Conspiracy

Talkin' Barack Obama Paranoid Blues

|

Historian Ron Radosh offers sage advice to the online anti-Obama brigades: stop your "silly and counterproductive attacks" on the administration and focus on substance. And while you're at it, how about reading a history book or two? (Stan Evans, alas, doesn't count) Now, to employ the president's favorite phrase, let us be clear: Radosh isn't a fan of the Obama administration. Rather, he worries about an increasing trend towards conspiracy and anti-intellectualism on the right (one that I have highlighted too) and bizarre diversions into the president's supposed far-left sympathies.

A recent example, offered by Radosh: A conservative radio host named Rob Port claimed that while touring the White House he found an intriguing cache of commie books—snuck into the building, he said, by Michelle Obama—including such subversive texts as The Social Basis of American Communism by Nathan Glazer and The American Socialist Movement:1897-1912 by Ira Kipnis. The Washington Post contacted the White House (because that's what real journalists do), interrupting one of the First Lady's criticism/self-criticism sessions with the ghost of Diana Oughton, and found out that the truth was rather banal:

The only problem is the books Port photographed have been sitting in the library since 1963.

The library came into being during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked Yale University librarian James T. Babb to oversee a committee that would select books for the library. In 1963, 1,780 were placed on the shelves.

"The White House library is a reference and recreational library for the use of the President, his family, and official staff," wrote Babb in the forward to "The White House Library: A Short Title List," a document from the White House Historical Association.

"It is intended to contain books which best represent the history and culture of the United States, works most essential for an understanding of our national experience. The collection has to be strictly limited because the attractive library on the ground floor of the White House has shelf space for only twenty-five hundred volumes. Authors, with few exceptions, are citizens of the United States; fiction and poetry by deceased writers only have been included."

Radosh, a former New Left activist famously excommunicated for his brilliant and honest study of the Rosenberg case, sighs:

These two volumes are considered early classics in the attempt of scholars to explain the growth in America at certain times of both vibrant socialist and communist movements and to understand why they ultimately failed.

Moreover, anyone should have known that Nathan Glazer is in fact one of our country's most eminent political sociologists, a founding editor with Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell decades ago of The Public Interest, and a man of liberal sensibility who used to write frequently for the anti-Communist magazine The New Leader as well as Commentary. At the time, he was among the first generation dubbed neo-conservatives, which he defined as referring "to the growing caution and skepticism among a group of liberals about the effects of social programs" initiated during the Great Society years. About his anti-Communism, there was no doubt.

As for Kipnis, he was a traditional scholar of American socialism who wrote what became one of the very first studies — soon to be outdated — of the impact of American socialism….For those reasons, the books chosen were indeed more than appropriate for a national library in the home of our chief executive. But what is the real issue is their very presence evidently sets off alarm bells among many contemporary conservatives, whose outlook — to put it mildly — is anti-intellectual.

If you haven't already, make sure to read Radosh's terrific memoir Commies, which recounts his long and complicated ideological journey, his banjo lessons with Pete Seeger, and his refusal (citing space issues, naturally) to let Bob Dylan sleep on the floor of his Madison, Wisconsin apartment.

NEXT: One Tough Nerd

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Next Radosh is going to try to tell me Obama isn’t a secret Muslim.

    Which is all fine and dandy, expect we seem to be glossing over the historian’s suggestion that Jackie Kennedy had authors killed so that her bookcase would look nice.

    1. Ridiculous! However, Joe DiMaggio was instrumental in the assassination of JFK, which was funded by South American coffee interests. Hence Joltin’ Joe’s long-term association with Mr. Coffee. Follow the caf

      1. That’s what the Trilateral Commission’s secret police want you to think.

      2. True. Everyone knows it was really a Seattle cartel……

        1. The Pentavirate created Seattle as a red herring. Fact: Seattle didn’t actually exist before 1980.

      3. You’re not the first one to get that idea. In the comic “100 Bullets,” Joe Dimaggio does try to kill Kennedy, for the murder of Marilyn Munroe

  2. Because we all know, you can’t bring down a President, no matter how much you disapprove of him, with relentless attacks on his character.

