Pages 1-6 (Chapter 1)
Gary Allen begins his text by trying to create an image in his readers' heads that they can relate to. Unfortunately, he uses way too many words to do it, which unfortunately is kind of indicative of his style as a writer. Anyway, there's a point to this word picture he's painting.
If this actually was Mr. Allen's plan, then the rest of this book would be about how to improve your critical thinking skills. Spoiler alert for the rest of this: he does not do that. He mostly tries to convince the reader of a conclusion that defies credulity and does not stand up to even the most basic scrutiny.
Within the first page, we already see Mr. Allen employing a "empowerment seminar" level rhetorical trick. Anyone trying to make a persuasive argument knows that a pretty large percent of the population feels a vague sense of unease, an ennui. There's a near-universal sense that something is not quite right about the world, and this is something that con-men and opportunists latch onto.
This is how most cults recruit; they have to make the initiate feel like there is something special about them, and something special that the cult has to offer. In this case, it is Mr. Allen suggesting that it is something special about his reader that they are brave enough to question why they feel like something is not quite right about the world, and Mr. Allen offers the ability to see what is hidden from the people who aren't brave like you. It is pure and simple manipulation.
As for the rest of that passage, consider that this book was written in 1970. As such, Mr. Allen's complaints about the what Presidents aren't doing seems a little absurd:
- "Promise faithfully to halt the worldwide spread of Communist advance": Since the beginning of the Cold War, the main philosophy toward Communism was one of "containment." Unfortunately, in practice, it never worked this way, and that always ended like shit. In the Korean War, the goal shifted from "protecting South Korea from being conquered by the Communist North" to "taking out Communist North Korea," which (spoiler alert) did not work. In Vietnam, once again the goal of taking out the Communist North Vietnamese blew up in America's face and led to the deaths of countless Americans and Vietnamese. Perhaps if our leaders operated out of good faith and actually stuck to "halting the worldwide Communist advance," instead of trying to kill them all and change regimes, things could have gone better. Gary Allen is pretending that our Presidents weren't fighting Communist advances, but the reality is that they did so, but did it stupidly and too hard. The real complaint he should make is that the Presidents went too far.
- "Put the blocks to extravagant spending": Most aspiring presidents will promise to cut spending; it's more or less boilerplate candidate talk. The reality is that in 1970, when this book was written, as a percentage of GDP, government spending was pretty flat and had actually dropped from 55% of the GDP in 1945 to under 20% in 1970. Granted, the spending was extraordinarily high in 1945 because of World War II, but you can see from a larger time frame in the second graph that spending is not wildly out of control and ballooning at any point around where he is writing from. There are times when there are noticeable spikes, and those are in 1919 (WWI), 1945 (WWII), and 2009 (the most recent recession), but throughout the 1960's, it never topped 20%.
- "Douse the tea of inflation": This complaint makes even less sense. From the years 1913-2013, the US economy saw an average annual inflation rate of 3.22%. In the ten years prior to the writing of this book, the economy saw an inflation rate of 2.42%, which you will notice is lower than average. This is a slight jump from 1950-1959, which saw 2.14% inflation, but a massive step down from 1940-1949, which brought 6.07% inflation. Inflation did go crazy in 1973, due to a combination of the OPEC oil embargo and the stock market crash of that year, but all of that is irrelevant because it happened three years after Mr. Allen wrote this book.
- "Put the economy on an even keel": This is too vague to mean anything. As far as actual statistics go, the Real GDP of the US economy rose every year from 1960-1969. I suspect the desire to get the economy "on an even keel" is really just a function of inflated expectations created by the hyper-affluence the US enjoyed in the post-WWII 1950's.
- "Reverse the trend that is turning the country into a moral sewer": Not too much of a stretch to imagine this has something to do with the social climate in 1970, when Mr. Allen is writing this book. It's a little hard to look at the preceding years to the writing of this book, which included the 1963 Equal Pay Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the Stonewall riots of 1969, and the first Pride Parade in Los Angeles, and see a whole lot of progress being made in terms of cultural morality. He can't even be complaining about Roe vs. Wade, since that Supreme Court decision was not made until 1973. Overall, the point here is that I suspect that where I see great social progress in terms of making it harder for minorities, women, and LGBT individuals to have their rights taken from them, Mr. Allen sees "a moral sewer."
- "Toss the criminals in the hoosegow where they belong": What criminals does he mean? Since he's talking about presidential promises, I'm guessing he means street criminals. I guess this is as close to a fair point as we have here, given that crime rates rose dramatically in the 1960's, likely a byproduct of the Baby Boomers entering adolescence, combined with them being the first generation to grow up with television, and thus a sense of collective identity where before there would just be subservience to authority figures (parents, teachers, etc). It's a complicated picture, but as we will learn, Mr Allen is no fan of complexity.
