“The First Rule Is, You Don’t Talk About The Superorganism.”

The news that came in to me from the TV this morning presented what seemed a most ironic juxtaposition of stories. While I was making breakfast, the local ABC News affiliate reported that the LAX shooter, Paul Ciancia, was found to have been looking into “conspiracy theories” as a result of a data search into his electronic communication records, and that showing such an interest might become a red flag for governmental investigations into other “potential terrorists”–or so I remember the gist of the story (which, surprisingly, was not repeated in its entirety when the national ABC News came on about ten minutes later). Hm. This sounded to me like the other shoe dropping in a process initiated by an article aimed at academia, Cass Sunstein’s and Adrian Vermeule”s “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures,” in _The Journal of Political Philosophy_17.2 (2009): 202-227, proposing governmental infiltration and disruption of communication networks discussing “conspiracy theories relating to terrorism, especially theories that arise from and post-date the 9/11 attacks.” That article was apparently roundly criticized by certain academics and First Amendment supporters, and is considered at length by David Ray Griffin in _Cognitive Infilitration: An Obama Appointee’s Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory_ (2011); the book is reviewed by a brave soul, Kurtis Hagen, in the _Florida Philosophical Review_, 11.1 (Summer 2011): 66-68 (see http://www.philosophy.ucf.edu/fpr/issues-11_1.php). I think the implications of the article, coupled with Sunstein’s rise within governmental circles, are quite chilling, though of course the vast majority of academics studiously failed to take note of it publicly (while no doubt fencing off the topic with “no trespassing” signs in their private mental space). At any rate, the proposition that the government’s response should be “dual-pronged,” one addressing the potential threat from academia and another from the general public, made in the Sunstein and Vermeule paper, does appear to be coming to pass and is now being put out for general public acceptance by its incorporation into this news story.

Now, abstracting to the general case, when one considers what a “conspiracy” actually is–a group of people working together to bring about a particular end, i.e., a “superorganism” of the sort I was talking about yesterday, with secrecy and nefariousness of purpose generally attributed to the action but not necessarily entailed by the interconnectivity of individual agents–it makes me wonder if the newly roped-off territory and the atomistic individualism of our dominant paradigm might be, in important ways, mutually reinforcing. We are _not_ to envision the manner in which we highly social animals organize ourselves through role differentiation into large-scale groupings for accomplishing various tasks, because that would necessitate using our right hemisphere’s “holistic,” visuospatial insight, and then we might be able to grasp what sorts of large-scale aggressive acts are being accomplished in our names and (in fact) by our own hands. Better we should try to believe that what each of us does in our day-to-day lives is already entirely the result of individually “rational” judgment, not in any way influenced by deep emotional/social forces, and that the simple sum of all the millions of “rational” decisions about action produces a happy, healthy, and harmonious society (by our strictly linear logic, how could it do otherwise?). Because if we did start to perceive the “whole,” and the parts we play within that whole, we might begin to question its overall goal and achievements; and if we _then_ activated ourselves as individual moral agents we just might choose not to continue playing the given roles that make the superorganism what it is today. So the “conspiracy” of interconnected thought and action that is currently extant among us all, which serves to maintain our present social reality, must not be made visible, become discussable; the first rule for keeping an individual grinding away unconsciously in his or her role within a superorganism must be: “You don’t talk about the Superorganism.”

But to come back down from abstract speculation and get to the ironic part, this morning’s _Democracy Now!_–available on the satellite Free Speech and Link TV networks as well as the internet and the one “real news” program I watch faithfully–featured Amy Goodman’s hour-long interview with Oliver Stone, talking freely about another “conspiracy theory,” the one surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this month, along with previewing some of the very important information (important for self-reflection by all the members who together compose the group that can be designated the US Superorganism) that Stone and historian Peter Kuznick present in their upcoming series, “The Untold History of the United States.” The first part of the interview can be viewed here:
http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/5/oliver_stone_on_50th_anniversary_of . Goodman reports that a recent Associated Press survey “conducted in mid-April, said 59 percent of Americans think multiple people were involved in a conspiracy to kill the president, while 24 percent think Oswald acted alone, 16 percent are still unsure. A 2003 Gallup poll found 75 percent of Americans felt there was a conspiracy.” Hm again–the agents of external control are going to be pretty busy, infiltrating and straightening out all those “conspiracy theorists,” aren’t they? Oh, that’s right, they’ve already done the infiltration part–I’m sure it’s all stored somewhere in the NSA’s vast data files. Now, how can they all be re-educated?