    Isn’t that right, W?

  3. what the fuck is wrong with anti-intellectualism? Intellectuals imagine they know every fucking thing and therefore are the merotorious elite who deserve to run the world. I’m going to repost the Hayek quote:

    “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

    Right? That’s why we don’t like intellectuals. I say, this, as a person holding a (useless) hard-science PhD.

    1. “what the fuck is wrong with anti-intellectualism?”

      in this particular guise it seems to extend to being afraid of books.

    2. Anti-intellectualism isn’t just hating “know-it-alls”. The fact that you quoted a prominent academic and intellectual is evidence enough.

      Intellectualism is the pursuit of understanding and knowledge, which regardless of position, is important for adequately expressing and defending one’s position.

      I would hate to see the state of the website, were it not for the work of libertarian intellectuals past.

  4. Historian Ron Radosh offers sage advice to the online anti-Obama brigades: stop your “silly and counterproductive attacks” on the administration and focus on substance.

    I can agree with this statement. There’s nothing worse for your position than to be yelling about Fed policy and Afghanistan strategy, while some guy next to you is demanding to see a copy of his birth certificate.

  5. Who cares? Using logical, sound criticism of Obama is shrugged off by his supporters just as quickly as idiotic Birther questions, so it really doesn’t make a difference.

    Really, the best criticism of Obama is rubbing supporters’ faces in his shit and trying to make it so painful for them that they start to hate him for being such a failure for them on every level.

    Or am I just a sadist?

    1. And let’s not forgot that his followers have silly, emotional arguments to push as well. He ran on a platform of “hope and change” without actually having any radical, transformative vision to offer the country. Obama and his appointees smirk at ideology, because they have difficulty grappling with abstract logic and are suspicious of people who don’t.

      1. This may be the least substantial administration in history. Certainly in the modern era.

    2. Sadist? No, I believe that’s a measured, appropriate response, given the circumstances.

    3. This kind of hate filled talk is what led to the Oklahoma City Bombing. We really need to stop all this and give a little respect to our leaders on all sides, the left and the right.

    4. Episiarch,
      Take advantage of the gift of Democracy. Start a petition amongst your neighbors and mail it to your Senator. He will take notice and we wil lsee real results. I Promise! Jus tbe more polite in your online discussion.

    5. Yes, rubbing their faces in his utter failure is the only effective way to criticize him – and yes, Epi, you’re also a sadist.

      I never say “I told you so.” When Obama voters bemoan his performance so far, I just make my eyes real wide and say “Oh? You mean this wasn’t what you voted for?” And when they say “Can you BELIEVE he __________?” or “Can you BELIEVE he hasn’t _________?” I furrow my brows thoughtfully, put a finger to my cheek, and reply, “Of course I can. Can’t you?”

    6. Nothing wrong with it if you are. The point of the article is to avoid the dichotomy of: “well, if my opponent is educated, then I have to be ignorant”.

  6. It really is tiresome seeing even our own attempt to identify their cohorts as dominated by a fringe minority.

    I despise conspiracy theories, birther-ism, and so forth as much as the next guy. But it’s no more prevalent among ‘right-wingers’ than it is among ‘left-wingers’. And moaning about it all the time just helps fuel the left-wing lie about that. Note that this is why the left never talk about 9/11 conspiracy theory openly. That’s their embarrassing little secret.

  7. Rather amusingly, I am sitting in Madison WI as I write this, Radosh’s old stomping grounds.

    Anyway, I wanted to recommend another Radosh book, “Red Star Over Hollywood,” a superb overview of the “withchunts” of the forties and fifties. It is about the only book I can think of for which my main criticism is that I wish it had been longer!

