Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
Bin Charges: From Private Circus to Public Service Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:38 | Michael Taft
Beyond Grexit & Brexit, Advocating an Irish and a British role in solving Europe... Tue Jun 21, 2016 12:18 | Tony Phillips
Hardship never lasts forever? Wed May 04, 2016 15:50 | Raymond Deane
DDCI calls on New Government to Strictly Regulate Vulture Fund Acquisitions Wed May 04, 2016 15:22 | Irish Left Review
Warning: Ultra-Low Spend Economy Ahead Wed May 04, 2016 11:59 | Michael Taft
Irish Left Review >>
For lefties too stubborn to quit
A bit of humour in these turbulent times! 15:58 Sun Jun 26, 2016 | guestposter
Showband stories? 12:03 Sun Jun 26, 2016 | WorldbyStorm
It?s not just about Brexit? Spain votes today 11:01 Sun Jun 26, 2016 | WorldbyStorm
Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week 07:48 Sun Jun 26, 2016 | Garibaldy
They led people to the top of the cliff and then wondered why they jumped? 23:38 Sat Jun 25, 2016 | irishelectionliterature
Cedar Lounge >>
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting
Notes for a Book on Money and the Irish State - The Marshall Aid Program 15:10 Sat Apr 02, 2016
The Financial Crisis:What Have We Learnt? 19:58 Sat Aug 29, 2015
Money in 35,000 Words or Less 21:34 Sat Aug 22, 2015
THE WRATH OF KANE: BANKING CRISES AND POLITICAL POWER 09:32 Fri Jan 30, 2015
ALWAYS THE ARTISTS: WEEK THREE OF THE BANK INQUIRY 23:11 Thu Jan 22, 2015
Dublin Opinion >>
Farewell from NWL Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake
Happy 70th Birthday, Michael Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake
Of the Week? Sat May 18, 2013 00:02 | namawinelake
Noonan denies IBRC legal fees loan approval to Paddy McKillen was in breach of E... Fri May 17, 2013 14:23 | namawinelake
Gayle Killilea Dunne asks to be added as notice party in Sean Dunne?s bankruptcy Fri May 17, 2013 12:30 | namawinelake
NAMA Wine Lake >>
In Defence of Conspiracy Theories
crime and justice |
Friday September 14, 2007 07:54 by Brian
An attempt to answer some of the criticisms of 'conspiracy theorists', to show that factors in modern society make it all too possible for conspiracies to exist, and difficult for them to be exposed.
I know I know, this is way too long!:-) To solve that particular problem I thought I would try and start with a kind of executive summary of the points I am making, then anybody can go to any interesting section and read it rather than having to read the whole thing :
Modern mé féin culture - Just saying that the modern climate promotes individualism, and maybe selfishness, which then means that people are that bit more reluctant to come forward and expose conspiracies. Also there maybe a kind of low level corruption evident nowadays in the legal profession, political parties etc which makes its easier to keep conspiracies covered up.
Media and whistleblowers - Anyway when a person does come forward to expose some conspiracy the media usually will not report what they say, hence in fact many whistleblowers are out there, with eyewitness accounts of serious conspiracies, yet the mass media does not tell the rest of us about it. You have to chase up obscure publications and little known radio stations and such like before you can declare that such and such a conspiracy couldn't exist because it would require a large number of people keeping it a secret. Maybe it isn't a secret, possibly a whistleblower did come forward but the mass media never reported it.
Police and whistleblowers - Maybe much the same happens when whistleblowers approach the police, so again the 'conspiracy' is no secret to them but the state's law enforcement agencies are not interested in bringing the 'conspirators' to justice for whatever reason.
Technology - I think its logical to assume that modern intelligence agencies, and possibly other parties, have access to advanced technologies that are not known about in the civilian world, consequently it would be wrong to dismiss too quickly as 'conspiracy theories' allegations about the possible use of that technology, against modern dissidents say.
Secret Societies - I trace some of the history of secret societies in Ireland to show that they have always been very powerful here, and therefore it might be wrong to dismiss as a 'conspiracy theory' allegations of their influence in recent times.
Underestimating the complexity of Politics - I think a lot of political goings on are complicated and that people are calling political combinations 'conspiracy theories' simply because they are underestimating that complexity. I look too at the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and the German Plot in Ireland in 1918 as examples of complex political plots, with various groups being lied to and manipulated by the powers that be.
Pervasive influence of the modern mass media - My point is that the huge wave of publicity that comes after some key events nowadays is so pervasive that the modern person thinks that its impossible for so many media personnel to lie about a given incident, but the original sources, the hard information that underlines this media wave, are generally only state agencies, and they can of course lie.
I also throw in a lot of Irish history to elucidate these points, the general idea being that if our ancestors underestimated the existence of state control over the media, police conspiracies, and the power of secret societies etc, then maybe we should make sure not to make the same mistake! Hopefully there are a few points there that are worth mulling on in any case.
Modern Mé Féin Culture
I think a lot of people would agree with Fred Johnston when he says that: "This is not the age of principles, as commentators keep telling us; we live in a fallen, mé-fhéin epoque, when nothing matters."(1) The thing is that this kind of general atmosphere has implications for the question of whether or not conspiracies flourish. Clearly if people don't care about their fellow citizens then they won't bother exposing conspiracies and are much more likely to participate in them for their own financial or career advancement.
I think another way of looking at it is that formerly the morals of society were set by the church, particularly by the Catholic Church in Ireland, and probably by the public school and University systems in places like the UK, and this influence lead to a personal morality which, in theory anyway, certainly proscribed getting involved in any duplicitous practises.
- The Church. I know its perfectly true to say that many of those Christian Brothers, and others, in the later 20th century have not exactly lived up to the ideals they taught but I still wonder if its not fair to say that they impressed upon their students a code of morality, and an 'informed conscience', which encouraged their pupils not to get involved in 'conspiratorial' practises. Like obviously if you emerged believing in the 10 Commandments, which they drilled into people, with its requirements not to lie, steal, or kill etc then you really would be useless as a conspirator! Also the Irish Catholic church was always traditionally critical of secret societies and under that pressure those societies often wilted, so again it leaves the question that that particular 'conspiracy theory', that those societies are all powerful, would be truer in the period when the church is in decline.
- Universities and Public Schools. During most of the 19th and early 20th century these institutions used to boast of turning out a 'gentleman' who had a high standard of morality and learning. This certainly involved keeping your word, not stealing, and being well informed and educated about the world around you. Within that code incidentally they also tended to praise a kind of semi leisure existence, certainly working all the time to the detriment of expanding your mind was considered the ultimate social faux pas! (As Oscar Wilde once said "Work is the curse of the drinking classes!") Anyway this 'gentleman' type would also never tolerate the type of goings on that are described in the usual 'conspiracy theories'.
Obviously this education and code of morality was not followed by all who were brought up on it, plenty of Christian Brothers pupils, and teachers unfortunately, turned out to be perfectly evil and many of those 'gentlemen' were anything but. That being said you could surely make the case that people existing in a society which cherishes those kind of values are somewhat less likely to get involved in 'conspiracies' than a society where the pursuit of money, and even sex, are held up as the end all and be all of human existence. For example its well known that intelligence agencies are only too willing to provide those last two commodities for anybody wishing to participate in their 'conspiracies' so its natural to assume that they will have more influence on a society where they are glorified than in one where they are not.
I think as well that there are two other factors here which impinge on the question of conspiracy theories. One is that if the general public are selfish or deliberately uniformed, because they might consider work to be more important than being informed or educated about society, then they might not do very much to expose and crush conspiracies that might have been brought to their attention. The other issue is that this mé féin culture is permeating each of the various areas of civic life, leading to a climate of at least low level corruption, which again makes it difficult to expose and close down conspiracies.
On that first point I thought I would quote from Rodney Stich a former pilot with a lot of experience in dealing with whistleblowers and various conspiracies in all areas of the US government. At first, in 1978, he enthusiastically tried to engage with the general public trying to get them motivated to deal with the huge conspiracies that he described, very soberly and intelligently with all sources noted, on over 3,000 TV and radio shows and numerous books. But now he is very depressed at the level of selfishness and apathy that he sees in the general public, and regrets bothering to sacrifice all in trying to inform them about what was happening. He clearly now regards this apathy on the part of the general public as one of the main factors in preventing 'conspirators' from being stopped in their tracks. He would say that even when the general public know whats going on they don't attempt to get it stopped, either through the political system or when they serve on Juries etc. Its the ordinary American that he has given up on, he has even got depressed in dealing with relatives of people who lost their lives as part of these conspiracies, many of the latter being more interested in compensation payments than justice. He goes so far as to talk about the "public's complicity in corruption and tragedies", which he describes as follows:
"The widespread public ignorance, apathy, denial, about the corrupt activities detailed and documented in the books written by government insiders has made possible an endless series of tragedies. This information has been made available to the people if they would only look, show an interest, and read.
