The Strange Case of the Rothschild ‘Straw Man’
Facts, Fallacies and Fantasies about Jewish Power
By Will Banyan Copyright © 30 August 2012
According to their strongest critics, conspiracy theorists (or conspiracists) are, at best “harmless lunatics and amusing eccentrics”, but at worst, they resemble “the totalitarian immersion of cult members into herd thinking.” The litany of conspiracist sins, as compiled by Professor Stephen Plaut from the University of Haifa, is long:
Conspiracism feeds on misrepresentation of facts, outright lying, and tendentious twisting of unrelated factoids into a grand theory. Conspiracists take the logical fallacy, the non sequitur, to incredible heights. They are notoriously prone to rearrangement of their perception of reality based upon the mere power of suggestion.
Chip Berlet, an American researcher long associated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, also charges conspiracists with utilising “common fallacies of logic in analyzing factual evidence to assert connections, causality, and intent that are frequently unlikely or nonexistent.” More colourfully, Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay, in his book Among the Truthers (2011), asserts that all conspiracy theorists share the common trait of having “spun out of rationality’s ever-weakening gravitational pull, and into mutually impenetrable Manichean fantasy universes of their own construction.” Of course, neither Professor Plaut, nor Mr Berlet, nor even Mr Kay can be considered disinterested observers when it comes to the apparent dangers posed by conspiracism. But that does not invalidate their essential observation about the fallacies and fantasies that populate the conspiracist sphere.
One of the common fallacies often employed by conspiracists is the “straw man”, which is defined by Wikipedia as:
an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.
Or as a recent issue of the Skeptical Inquirer (July/August 2012, p.45) defined it; a straw man involves “misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack.”
Creating and knocking down the straw man is an integral part of political propaganda, and we are exposed to on a daily basis in the mainstream media. For American readers in particular, in the final countdown towards the US presidential elections (at the time of writing), examples can be found daily in the flood of attack ads on television.
It is also a favourite tactic of conspiracists, as in the case of the John Birch Society’s earnest analysts who frequently misrepresent the views and opinions of US establishment figures. But sometimes the tables are turned and the “straw man” accusation is levelled by conspiracists at their critics and other perceived enemies; especially that most reviled of creatures the “debunker”. The irrepressible Joshua Blakney, for instance, in a lengthy missive that originally appeared in Veterans Today, took one his lecturers, Professor Paul Vimitiz from the University of Lethbridge, to task for deploying various fallacies including “straw man arguments” to denigrate the claims made by 9/11 conspiracists.
The “straw man” has also been invoked in one reaction to my article “The Rothschild Connection: The House of Rothschild and the Invasion of Iraq”, which was published in Lobster Magazine (Summer 2012). On the Niqnaq blog on June 12, 2012, the article was raised in comments on a posted piece by Wayne Madsen about George Soros, under the provocative heading: soros didn’t fall out of the sky one night, he is a rothschild proxy. In the comments thread one generous reader –lafayettesennacherib – recommended my Lobster article as an “unusually evidence-based look at some of the claims made about the Rothschilds”, but went on to liken to a “Rothschild official press release” the section on the current size of the Rothschild fortune. Niqnaq responded by attacking Lobster magazine, declaring it to be “a con. It’s a good con, but it’s a con.” Moreover, Niqnaq asserted that Lobster editor and Fortean Times columnist Robin Ramsay was “self-censoring when it comes to Jewish power.” Having finally read my article, Niqnaq then declaimed:
It uses strawman targets: Icke and Makow. There is no reason why it should not have used M C Piper’s “High Priests of War” which is a much more broadly based analysis of the pro-Iraq-war neocon networks and their backers.
This was an odd argument to make. In using the “straw man” appellation Niqnaq implies that I have either deliberately misrepresented David Icke and Henry Makow’s arguments, or, as seems to be the case, misrepresented theories about who was really responsible for the invasion by concentrating on the Rothschilds-did-it version of history peddled by Icke, Makow, and to a lesser extent, Nicholas Hagger. For Niqnaq, who has, to put it politely, a particularly intense and excessive preoccupation with Jewish political and economic power, this is a perfectly logical conclusion to draw. Seemingly convinced that “the Jews” are behind everything, any piece of research which conflicts with that deeply held belief must have its methodology questioned and whatever ideologically unsound conclusion it draws minimalized and trivialised. This can be seen in remainder of Niqnaq’s comment:
It is also worth pointing out, as your author does not, that the Rothschilds directly finance the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, i.e. Chatham House, the progenitor of the CFR, and always have done. But it is probably pointless trying to isolate Rothschild influence for the sake of it. The four interlinked dominant dynasties of the USA are Rothschild, Rockefeller, Bronfman and Murdoch. Just about any neocon, or for that matter liberal, can be shown to be sponsored and subsidised by one or another of these four.
