Hey, You’re Black; How Many Conspiracy Theories Do You Subscribe To?

Chuck D used to say that hip-hop was black people’s CNN, and so it was that I first learned about the connection between the CIA and the inner-city crack epidemic from anchormen like stic.man, KRS-one, the Last Emperor, and Boots Riley. Since it’s pretty tough to properly substantiate accusations of government wrongdoing in rap lyrics, I was unaware the meme had any mainstream traction until a couple days ago, when I read this ten-year retrospective on a groundbreaking San Jose Mercury feature examining the CIA/crack connection. Gary Webb, the reporter who wrote it, was the first to conclusively document solid proof of a connection between the CIA and the LA drug trade. He got 90% of the story right but was pilloried by his journalistic peers for no other reason than reaching unpalatable conclusions about the way our government operates. They nailed Webb on a single unsupported claim he made in the piece which, while glaring, did not contradict his other main points. Unable to continue his career in journalism, the disgraced reporter hit the skids and eventually committed suicide in 2004.

But what really snared my attention in the retrospective was the following passage (emphasis mine):

But after Webb’s reporting tied Ross to the Nicaraguans and showed that they had CIA connections, The [LA] Times downgraded Ross’ role to that of one “dominant figure” among many. It dedicated 17 reporters and 20,000 words to a three-day rebuttal to “Dark Alliance” that also included a lengthy musing on whether African Americans disproportionately believe in conspiracy theories.

All three major U.S. dailies, The Times included, debunked a claim that Webb actually never made — that the CIA deliberately unleashed the crack epidemic on black America. The controversy over this non-assertion obscured Webb’s substantive points about the CIA knowingly doing business south of the border with Nicaraguans involved in the drug trade up north.

The Washington Post titled one of its stories “Conspiracy Theories Can Often Ring True; History Feeds Blacks’ Mistrust.” The New York Times chipped in with a scathing critique of Webb’s entire career, suggesting that he was a reckless reporter prone to getting his facts wrong.

Disregarding for the moment the bald racism involved in crowning an entire race with tinfoil hats, I’d like to ask if it’s actually true: do most blacks subscribe to more conspiracy theories than the general population? What about yourself? Do you believe, for example, that the US government engineered AIDS specifically to kill off blacks, that birth control is part of an anti-black eugenics program (Margaret Sanger notwithstanding), that Bush knew about 9/11, that Jews secretly run the world, or any of that stuff about aliens, JFK, black helicopters, or barcodes? If you do buy into any of these theses, why?

The usual explanation for the black propensity toward this kind of thinking is that such undisputed historical iniquities as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, Rosewood, MK Ultra, and KKK terrorism have primed us thus. What do y’all think?

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Published on August 21, 2006 at 8:08 pm. 6 Comments.
Filed under news/politics,racism.