One of the greatest weapons that conspiracy theorists hold is the truth. Not the complete truth, but something that is factual and provable which can be used to bolster whatever case they’re making.
When it comes to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) they have a lot of truth to work with.
It’s a “think tank”, an area where experts can go to discuss things and produce papers suggesting possible actions by authorities and the projected results of those actions. As such, it is certainly not unique. What make it prominent are two factors: its founding goals and its membership.
A quick glance by the politically inclined will notice some very prominent names among the lesser lights. John Bolton is a member, for example, as are Bill Clinton, Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright, Paul Bremer, Barbara Bush, Katie Couric… and those are just through the letter C. Keep going. It’s impressive. Jake Tapper, Condi Rice, most of the names you’d expect and many you don’t are members.
That alone, with a membership of just over 5000, might be a little surprising. But if it is your takeaway, it really means that you’re not even close to being an “insider”, no matter how much you’ve read. Because that list doesn’t have any lesser lights.
The membership of the CFR are the most prominent politicians, editors, lawyers, publishers, activists and journalists working on foreign policy in America, and they are trying to guide policy… exactly as the conspiracy theorists believe.
When people talk about “shadow government”, or “deep state”, this is as close, in the real world, as they’re going to get. It’s what JournoList was trying to become. Even at that, they’re merely limited to suggesting and guidance, but their papers hold significant sway in the halls of power because it’s known that experts with widely differing opinions have argued policy before issuing a statement on it.
So there’s part of the truth. Here’s the other part, the founding:
The CFR was created in 1921 by Cecil Rhodes and Colonel Edward House. Their goal was to minimize the cross-border conflicts which were threatening civilization. Colonel House described their goal in the Saturday Evening Post as a “New World Order”, and the CFR viewed itself as working hand in glove with first the League of Nations, and then the United Nations.
If you can’t put together a desire for a New World Order and a roster of just over 5000 of the biggest power players in the NY/DC corridor to come up with a launching pad for fifty different conspiracies, you’re just not trying.
That is exactly what has happened. In both actual and theorized foreign policy decisions, the CFR is viewed as instrumental… and often, they are. It’s not really a conspiracy when it’s all out in the open and available for easy download from their website, but their prominence is underestimated by most people. Conspiracy theorists use that ignorance as an “in”. When prospective converts learn just how impressive the CFR is, it becomes obvious that the theorist is possessed of unusual knowledge, and perhaps some of those other things they’re saying must be true…
…but, no, that’s a logical fallacy. They started from a simple truth, and they’re extending that into insanity.