Next in line for blame is the apathy, cowardice, or low morality, of the American public. Information has been available for years revealing this misconduct and the tragedies inflicted upon the American people. A culture of filthy songs, "music," drugs, has changed the morality in the United States.
In the books written by former government agents, there are such major factual matters stated, by people such as the former heads of secret CIA operations, that should have resulted in major media articles and public concern. Instead: nothing!
For instance: ...[Describes some of the activities highlighted in his books like murders and drug smuggling by the US government, and notes the 'no response' by the general public]....
The list goes on and on. The problems are numerous, including:
- Certain people are not sophisticated enough to contemplate anything more complex than the ball games or their grand children.
- Certain people don't care to hear about these matters, and could care less. It doesn't directly affect them.
- Certain people are so involved in corrupt activities themselves that they could care less or do not want to voice opposition to the corruption in government for fear of exposing themselves.
- The large numbers of immigrants reduces their interest, or ability to understand, the corruption in government (possibly due to the fact that government personnel from where they came from were also corrupt and that it was an accepted culture).
- Certain people feel there is nothing that they can do about it, so why try.
- Certain people rant and rave about misconduct in government, focusing on some relatively minor matter, and refuse to address the hardcore corruption brought to their attention; or that the hardcore corruption involves confrontation, while complaining about some obscure matter doesn't result in any confrontation or requires any efforts.
- The culture in the United States has deteriorated to such a low level that there is no interest in attacking corruption.
- The culture in the United States, and its morals, have deteriorated to such a low level that there is no outrage about the harm done to others or to the nation.
- The person who is too scared to speak out, afraid of what government officials can do to them.
- Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil―the in-denial American!
- In all fairness, it is possible that many who do nothing would show some semblance of character and integrity if media people did not cover-up for the misconduct.
Ball game fanatics with a gluttonous passion for sports (children games), while too cowardly, or too lazy, to address the corruption that inflicts such great tragedies upon so many people. Fiddling while Rome burns may be a good parallel. Flag-waving "patriot" who does nothing to learn or to react to corruption in government.
With similarities to Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, most Americans wash their hands of the tragic consequences of their inactions.
What better example can there be than their support for the invasion and murder of tens of thousands of Iraqis on the obvious serial lying of their smooth-talking political leaders."(2)
The fed up Stich is now writing books talking about the 'Ugly Americans' ! I think one of the reasons he focuses on this is because his experiences go back to WWII, in which he fought for the US although he in fact is of Austrian ancestry. My guess is that he relates the atmosphere in the US today to the great tragedy that afflicted the German people in that war. Clearly your ordinary German didn't know that much about what their leaders were up to the 30s and 40s but they must have known something and yet they turned a blind eye, preoccupied with working hard, as they always do, and enjoying the economic benefits that the Nazis had brought at that time. They didn't know what was around the corner and as it turned out they played a high price for their indifference. Meanwhile it is obvious from Stich's comments that he sees the US public being indifferent about the guilt of launching an aggressive invasion (and you could add things like Guantanamo Bay - surely a second cousin to a concentration camp - and jokes being made about CIA 'snow boarding' practises) and is saying that the US public is similarly well enough informed and doing nothing to stop these things. A lot of people are saying now that Ireland is becoming a lot like America and might end up suffering from the same sort of apathy. This then obviously impacts on the question of whether widespread 'conspiracies' exist, because if people are so indifferent when the facts about such 'conspiracies' are put before them then clearly the conspiracies can keep on flourishing.
The other point about this mé féin culture is that it means less people will come forward in the first place. Obviously if your morality is based on the next paycheck, the pension, career advancement, paying the mortgage etc then you aren't likely to bother whistleblowing about anything. It also doesn't help particularly if your morality is based on the law, because a lot of this corruption is committed by the State and they usually have some obscure legal opinion ready which justifies what they do. An example of that would be the legal opinion which the US government sought and used to justify their torture practises in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
What seems to be happening as well is that people quickly adapt themselves to the prevailing culture existing in all the different walks of life in Ireland, and abide by that 'code' of morality rather than any other of these older codes of ethics which used to come from the church or the Universities or whatever. Unfortunately if these institutions have become corrupt then the new people who work there also become corrupt - to an extent - very quickly. An example could be the culture that has come across from evidence given to the Morris tribunal into the Gardai. Its clear from that that perjury is not considered such a big crime on the part of many gardai, and yet that has disastrous implications for the justice system considering the huge reliance that is placed there on the word of the gardai, and trust in their control over evidence and contact with witnesses.(3) In fact you can be jailed in Ireland for quite a long sentence purely on the word of a senior member of the gardai given in court.(4) Obviously with that kind of corruption conspiracies can flourish easier than if they always told the truth in court. I think you can see this in a lot of areas in Ireland right now, where the prevailing culture in those professions allows conspiracies to happen:
Take the legal profession where there is widespread suspicion of a culture of coverup and fraud, as exposed by the VLPS group and the website www.rate-your-solicitor.com . Disillusionment with the professions is brought to the stage where:
"the solicitor who declines to take your case is probably doing you a better turn than the one who accepts your case". That is a fact." (5).
This VLPS group is even saying that:
"......We have a message from a decent High Court Registrar who told us there are only about five NON-CORRUPT judges operating in the Four Courts and we are highlighting this on the world wide web.A Fianna Fáil TD from the Midlands believes that this is the case..."(6)
Pretty shocking details are also coming out from the above website, like this from Kerry:
"They are noted for this..,[legal corruption, stealing property from vulnerable people] ...'Victim Farming & Harvesting' they call it in the trade....my late dad was a judge..."(7)
At their meetings they are saying that collusion, to the detriment of the client, between defence legal teams and Judges and gardai is totally endemic all across Ireland. All other kinds of corruption is also rife behind the scenes apparently like bribery of solicitors. I wonder if the story of the Carey family in Waterford reflects some of these dubious practises. The Sunday Independent some time ago carried some curious quotes from an internal IDA memo, signed by an IDA executive, referring to the elderly Carey family living in the outskirts of Waterford City on land coveted by the IDA:
"We must bear in mind that the Careys did not want to move from their existing house and it was only because of representations made to them by Waterford County Council that they agreed to enter into discussions with the IDA.....I did indicate [to the solicitor for the Careys] that I would recommend that the IDA use his firm for the conveyancing of the two pieces of land - Careys to IDA and IDA to Carey. The reason for making that suggestion was to try and 'encourage' him to make a decision in IDA favour." (8)
The upshot was that the family, threatened with a compulsory purchase order, eventually moved onto new land that proved to be much smaller than the IDA had contracted to give them. Meanwhile in the US its actually alleged that about half of the Federal Judges are secretly taking bribes from the CIA ! Whats even more surprising is that this is apparently done through an Irish company, registered in Dublin !(9)
This situation looks so bad that you'd wonder of one of Stich's points has a particular relevance in this area:
"Certain people are so involved in corrupt activities themselves that they could care less or do not want to voice opposition to the corruption in government for fear of exposing themselves." Hence the conspiracies will flourish unchecked.
The atmosphere in Universities does not seem so great either these days, in the experience of climatologist Timothy Ball :
"No doubt passive acceptance yields less stress, fewer personal attacks and makes career progress easier. What I have experienced in my personal life during the last years makes me understand why most people choose not to speak out; job security and fear of reprisals. Even in University, where free speech and challenge to prevailing wisdoms are supposedly encouraged, academics remain silent.... Sadly, my experience is that universities are the most dogmatic and oppressive places in our society. This becomes progressively worse as they receive more and more funding from governments that demand a particular viewpoint.