  8. I agree that the anti-intellectualism is the worst aspect of these nutcases. Everytime one of these populist loons tries to get me to read one of their anti-semitic tracts like Rothbard’s A Betrayal of the American Right I put my fingers in my ears and scream. These people actually think Buckley was in the CIA! They have their STOOPID bibliographies and ridiculous little number things thrown in their books but only a sucker anti-intellectualist would read any of that crap( or a serious joo hater!)

    I really think it is about time we start burning some of these books .
    If you read it, which I DO NOT RECCOMEND it is obvious that joo hating is what lies behind much of the tea bagger movement. How far can we let this thing move on before we stop appeasing these neo-nazis? If you were in Hitler’s Germany Moynihan when would you have helped me to start rounding up the anti-jew stuff and help me burn it? Because that is exactly what we see in these two books and I don’t see anyone pointing it out except the rare hero such as yourself or Cass Sunstein and possibly a Paul Krugman. The aim of the program would be to “(break) up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories,” wrote Sunstein in his 2008 article, with particular reference to 9/11 truth organizations.
    Sunstein pointed out that simply having people in government refute conspiracy theories wouldn’t work because they are inherently untrustworthy, making it necessary to “Enlist nongovernmental officials in the effort to rebut the theories. It might ensure that credible independent experts offer the rebuttal, rather than government officials themselves. There is a tradeoff between credibility and control, however. The price of credibility is that government cannot be seen to control the independent experts,” he wrote.

    Moynihan, maybe we could get you and Cass Sunstein to work together to help combat conspiracy theories? I really think you would be a big help there and god knows this is a serious problem.

    Sure we know that this stuff would probably just die down after a while on it’s own because all of it is lies.

    But what if it doesn’t? The animal spirits could take hold. This could be a huge threat to the established order! It is possible that there will be a mass hysteria where all the people believe a lot of lies and conspiracies and decide to kill a lot of our best leaders…this is the accurate intellectual way to look at things right? Please Moynhihan continue to defend the most important historic facts that have been established in our agreed collecive histories. This is more important than the phony phantom worries over “leviathan” and “big government”…this is a critical time in our history and more than anything, we need more men like Moynihan to combat the menace of conspiracies overtaking this land. If only Jay Rockefeller and Google and perhaps some some consultants from China could join in and help us regain control of this crazy internet that is causing so many of these problems. I’m in despair. Good luck to the rest of my fellow intellectual defenders of truth.

      1. Me either. Looks like a self-negating infinite sarcasm loop or something.

    1. If you read it, which I DO NOT RECCOMEND it is obvious that joo hating is what lies behind much of the tea bagger movement.

      Okay, you’ve obviously confused the Tea Party movement with the old style loony populist. I’ve seen and read a lot of Tea Party stuff and I haven’t seen anything anti-semetic at all. For one thing, most people in the Tea Party are firm supporters of Israel, something the old style anti-semitic populist are certainly not.

      The Tea Party is a firmly middle-class phenomena dominated by small business people, most of whom seemed to have little to no history of political activism. They are largely focused on fiscal responsibility and small government.

      I am fascinated by the phenomena in which the left manages to intellectually categorize various strains of populism as being solely ideologically on the right and as being the pure distillation of rightwing ideas. If you take what they say literally you end up with a bizarre and contradictory multi-headed beast.

      According to the left, rightwing “extremist” are: Deeply anti-semitic supporters of Israel’s imperialistic ambitions who liberated Iraq just for Israel’s benefit. Deeply anti-semitic people whose foreign policy school is dominated by a Jewish cabal of evil neo-cons. They’re supposed to be pawns of big business while pumping out tracks excoriating big business and calling for government regulation and breakup of big corporations. Wild eyed free-market economic anarchist who believe in autarchy, unions and no immigration etc.

      In reality, the economic and foreign policy prescriptions of the populist, including the really extreme ones like the neo-nazi’s, are firmly on the left/collectivist side. They are anti-business, anti-freemarket, anti-free trade, anti-Israel, “anti-war” etc. They whine incessantly that the government doesn’t help “the little guy.” They believe that “unjust” economics are the result of conspiracies by rich capitalist.

