Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Conspiracy

Why would Ken Avidor choose to create and promote a conspiracy theory? Why would anyone?

It seems like a no-win affair: whether a UFO cover-up, the Illuminati or Bigfoot, alleging conspiracy automatically puts one outside the mainstream.

My guess as to the answer is: CONTROL. When you blame everything on a conspiracy you can't lose.

(1) You get to define the conspiracy. Thus, a transit technology like PRT can really be anti-transit if there is an insidious conspiracy by anti-transit highway interests.

(2) You decide who are the conspirators. For example, liberals and conservatives, corporations and environmentalists, all agreeing on an issue, indicates divergent interests have put aside differences to work on something they agree is to their mutual advantage. Unless there is a conspiracy. UPDATE-- Ken Avidor uses LinkedIn to stalk PRT advocates (12/2).
(3) Facts are only as you see them. News stories you disagree with are "puff pieces." Peer-reviewed studies you disagree with? You guys buy those. Plus, by invalidating those puff pieces and bought-and-paid-for reports, you can keep on being the sole voice of truth crying in the wilderness. You can continue calling for investigations, even though those news stories and reports were investigations.
(4) You are the smart one. Because you define the conspiracy, you have all the answers. You get to say things like "I have proof of everything I say," and describe yourself as "perhaps the leading skeptic" of PRT -- even though all the proof is circumstantial, circular or plain wrong, and you are the leading authority only because you invented the conspiracy in the first place. But it feels good to be the keeper of secret knowledge; the people who believe you call you an "expert."

A word about words -- or rather, their meanings. For there's really nothing wrong with the word conspiracy per se-- but the common usage of the word gives it a certain je ne c'est plot.

In other words, in the popular consciousness there is a difference between a conspiracy and a plan.

For instance Hillary Clinton was right about there being a 'vast right wing conspiracy' against her husband. All the evidence about Richard Mellon Scaife, the Arkansas Project, etc. are in the public record. There was a group of people with right wing sympathies, linked by money and documents, working in concert against the Clinton presidency. But Hillary Clinton was ridiculed for calling it a conspiracy, because the general public doesn't give much credence to the existence of conspiracies. She should have called it a plan.

Hence, we can say that plans and conspiracies begin with theories. But plans go on to have provable facts that link together people -- causes and outcomes. Conspiracies, therefore, do not have these features.

So we can understand Ken Avidor the Minnesota anti-PRT Propagandist by recognizing the role conspiracy plays in his arguments, and the arguments of his followers.

The conspiracy.
Certainly Ken Avidor's free 'n' easy use of "scam" and "stalking horse" are prima facie evidence that he is alleging a conspiracy. He's even gone back over 30 years, unconvincingly trying to show that the conspiracy spans the ages.

In 2004, former Minneapolis Councilman Gary Dean Zimmermann, Rep. Mark Olson and then State Senator, now Congresswoman Michele Bachmann conspired to fleece Minnesota taxpayers with a multi-million dollar boondoggle called Personal Rapid Transit (PRT).
The conspirators.
Anyone who doesn't side with him is a PRTista or gadgetbahner. This is a reality where a multi-discipline civil engineering firm is only a highway contractor because it was involved with a PRT program. But if another firm agrees with him, its highway projects are ignored. One propaganda tool is The Pod Squad (right) -- presumably they have been convicted of something, or Avidor thinks ought to be, and all riding in a PRT vehicle. But the graphic and caption together are a deception: it conveys the message that PRT is a crime. But none of them were convicted for anything to do with PRT.

And what a poor group of disembodied heads they are: no PRT projects approved; no funds secured for PRT programs; no LRT projects stopped. Aha! This just means the Avidor is effective!

And Michele Bachmann? The so-called PRT bill she sponsored in 2004 was simply to add PRT to the long list of categories of projects for which Minnesota local governments may issue bonds. And her support for PRT was so deep, that was the first and last time she did anything on PRT's behalf. She is not a PRT supporter.

The secret knowledge.
It's all circular. Name one of Ken Avidor's claims -- every single one has been knocked down. Yet he continues to repeat them, and invent new ones. The ULTra PRT gets a development project? There is no project. There is? Then ULTra isn't really PRT. It is? Then ULTra is not really a clean all-electric vehicle!

