pass over kids and productive adults pretty much with mere flu-level symptoms at worst, but would indeed kill some immune-compromised older people at about the levels it is now being said to have done, and then asked them whether they would advise nearly the whole world population to take a new, understudied, unapproved-by-the-FDA genetic treatment that works in some significant ways quite different from vaccines in the past, almost no one would be in favor of the “vaccine.”

I cannot prove that. It is my hunch. Outside the context of the events as they unfolded, I suspect nearly everyone on the left would have objected to the proposed vaxx — and rightly so.

But wait. Do I believe that?

Maybe. Depending on the definition of “belief.” But I don’t know it.

And my suspicion affects other beliefs and arguments I make. I think veil-of-ignorance rationality works against the current craze of worldwide vaccination with mRNA spiked protein treatments. I hazard that people are so overwhelmed by events and panicky contexts that their rationality has been undermined, and they support policies (masking; lockdowns; vaccination) they would not have, otherwise.

I could be wrong. It is, alas, hard to prove — nay, impossible to prove — that I am wrong.

And vice versa. The mass of credulous and panicked vaxxed maskers could be wrong, too. But can I prove it? No. But how would their beliefs fare were they to take my challenge?

Probably not well, once they realize how easy it is to be duped.

But most people believe only other people can be duped. And I do very much believe that this specific belief is without any foundation in psychology or common sense.

We are, none of us, dupe-proof.

twv

Do you think Jesus was libertarian?

…as answered on Quora….

The man whom Christians call Jesus Christ, whom Muslims call Isa, and for whom skeptical historians have been scouring ancient histories and the dust of the archeological record to get an objective fix upon, is a puzzling figure. Many contradictory things are imputed to him. Is he the Prince of Peace — or did he come not to bring peace but a sword? Arguments abound.

I was raised a Christian, but soon after I ceased believing in Christian dogma I found myself distancing myself from America’s statist dogmas, too — indeed, within three years of my apostasy I became a libertarian. Which is a kind of political apostasy, really. And, since that time, over forty years ago, I have witnessed religion and politics echoing each others’ concerns, myths, methods and madness.

But was Jesus a libertarian? No. Another Quoran answered this simply: he was a monarchist. Libertarian ideas may have been percolating in the background of political life and philosophy, but they had not boiled over yet, certainly not into the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul or elsewhere during the first century of the current era.

We could end the discussion there, but…

I have recently come to be more than half-convinced by Ralph Ellis, author of many books, including King Jesus and Jesus, King of Edessa — convinced of something relevant to the question: the Historical Jesus whose discovery has eluded our academic scholars is not really so elusive after all. He can be found in the pages of Josephus’s histories, identified by various names, “Jesus of Gamala” being the most prominent.

The parallels between the dramatis personae of the Jewish revolt that Josephus wrote about in The Jewish Wars and the cast of characters of the New Testament are astounding, and after carefully sorting through the peculiar pesher techniques of the rabbis who wrote the Talmud, and some obscure references in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient documents, Mr. Ellis has uncovered what he believes is the historical man behind the myths: King Manu VI of Edessa, known as “Izates” and “Izas” (hence our “Jesus”): this was a real, world-historic figure, descended from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Parthian royalty, leader of the “fourth sect of Judaism” (the Nazarenes/Nazarites), and instigator of a tax revolt with the uber-ambitious, ultimate aim of becoming emperor of Rome.

Josephus, argues Ellis, secretly wrote the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts to obscure the real history and thereby cook up a version of Judaism (Christianity, what Ellis calls “Simple Judaism”) that would allow the counter-revolutionaries Vespasian and Titus to rule somewhat peaceably.

Slyly jiggering with Jesus of Gamala’s revolutionary statements (particularly about taxes), Josephus — whom Ellis describes as the Flavians’ paid propagandist — made Jesus seem peaceful and almost Rome-friendly. Jesus of Gamala was not, of course. He was ultra-political, a king who was trying to become what Vespasian became, perhaps more. But the Jesus of the Gospels was depicted as less threatening to imperial power: “render unto Caesar” and all.

The key to Josephus’s psy-op was placing his characters back in time two score years, with the grand denouement in the short epoch of Pontius Pilate’s procutorship.

But what about liberty? What Josephus writes of the Nazarenes/Nazarites in the eighteenth book of The Antiquities of the Jews is interesting:

These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain. And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans.

While Josephus’s “Jesus of Gamala” was hardly a libertarian, we individualists might wish to learn something from the cult, what with its resistance to established authority and its “inviolable attachment to liberty.”

twv

…as reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing….

I may, some day, write a full review of this book, and of Ralph Ellis’s major contentions. This is not that review, not that day.

A hint to the reader, though: Ellis’s books are inquiries.

Sure, Ellis offers radical revisions of historical understanding, but he does not write histories using the standard narrative technique, or historical treatises plying what has been called the “rhetoric of conclusions.” Ellis’s approach often runs in an unfamiliar manner to many readers’ expectations, demonstrating a “rhetoric of inquiry.” We follow the author, in his many pages, from one problem to the next, with many offered solutions. He offers numerous conjectures, and ably backs them up. But his techniques are often unorthodox, usually resting on unraveling many layers of wordplay.

Now, this is dangerous stuff, in that one might easily abuse language in the course of unraveling past abuses — too easily mistake a homonym or mere phonetic echo for a pun for a past fact — but Ellis’s method may be characterized, at least in part, as an archeology of nomenclature. And his archeological sense is not dominated by fantasies of creation, at least not in the books of his I’ve read.

