Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Usual Suspect

Conspiracy theories are dangerous because they lead to conclusions that deny the “bleeding obvious” in order to incriminate the desired suspect. Thus, fifty years after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, anti-Establishment activists are still alleging conspiracy by the United States Government, having failed to produce any credible evidence. The same applies to the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Blaming Prince Charles and George W. Bush respectively is mere wishful thinking by their enemies. There follow three illustrative examples of historic false conspiracy allegations.

In February 1933, the Reichstag was badly.burned. Van der Lubbe, a communist with a previous conviction for arson, was convicted after a fair trial. The Nazis had just come to power (January 1933) as part of a coalition government. They had not yet therefore had the opportunity to establish control of the German judiciary. Instead they seized this golden opportunity to take advantage of the panic provoked by the fire. The Reichstag (meeting away from its ruined building) was frightened into passing the Enabling Act giving the Chancellor (Hitler) dictatorial powers. This led commentators to allege that the fire was organised by the Nazis. No credible evidence emerged (even after the war) supporting that conspiracy theory. All the reliable evidence points to Lubbe; the Nazis merely took advantage oh his crime.

The next year (1934) Sergy Kirov, the popular Soviet Communist Party Secretary of Leningrad, was assassinated. He had been publicly contradicting Stalin and had drawn more applause that the latter at the Party Conference. Anti-Communist commentators thus alleged a conspiracy by Stalin, as later did his enemies within the Party. The evidence, by contrast, shows that a discontented, private enemy of Kirov, acting alone, had shot the latter in his office. Files opened after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 produced no evidence of Stalin’s involvement. He merely took advantaged of the crime by stating that it was part of a planned counter-revolutionary insurgency against which he launched his Great Purge.

Then in 1940 the same scenario was repeated in Libya. The fascist Governor-General, Italo Balbo, was a popular, daredevil aviator who had publicly condemned Mussolini’s alliance with Germany. He was killed when the plane he was piloting was shot down by Italian guns at Tobruk. It was widely suspected that this was a conspiracy by Mussolini to rid himself of a rival. Thorough investigation after the war, however, proved otherwise, it was actually a mistake. Balbo had been flying low, thus inadvertently preventing Italian anti-aircraft gunners from seeing his wing markings. Understandably, they thought it was an attacking British plane and shot it down thereby accidentally removing a vocal critic of fascist war policy.

The fact that a sudden death may be highly advantageous to someone else does not mean murder, even if that other person takes full advantage of the situation. Opportunism is not a crime, it is good tactics!

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