      These are all leftwing ideas.

      Popularism is nothing put socialism for the uneducated. It merely lacks the universalist conceits of socialism for pseudo-intellectuals. They may bad mouth the terms of socialism but if you look at their actual policies, they are often 90% in agreement with the more extreme leftists.

      Historically, populist loons have tried to graft themselves onto whatever political movement is popular at the time. I imagine you will find some attacked to the Tea Party like sucker fish but a few years ago, you found them parasitizing “anti-war” rallies.

      1. ‘”In reality, the economic and foreign policy prescriptions of the populist, including the really extreme ones like the neo-nazi’s, are firmly on the left/collectivist side. They are anti-business, anti-freemarket, anti-free trade, anti-Israel, “anti-war” etc. They whine incessantly that the government doesn’t help “the little guy.” They believe that “unjust” economics are the result of conspiracies by rich capitalist.

        These are all leftwing ideas.’

        I agree 100% especially the part where you put “anti-war” in quotes. We all know that if Ron Paul and his neo-nazis get in office that we will see more wars than ever before. I think it is actually in this one case a real conspiracy between Ron Paul and Aryan nation to take control of foreign policy in order to actually have nuclear attacks on Israel. If I am wrong about that(which I may be), then bringing all the troops howe will certainly result in millions of angry Al Qaeda types attack us from every angle as they will assume we are morally weak. This is especially likely to happen if Ron Paul messes up TSA and all of the machines that have installed to keep us safe. Some of these nutsos luddites actually think that we would be better off WITHOUT all of this advanced technology put to use to protect us from terrorist!

  9. what the fuck is wrong with anti-intellectualism?

    If we don’t defer to the experts’ framing of public policy issues it is a short slippery slope to forcibly removing all intellectuals from the cities to hand harvest crops at bayonet point, hitting them with rifle butts when they can’t recite the wisdom of Limbaugh,Coulter, Palin and Beck forwards AND backwards.

    1. I’ll tell you what is wrong with anti-intellectualism. These people are populist! and populist don’t even like the Federal Reserve! and they are almost as bad as the communist sympathyzers! Isn’t that enough for you jackass? what is with all these stoopid questions? Me and Moynihan are trying to intellectualize you SUMBITCHES!

    2. Hah “wisdom”

  10. I certainly don’t buy any of the prevailing conspiracy theories, but let’s think about this for a moment. Is believing that Obama is a space alien from Kenya worse than believing he’s the Messiah come down to walk among us? Hell, there’s better proof of the former than of the latter.

    1. “I certainly don’t buy any of the prevailing conspiracy theories,”

      PHEWW. I thought I was surrounded for a minute…thanks for showing us that you are smart and realize the Warren Comission was 100% correct and honest in their theories of the assasination.

      1. Actually, I think Oswald did act alone.

        1. I do too. And I keep meaning to read Bugilosi’s recent(ish) book about it, but I probably never will.

          I belong to the “we’ve never had a government competent enough to pull off [insert your pet conspiracy theory here]” set.

          1. Yep, Manhattan Project was prety much on the front page of the paper year after year. Compartmentalization and all those kinda “CIA” techniques are bullshit conspiracy theories, the public is pretty darn aware of what is going on when you really think about it.

        2. Therefore you must think that congress was invloved in a conspiracy when they did THEIR investigation?

          Congressional Investigation on Assasinations

          You see after the Zapruder film was finally leaked out to the public in spite of the governments efforts to withhold it and after watergate, there were lots of congresmen who were very suspicious about why the governemnt would do this stuff. So they had this investigation and they determined that Oswald did not act alone. I know you are a intellectual who has read all about that and you weighed the evidence in each investigation and came to your smart conclusion…but some nutsos out there actually believe the congressional investigation that was not headed by people who wanted JFK dead. All intellectuals believe the comission headed by the guys who hated JFK was the good one and that makes perfect sense, I am not arguing that of course. I am just trying to show that only a idiot anti-intellectual would ask questions about this stuff. If you think about it too much you’ll realize that somebodey is lying and that is never good. Intellectuals should just listen to what Tom Brokaw says…that dude is the truth.

