…any assertion that a ruling class tries to direct the system for its own interests is, by definition, considered a conspiracy fantasy in mainstream political discourse. In this broader sense, “conspiracy” refers to something more than just illegal acts. It serves as a dismissive label applied to any acknowledgment of ruling-class power, both its legal and illegal operations.
In place of conspiracy theory, we get “somnambulist theory”: those in power just do things as if walking in their sleep, without a thought to their vast holdings. Or we have “coincidence theory”: by sheer chance, things just happen repeatedly and coincidentally to maintain the existing array of privileged interests, without any conscious planning or pressure from those who benefit from such interests.
Then there is “incompetence theory,” or even “stupidity theory,” which maintains that people at the top just don’t know what they’re doing; they are befuddled, incapable, and presumably not as perceptive as we.
For years we heard that Ronald Reagan was a moronic, ineffectual president; his administration a “reign of errors,” even as he successfully put through most of his conservative agenda, serving the interests of corporate America, the military, and the ideological Right with which he had long been actively associated. During the Iran-Contra hearings, stupidity and incompetence were even claimed as a defense. The Tower Commission-handpicked by Reagan himself-concluded that the president was guilty of a lackadaisical management style that left him insufficiently in control of his subordinates.
In fact, as some of his subordinates eventually testified in court, the president not only was informed, he initiated most of the Iran-Contra policy decisions that led to a circumvention of the law and the Constitution.’
Another theory of innocence is what might be called “spontaneity theory,” or “idiosyncrasy theory.” Stuff just happens. The event is nothing more than an ephemeral oddity, unconnected to any larger forces. In 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported that there was more than one assassin-and therefore a conspiracy-involved in the 1963 murder of President John Kennedy. In response, the Washington Post editorialized: “Could it have been some other malcontent whom Mr. Oswald met casually? Could not as many as three or four societal outcasts, with no ties to any one organization, have developed in some spontaneous way a common determination to express their alienation in the killing of President Kennedy? … It is possible that two persons, acting independently, attempted to shoot the President at the same time.”