But the really, really ironic part–and I apologize for going on at some length about this, but it just might be my “last chance” to get this out now (tongue in cheek–or not?), and I truly believe that academia’s failure to attend to this issue is a matter of serious epistemic concern–is the juxtaposition of Stone’s way of analyzing what happened to Kennedy with his own failure to delve more deeply, in his own 2006 movie and yet today, into what happened on 9/11. [A demonstration of his cognitive dissonance on the latter topic can be seen in his recent interview by Abby Martin: http://rt.com/shows/breaking-set-summary/jfk-anniversary-uncensors-history-068/ –“I can’t answer that question,” he says, when asked point-blank by Abby about whether he thinks the government could have been involved, though Kuznik brings up the Project for a New American Century’s hope for “a new Pearl harbor.”] With respect to the Kennedy assassination, Stone focuses on the “hard” evidence: “When you look once again at the basics of the film—the bullets, the autopsy, the forensics, the shooting path—and stay away from all the other stuff—Oswald’s background and Garrison, etc.—just follow the meat, the evidence, what you see with your own eyes in those six seconds, it’s an amazing—it’s all there. It doesn’t need to be elaborated upon. You can see it with your own eyes.” He draws upon his personal experience of combat in Vietnam in analyzing he video of the shooting: You see Kennedy “get a hit in the throat. Then you see Kennedy get a hit in the back. Then you see him essentially get a hit from the front. When he gets the hit from the front, which is the fourth or the fifth or the sixth shot, he goes back and to the left. That’s the basic evidence. You see a man fly back because he gets hit right here. Many witnesses at Parkland and at the autopsy in Bethesda saw a massive exit wound to the rear of his skull, to the right side,” including a young doctor at Parkland Hospital who reported seeing the rear part of his brain exposed. The subsequent official report, however, and later the Warren Commission, maintained that the shot that killed Kennedy came in from the back–“And they got away with it,” he says, “because [the public was presented with] a lot of mumbo-jumbo . . .”

How ironic that Stone has, as yet, not taken a good look at the “hard” evidence surrounding the 9/11 event, has apparently not spoken with anyone from Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth who could draw on their own personal experience, not of ballistics in a combat zone, but of structural support systems in tall buildings! Moreover, Stone goes on to call the Warren Commission report “the Rosetta Stone of this country,” in the way the focus was immediately placed on Lee Harvey Oswald: “They had the profile ready. This is a lone nut, Marxist sympathizer, who obviously was not only alienated, but disliked Kennedy—none of which is true, because he was none of these things.” What gets presented to the public is a shell game, it seems, everyone in the audience keeping their eyes on the moving walnut shell that covers the peanut while the magician’s accomplice picks their pockets; the attention of the press is diverted onto the actions of a single man in the Kennedy case, left to speculating about his particular movements and motivations, while being subtly shifted away from asking questions like, who (plural–what sort of grouping) might have benefited from Kennedy’s elimination, and how might they have pulled it off, and covered it up, given the “hard” evidence? The same sort of shell game was rolled out by a Commission forty years later, focusing our attention immediately and intently on the movements of nineteen individual men, handing these details down for media pundits to bloviate over endlessly while quietly letting the larger picture fade into the background. With respect to the Kennedy assassination, Stone continues, “what bothers me the most is that people who are intelligent, The New York Times, the Vanity Fair fellow, the guy in The New Yorker, they write these long pieces, and they just—and they say, essentially, in the article, “Well, we—history has sort of shown us that Oswald is the—the consensus is that Oswald did it alone.” Yes, “THE CONSENSUS IS”–here’s an example of “the coherence theory of truth” in action, a fine example to present to students in defining the term, should anybody dare (I also happen to recall that, when the _Chronicle of Higher Ed_ reported several years ago on a study claiming the show that the JFK killing had been a “conspiracy,” it was quickly countered by another article claiming the reverse). But Oliver, don’t you realize there are people now saying the same thing about you?