Until you have challenged the prevailing wisdom you have no idea how nasty people can be. Until you have re-examined any issue in an attempt to find out all the information, you cannot know how much misinformation exists in the supposed age of information." (10)
He is trying to get across the fact that to his knowledge global warming is not caused by any man made activity, but is dependent on sun spot activity and other factors. In fact he can remember a time when there was huge international panic about global cooling !(11)
The behind the scenes atmosphere in politics in Ireland is also worth looking at I think. Say you were to test that atmosphere against one of the familiar 'conspiracy theories' that is floating around. You will often hear it said that political parties are so corrupt, and collude so much at a high level, that the party system operates as a control mechanism in society. The allegation is that the powers that be control the upper ranks, HQ and the party leader maybe, of the political parties but yet encourage the lower ranks to have all kinds of quietly pointless or toothless arguments among themselves, in order to keep divided the political activists in the country. In otherwords its alleged to be a kind of 'divide and rule' tactic by the powers that be. Some claim, like I think the Tipperary priest Fr Denis Fahey, that this is done by exploiting the necessity political parties have for large sums of money:
"This domination is permanent irrespective of the party in office. All parties require money, it often becomes profitable to the Money Power to finance all alike.....turned legislatures into a marionette show with puppets moved on wires behind the scenes."(12)
Then the standard reply to such a theory is that there are thousands of people involved in political parties, even just in Ireland, and they are hardly all involved in, or could keep quiet, this massive conspiracy ? So that ok the number of party political leaders, and in the know HQ people, are pretty few, small enough to keep a secret, but then that group would have to have an iron grip on the thousands of party political activists scattered around the country, in order for such a conspiracy to succeed. Of course party policy is set by up to thousands of members attending Ard Fheiseanna, election candidates are selected by often quite well attended Conventions etc., so how could this conspiracy take place without this large group knowing about it? Again the answer might lie in the practical behind the scenes atmosphere within the political party system in Ireland. I think its fair to say that in modern times a few people in the party H.Q.'s do dominate these parties behind the scenes, and the local activists have actually no say at all in what their party does. If democracy is the standard that you feel these parties should abide by, then my contention would be that they are mostly corrupt, democratic they just ain't! Some examples of that:
- In Fianna Fail Royston Brady has revealed quite a bit about what its like behind the scenes. He says that running for that party is just like setting up a franchise operation, you get the logos and posters from party HQ and all that but as regards influencing policy, as a candidate you can forget it.(13) He described that when he was asked at one point to speak on an important matter, while he was Lord Mayor of Dublin, he was just given a script by the officials in party HQ and when he didn't like what it said he found his only option was to walk out. He was simply not permitted to offer his own opinions. And in fact conventions are dying out as a way of selecting Dail candidates in Fianna Fail, and other parties, candidates are now being selected by the unelected officials in the party HQs.(14)
- Afaik at the last Fine Gael ard fheis no speaker spoke against any of the motions, and, generally speaking, nobody even voted against them. This is because the motions were all uncontroversial, a small group from HQ vet all the motions and speakers and I would say simply don't allow any divisive subjects to be debated.
- In the case of the special Sinn Fein conference that decided to recognise the PSNI many knowledgeable commentators have speculated that this was only the window dressing for a decision that had already been taken in secret by the IRA, with the latter operating as a kind of secret society within Sinn Fein.
- Amazingly it came out after the recent leadership election in the Green party that, unknown to the beaten candidate, the returning officer was secretly allowing some kind of telephone voting by party members in an election everybody thought was by secret paper ballot. This brought out some other stories from behind the scenes in the Green party:
"The Greens have a long history of fraud in selection conventions. The most egregious was the that defrauding the late, great Vincent McDowell. In that case, the rules and procedures committee was abolished in order to further the interests of one Mr Cuffe. What infuriated many of us about it was to see Vincent's obituary including the statement that he left the party after losing to Cuffe, giving the impression that this stalwart of Irish political life for half a century went off in a huff. As I recall, the RO was one john gormley.
A second trick was to tell a soon-to-be-defrauded candidate objecting at the convention that the vote was to be rerun, and then going ahead once (s)he had left to declare a winner. This happened in DSE in 2003, and the result was that all 3 council seats were lost. The DSE group up to that point were integrated enough to get all 3 elected; in fact, we used to be the last out of the Dail bar, itself surely a Green first.
What is intriguing in retrospect is to look at the whole GP set-up as simply an undemocratic congeries to further the political ambitions of several individuals. As someone who served on the National council 1997-2003, which determines policy, it was hilarious to hear talk from the TD's about “we must go into coalition to implement our policies”. Fact; none of these guys came to NC more than once every year, in some cases far less, and in Gormley's case he did not even cycle the one mile to get there. Then, of course, it became clear; policies that they didn't agree with could be rescinded at national convention, or in extremis simply binned at main office. The GM policy suffered both fates."(15)
Hence you can see that the reality on the ground in the party system is such that the above 'conspiracy theory' is just possible. It is only a small - and maybe secretive - group anyway that is calling the shots in the political parties, the large mass of party members are really only canvassing fodder for the party machine, they have no say in the policies of their parties.
Behind the scenes in the world of diplomacy you see the same sort of ongoing corruption is routinely tolerated, this is from Conor Cruise O'Brien describing the UN in the 50s:
"To digress on the subject of "arm-twisters": this was a term very little heard in public discussions of the UN, and little used in academic examinations of the workings of the world body. But the concept was absolutely central from about 1948-1958 to the actual workings of the UN. Arm-twisters, of which there was invariably at least one on each of the seven main committees, were American delegates, usually of middle rank, whose function was to influence crucial votes, and make sure the United States got the necessary two-thirds support for whatever proposition might appear, at any given moment, required by American interests. The modus operandi of the arm-twister varied according to circumstances. Often, in the case of delegates who had been through the mill, a mere recital of what the United States wanted would do the trick. But the main function of the arm-twister was to smell out possible recalcitrance, and deal with it. "Dealing with it" could include bribery or blackmail or both together. If these techniques failed, in relation to an individual delegate, they would sometimes be employed directly on governments which were weak, dependent on American subsidies, or corrupt. Most of the world's governments fell into at least one, if not all, of these categories.
...[Referring to the 1948 vote on the recognition of the state of Israel:]
Some delegates were bribed, some of those who could not be bribed personally were recalled by their bribed or intimidated governments and replaced by suitably-instructed people. The necessary number of "unsuitable" delegates were replaced by an equal number of "suitable" ones. Several careers were ended and several new ones promoted. In the end the General Assembly passed the required resolution and the United States could bask once more, for a time, in the approval of the "moral conscience of mankind".(16)
Therefore some of the 'conspiracy theories' that people might have and which some might imagine would be exposed by diplomats, are not highlighted because for them this is just the normal experiences of their profession.
The overall point then is that if you are a person who believes that gardai never lie, that the legal profession is bubbling with practitioners always anxious to ferret out the truth, that political parties draw up their policies after nice democratic debates, and that those fine debates are also what lie behind decisions at the UN and advice given by academics, then you would naturally believe that those great 'conspiracy theories' couldn't possibly be true. You might think that there are just too many good people out there in these various areas of civic life that conspiracies would be easily exposed and stopped in their tracks. But I think the reality is that this mé féin keep-your-head-down type of era, that we live in, permeates these professions, where a kind of behind the scenes low level corruption is tolerated, which in turn makes these conspiracies possible. In many cases they just don't care enough about the public's rights and interests to bother getting involved in exposing conspiracies.
I think too that this type of atmosphere is worst at the higher levels, for example in the state system. Complete heartlessness and ruthlessness I think is often encountered at the high end of the power, and pay level, structure in any country and this should be factored in when people are considering whether conspiracies can exist or not. For example during the troubles of 1919-21 in Ireland many people were talking about a 'conspiracy theory' that the state was involved in reprisal action against totally innocent Irish people, as punishment for various IRA operations. This 'conspiracy theory' was hotly denied by the state, for example by Hamar Greenwood in the House of Commons, and the question arises as to how could this be kept a secret, since it must have involved many people in the security and state apparatus in Ireland at the time. Of course they did know but they just couldn't care less about the fate of those Irish people who lost their homes and lives to this policy. You can see this from the diary of a high up Dublin Castle official, Mark Sturgis, writing in 1920 on the sacking by the British forces of Balbriggan:
"Still worse things can happen than the firing up of a sink like Balbriggan and surely the people who say 'stop the murders before all our homes go up in smoke' must increase."(17)
Obviously he was hoping that the effect would be to turn people off the IRA. And of course at this level they have other ways of dealing with the few people in that circle who might develop a conscience, e.g. its a curious statistic that five people committed suicide in de Winter's, the intelligence head in Dublin Castle, office during the year 1920-21 !(18)
Media response to Whistleblowers
So OK say we get someone coming forward, breaking through the prevailing selfishness, and willing to expose a given 'conspiracy'. What he does he do to blow this conspiracy wide open ? Naturally he goes to the media, they expose it and all is right again, theoretically. The point is that the media does not react this way to whistleblowers, as a general rule the media does not 'do' conspiracies, most of the time they simply don't report what whistleblowers say irrespective of how much evidence they might have. Because this is the reality of the modern media it means that conspiracies flourish nowadays more than in the past.
