At Aaron Bady’s suggestion, I read Eve Sedgwick’s classic essay “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You.” It begins with an account of Sedgwick’s conversation with Cindy Patton about the possible origins of HIV, which was at the time rumored to be deliberately engineered by the US government in some way. At one point, Patton asks, if all the conspiracy theories were definitely true, “what would we know then that we don’t already know?” For example, we already know that the US government views the lives of Africans and African Americans as cheap, that it views homosexual men and drug users as dispensable, etc. What actionable information does the explicit conspiracy theory add?
I’ve been having similar thoughts about Seymour Hersh’s famous article alleging that the official story of bin Laden’s death is basically all lies. (I am a print LRB subscriber and refuse to read the articles online ahead of time.) I don’t pretend to be in a position to assess the merits of his claims, though from my perspective it all sounds eerily plausible. If everything Hersh said was true, though, what would we know that we don’t already know? I think it’s safe to say that we already knew that the killing of bin Laden was a political stunt with little to no relationship to any sincere national security interest (whatever that would even mean). We also know that the relationship between the US and its client states is fraught with tension and dishonesty. Both of those facts remain constant between the official story and Hersh’s version.
Am I missing something?