As it relates to Nixon campaigning to end the Vietnam War, and then promptly spilling it over into Laos and Cambodia, Mr. Allen may have a decent point. However, if you try to take this and expand it further, this idea that every president just stays the course makes no sense.
Presidents very often try to destroy the image or the work of their predecessor. We are seeing it played out compulsively by Donald Trump right now as he attacks everything Barack Obama did as president. But, since this book was written in 1970, we can't use that as an example.
One easy example: thanks to Richard Nixon recording everything in the Oval Office, we know that he was actively working to try to destroy Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, but that he was unsuccessful. Often times, presidents find that they can't achieve everything they want to, whether due to the numbers not being good in Congress or not having the political capital to do something possibly unpopular. Sometimes, they are forced to pick their battles, and to an external observer, that looks a lot like continuing the previous administration's policies, when in fact, it's really more impotence.
A president campaigning is a president appealing to idealism. They speak in absolutes and make bold pronouncements. A president in office is a president that is encumbered by having to be pragmatic. They can no longer throw rhetorical spaghetti and the wall; they have to make compromises and accept the reality of the balance of powers in our government. It's for this reason that judging a president by who they were as a candidate is always kind of a losing game.
This is a fake quote.
There is no historical record of Roosevelt saying this, though it does appear to be a misquoting of a speech he gave in 1935 in Charleston, South Carolina about how we were recovering from the Great Depression (italics added for emphasis):
"We have had a very happy three weeks; and I am glad, in coming back here to the Southern Atlantic Coast, to find a very definite evidence of what I found in my trip across the continent, starting from Washington and going out through the Middle West, out into the Great Plains country, through the Rocky Mountain States and finally to the Pacific Coast. There was not one dissenting word—there was general admission that this country was coming back. You could see it with your own eyes.
Today, on landing, I am told the same story about South Carolina. Yes, we are on our way back— not just by pure chance, my friends, not just by a turn of the wheel, of the cycle. We are coming back more soundly than ever before because we are planning it that way. Don't let anybody tell you differently."
Interestingly, it appears that this fake quote actually originates in this very book. Gary Allen himself appears to be the person who misquoted Roosevelt, as he provides no citation for it, and everyone who uses the quote cites None Dare Call It Conspiracy as proof FDR said this.
John F. Kennedy may have once said to a reporter that "there are no accidents in politics," but Mr. Allen does not bring this up.
This is Mr. Allen using a fake quote attributed to FDR to justify outright paranoia. If he wants to believe this, it's certainly his right, but as it stands, this is nothing more than an opinion, and more than that, it borders on an escapist excuse for the state of the world.
This is outright bullshit. What does Mr. Allen consider to be "events affecting our nation's well-being," exactly? I would argue that many things affecting our country have been major boons for us. The fact that WWII was almost exclusively fought in Europe and left our industrial and manufacturing base intact, thus allowing the US to enjoy the period of affluence in the 1950's that conservatives fetishize so much definitely comes to mind.
But leaving specific examples aside, this sentence is really troubling. It is not the sort of thing a reasonably intelligent person would write.
Mr. Allen seems to be proposing that in international relations, economic dealings, and politics, things are essentially a coin-flip. An event is going to happen, and it will either benefit me or it will not. This is dreadfully simplistic, embarrassingly so.
In real life, there are always a plethora of options one can take, and one's decision does not exist in a vacuum. If life is thought of as a game, the other players get to make decisions too, and you can't always control how they're going to play. You do your best to maximize payoffs for yourself and limit losses, but sometimes a win is accepting a score of -1 instead of -5. To an external observer, unaware of the considerations and other choices you could make, -1 may look like a loss, but it's really a win.
I would challenge Mr. Allen to prove that our leaders don't occasionally make mistakes that benefit us. Until he does that, this is just a meaningless sentence. Seeing as it is impossible to prove a negative, I guess he just gets to make broad pronouncements like this, but just know, this sentence means nothing.
This sentence is purely there to pre-inoculate Mr. Allen's readers from fears about being called conspiracy theorists, which is something that conspiracy theorists do all the time. Read any other way, the sentence makes no sense. Does he really think someone reading this would be compelled by the premise that "mainstream history doesn't include the idea of planning?" That's ludicrous.
Here, Mr. Allen is placing himself in an authoritative position, one that the audience can trust, because he has "taken the time to study" real history. This is another feature we see consistently through conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones in particular. They love to talk incessantly about how much they've read, how much they've studied, and how you haven't. Even if you have a PhD in History, that doesn't matter, because you've been studying the wrong things, just all that mainstream shit. It is a short-cut to intellectual credibility, typically only employed by stupid people and con-men.
For most readers with any critical thinking skills, I would assume this passage should be enough to convince a person that this book's argument is not really built well.