Films like "All the Presidents Men" have given maybe a falsely romantic view of modern journalism. The general public thinks that there are small armies of investigative journalists out there just itching to get the truth out to the general public, but the reality might be a bit more mundane. I wonder if in fact there is only ever about 1 or 2 really fearless - not secretly police agents - investigative journalists in Ireland despite the large numbers of journalists in general. Most people would certainly put the late Martin O'Hagan in that category, and look what happened to him. During his life it wasn't the case at all that his skills and courage were nurtured in Irish journalistic circles, as his friend Paul Larkin relates:
"One must ask where the job offers were from the quality newspapers or the TV industry for possibly the only journalist in Ireland who made it his business not just to write tittle tattle about paramilitaries but also to seriously confront the question of state cooperation with loyalist killers? O'Hagan increasingly regarded the Belfast offices of the Sunday World as a cold house.....Put simply the courageous controversialist had very few outlets for his stories, some of which were of major importance."(19)
John Pilger, who served as a reporter in Vietnam, emerged with a somewhat jaundiced view of the modern media:
"There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968 - the day that the My-Lai massacre happened - and not one of them reported it." (20)
In contrast in the US in 1994 some courageous journalists from Yorkshire Television did try and expose paedophile rings among the political elite in Nebraska but their resulting documentary ("Conspiracy of Silence", which is available on youtube) was pulled before it could be broadcast. They described in the documentary that when a number of these victims came forward talking about the paedophile ring operating among senior politicians, police, and media figures in Nebraska and Washington they found that the media set out to belittle them and as far as possible bury the story: "The whole purpose of the newspaper [articles] was to destroy" the credibility of the witnesses according to Foster Care director Carol Stitt with particular reference to the 'Omaha World Herald'.
Fred Holroyd describes in his book his huge efforts to expose what was going on in Ulster. Starting from the early 80s to I guess the present he has tramped the highways and byways of the UK and Irish media and at the end of that experience he has found himself compiling a long list of 'journalists' that he hinted are probably just government agents.(21) (Incidentally its often said that government agents are very active among security/defence/justice correspondents, diplomatic correspondents, and Northern Irish correspondents among others of course.) After trying every avenue on Fleet St for years he only managed to interest about 2 or 3 journalists in his startling revelations, despite being himself clearly well qualified to talk about these subjects.(22) Even the smaller publications proved to be keen on dismissing those allegations as just the fertile imagination of lunatics. For example it was Holroyd who rescued Wallace from jail, having read a letter by him that was discarded in one of the magazine offices as just one of the usual lunatic letters! The Belfast journalist Paul Larkin has described how some of his highly 'respected' colleagues in Belfast suspiciously went out of their way to rubbish Holroyd and Wallace's revelations, and that pattern continues: "one would have thought that his [Wallace's] rehabilitation would have been complete by Oct 1996 when his conviction for manslaughter was quashed. Wallace and Holroyd, however, are effectively shunned by most media outlets both in Ireland and Britain."(23)
So this then is the real reception that your average whistleblower experiences in the mass media. It naturally follows from this that there are a lot more whistleblowers out there than the general public are aware of. And crucially there are a lot of 'conspiracies' which are proven by people coming forward to explain what is happening but the general public do not have ready access to their testimony because of this media silence. Just to take this one example, clearly if Wallace and Holroyd's story had been highlighted properly from the beginning then nobody would have spent the last two decades disparaging the 'conspiracy theory' that strong links existed between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, a 'theory' which is only now accepted after a report on this was published earlier this year by the Ombudsman's office in Belfast.
I think this all adds up a situation where many whistleblowers end up in a kind of glass cage, where they are desperately trying to tell people what is really going on but cannot get the word out through an Orwellian media which puts much greater store on sport or sex than it does on this kind of serious political corruption. Then because the general public have no idea of the kind of practises that are going on, because the media never tells them, these whistle blowers become classed are 'cranks' or nutcases when they explain their case in the few fora, like on the internet, that is still open to them. To give a simple example of this take Hugh Murphy who is trying to highlight the fact that the big Irish unions cooperated with employers in shafting some Belfast dockers who had handled asbestos. He has been through the usual experiences with the media:
"I have tried them all, from The Irish Times, down.
I have told Vincent Brown, Fintan O’Toole and Kevin Myers, when he was with Irish Times..."
and in general about some media he concludes that "they are quelling a good story for political objectives."(24)
Then in trying to explain this to the chattering classes he discovers that:
"Why is it that when someone speaks the TRUTH - to SOME people, they are either drunk or a lunatic.
What is crazy about the corruption of ITGWU and the cover-up by SIPTU is that a so-called Left Wing union collaborated with the employers to SACK its own members! And that the so-called Free Thinking people in the South, when told of it, don't believe it."(25)
So I think a big factor in the growth of this 'conspiracy theory' accusation is the increasing power of the modern mass media. It is creating the agenda for what is or isn't plausible or feasible in the minds of many people, and it is doing that while systematically locking out facts and people that might challenge the prevailing viewpoint.
That the mass media in Ireland have never been the clean conduit for information that the general public thinks they are can be seen from the pages of history. As early as the flood of pamphlets that undermined King Charles I, using a false account of the Irish rebellion of 1641, one commentator remarking on the media said it was "..incredible what mischief they do.." !(26) And I suppose it is but it is even more incredible to what extent the state in Ireland secretly controlled the media over the centuries, totally unknown to the Irish people most of whom thought they were living in a country which, to a certain extent, cherished free speech.
Looking at that kind of picture I will begin with a letter the Chief Secretary of Ireland wrote back to London in 1781: "We have hitherto, by the force of good words and with some degree of private expense, preserved an ascendancy over the press not hitherto known here, and it is of an importance equal to 10,000 times its cost..."(27) Some of this secret world began to leak in the mid 19th century, especially with the revelations concerning the spy ring run by the editor of the Freeman's Journal during the 1798 rebellion period. It became a popular subject at that time to try and hunt down the British government's moles in the Irish media, as you can read in the 'Sham Squire', a book that quotes this from the Dublin Evening Post of the time:
"This payment [the regular secret payments to the Freeman's Journal] may have been on account of proclamations inserted as advertisements; but the Duke of Wellington's correspondence, when Irish Secretary, makes no disguise that all money paid on such grounds was for purposes of corruption. This arrangement was partially relinquished from the death of Pitt; but in 1809, on the restoration of the old Tory regime, we find a Dublin journalist petitioning for a renewal. Sir A. Wellesley, addressing Sir Charles Saxton, the under-secretary, alluded to "the measures which I had in contemplation in respect to newspapers in Ireland. It is quite impossible to leave them entirely to themselves; and we have probably carried our reforms in respect to publishing proclamations as far as they will go, excepting only that we might strike off from the list of those permitted to publish proclamations in the newspapers, both in town and country, those which have the least extensive circulation, and which depend, I believe, entirely upon the money received on account of proclamations. I am one of those, however, who think that it will le [be] very dangerous to allow the press in Ireland to take care of itself, particularly as it has so long been in leading strings. I would, therefore, recommend that in proportion as you will diminish the profits of the better kind of newspapers, such as the Correspondent and the Freeman's Journal, on account of proclamations, you shall increase the sum they are allowed to charge on account of advertisements and other publications. [Meaning presumably other types of government advertisements, which would be more of a disguise than the obvious proclamations.] It is absolutely necessary, however, to keep the charge within the sum of ten thousand pounds per annum, voted by Parliament, which probably may easily be done when some newspapers will cease to publish proclamations, and the whole will receive a reduced sum on that account, even though an increase should be made on account of advertisements to the accounts of some. It will also be very necessary that the account of this money should be of a description always to be produced before Parliament. – Ever, yours, &c., - Arthur Wellesley."(28)
Some Secret Service papers leaked around that time show how much the British government controlled Irish newspapers all those years, this is from some preface written I think by Major Sirr describing these Secret Service receipts:
"100 original documents ...The several suborned proprietors or editors of venal newspapers and magazines of "The Correspondent", "The Patriot", "The Belfast Newsletter", "The Milesian Magazine" (Dr John Brennan), The "bought up" [these are his quotes!] "Irish Magazine" (of the "bought off" Walter Cox cum multis aliis [with many others]..."(29)
These papers include a letter from the aforementioned Walter Cox (dated Dublin 9 Jan 1815) where he says he was obliged to submit to the government to avoid another dreary imprisonment (which the Attorney General threatened would be in some remote jail). He is now to be paid £400 in America and expresses gratitude that at least his magazine didn't collapse through dullness but rather from "the overwhelming power of the British government." (30) He was actually paid an allowance by the British government on condition that he wouldn't start anymore publications, this was stopped by Peel in 1835.(31)
