George W. Bush, in my mind, is very much like Bill Clinton. Both men seem to have the ability to make otherwise sane people on the other side of the political fence become nutcases. Remember all of the silly, Vince Foster conspiracy nonsense from the first Clinton term? Remember the internet chain letters about all of the people associated with Clinton who died under â€œsuspiciousâ€? circumstances? Michael Moore style conspiracy theories seem to me to be an inverted image of the same phenomena. There are many plausible reasons for criticizing the Bush Administrationâ€™s decision to go to war. The idea that they were bought off by Haliburton is not among them.
I have very little faith in conspiracy theories. In my mind the world is both more complex and far more simple than is posited in the feverish theories of Moore et al. I think that there is a certain amount of cynicism among elites, but I donâ€™t think that it is universal or all consuming. I think that certain groups are more or less powerful than they seem. However, on the whole, I think that the world is pretty much as it appears to be. There is no sinister cabal pulling strings off stage.
Or so I believe. My problem is that I also believe â€“ more or less â€“ in the Book of Mormon, which offers a very conspiratorial view of politics. Remember the Gadianton robbers and all of the arcane and covert political machinations in Nephite society in the years prior to Christâ€™s advent? Mormon is fairly explicit in a number of places that he is including all of this stuff for the benefit of modern readers. He is warning us about modern Gadiantons. The Doctrine and Covenants also has its share of conspiratorial asides. The Word of Wisdom, for example, has been given on account of â€œdesigning men in the last days.â€?
Obviously, there have been Mormons who have latched onto this aspect of our scripture and run with it. The most spectacular example, of course, was Ezra Taft Benson, but he is hardly alone on this front. I am willing to admit that there is a kind of spiritual integrity and unity to this world view that in some ways I find admirable. However, at the end of the day I donâ€™t really buy it. To be sure the NKVD and later the KGB was fairly adept at penetrating American government in the 1930s and 1940s. There were Reds to be hunted and they did in fact pass secrets to the Soviets. Alger Hiss was guilty. On the other hand, the enemies within did not sell-out China to the communists, the New Deal and the Fair Deal were not fronts for the Soviet Union, and Hollywood was the home of woolly-headed leftism not Commitern controlled cells of revolutionaries. I think that modern incarnations of demonically clever conspirators are similarlly silly. Karl Rove is just a political consultant, and there is no secret network of plutocrats and Likudnick Straussians bent on world domination.
In other words, I just donâ€™t believe in the conspiratorial view of history or politics. Yet there is more than a little material in the scriptures of the Restoration pointing in this direction. My basic response is to ignore this stuff, however, I wonder if there is something else there. Do we have some sort of theological commitment to conspiracy theories that ought to inform our views?