There you have it: efforts to “isolate Rothschild influence for the sake of it” are “pointless”, yet Niqnaq can confidently claim that it “can be shown” that “any neocon…or liberal” has been funded by either the Rothschild, Rockefeller, Bronfman or Murdoch dynasties. This is a remarkable statement, one that amply demonstrates at least two other favourite conspiracist fallacies: the non sequitur (an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises – Wikipedia) and special pleading (“making up excuses or exceptions when a claim is shown to be false”, Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2012, p.47). Thus the onus is surely on Niqnaq to actually substantiate his broad claim the “just about any neocon…can be shown” to have been sponsored or subsidised by this Rockefeller-Rothschild-Bronfman-Murdoch clique, rather than cavalierly dismissing my article because he does not like its conclusions…
But his comments on the whole miss the point of my article in Lobster: the aim was not to use the claims of Icke, Makow and Hagger as a straw man to attack theories about whether “the Jews” in general, or the “Israel Lobby” were the dominant and driving force behind the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, but to examine a specific, but entirely unsubstantiated allegation primarily made by these researchers that the Rothschilds themselves were the master plotters behind the war. The conclusion I drew reflected the evidence that I had – though politically very well-connected in both the US and the UK, and possessing two plausible motives (oil and Israel), there was, however, absolutely no direct or concrete evidence the English Rothschilds had used those links to pursue the war. Moreover, the article was not about Jewish power as such but about how the power-elite operates and the inherent difficulties in researching the activities of these behind-the-scenes players.
It is for that reason that I did not focus on Michael Collins Piper’s The High Priests of War, as Niqnaq helpfully suggests. Piper’s book does serve as one of a number of examples, given in the longer (and still incomplete) version of my Lobster article, of attempts by various researchers to insinuate a Rothschild role in the affair. But Piper is not as bold as Icke or Makow in directly accusing the Rothschild family of being at the center of the Iraq invasion plot. On the contrary, he is explicit in spreading the blame somewhat more broadly amongst the Jewish community, declaring in his executive summary:
The war against Iraq was deliberately orchestrated by a small but powerful network of hard-line “right wing” Zionist elements—the self-styled “neo-conservatives”—at the highest levels of the Bush administration, skillfully aided and abetted by like-minded persons in public policy organizations, think tanks, publications and other institutions, all of which are closely interconnected and, in turn, linked to hard-line “Likudnik” forces in Israel.
These “neo-conservatives”, writes Piper, had been “tied intimately, for nearly a quarter of a century, to the grand design of a ‘Greater Israel,’” (p.2). There is, according to Piper, “no question that elite American Jewish organizations closely tied to Israeli intelligence and the government of Israel were firmly behind the drive for war” (p.9). Piper devotes considerable attention to identifying those most responsible, helpfully confirming their ethno-religious identity and their diabolical ways, not that we should assume that Mr Piper has any interest in promoting negative stereotypes of Jews. Heaven forbid!
But Piper does feel compelled to link the Rothschilds to the neo-conservative network through another favoured conspiracist tactic, guilt-by-association. Thus he reports, for example, that media mogul Rupert Murdoch, a supporter of the neo-conservatives, is “alleged” by certain nameless “critics” to be little more than “a highly-paid ‘front man’—for the combined forces of the Rothschild, Bronfman and Oppenheimer families” (pp.19, 110). For a bit of added colour Piper notes this group “were referred to by critics as far back as the early 1980s as ‘The Billionaire Gang of Four.’” Moreover,
This clique of billionaires are tied together not only by a mutual association in international financial affairs but also by their Jewish heritage and a devotion to promoting the interests of the state of Israel (p.19).
Later Piper drops the “alleged”, and dubs Murdoch a “satellite of the Rothschild family”, (p.64). Piper also notes that key neo-conservative William Kristol is a Bilderberger, which is, coincidentally “funded jointly by the Rockefeller and Rothschild financial empires”, and he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is “the American affiliate of the Rothschild-funded London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs” (p.22). The latter point Piper helpfully repeats on two more occasions (pp.63, 117).
Piper’s book is anchored by 138 footnotes. Yet for these very specific and controversial claims, which implicitly link the English Rothschilds to the United States-based neo-conservative network, not a single source is cited. If the Rothschilds really have been closely involved with both the neo-conservative network and ultimately, the push to invade Iraq, then some tangible evidence of their collusion should exist in the public domain. Given how much has been written in the mainstream press and by academics about the role of both the neo-conservatives and the Israel Lobby, in shaping and influencing the Bush Administration’s decision to invade, it seems inconceivable that their names would not emerge. Yet even in the plethora of articles and tell-all books by politicians and mainstream investigative journalists that have been released since 2003, they are not mentioned in connection with the war or the neo-conservatives, not once.
The only people alleging Rothschild involvement are conspiracy researchers, anti-Semitic bloggers and self-promoters like Icke, Makow, Hagger, Piper, and, with his breezy statement that “just about any neocon” can potentially count the Rothschilds among their sponsors, Niqnaq. But the burden really is on those researchers to substantiate their claims about the Rothschild role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, something which all those named have consistently failed to do. Complaining about “strawman targets” sounds more like sour grapes from someone who knows that what they would like to believe probably is not true; and who thinks deploying logical fallacies will keep their dystopian anti-Semitic fantasies about Rothschild, and ultimately Jewish power, alive.