In 1836 a row broke out over the sale of the Derry Journal newspaper, during which it was revealed that the newspaper had always been in receipt of a secret government payment ever since it had been clandestinely purchased with government money in 1797. (By a Captain Ryan who then perished in the rebellion.) When it had been sold in 1829 one of the contract clauses said that it was being purchased "together with all claims which the Parties aforesaid have to a certain allowance heretofore annually paid by Government to the said newspaper." On 13 May 1837 the government decided that yes they would continue to pay the money secretly to the new owners of the paper.(32)
As you get into the late 19th century you find that the big newspapers like the Freeman's Journal and the Independent were the subject of endless intrigues by the different factions of the Irish Parliamentary Party. They in practise controlled the Freeman through much of this time and in a way died with it. You can read a lot of the intrigues here: http://www.chaptersofdublin.com/books/THealy/healy29.htm , http://www.chaptersofdublin.com/books/THealy/healy43.htm , and other chapters of that book. From that last reference you can read how £10,000 given to the Freeman before its collapse came from the US Secret Service, via T.P. O'Connor. Btw the 'suave' T.P., one of the big IPP 'bosses', was "known to be on friendly terms with the Prime Minister."(33)
More on the Freeman from Captain Sheehan MP:
"To show the veritable depths of baseness to which the so-called National Movement had fallen [the Irish Parliamentary Party under the secret control of the Ancient Order of Hibernians c.1909] it need only be stated that it was charged against their official organ --'The Freeman's Journal '-- that no less than eighteen members of its staff had obtained positions of profit under the Crown, including a Lord Chancellorship, an Under-secretaryship, Judgeships, Crown Prosecutorships, University Professorships, Resident Magistracies, Local Government Inspectorships, etc. In this connection it is also worthy of mention that when the premises of this concern were burnt out in the course of the Easter Week Rebellion it was reendowed for "national" purposes, with a Treasury grant of L60,000, being twice the amount which the then directors of the 'Freeman' confessed to be the business value of the property."(34)
The Irish Independent was famously owned by Tim Healy's close friend William Martin Murphy and Healy clearly had a big influence on this newspaper, and he in turn was always close to the centre of power in the UK. The paper also reflected Healy's estrangement from the IPP from about 1916 on, so it tended to follow an anti-IPP course, including attempting to crush the IPP's Freeman and backing Healy's close friend Michael Collins.(35)
Later the wine merchant Martin Fitzgerald, a friend of both Collins and Griffith's, bought the Freeman's Journal and Piaras Beaslai became the leader writer for it and at that point "a good deal of publicity was given to Mick Collins" in the paper.(36) This Martin Fitzgerald, who also had a say in the Independent later ("he controlled, I think, the Irish Independent") was in close communication with George Duggan, a banker and the father of George Chester Duggan of Dublin Castle.(37) George Chester was involved it seems in the intelligence department of the Castle, going by the fact that he audited Colonel de Winter's intelligence apparatus at one point.(38)
Of course the Secret Societies, powerful in every area of Irish life, also controlled a large swathe of the media. For example M. O'Hanlon, effectively the AOH's candidate in the East Cavan bye election, was the proprietor of the Anglo-Celt, (39) and Gaynor, the editor of the Evening Telegraph, was a prominent AOH member.(40) The IRB of course exercised its considerably muscle in this department too. 'Irish Freedom' and 'Nationality' were in fact, secretly, official IRB organs (41) ; the "'Irish World' and 'Saoghail Gael' ..[were] directly under their [IRB] influence."(42); while in the Enniscorthy Echo the editor, sub editor, and most of the staff were IRB men.(43) One of these IRB papers, The Irish World, reprinted in 1917 an interesting speech entered into the Congressional Record of the US by Mr Callaway of Texas, later highlighted by Hon. J. Hampton Moore of Pennsylvania:
"In March 1915, the J. P. Morgan interests, the steel, shipbuilding and powder interests, and their subsidiary organisations, got together twelve men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press of the United States.
These twelve men worked the problem out by selecting 179 newspapers, and then began, by an elimination process, to retain only those necessary for the purpose of controlling the general policy of the daily press throughout the country. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of twenty-five of the greatest papers. The twenty-five papers were agreed upon; emissaries were sent to purchase the policy, national and international, of these papers; an agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper, to properly supervise and edit information regarding the question of preparedness, militarism, financial policies, and the other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers.
This contract is in existence at the present time, and it accounts for the news columns of the daily press of the country being filled with all sorts of preparedness arguments and misrepresentations as to the present condition of the United States army and navy, and the possibility and probability of the United States being attacked by foreign foes.
This policy also included the suppression of everything in opposition to the wishes of the interests served. The effectiveness of this scheme has been conclusively demonstrated by the character of the stuff carried in the daily press throughout the country since March 1915. They have resorted to anything necessary to commercialise public sentiment and sandbag the National Congress into making extravagant and wasteful appropriations for the army and navy under the false pretense that it is necessary. Their stock argument is that it is 'patriotism.' They are playing on every prejudice and passion of the American people."(44)
These forces which controlled the media of course abused that position, hence these influences in turn meant that Irish people many times came away with completely inaccurate views of important events. For example Sean Farrelly called the long time editor (1919-1960) of the Meath Chronicle, Patrick Quilty, "that irresponsible scribe"(45) in whose "ill informed journal" they printed a glowing nationalistic obituary on a guy who was actually a member of the Black Hand Gang which was a gang of criminals linked to the state.(46) And the secret to that particular mystery might lie in the fact that, according to General Sean Boylan TD, Quilty was all along a British agent.(47) Incidentally the previous editor of the Meath Chronicle, Hugh Smith, was involved in some mysterious effort to set up a fake Volunteer company in the Drumbaragh area, presumably to cause confusion in Volunteer ranks which, one could speculate, might have also been in the British government's interest at that time.(48) So in practise all kinds of manipulation of facts and information were going on all this time unknown I think to the vast majority of Irish people. This even included printing completely fictitious newspaper interviews.(49) Publicity lockouts were very common, where people or groups could get no say whatsoever for their case in any organ of the media. Even the Archbishop of Dublin complained in 1919 that "none of our newspapers dare publish the fact that I had subscribed to the Dail fund."(50) William O'Brien's party it is said got virtually no publicity for its viewpoint outside of Munster - a reference to the Cork Examiner no doubt. One of these MP's noted sadly that alongwith the Irish in the US most Irish people were very ill informed:
"In Ireland, as I have said, outside Munster the truth was never allowed to reach the people."(51)
Also of course the cabal who controlled the media used that to condition the people to accept their long term political strategies. I think you can see a glimpse of that kind of grand strategy in the episode in 1918 when W.B. Yeats proposed to P.J. Little, the owner of the 'New Ireland' newspaper, that "if I would turn the policy of the paper to a 'moderate, but passionate advocacy of Dominion Home Rule', Lord Wimburne would be prepared to subsidise it, to the amount of £2000."(52)
And nothing much has changed since those days imho!
Police response to Whistleblowers
So our mythical whistleblower guy gets nowhere in dealing with the media, so maybe he just goes to the proper authorities and everything is sorted out and the 'conspirators' get their legal comeuppance etc ? He contacts the FBI or police forces who take it from there, blowing apart any nascent 'conspiracy' in its tracks? Frankly this again is presuming upon a naive view of state agencies, especially the police. In practise the police as well do not 'do' conspiracy theories, generally speaking you will find that they are not interested in complaints about complex corruption say. I'm sorry but thats what I think you will find when you look into these cases.
As regards the FBI I will point to the experiences of the victims in the Omaha paedophile scandal mentioned above. According to a Nebraska State Senator the FBI and the police in that case "in fact....turned the witnesses... into the offenders so to speak, " referring to the aggressive way they demanded proof in backing up their assertions.(53)
You can read in the whistleblowing experiences of Major Holroyd how early on he gave detailed accounts of intelligence agency corruption to I think two police forces in England as well as to the RUC and to the Gardai and none of these investigations went anywhere. He even had physical evidence, including diaries and photographs, to back up his assertions but it did no good, they just weren't interested. One example was about the murder of an elderly man in Armagh which Holroyd had investigated and had written statements to back up his assertions, but:
"I had attempted to give the statement [that describes the case] to the Essex police who informed me as the crime had been committed outside their area, it was not their responsibility. As I know from bitter experience that the RUC have engaged in many cover-ups of these events, this case apparently will never be investigated, even though the informant identified himself in the statement."(54)
When Channel 4 broadcast serious allegations of a conspiracy that the RUC and loyalists paramilitaries were pretty much joint organisations, the RUC Chief Superintendent, James Nesbitt, put in charge of investigating these claims was actually involved in covering the whole thing up, according to the programmes producer:
"..the subsequent Nesbitt enquiry had been primarily interested in suppressing the truth and in limiting the damage we had inflicted on the RUC."(55).
A somewhat war weary Major Colin Wallace explained at a meeting of' 'Justice for the Forgotten' in Dublin on the 27th June 2003, that he had been through something like, I think, nine enquiries into his allegations but left the distinct impression that these proved to be nearly all whitewashes and coverups. (He harboured some hope though for the Saville tribunal in Derry and the Barron investigations in Dublin.)