Looking back at American history as it has transpired over the last 50 years, Stone reflects, “with [Kennedy’s] murder, the torch was passed back to an old generation, the generation of Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Reagan, leaders who would systematically destroy the promise of Kennedy’s last year, as they returned the country to war and repression.” My feelings exactly–the torch was surely wrenched from my own generation’s hands with the polarity reversal that was nailed into place by 1980. In _The Untold History_, we may perhaps get a better glimpse of what the subgrouping, the plural “who” that has become the core directing the US Superorganism, is doing; as Stone explains their reasons for making the documentary, “after George Bush had been in office two terms in 2008, we said, “What is—is he an aberration, or is he a continuation of a pattern?” So we went back to our early lives in the 1940s and studied this whole pattern. And we see a pattern. If you look at all chapters together quickly, in 12 hours, you feel the dream, the fever dream, the aggression, the militarism, the racism towards the Third World—it doesn’t end—the exploitation.” A pattern indeed, to be grasped by the part of our brain that can connect dots into patterns. And as long as the rank-and-file members of the superorganism in question don’t wake up and ask themselves if they really choose to continue performing the roles that keep it in place, that pattern will continue to grow and extend itself. So that’s why the government must enforce the first rule: You don’t talk about the Superorganism. And why those of us who reject the current pattern _must_ talk about it.

2 thoughts on ““The First Rule Is, You Don’t Talk About The Superorganism.”

  1. Ronnie, you have broken the first rule. Alas, I’m not sure that I can safely be associated with you here or in e-mail any more. And, I’ll be sorry to see you “go”. Of course, we can never know in advance when where or how — or by whom — that will happen.

    I tend to think that the dynamics and mechanisms of the superorganism involve individuals acting as such AND in small groups AND in the larger institutions — in concentric and roughly harmonious layers and subgroupings — in and as “gears” in the clockwork — shaped and influenced and motivated by the prevailing institutionalized beliefs and corresponding institutions, RATHER THAN (in most cases) by small groups of knowingly evil conspirators trying to accomplish some end that they know to be evil. (Of course, the latter sometimes happens.) In other words, a person here in the U.S. is more likely to get killed by a drunk driver who is drunk, in part at least, because he has lost his job because the global corporation he was working for outsourced it, in order to satisfy the absentee owners of the corporation and the financial intermediaries, than he is likely to get killed by a sniper who was hired by a committee that meets weekly on the top floor of the Empire State Building, with the lights off. But the reality might be some sort of mixture of both, who knows?

    That said, we don’t have to assume or suspect anything much about the superorganism. Its largest problematic dynamics operate in plain daylight. The consequences and symptoms are all around us. The false assumptions, irrationalities, and ultimately harmful paradigms upon which our particular modern western (but increasingly global) superorganism is based are flagrant, right in front of our noses. This is why it’s rather astonishing and deeply disappointing that philosophy, in conjunction with other disciplines, isn’t doing anything to correct them, at least not actively and with verve.

    Cheers for now — and Be Well!

    Jeff

    • You’re right, Jeff, I’ve broken the first rule–if you want to be part of the Superorganism, the first rule is that you must not speak about it, but that’s a fight club I’d prefer not to join anyway. I don’t mean to annoy people in the Global Circle by bringing up topics they’d rather not think about, but I hope you do understand that a person who has spent a considerable amount of time and effort studying some aspects of a world-changing event and concluded that what happened could not have happened the way most people are assuming it happened might feel a duty to at least try to get other smart people thinking about it too–I mean, it’s not like it’s an unimportant or inconsequential topic. But I will try not to say too much about it, or mention it too often, in the course of examining what I see as a larger area of reality (our deeply social nature, our deeply interconnected emotional allegiances to the group) that so far has been relatively unexamined philosophically. I think it is “vital” for us to start recognizing “emergence” on many levels, and the emergence of “superorganisms” composed of many individuals enacting roles that enable the group entity to have certain effects in the world ought to be as much front and center as living organisms themselves, in the singular. If we’re going to change our course and save ourselves, we’re going to have to explore this “superorganismal” aspect of our human ontology much more thoroughly!

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