Mr. Allen lets out that his believe is that there are only two options for how to look at history: either things are an accident or they are planned. He gives no real support to back this up, he just says it, as if this makes any sense, as if this is a realistic either/or situation. The reality is that neither "Everything Is An Accident" (which is not taught in Ivy League schools) nor "Everything Is Planned" makes any sense as a view of history.
When you look at history, you have to consider a number of variables that inform people's decisions and actions. The first is that in most international affairs, there are multiple actors (the involved countries' governments) who are capable of making decisions and "planning" their strategy, independent of each other. The second is that, even if these actors do plan together and coordinate, there is no guarantee that they are being wholly honest with each other. The third is that rogue, hostile actors have always existed on the game-board, and there is no perfect way to predict their actions, so responses to them have always been a mix of planning and accident, which often leads to some pretty severe bungling.
Throughout history, we've seen new natural resources discovered that we can use to make life easier, we've seen natural disasters that have made living in certain areas incredibly difficult, we've seen inventions and innovations that pushed society forward and changed everything, we've seen plagues and outbreaks that have crippled humanity and pushed us backward. In order for either the Purely Accidental or Purely Planned school of history to hold any water, they would have to have a way to explain all of that shit, and if you try to do that, you will create an absurd line of thought that will likely include "accidental peace accords" if you go one direction, and "weather controlling lasers" if you go the other.
Easy answer is that they don't.
There are many books about why the Korea and Vietnam Wars did not go well, and to give you a succinct boil-down, it wasn't because the State Department was secretly trying to help Communism.
One thing that this passage fails to take into account is all the brutally anti-communist action that's been taken domestically by multiple administrations and politicians. It is really easy to come up with examples of the government engaging in things that may well be called blunders, but definitely were not "communist-aiding":
- In 1954, Congress passed the Communist Control Act, which quite literally made it illegal to be a member of the Communist Party. No one in the Senate voted against the act, and it passed the House with a vote of 305-2. The bill literally says that, "the Congress hereby finds and declares that the Communist Party of the United States, although purportedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States." That is essentially Gary Allen's belief, written into law a good 16 years before he was writing this stupid book. The bill went on to place restrictions on what they decided were "Communist-infiltrated organizations," which to no one's surprise, was just a fun backdoor way of attacking labor unions. Fun fact: though the CCA is pretty much never enforced, it is technically still a law on the books, and as such, any Communist could be arrested at any point just for their political/economic beliefs.
- In 1947, Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835, also known as the "Loyalty Order." This order allowed the FBI to investigate any federal employee, essentially just as a fishing expedition, to see if any dirt came up about them being Communists or Communist sympathizers. One of the qualifications for whether or not someone was deemed "disloyal" to the USA was if they had "membership in, affiliation with or sympathetic association with any organization labeled as subversive." Hard to think of what kind of things might have been considered "subversive" in 1947, considering Brown vs. Board Of Education didn't make it to the courts until 1952, the men who killed Emmett Till were acquitted by an all-white jury in 1955, coincidentally the same year that Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person, and there were riots about James Meredith, a black man, going to the University of Mississippi in 1962. The very idea of being involved in a group that advocated for civil rights in 1947 would have been deemed subversive. Same goes for being in a labor union.
There are plenty more examples, but the picture should be clear, that the picture that Mr. Allen paints is a historical fiction. If he is arguing that the government was somehow bumbling around to secretly aid Communists, then he needs to supply examples and evidence, instead of just making a claim and then expecting his reader accept it as fact.
At this point, I would ask, what are these 32,496 consecutive coincidences? If there were a list of tens of thousands of coincidences that suspiciously all work toward the US helping Communism spread, then I would take this line of rhetoric a little more seriously, but as it stands, it is just another piece of big talk with nothing behind it.
Well, there is one thing behind it, and that is something that little boy Alex Jones, when he was reading this book at age 12 clearly internalized. There is a theme of hostility toward intellectuals throughout this book that borders on obsessive, and at no point seems merited. It sincerely feels like Mr. Allen is mad at not being considered an intellectual (mostly because he's making shit arguments and using fake quotes as center-pieces in his rhetoric), and he's lashing out about it.
There's real danger in this mentality, which is in no way to say that academics and intellectuals should be trusted implicitly. The smartest, most careful thinkers and researchers in the world are still wrong sometimes, but what sets them apart from people like Gary Allen and Alex Jones is their discipline, their process. It is no shame to go through a scientific experiment in good faith, then learn later that your conclusion was wrong because of an unconsidered variable. It is a deep shame to just make shit up, and in the process defensively attack "intellectuals" who are likely to debunk all your weak shit.
Also, this idea that he's characterizing "intellectuals who understand that we live in a complex world" as people who just think things happen by accident or at the whim of the inexplicable tides of history is profoundly stupid, but he talks in greater detail later, so it will be discussed then.