When Behindology Gets Out of Hand
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” was almost certainly never said by Sigmund Freud – but what is to be done when conspiracies are more appealing than facts?
One of the undeniable appeals of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s quixotic campaign to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2024, despite its limited chance of success, is his bracing honesty. You allegedly don’t get far in politics by telling people difficult truths, but here’s the scion of America’s preeminent political dynasty, the product of wealth, celebrity, and privilege (plus ample tragedy), informing voters that they are, in fact, screwed. They think the game is rigged against them because it is.
It’s one thing to hear this from some angry guy podcasting from his mom’s basement. It’s quite another when it emerges from the mouth of RFK Jr., who knows all about how different life is for the rich and connected. It helps that he looks astonishingly like his martyred father while he also possesses a kind of youthful vigor, a very Kennedyesque trait. To show how strange things have gotten in America, RFK Jr. is in fact 69 years old – he’s older than Ronald Reagan was at his election in 1980, when that candidate’s old age was a political concern – but he appears like a teenager next to the current geriatric White House resident.
RFK Jr.’s liability is that he habitually takes things too far. Many of his pungent critiques of Big Pharma are eminently sensible and need uttering. After the opioid epidemic which wrecked Middle America, the full story of which remains troublingly sordid, we all should be skeptical regarding the beneficence of that industry. Yet, RFK Jr. doesn’t stop there. He throws in accusations about vaccines that are rejected by all mainstream medicos and scientists. The less we say about his apparent belief that HIV does not cause AIDS, perhaps the better.
The same holds true for RFK Jr’s. strident criticism of the Intelligence Community. As with the pharmaceutical industry, he makes some valid points against an easy target, yet soon gets mired in ideologically driven cherry-picking, which frequently devolves into conspiracy mongering without much basis in fact. As with Big Pharma, RFK Jr. seems to have decided that the IC is simply bad, and he works back from that, conforming random pieces of data, of varying degrees of veracity, to fit that model.
When even IC veterans like this author are sharply critical of how our spy agencies are performing these days – if RFK Jr. really wants to help he should focus on how the IC mishandled the COVID-19 origins debate – it’s obvious that serious intelligence reform is needed. The IC dodged deep reforms after 9/11, with baleful consequences that must be remedied now. However, RFK Jr.’s paranoid flights of fancy about his uncle’s assassination are anything but helpful. Don’t get me wrong. It’s disgraceful that the IC is still withholding any secrets from the public about the Dallas assassination, 60 years later. I’ve castigated my former employers for many years over this scandal, and this newsletter has kept up that fire, demanding the full truth.
That said, RFK Jr.’s oft-stated belief that his uncle was murdered by the CIA, which he has repeated recently, is simply not true. While the IC is still withholding secrets regarding what happened on November 22, 1963, that’s not the big reveal, as I’ve explained previously at Top Secret Umbra. In fact, RFK Jr. is simply repeating vintage lies, indeed disinformation, that were authored by the KGB not long after JFK’s assassination. Thanks to some access to KGB archives after the Soviet collapse, we know a good amount about how the Kremlin laundered these lies through American activists pretending to be journalists. Over time, these deceptions, some of which looked ridiculous when subjected to the slightest scrutiny, became cosmically true, with the help of spurious books and fictional yet high-profile movies produced by friends of Moscow.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that many Americans agree with RFK Jr. that the CIA was behind the Dallas assassination, even though it’s just not so. After all, they’ve heard that tale, told in many variants, for nearly six decades, and there’s no changing that now. No matter what the IC declassifies and releases to the public from its assassination archives – as they should have long ago – some people will spin that information how they prefer, no matter what those spy files actually say. One of those people is running for president now.
This isn’t a critique of RFK Jr. His family history is tragic. I don’t think many of us would emerge entirely level-headed after watching our uncle, then father get assassinated within five years during our youth. Moreover, things can get worse than they are in the United States when it comes to disinformation driving debates. My concern is that RFK Jr.’s making conspiratorial lies acceptable, normalizing them in campaign discourse, will generate more of these toxic conspiracy theories, when what we need is fact-based and dispassionate investigation.
Which brings us to Italy.
I’m a card-carrying Italophile. I speak the language, love the culture and cuisine, and I’ve been blessed to spend a good deal of time in Italy as well as Ticino, the Italian region of Switzerland (which is close to heavenly since you’ve got everything wonderful about Italy, but things actually work). However, there’s no getting around the fact that Italy’s political culture suffers from an acute form of conspiracy-mongering which warps policy and progress.
That’s back in the news this week with the pronouncement by Giuliano Amato, who briefly served twice as Italy’s prime minister, that over four decades ago, the French military shot down an Italian airliner, killing 81 innocent people. Amato, who has beaten this drum in the past, demanded answers from Paris, including from President Emmanuel Macron, who was a toddler at the time of this disaster. Amato’s accusation was gently brushed off by the current premier, Giorgia Meloni, as Amato’s personal take only, which he should explain if he can.
That seems unlikely, since Amato is 85 years old. All the same, it’s not every day that the former leader of a major Western country accuses its European Union neighbor and close NATO ally of mass murder, then covering it up. The problem is that many Italians believe that Amato is telling the truth here – a horrible and shocking truth which multiple Italian governments, with NATO connivance, have covered up rather than admit.