But there is no avoiding an archeology of names. In written records, especially of a religious nature, that is mostly what we have to work with.

Ellis is trying to make sense of the history of Judaism and Christianity and related religions. All religions engage in word magic, marshaling artful puns and the like. This is especially involved in Jewish writings, where we see some astounding evasions using such methods, such as the pesher technique in the Talmud. Many of the words used in scriptures and in ancient times have multiple — even obscure and even opaque — meanings, sporting etymologies that are open to contest. A word that once meant one thing comes to mean something else, and when these usages change mark important points in history. Accepting some ready-at-hand or traditional meaning may be accepting a long-embedded error, or even a lie.

The Hebrew Bible depicts the Jews’ history as developing in the context of two great civilizations, Egyptian and Mesopotamian. But one of the peculiarities of Judeo-Christian history is that most of its major figures, though dominant in their scriptures, are not recorded outside those scriptural documents. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus — these people do not appear in Egyptian and Mesopotamian records, or in surviving monuments or actual archeological sites. Not a few scholars regard all pre-Babylonian stories as all or mostly myth, and authors like Richard Carrier speculate that there never was a historical Jesus — he was made up; a religious fiction. Ellis, in his books, looks at these issues anew, consulting Manetho and Josephus and the Talmud and to-us-obscure Syrian historians, expecting to find historical figures, if dislocated in place and time. And boy, does he find them!

In previous books he identified the Hebrew patriarchs with the Hyksos “Shepherd Kings” — as frankly stated by Manetho and Josephus; he found David and Solomon among the later, post-Ramesside pharaohs of the Nile Delta; and he discovered an ancestry for Jesus in, of all people, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Parthian royalty!

More astonishingly, Ellis daringly became the first to lay claim to unearthing an ancient conspiracy of the Flavian emperors, in which historian Josephus serves as a master propagandist, appearing as both the Apostle Paul, the founder of what Ellis calls “Simple Judaism” (or Christianity) and as Rabbi ben Zakkai, the inventor of post-conquest rabbinical Judaism. This grew from Ellis’s attempts to make sense of what Josephus was up to — a very complicated man, and even on the face of it not dissimilar to Saint “All Things to All People” Paul. Noting the Josephan histories’ many evasions, animadversions, odd nomenclatures, inconsistencies, and weird parallels with the gospels and the Book of Acts, Ellis identified the historical Jesus, too . . . as “Jesus of Gamala.”

In this book, Jesus, King of Edessa, he goes further, investigating the kingdom of Edessa and its monarchs, drilling down behind Josephus’s slippery characters Jesus of Gamala and “bar Kamza” et al., finding a man with a place in history and even surviving pictorial images: King Manu VI, a cousin or some other relative of Josephus, all bound up with the Jewish revolt put down by Vespasian and Titus, whom Josephus wound up serving.

Whereas the big evasion and lie at the heart of the “Old Testament” is the hiding of the truth about the Egyptian origin of Judaism, the whopper in the “New Testament” account is the moving the story of Jesus back in time from the Jewish Wars to the comparatively peaceful period of Pontius Pilate. The dislocation is chiefly in time, though the dislocation in geography is the existence of a Syrian kingdom “beyond the Euphrates” in Harran and Palmyra, and its dominance by an Egypto-Jewish dynasty that started out as a tax-free buffer state between Rome and Parthia and, under the direction of Jesus (Izas/Izates/King Manu) instigated a revolt against Rome. And was put down.

The story is complex. As is the book itself. The unraveling of the layers of myth-making, evasions and even outright lies was an astounding labor. Ellis is quite convincing, though I can imagine many reasons why a person might start out incredulous and remain, even after reading, more than a tad dubious. As for my part? I am more than half-convinced. But the work of untangling the thorns from these old stories is far from over.

For the record, I suspect Ellis misses a major wrinkle in the story he tells by not confronting Josephus’s discussion of Pontius Pilate’s career-ending routing of a religious pilgrimage in Samaria, a region close to Jerusalem he never mentions. I hazard it could be key to unraveling the full story of the stones from the Ark of the Covenant that became so important to Edessan religious tradition. And which Heliogabalus later brought to Rome when he became emperor, a short “meteoric” rise that seems to have weirdly accomplished what Jesus “of Gamala” aimed at.

Ellis sure has written some long books. He pores over seeming minutia. Not every single one of his conclusions can possibly have the same value. And, perhaps, it would have been helpful had he taken the rhetoric of inquiry a tad more seriously and in a more overtly Popperian manner, offering his arguments even more rigorously as conjectural rather than, as he occasionally writes, “proofs.”

There are a few stylistic oddities in the book. Example? Ellis spells verb and noun forms of “prophesy” the same, while I try always to remember to make my noun form with a “c,” “prophecy.” I cannot tell you how much this bugged me! (Is this an English thing? I will look it up later.)

Ralph Ellis ends Jesus, King of Edessa with a discussion of the fate of Edessa at the hands of Islamic civilization. This will be off-putting to those who believe Islam “is a religion of peace.” Since I regard this statement, repeatedly made by American drone bombing gamesmen Bush and Obama, as a ‘noble lie’ at best, I was not at all disturbed by Ellis’s concluding thoughts on the possible destruction of western civilization by Islamic memes and corrupt, craven politicians of a decadent post-liberal culture. I say, instead, Bravo!

I live-blogged my reading of this book on Gab.com (@wirkman), where Ralph Ellis also micro-blogs. I have interviewed Mr. Ellis twice for my podcast, locofoco.net: they were long and profitable conversations, I think.

twv