You can also follow the experiences of the two whistleblowers in the RUC and the Garda Special Branch, Johnston Brown and John White respectively. Brown has written a book on his experiences of trying to investigate the links between the state and the killing of Pat Finucane - based on evidence that came his way - and his account outlines how his superiors and colleagues were either indifferent or anxious to get him killed! (56)
Det Sgt John White, meanwhile, was asked some time ago at the Morris Tribunal why he didn't blow the whistle earlier about the extensive illegal bugging by the Gardai. He replied:
"Because I knew exactly what would happen. The senior Garda authorities would turn on me like a team of dogs, if I was serious about making such a report. You look after your own. It's a big family and even when you retire you still look after your own. That is the situation and you know it."(57)
So in practise I think the depressing truth is that the police, and most state agencies, are much more interested in protected their employer, their own colleagues, and some would say even big businesses, rather than trying to genuinely investigate any 'conspiracy'. This obviously means again that 'conspiracies' can flourish that bit easier in our modern society, because the powers that be are so disinterested in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In general too I think another issue involved in labeling people "conspiracy theorists" involves this very naive attitude that I think the general public often have about state agencies. It seems to this observer anyway that virtually any serious criticism of the police, for example, is treated as ipso facto a conspiracy theory. The general public in western countries seem almost to be brainwashed with a feeling that the police are there to investigate crime and catch the bad guys and thats it, the feeling that they could be the bad guys committing the crime is a view that is simply not tolerated in some quarters. I think this is partly because the media drill this concept into people constantly. An instance of this occurred on the Duffy show on RTE radio some time ago. During a discussion one of his guests said that she went to the gardai asking them to intervene to protect her son who was being threatened by some drug dealers over money that he owed them. The gardai simply told the mother to pay the debt and were entirely disinterested in knowing about the drug dealers who the mother was able to name. For her pains Joe Duffy simply shouted at her "I don't believe you", because apparently Joe Duffy knew for certain that police forces are incapable of such an act.(58) There are plenty of examples of that in the Irish media, local and national. When P J Brogan, one of the Donegal victims of the gardai, tried to tell his story to the local press in Donegal he was simply told by one of the leading reporters on the local newspaper that they never carry stories like his critical of the gardai.(59) It follows then that people who have grown up with this media silence naturally enough find it difficult to believe anyone who tries to articulate a completely different version of events.
I think too that another factor in this is the big influence that a generation of TV programs have had on people. Clearly your average western citizen has probably viewed thousands of hours of the Sweeney, Kojak, Hill Street Blues, Morse, Frost, Law and Order etc etc and has subconsciously absorbed these fictional accounts as being representative of how police forces normally operate. But in fact they are fictional and the large companies that control this output have no interest in allowing people to get a more 'conspiratorial' view of events. For instance the writer of the Sweeney, Troy Kennedy-Martin, realised how corrupt the system was but couldn't reflect this accurately because "we were getting a little bit of pressure from on high. The Metropolitan police was part of a structure then which was almost impervious to any kind of criticism." In fact it was later found out that that unit in the Metropolitan Police was completely corrupt, taking a cut of all armed robberies committed in the area etc etc. So the TV program is a sanitised view of the reality, the reality being a lot more corrupt, this is what the writer really thought was going on:
"I went, as we all did, to some of the do's. And there was this, I thought, rather unhealthy alliance between 'the bar', barristers that worked at the criminal bar, and judges and senior police officers, you know it was, to no small extent, masonic. Certainly a freemasonry in terms of the way they reacted and related to each other. We did hint at that from time to time. I think we pushed it as far as we could."(60)
The powers that be in Ireland are particularly keen on keeping a close eye on what is permitted in fictional TV dramas, as this account in the Sunday Times about the RTE drama 'Proof' shows:
"Somebody evidently decided to cut this material from the final version in order to make the show more palatable. But to whom: viewers or politicians?
Thanks to a series of fortuitous circumstances, the original scripts for the four-part series have landed in my possession. Offering an intriguing glimpse of what the show might have looked like, they make fascinating reading.
.....the storyline revolved around an all-guns-blazing hunt for a stolen computer disc.
The disc was eagerly sought — by its owners and an investigative journalist among others — because it contained information linking a sex-slave racket and an international bank in a conspiracy to divert 25m euro in laundered funds into the election campaign of Myles Carrick, a charismatic Irish opposition leader played by Bryan Murray.
[In the revised script:] "This portrait of a noble statesman who is exposed as a victim of circumstance rather than a willful wrongdoer will no doubt have comforted the numerous Irish politicians currently facing allegations of malfeasance at Dublin Castle or the Four Courts, and their numerous colleagues who fear they could be next.
In the original script, a somewhat more plausible scenario was envisaged. The central conspiracy is no less fanciful but, crucially, Carrick is the taoiseach. He is acutely aware of the fact that he has been bought and paid for by big business, because he agreed the deals personally. His only concern is that nobody else discovers the terms and conditions under which he is contracted to his generous sponsors.
[The original writer left in frustration and the last two episodes were rewritten by new writers]....
The otherwise inexplicable neutering of the show’s original script suggests that the price RTE is prepared to pay for extra resources is to adopt a meek and docile attitude towards its political masters.
Editorial calls made on a lightweight thriller like Proof may seem peripheral to lofty questions of broadcasting policy, but they are indicative of a wider mindset. If RTE bosses are afraid to ruffle political feathers through fiction, what’s the likelihood of them doing so through current affairs coverage? "(61)
So this deliberately sanitised version of the truth, which is what we are getting in the media even in fiction, is the version that is in most peoples heads right now, and it is this mindset which prints out 'conspiracy theory' whenever a different view of the police or the political system is put forward. For all we know the reality could be a lot worse, after all if you think about the current era, as regards drug smuggling say, it is much the same as the Prohibition era in the US, and yet no self respecting gangster of that time survived very long without having the Chief of Police in his pocket.
To find out whats really going on you sometimes have to wait for regimes to fall, even the fall of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Ireland in 1922 threw up a few interesting facts. It turned out that the RIC (and the Dublin Metropolitan Police) were by no means just involved in gathering evidence to use in court (which was obviously the posture they put on for public consumption) they had their own ways of dealing with people they disliked. Whenever a person came into their radar as a Sinn Fein suspect they immediately endeavoured to get them sacked from their employment, (62) and approached everybody else in the 'suspects' orbit in order to put the squeeze on their targets, using "all kinds of intimidation on the men [of the Volunteers] through approach to parents, employers, even to the clergy."(63) It was also a routine practise for the RIC to blackmail any publican who looked as if he might lose his vintners license because of repeated breaches of the licensing laws. The RIC identified such businesses, which were hanging on by a 'cobweb' to use their phrase, and of course promised never to raid them if they agreed to pass on any information that might be overheard there. (64) I think this is an important precedent because obviously in modern times the state has a great capacity for closing businesses using much more onerous tax, health and safety, and planning laws than existed at that time, which leaves a great potential for this kind of blackmail in our own era.
Agent provocateurs were quite heavily used by the RIC it seems:
"....the police in Ireland were part of the British military establishment. They were armed with rifles and revolvers. Their policy was to promote crime and, as often happened to commit crime and have the blame placed on some unfortunate local person. There are many cases of this kind on record, but the House of Commons would not make them public.....[Proportionally the number of agent provocateurs in the RIC were few] but they were to be found in every area of Ireland."(65)
They also dappled in the odd conspiracy. The writer of the above quotes, Captain Lawrence Nugent, relates that when his group had seized back - in an armed raid - the HQ of the National Volunteers from the AOH (c.1918 I think) he was approached by an Inspector of the RIC with a proposition. The Inspector asked him to launch a similar raid on AOH headquarters in Dublin, the bargain being that they could keep everything they seized except the register which the RIC wanted. This was obviously to remain an entirely secret mutually beneficial arrangement, which as it happens Nugent declined.(66) The police, I think particularily the DMP, at the time were very heavily infiltrated by the AOH, which was anti-conscription among other things. This meant that the powers that be would have wanted to weed them out in order to take back control of the police.(67)
This was nothing when you compare it to what British army intelligence were doing in Ireland during the same period. Not long before the Truce the head of the Auxiliaries came forward to reveal something of what was going on, as reported in the New Statesman in May 1921:
"According to General Crozier, the whole system of military government in Ireland is a vast conspiracy of silence and lies, in which everyone from top to bottom is involved. ....[As an example of that atmosphere he said that oftentimes expelled army cadets were let back in a short time later because of the blackmail information they had on their superiors.]....