  11. Let me repeat a comment I made a few days ago:

    I don’t understand why people bother about conspiracies considering the shit the government does right out in the open.

  12. Exactly BakedPenguin,

    and we have got to stop conspiracy theories at all costs. This is the most important issue of our time and Moynihan is smart enough to see this and make it a focus of his work. Intellectuals of all stripes agree that we have certain historical events in this country that must NEVER be questioned. The history has been written and that should be it. The anti-intellectuals are always trying to do “research” bringing up obscure documents and bullshit like that…don’t all rational people need to work together to stop this?

  13. Yes, instead of working to stop single payer health care, or end the War on Drugs, or bring back our troops from overseas, we should be asking tough questions about long-form birth certificates and uploading the video to YouTube, because that will be much more productive.

    1. ASSHOLE! I just had an Orange Line flashback. Where is my Xanax?

    2. When the communist hippies work to stop the drug war they should just make utilitarian arguments. The president is actually pretty receptive to this sort of sane reasoning and he will probably change the drug war policies very soon. They really do care what we think.

      The public in general should NOT be made aware of any facts regarding our own governments involvment in the drug trade or the corruption that it has caused. Corruption should only be talked about as a matter of academic theory. We all know that in practice our governemnt would never engage in actual corruption.

  14. ‘Moreover, anyone should have known that Nathan Glazer is in fact one of our country’s most eminent political sociologists, a founding editor with Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell decades ago of The Public Interest, and a man of liberal sensibility who used to write frequently for the anti-Communist magazine The New Leader as well as Commentary. At the time, he was among the first generation dubbed neo-conservatives, which he defined as referring “to the growing caution and skepticism among a group of liberals about the effects of social programs” initiated during the Great Society years. About his anti-Communism, there was no doubt.’

    There are some people (not representative of anyone but themselves, but they exist) who would read the above paragraph and see the following:

    ‘. . . Nathan Glazer is in fact . . . liberal . . . Communist . . . liberals . . . Communism . . . there was no doubt.’

  15. anyone should have known that Nathan Glazer is in fact one of our country’s most eminent political sociologists,

    I guess I’m part of the anti-intellectual slobs because I didn’t know that and because I’d rather meet our country’s most eminent shit slinger than its least eminent political sociologist.

  16. Yeah, so Alger Hiss put the books there. Like that’s an improvement!

  17. Even I have to admit that anyone who is a neo-con and a friend of Bill Kristol has to be a great guy.

  18. I guess we have to clarify the meaning of “anti-intellectual” here. Traditional anti-intellectualism is a rejection of careful, dispassionate, reasoned reflection as a tool for deciding policy, in favor of emotional appeals, group loyalty, and/or deference to authority. This is an attitude I hope most libertarians would oppose.

    Nowadays, the term usually refers to opposition to “public intellectuals” who present themselves as the people who know better than the rest of us. Of course, these so-called “intellectuals” often themselves engage in blatantly anti-intellectual behavior, so the two meanings of “anti-intellectual” are not strongly connected.

    1. I just read Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society. Yours is one of the points he makes.

      1. TS is da man!

  19. Never confuse what any politician believes with what they actually do when in office. GWB and BHO both govern from the center, although Bush may have been a conservative at heart and Obama, based on his life before the Presidency was certainly a far left-winger.

  20. man, I did not miss Cosmotarian Overlord in the least. He really is, to date, the worst troll and commenter we have had. He makes Jersey McJones look coherent.

    1. I think he might be very young – typically I say that of trolls just to be a bitch, but in this case, I’m serious. Cosmo’s sledgehammer sarcasm has the feel of a well-read high school nerd.

      1. I am actually 62 years old and actually own millions of share of a large defense company and a smaller company that has service contracts with various private prisons. I have a few smaller import/export business as well.

