Response to Chip Berlet’s “Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, and Scapegoating”/ By Peter Phillips and Micke


by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff    source: Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation    July 29, 2010

In his recent essay “Toxic to Democracy,” Political Research Associates (PRA) Senior Analyst Chip Berlet uses the very same methods of demonization by association that he so strongly opposes. Berlet convolutes historical context, ideological differences, and progressives vis-à-vis extreme conservative/neo-con/libertarians in a diatribe of meaninglessness.

Berlet lumps valid academic research on State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs) in with anti-Semitic jingoism and far right wing extremism.  He suggests that any research that even implies some sort of conspiracy is dangerous and suspect, seemingly forgetting a long list of proven US and other government conspiracies (SCADs) including: Operation Mockingbird, COINTELPRO, Gulf of Tonkin “Incident,” October Surprise, CIA-Contra Dark Alliance, Iran-Contra, WMDs and Iraq Invasion, and the overthrow of governments in Iran, Guatemala, Haiti, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Panama, and many others.

Outrageously, Berlet categorizes progressive intellectuals such as Peter Dale Scott, Michael Parenti, David Ray Griffin, Michel Chossudovsky, and by innuendo the two of us, as dangerous conspiracists. He uses a straw person technique by positing former LaRouche analyst Webster Tarpley, and the Church of God Evangelistic Association founder David J. Smith in the same category as the progressive intellectuals listed above.

At the end of his essay, Berlet attempts to distinguish between people who do power structure research such as G. William Domhoff—who served on Peter Phillips’ dissertation committee regarding the Bohemian Grove in 1994— along with Holly Sklar, former PRA associate and author of a study on the Trilateral Commission compared to those who see elite networks as potential places of planning for self serving advantages. Of course, elites conspire to maximize their power and profits whenever possible.  Corporate boardrooms are rife with such activity and the resulting actions/PR manipulations—as recently evidenced by British Petroleum.  That does not mean one should simply dismiss researching the lies and manipulations of the powerful because it might imply a conspiracy, especially when the lies fail to explain how a 47-story steel frame building (WTC Building 7) collapsed in its own footprint at freefall speed on September 11, 2001, or how a scientific, peer-reviewed, academic journal discovered unreacted nano-thermite in the dust from the World Trade Centers (The Open Chemical Physics Journal).

While we have solid respect for the long tradition of research into extreme right wing and racist organizations for which PRA is well known, we are most dismayed by Chip Berlet’s reactionary dismissal of academic research into conspiracies/State Crimes Against Democracy by long time progressive intellectuals.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored

Mickey Huff is an Associate Professor of History at Diablo Valley College and Director of Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation

See Berlet’s essay “Toxic to Democracy” at http://www.publiceye.org/conspire/toxic2democracy/

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