The “appalling vista”
When conspiracy theories come true
In my last post, Divided Nation, I wrote:
The evidence I have presented here indicates that the threat of Covid-19 has been hyped up, or worse. Consequently there is no doubt in my mind that we are being deceived.
Anyone who accepts this is immediately led to an unavoidable conclusion. Deception of the public on the scale I suggest could not happen without the collusion and support of a considerable number of people. In other words, it would have to involve a conspiracy.
Here is a dictionary definition:
conspiracy n. a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.
No one would dispute that surely? But the word “conspiracy” becomes loaded when followed by its frequent companion, “theory”. When the phrase “conspiracy theory” appears in the media it is usually associated with some claim or belief that the author deems to be so outlandish that no counter-argument is needed to dismiss it. But occasionally “a secret plan” is exposed to public gaze and what was once derided as a “conspiracy theory” is found not to have been so preposterous after all.
Film-maker Michael Moore expressed this more pithily than I could:
Now, I’m not into conspiracy theories, except the ones that are true.
And there’s the rub. How do we know where the truth lies? For every conspiracy revealed for what it is, like the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany or the Iran-Contra affair in the USA, how many others are never uncovered?
But the point to remember is that conspiracies happen. And we don’t have to move too far from these shores to find other examples.
The Birmingham Six
In 1975, six men were tried for the murder of 21 people. The victims were killed when two pubs were bombed in the English city of Birmingham in 1974. During the trial the presiding judge spelt out for the jury what it would mean if they found that the defendants were telling the truth about their innocence.
Consider the scale of the conspiracy of those involved, it ranges does it not, from detective constables and police constables right up through the police hierarchy…Consider, lastly, the subtle artistry that has gone into the preparation of these statements, if indeed they are works of fiction. If the evidence of the defendants is true, it shows the police not only to be masters of the vile techniques of cruelty and brutality to suspects. It shows them to have a lively and inventive imagination.
As two law professors have pointed out, the judge’s remarks turned out to be an accurate description “of what the police actually did”.
In their verdict on the final appeal made in 1991 by the Birmingham Six, the three judges concluded that:
the police evidence at the trial [is] so unreliable, that…we would say that the convictions are both unsafe and unsatisfactory.
When he delivered his verdict on an earlier, unsuccessful appeal by the Birmingham Six, Lord Alfred Denning described the prospect that the men were telling the truth as an “appalling vista”. He feared the very outcome that emerged a decade later.
The idea that some things are best left hidden prevents many people from exploring uncomfortable questions because the answers may overturn their world. In Denning’s case, the “appalling vista” was the prospect of the legal system to which he had devoted his life being brought into disrepute.
In 1986, the Irish government introduced a new Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT). The measure obliged financial institutions to deduct tax from any interest paid to customers on their savings accounts. This hit large depositors hard, especially during an era of high interest rates. So retail banks began to offer their customers a means of avoiding the new tax. This was based on a loophole that allowed non-residents of Ireland to receive the gross interest without deduction of the tax. So all a customer had to do was sign a form declaring that he/she lived outside the jurisdiction and they were off the hook.
In 1999 a parliamentary committee conducted an enquiry into the scheme. In their report they described it as a “very major scandal” that resulted in “widespread tax fraud”.The fraud was not simply the result of an illegal compact between banks and their customers. It involved those arms of state, like the Revenue Commissioners, that should have been preventing such fraud in the first place.
In a telling passage, the committee found that:
During the relevant period the administrative state knew of the DIRT problem, knew of bogus non-resident accounts and knew that these phenomena were in a context of more generalised tax evasion… Officials developed a concern to not "rock the boat".
Being a political body, the report’s authors used mild language to describe what they found. So they preferred phrases such as “connivance with illegality”, rather than the more obvious c-word. But one newspaper was not so reticent.
In its coverage of the public hearings that led up to the report, it quoted Dermot Gleeson, counsel for AIB Bank, in his cross-examination of a government tax official. This official, Tony MacCarthaigh, had been investigating the DIRT scandal. Gleeson attempted to confound the witness by referring to his “utterly absurd conspiracy theory” that AIB was engaging in illegal activity.
But the committee found that it was neither “absurd” nor a “theory”. They had uncovered a conspiracy involving powerful banks (not just AIB), wealthy people and government agencies, a conspiracy designed to defraud the state of revenues that could have been used to fund hospitals, schools and other much-needed amenities.
In these examples, two types of conspirator can be discerned. There are the perpetrators directly involved, whether police officers or bank officials. Their reasons may have more to do with advancing their careers rather than lining their pockets. But they are hardly honourable. And then there are those, probably greater in number, who learn about the conspiracy and either stay quiet or actively try to cover it up. Their motives may be good ones, but they are still colluding with corruption.
Lord Denning believed it was preferable for innocent men to go to prison than to have public confidence in the legal system undermined. Those in Ireland charged with safeguarding the integrity of the banking system thought it better to overlook tax evasion if it meant that the wealthy did not take their money abroad. Both were wrong.
When conspiracies like these are exposed, as some inevitably are, public confidence is corroded and cynicism spreads through society. So it is easy to see why many well-intentioned people allow themselves to become part of a cover-up, to prevent that “appalling vista” becoming a reality. But it is still wrong.
Is that what is happening with Covid-19? A scam being sustained by well-intentioned people not involved in its creation? Do they implicate themselves in deception because they believe that to allow the truth to come out would only make things worse?
Perhaps. But what about the perpetrators? Why are they trying to hoodwink us? Are their intentions good, or are they motivated by base desires? If they are practising sleight of hand in order to distract us, what is it they don’t want us to see?
Since the WHO elevated Covid-19 to a global pandemic in March 2020, the Internet has been awash with alternative theories about what is really going on. Many of these theories presuppose the existence of a contagious and deadly virus. The differences between them relate either to how it originated, e.g. in a Chinese laboratory, as a side-effect of the 5G rollout, or its true purpose, e.g. to reduce the world’s population.
However, if the threat posed by Covid-19 is either inconsequential or non-existent, then we should look elsewhere to find the truth.
That will be the focus of my next post.
Concise Oxford English Dictionary (12th ed., Oxford, 2011).
Michael Moore, Dude, Where's My Country? (New York, 2003), p. 2.
Mike McConville & Luke Marsh, The Myth of Judicial Independence (Oxford 2020), p. 146.
Ibid. (emphasis in original)
‘England and Wales Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) Decisions’, 27 Mar. 1991, British and Irish Legal Information Institute [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/1991/2.html], 23 Mar. 2021.
Catherine Elliott, Frances Quinn, English Legal System (8th ed., Harlow, 2007), p. 157.
Committee of Public Accounts, Parliamentary Enquiry into D.I.R.T. - Final Report (Dublin, 2001), pp. 3, 59.
Ibid., p. 87.
Ibid., p. 10.
Evening Herald, 12 Oct. 1999.