        I get annoyed when people make up ridiculous conspiracies about anyone who is Commander in Chief of this great country. It is ok to disagree with the whole spectrum of politicians, from George Bush all the way to Barrack Obama. However we should never ever Never Tolerate the insidious conspiracy theories that eat away at the fabric of what has made us so great.

        I have to commend Obama(although we have strong differences) because our commander in Chief has always stood up for the things that are most important in keeping us safe.

        1. I realize that many of my fellow cosmos are strongly against the drug war and that is ok, the conservative movement would have lost out long ago if we hadn’t accepted some of you young drug users. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to argue against the drug war.

          Follow the proper democratic procedures within the confines of the two parties that are acceptable to the cultural norms of this society. Explain yourselves logically and you will be heard. This rampant conspiracy theorizing about OUR OWN GOVERNMENT dealing drugs is totally out of line, these rumor mongers should be locked up forever and luckily I do have some room in a few of my new prisons so in a act of bipartisianship I will our differences aside and attempt to work with Obama and Cass Sunstein to put a stop to this menace on our soceity.

  21. Intellectuals should hate Bob Dylan. His populist conspiracy theory songs:Bob Dylan Conspiracist are one of the reasons that we are plagued with this curse destroying our sacred idols today.

  22. Dissing Obama isn’t anti-intellectualism, it’s anti-pseudointellectualism.

  23. First of all, I have been reading “The Betrayal of the American Right” and have not found one bit of evidence that it is anti-Semitic. Don’t forget, Rothbard himself was Jewish (well, an atheist in practice, but whatever). 9/11 conspiracy theory was cooked up by an interesting convergence of far-right and far-left. Hell, even libertarians played their bit.

    As far as our self-declared cosmotarian master goes, he is nothing of the sort; cosmotarians are supposed to appeal to a left-of-center crowd. The way he’s talking, he sounds like someone out of the “national interest” fascist right. Hardly cosmopolitan.

    I too have a strong disdain for conspiracy theories, but I do not have a blind love for my country. The “nation” is a collective fiction, and nationalism/patriotism-the last refuge of the scoundrel-reeks of the “blood and soil” mythology. Borders are just imaginary lines drawn the in sand. Further, conspiracy theories range from harmless delusions to being dangerous-most in the former category, and are often a source of humor and entertainment.

    Of course, I do not consider myself a cosmo or paleo; neither are all that appealing. I consider cosmopolitanism to be a virtue independent of political commitments. Paleoism is too backwards looking for my tastes, and I personally cannot fathom what Rothbard saw in Buchanan.

    I look forward to sparing with you, Cosmotarian Overlord.

  24. One more thing; on the subject of anti-intellectualism. Libertarianism is one of the most cerebral political positions in existence. Many books in every conceivable subject (history, philosophy, political science, economics, atheism, skepticism, fiction, humor, etc…) form the corpus of libertarian literature. The libertarian’s reading list is a long one indeed.

    Hayek’s comment is not a dig at intellectuals; rather, it is a dig at the CONCEIT of his colleagues. Not the fact they are intellectuals, but that they believe they can reverse-engineer complex phenomenon. A number of intellectual pursuits-particularly neuroscience, evolutionary biology, economics, chaos theory-have the effect of instilling humility.

    Neuroscience disabuses us of our dualistic notions and conceit that we are in full conscious control.

    Evolutionary biology shows how life in all it’s fullness and variety emerges from unconscious interactions. Not unlike economics, really.

    Chaos theory is especially humbling; it shows that, even if one knows every facet of a chaotic system, only the most general predictions can be made-if at all.

    All the aforementioned, while requiring massive intellectual rigor to understand, also instil a certain humility.

  25. I was just browsing for relevant blog posts for my project research and I happened to stumble upon yours. Thanks for the excellent information! 🙂

  26. What’s anti Semitic on that post?

  27. There are certainly a lot more details to take into consideration, but thanks for sharing this post.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.