Take, for example, the case of the "Drumcondra shootings" when two men, Kennedy and Murphy, admittedly innocent of any crime were taken out and shot in cold blood. General Crozier tells us that, at a subsequent enquiry at a military court, the evidence in favour of the officer accused of the crime was deliberately "manufactured" by the military authorities in Dublin Castle. It was all arranged and rehearsed, and he himself was present at one of the "rehearsals", which took place before a prominent officer of the Intelligence Department."(68)
Another scheme the RIC indulged in during the troubles was to sponsor criminal gangs, in County Meath anyway, presumably to create a lawless type of atmosphere, which would then be blamed on the IRA and justify harsher security measures against them. Also it might have been done just to scare the populace, encouraging them to go the police with information. Anyway this was the kind of conversation that the Duc de Stacpoole found himself having with General Sean Boylan, the head of the IRA in Meath of course, when Boylan's men were returning all his stolen possessions. Boylan explained that the police were disinterested in finding them and that in fact it was more likely that the RIC were linked to the robbers.(69) I think as well that this kind of huge agent provocateur thing might have been behind the famous Black Hand gang that terrorised north Meath during the troubles. This was a large criminal gang that contained AOH and Sinn Fein members, ex British soldiers, and even some IRA members which indulged in such amazing exploits as blowing up labourers cottages at the same time as the whole county was swarming with British military and the Black and Tans. It isn't therefore much of a surprise to find that the gang seemed to have some connection to the security forces. I say that because one IRA Volunteer, Joseph Martin, was given a warning notice by the Black and Tans which was signed by the Black Hand Gang.(70) In any case they were eventually put out of business by the IRA after they had murdered a Mr Clinton near Moynalty.(71)
But thats not the half of it, some other RIC practises were a lot worse. Eugene Bratton an RIC Constable based in Navan during the Troubles, tells a tale which involves his own RIC colleagues in the station murdering one of the few decent Black and Tans and even their own Sergeant Keighery. Also three senior local RIC members, including District Inspector Egan and his brother County Inspector Egan, personally murdered the Postmaster in Navan called Hodgett. Hodgett had refused a position in the post office to the daughter of the RIC Head Constable Queenan, and it was because of that he was killed, even though he had no connection whatsoever to the IRA. Of course the murderers were then placed in charge of the 'investigation' into the crime and proceeded to scrape away blood stains etc. The RIC in Meath also planted false evidence on, and then charged, the Crown Prosecutor in the county, Lord Dunsany who again had no connection to the IRA, because he was inclined to question police witnesses too closely. In short the RIC considered themselves "kings in their own area" and really did whatever they liked, (72) knowing of course that it is easy for them to cover up their tracks considering the power of the police in the justice system.
I think then that the RIC were certainly up to no good a lot of the time, but evenso I think there is some evidence that the powers that be were deliberately setting up the RIC for a fall in the 1916-21 period. After all it was manned almost entirely by Irishmen and the British government seemed to feel no great care towards them when the going got hot in Ireland. I think one of their tricks was, after a certain point, to make the RIC deliberately unpopular and the focus of the IRA's efforts and the publics encomium to a degree that actually seems unfair. Maybe the government was afraid of their loyalty and wanted the conflict to develop into a nationalist v. RIC clash before nationalist and patriotic sympathies could develop within the RIC itself. Lawrence Nugent, at this time heavily involved in IRA intelligence work in Dublin, stated that:
"By every means in their power the Dublin Castle authorities tried to cause conflicts between the people and the police."(73) How they did this he doesn't say but I think it is interesting that the Irish Volunteers in the 1920-21 period - which perchance might have been infiltrated at a high level by the Castle - issued an instruction that all operations had to be passed by HQ with the exception that the RIC were to be shot on sight, which presumably then deliberately spared the British military.(74) De Winter's impression was that "everything was done to vilify and calumniate the police," which again seems to surprisingly leave out the British government and the military in these insults.(75) Maybe as well it is worth considering this passage in a circular sent out by Dublin Castle to the various RIC Head Constables around Ireland, outlining the methods to be employed in dealing with Ginnell's cattle driving campaign: "It was essential that people should be roughly handled."(76) By these means they deliberately landed the RIC in it I think.
Hence I respectfully submit that when you look at real history, and the experience of other countries, you have to come to the conclusion that police forces can become incredibly corrupt, and the centre of huge byzantine conspiracies, which you will never see if your horizons remains fixed on the standard role of the village policeman in the justice system.
Obviously on the internet and elsewhere there is a lot of speculation that intelligence agencies etc have access to very advanced technology which may be harming the health of dissidents using high tech gadgetry like even microwave weapons. Most of the people who then talk about those things are of course in turn laughed at as 'conspiracy theorists', or even the 'tin foil hat brigade' etc etc! But the thing is that there is, in my opinion anyway, pretty compelling information out there, from pretty respected sources, on this that cannot be laughed off so easily? As an example recently Pravda in Russia published an article which was actually illustrated with a picture of a person wearing a 'tinfoil hat' and yet they did not see any humour in that whatsoever. The article was a very serious short survey of the kind of advanced technologies that it seems are being used against dissidents today. A few bits and pieces from it:
"Major-general of the reserve of the Russian Federal Custodial Service Boris Ratnikov tells that Russia and other countries work on making special devices that turn humans into zombies.
It was already twenty years ago that mass media first mentioned the strange word combination ‘psychotronic weapon’. All information about such weapons arrived from military men transferred to the reserve and from researchers that were not officially recognized by the Russian Academy of Sciences. They usually told about some generators that could make people muddleheaded even when they were distanced at hundreds of kilometers.
Such devices were said to be able to control people’s behavior, seriously impair psyche and even drive people to death
Boris Ratnikov says that Russia has been working on the psychotronic impact upon humans since the 1920s. ...Thousands of brilliant researchers were working on the problem in the twenty secret centers.
At the same time, the official science still insists that psychotronic is mere charlatanry. Boris Ratnikov is sure however that in less than ten years psychotronic weapons will grow more dangerous than nuclear and atomic weapons.
It is known that several researchers are still investigating the problem in Russia.
In North Korea, the Service for Security and Control of Foreign Policy conducts experiments with special oscillators that can modify functions of human organs.
In Pakistan, special services can use a special device that can cause dysfunctions of human organs and physiological systems and even cause people’s death.
The Spanish intelligence finances studies of the effect of physical factors on human organs and human brain with the view of making devices to cause dysfunctions of organs and mental transformations.
Many countries posses information about secret use of a distance impact upon individuals and large groups of people. And these are not at all mere experiments but also practical application of technologies for various political and military purposes. Such technologies grow more perfect thanks to scientific and technological innovations.
Boris Ratnikov says that he once saw a KGB’s classified document about potential threats and a psychotronic generator. The document said that the mechanism of a psychotronic generator is based upon the resonance of response functions of human organs, the heart, liver, kidneys and brain."(77)
Obviously a lot of dissidents have been alleging this for years and the standard reply has been that while things like microwave devices might have been developed, and used, in the former USSR yet in the west there is no question of those governments developing or using such technolgies. But of course they'd say that wouldn't they !!!, such denials don't mean very much :-). For decades the citizens of the west were assured that the huge western nuclear arsenal was of course never used in operational combat, it was only there as a deterrent in case the Communist Bloc used it against them. This of course was a very necessary piece of reassurance when you consider the long term effect of releases of radioactivity and all that. Then after the first gulf war it was revealed that the west had indeed used a type of nuclear weapon in that conflict, Depleted Uranium in ammunition, which went on to cause all the nightmarish injuries that radiation releases are famous for. It then slowly leaked out that the US had been contemplating DU weaponry since 1943, had deployed them in weapons systems since 1968, (78) test fired them on US soil in the 60s (79), and they had been used extensively in combat in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. (80) Hence its remarkable to what extent the powers that be in the west can successfully keep secret over a long number of years its, what might be called, reckless enthusiasm to use these horrific weapons against their enemies. So now we find that in this latest war it is coming to the fore, and accepted in the mainstream media, that they are extensively using these mysterious microwave weapons.(81) So how can we be sure that US intelligence agencies for example, have not used those things before? Is it not usually the case that the US would deploy these weapons in secret within those agencies long before their use would be publicly acknowledged in open warfare?
As I see it anyway the fact is that there is a huge time lag involved here, like in the case of DU it seems to take about 30 years before the civilian world gets up to speed on the kind of technologies in use in the military/ intelligence field, especially in the US. Dr Robert Duncan, a "Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence from Harvard University & Formerly Defence Scientist with the US government", has interviewed personally some 650 people in his research on the use of these esoteric technologies on US citizens and he has found that there is "at least a 35 year gap between civilian and military technology in this area."(82) We seem to live in a world where in civilian technology, in some areas anyway, precious little seems to change or improve all that much, say in medicine for example, but in the world of the US military budgets the skies the limit! Look at aircraft speeds for example. The fastest civilian aircraft now flying is the Cessna Citation X which travels at a top speed of Mach 0.92 (83), while the fastest acknowledged military aircraft is usually said to be the SR-71 Blackbird travelling at Mach 3.35. Note too that that Cessna was first rolled out in 1996 (84) while the Blackbird dates from 1964 (85) showing again this huge military-civilian technology gap. Btw the Blackbird has officially retired, and as such some might say I should compare it then to Concorde in the civilian sphere but while the latter has certainly gone it is generally felt that the Blackbird has been replaced by an aircraft that flies as fast as Mach 6 (86) or even Mach 8 (87), so comparing like with like would give you an even greater disparity. As time goes on this gap seems to widen all the time, the gap between the white acknowledged civilian technologies and the classified military technologies. For instance as far as I know this aircraft speed gap would have been much narrower at the time Concorde was rolled out in the 70s, and much narrower again at the time of the civilian flying boats flying into Foynes in the 30s.