* * *

Soon things become so convoluted that allies become enemies and foes become friends. Take the light rail-only posters the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist has cultivated on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Local Transit Forums. I won't name names, but two of them rhyme with Scroll Not Rolled To Mole Farriers and BihardBRANSITbadvocate. Read:

Posted by [Scroll Not Rolled To Mole Farriers ] at 11/2/07 7:40 p.m. in reply to: #1488320
Last edited at 11/2/07 7:54 p.m.
Now Sierra Club and Ron Sims are in the hunt for a better plan than what Prop 1 offers for its $157 billion in taxation over 50 years. It probably won't take Sierra Club and Sims the five years that ST required to come up with ST2.

So, let me get this straight, John Niles: you have now officially endorsed bad, shallow, and pie-in-the-sky conceptual planning and analysis? Isn't that how CETA came to embrace Monorail?

Figured out yet that Metro totally made up that 50k ridership figure, and that inflation will eat those new Rapid Ride service hours up in a giffy? [sic]

John Niles / Kemper Development Co have been talking up concept-only BRT for over 10 years now.

Now, Niles wants to "pass the torch" of phony support for his non-existent BRT plan to Ron Sims, and the kooks at the Sierra Club. Wow. I didn't know you could cop out on a cop-out!

Sierra Clubbers have a hidden agenda - they want to stop economic progress more than anything else...and hardcore tolling will definitely achieve that...

. . .
Posted by [Scroll Not Rolled To Mole Farriers] at 11/12/07 4:53 p.m. in reply to: #1504294
...When "Rapid Ride" begins service around the same time Central Link starts up, it will be clear to most people that Bus Rapid Transit is really just another way of saying "I was late, because my bus was caught in traffic." Metro could have included more capital amenities to make their slow, lumbering 2nd class buses try compete with light rail, but Sims chose quantity over quality.

A thoughful [sic] conservative would take a look at the operations and maintenance costs for running such a huge fleet of buses stuck in traffic, and see that Metro's .9 cent sales tax is getting eaten alive by inflation costs associated with having so many drivers, and so many internal combustion engines on the road.

But we don't have thoughtful conservatives here. Just the bomb throwing type. And the Interstate Era dinosaur road warriors.....

Posted by [BihardBRANSITbadvocate] at 11/12/07 5:14 p.m. in reply to: #1515781
Too bad there are no local versions of Paul Weyrich around here. He even gave Philadelphia good marks for getting Route 15 re-started with streetcars, although it sat for a little bit longer, because after the reconstruction, the neighborhood activists had their alderman block the re-start. Praising a rail line in Philadelphia when they supposedly have a working Bus Rapid Transit on the other side of the Alleghenies in Pittsburgh...

See what just happened?
(1) Buses were attacked because of their O&M costs. But light rail is nothing without bus feeder transit to increase the stations' rider catchment areas. Those costs will be incurred whether the primary line-haul mode is BRT or LRT. The real desire is for LRT, not budget savings.

(2) The Sierra Club (!) was attacked for not supporting the recent Seattle-area "Prop. 1" Roads+Transit measure, which would have authorized additional future LRT projects and highway projects. Sierra, a light rail supporter, decided it only wanted the light rail. In effect, Ken Avidor's running mates are attacking Sierra for being too pro-rail. The self-described anti-"road warrior" is really fine with roads, so long as it logrolls the desired technology, LRT, ASAP.

(3) Sierra's position is explained with a conspiracy theory--"a hidden agenda." That is how a venerable pro-environment group can disagree with you, the guardian of truth.

(4) Paul Weyrich (See his Right Wing connection, Part II, 5/30) is held up as an example of a conservative we need around here! Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, who once told a Resmuglican meeting:
I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as voting populace goes down. Source (Crooks and Liars)
This is a friend of transit? A man who espouses anti-democratic values that, if carried out, would make public transit impossible? Beyond espousal -- he has had the political resources to make it happen. But he happens to have a newsletter that says nice things about the desired technology, LRT, so the Propagandist's disciples love him.

(5) Neighborhood activists are on the wrong side because they delayed the Philadelphia Route 15 streetcar. Silly residents, thinking that what happens where they live is any of their business.

* * *

We started by asking "Why Conspiracy?" For Ken Avidor, our diagnosis is Control -- perpetuating his campaign by (mis)defining his opponents and a technology. Why that should be so important could be due to the conspiracy theorist having control issues.

But I'm not claiming to be an expert.

Ken Avidor is two - two - two mints in one

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