Surely the logic of it then is that people should be nervous about dismissing specific allegations about the use of advanced technology ? And should acknowledge that history shows that the governments in the west are extremely good at keeping these things secret over very long periods of time, but yet are surprising ruthless and irresponsible in the way that they deploy them? As such maybe there is something to the allegations about the use of those weapons against dissidents, maybe even about the deployment of microchips in people (to track and maybe to influence peoples health slightly, I'm not saying they can control a person that way !), and certainly it is perfectly clear that many of the big western intelligence agencies, and maybe even some cults, have the capacity to implant and erase memories and even create split personalities in people using hypnosis, drugs and contrived episodes of physical and psychological trauma. Not a nice thought I know but the world we live in I think!(88)
Another issue that crops up in this 'conspiracy theory' criticism is the role of secret societies. Obviously whenever anybody mentions them, particularly the Freemasons, a 'conspiracy theory' alert goes off and you might as well be discussing alien landings! But this is surely unfair, there are and have always been secret societies, and in Ireland at any rate, they have frequently exercised great power over our political destiny, so it seems unfair not to be able to speculate about the role they might play nowadays. For example in the tumultuous 1770-1800 period in Ireland the Freemasons seemed to have if anything the dominant role in the Volunteers (89), Defenders (90), and United Irishmen (91) and as such must have exercised a crucial role in Irish politics at that time. This role seemed to have continued afterwards as Larry Conlon writes in Riocht na Mídhe:
"Freemasonry has had a significant if not always obvious influence on Irish history and society.......[later, after the 1798 period] it became an increasingly powerful and influential organisation. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that many of the influential figures in Irish society and indeed internationally were Freemasons."(92)
Irish historical sources contain much gossip about what the Freemasons were allegedly up to which for some reason does not tend to be written about or reflected on by most modern Irish historians. Maud Gonne for example, commenting on events leading up to WWI in France, where she was then living, said that King Edward reconciled the UK's Scottish rite of Freemasonry with the French Grand Orient rite, the secret back drop to the Entente Cordiale, which in her opinion "made war inevitable".(93)
If talking about Freemasonry makes you automatically a 'conspiracy theorist' then there seems to be a lot of the latter in Irish history ! :-) Even Sean Lemass, the future Taoiseach of course, speaking in 1929 claimed that Mexico "fell into the hands of the Freemasons" at the same time "that foreign capitalists went into Mexico to exploit the resources of the country in their own interests." He went on to talk about a similar scenario here:
"Col Claude Cane Grand High Master of the Freemasons in Ireland announced the fact that Masonry was booming here; that Freemasons held positions of power in government departments and enterprises that seriously affected the countries interests. Some time ago the official organ of Cumann na nGaedhal launched an attack on the Knights of Columbanus, because, it said, they wanted to become a second Freemason organisation. The 'Irish Times' next day reminded Mr Cosgrave that he was dependent for his position as President on a majority in the Dail that was composed of six Freemasons. If there was likely to be a situation here as in Mexico, in which Freemasons would dominate the country, he [Lemass] hoped the Irish people would show to it the same attitude as the people of Mexico had done."(94)
But obviously there are other secret societies that have had a great bearing on modern Irish history. The Ancient Order of Hibernians was one such society that is said to have completely dominated the Irish scene from around 1906-1916 say. It is reported to have been "a secret sectarian society that had the country in its vicious grip" during those years.(95)
But the big beast of the secret societies in Ireland was soon to be the Irish Republican Brotherhood. This 'Brotherhood' - a word that is usually used in a certain context internationally - had huge influence over the Irish Labour Movement for example with members like James Connolly (96), William O'Brien (97) and P.T. Daly etc. Also the IRB had set up a special unit to infiltrate Irish labour unions in order "to get hold of men in important positions such as Power Stations, Railways and Transport Dock workers etc, .....[in order] to undermine the Cross Channel Unions" etc.(98)
The IRB had considerable influence over Irish arts, numbering among their members such luminaries as W.B.Yeats (99), Sean O'Casey (100), Charles Kickham, Ernest Blythe, and Piaras Beaslai, not to mention the obvious people like Pádraig Pearse.
Then an incredible number of Irish nationalist politicians of the period were in the IRB including Joseph Biggar (101) and Tim Healy (also apparently in the Invincibles (102)) from the Irish Parliamentary Party; Michael Davitt (a Supreme Council member of the IRB), Frank Byrne, Secretary, and Patrick Egan, Treasurer, of the Land League (Dr Hamilton Williams and other Land Leaguers were high officials in the Invincibles.(103) The Invincibles of course were an offshoot of the IRB.); Arthur Griffith ("at one time fairly high up in the councils of that organisation"(104), he apparently left fed up with its toleration of senior informers in its ranks.(105)), and obviously you can also write in nearly all the other big names of the 1916-24 period like de Valera, Cathal Brugha (those last two were at least at one time quite senior IRB people), the future Irish President Sean T O'Kelly (always a key IRB man and later an important member of the Knights of Columbanus), Liam Lynch, and obviously Michael Collins (of course President of the Supreme Council of the IRB), Bulmer Hobson, Dr Patrick McCartan, Mulcahy, Sean MacKeon etc etc.
This meant that a lot of the history of the time was in turn fashioned by the clandestine machinations involving this secret society. For instance the Irish Parliamentary Party tried to get control of the IRB at one time and it was at that point that the Invincibles broke off.(106) When relations between France and the UK were strained c.1900 it is said that the French government maintained contact with the IRB with a view to diverting UK military resources into Ireland.(107) Also it is obvious now that the Redmondite takeover of the Irish Volunteers in 1914 was in fact "merely a gloss for the continuance of the old duel between the A.O.H. and the I.R.B."(108) This secret duel even extended to the IRB infiltrating the AOH in the c.1916-17 period. These IRB moles then later aggravated the collapse of the AOH's power which happened a little later, c.1920: "The members of the IRB who had joined the AOH were now able to bring the greater number of branches in their districts into line with the general breakaway."(109) Obviously then the Irish Civil War took off on the back of a split in the IRB - with Liam Lynch opposing the Treaty in the Supreme Council of that body which otherwise was mostly pro-Treaty - and in the opinion of some exacerbated the divisions at that time. One such commentator, Frank Henderson of the Dublin IRA, ruefully remarked in after years:
"We decided that [the] IRB had done the real damage. It had split the army. They now saw the reason for the Church condemning Secret Societies." (110)
The story of Irish Secret Societies and the modern Irish state doesn't end with the IRB either, a number of other secret organisations appear on the scene with apparently the same behind the scenes influence. This is a report of a debate held at the 1933 Fianna Fail Ard Fheis on the reported influence of the Knights of Columbanus:
"Mr James Comyn contended that the Knights of Columbanus and the Freemasons were a menace to the State.
He personally had been more affected by the machinations of the Knights than anybody else. Patronage in the Courts was bestowed on the Knights.
Not one brief had been given by the Attorney General except to Knights of Columbanus and there was not one of those Knights to whom he gave patronage who had not been an active enemy of the Movement from 1916 to 1923.
.....[De Valera denied that there was any such influence and claimed that for example no member of the Executive was a Knight]...
"Mr Comym: I say it is a fact.
Mr de Valera: I say it is not a fact.
Mr Comyn: I maintain it as a fact.
Mr O'Connor, said that as a Secret Society, the Knights of Columbanus, they must presume, wanted to get control of the Fianna Fail organisation. It was to be presumed also that they had in fact got control of the Civil Service, and "since the mutiny many officers in the Free State army are now connected with it." If they got hold of FF they would control the whole state absolutely.
It was generally believed that the Knights of Columbanus were working determinedly to get control of every department of the Civil Service, and it was also said that almost every Catholic member of the legal profession was a member. (cries "No.")
Mr P.T. MacGinley ('Cu Uladh') seconding, said he was convinced that the knights aimed at getting control of affairs of the State.
Mr E McGawran (Dublin) stated that he had evidence that at a place where he worked, which came under the direction of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and in which 458 people were employed, all the people who held good positions did so not because of their ability or national outlook, but because they were Knights of Columbanus.
Mr Lemass (Minister for Industry and Commerce): name the department.
Mr McGauran: The ESB.
Mr Lemass: I have nothing to do with employment there."(111)
Clearly these delegates, having been through the mill of the Civil War period, were extremely interested and nervous about the role of secret societies, rather than dismissing such influence as unlikely or unimportant as many modern commentators do. Its like the more they knew about Irish politics the more they guessed that these societies were running the show. That the FF bigwigs seemed to have something to hide on this score was shown by Frank O'Connor writing in 1942:
"Every year that has passed, particularly since de Valera's rise to power, has strengthened the grip of the gombeen man, of the religious secret societies like Knights of Columbanus..."(112)
So going by this history I cannot see how people can be so dismissive of allegations of widespread influence held by secret societies, I mean anything is possible ?