Short answer: conspiratorial worldviews and attitudes are necessary to preserve the fiction that the United States has no ruling class.
Who were and are the members of this ruling class? They are the ones who went to the well-funded secondary academies of the Northeast, such as Phillips Exeter Academy and all the many with less money. They went on to the Ivy league elite socialization centers in Cambridge and New Haven and Princeton and Philadelphia and even the unlikely location of Ithaca. As the saying goes, they went on to marry each other’s sisters and to work in the investment banks and law-firms of their own grandfathers or those of their school-chums or distant cousins. In the early days, they went on to make their family fortunes in the African slave-trade or the Chinese opium trade. To be sure, the various members of the Adams family were taking care of the nation’s interests, at least as they saw them, and seeming to live well but not so well as the Cabots and Perkins and Delanos (such as FDR) who got their money from trading slaves or opium.
In more recent decades, the membership of the ruling class has been expanded to take in the powerful oil-families of Texas and California and the overlapping group of families who made their money in California water. See the movie Chinatown for a less than flattering view of those water-barons.
Ghost-like, they flowed into the State Department; the Dulles brothers acted as if cutting deals for their clients was one of their central duties, from the World War I era up to the 1960s. More ghostly still, they flowed into the OSS and then into the CIA, sometimes performing dangerous public service but also starting the first international heroin and cocaine cartels to raise money for the war against communism—some claim our elected officials wanted a very big world-wide war against communism but didn’t like the estimated costs and thus sent the CIA out with partial funding and a directive to raise the rest of the money somehow. The CIA Watergate burglars, E Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, were from blue-blood families though not ones of the greatest wealth and power. These blue-bloods were reinforced by fresh blood recruited by a number of Ivy League professors, especially at Harvard and Yale, who were in cahoots with the Dulles brothers and other powerful men and sources of funding. (See Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War for a mere part of the story.)
The CIA’s criminal minority, the deepest part of its covert-operations, the All-American drug-smugglers and murderers and destroyers of countries innocent and guilty alike, was—and perhaps still is—a gathering heavy in graduates of Yale, many or most of them in the early years of the 1950s being members of Skull and Bones. Since then? Who knows? Maybe potential CIA thugs are now recruited at state universities and engineering schools along with those who will become the more respectable analysts or covert information gatherers?
But ruling classes can change. In the years of 1861-1865, the ruling classes of North(eastern) and South(eastern) fought a war to the death; the white aristocrats of Virginia and the Carolinas lost. There is an oddity of the sort which should be disturbing to most conspiracy theorists: the Northern(eastern) elites completed the destruction of the Cherokee elites who had been driven west by the South(eastern) aristocrats; in the War Between the States, those Cherokee elites had allied themselves with their earlier enemies.
It’s not the specific criminal operations or complex fantasies which matter the most for now. The first is no more than what professional criminals do whether blue-blood or Sicilian, whether capable of handling a complex hi-tech attack or capable of handling no more than a suicidal vehicular bomb attack. The second mostly doesn’t exist though there might be some semblance of that sort of conspiracy in the hi-tech criminal conspiracies which might have taken advantage of insider information on the lesser crimes of other power-elite insiders. If we Americans could see the world clearly and simply realize that we do have a power-elite class and to further realize it has moved toward a criminal shape as it chose to hide and to raise their sons in the conspiratorial atmosphere of groups such as Skull and Bones—itself founded by the Tafts and the Russells, the latter family being the core of the blue-bloods who made their families’ fortunes smuggling opium into China. That “China Trade” was itself opened and dominated by the British Imperialists and was an effort to save the British Empire: the British people were buying so much tea from China—tea from India or Ceylon wasn’t good enough—that the Empire’s silver was spilling into China. The British government exploited Eastern Asian (mostly Chinese) opium addicts to draw the world’s silver back out of China before the Chinese ended up owning the British Empire. Our national security agencies exploited junkies around the world to raise money for the war against communism. Progress of a sort. And all invisible to the American people though much of the story has been told by quite respectable historians and journalists; the story up to yesterday can be had in public libraries with updates to be found on Websites of journalist more honest and competent than well-paid.
I don’t know if the British tea-drinkers knew they were endangering an Empire their power-elite was wedded to; I don’t know if the British people even knew their dignified Colonial administrators and diplomats and military leaders and even! Queen Victoria were enabling opium smugglers to get that silver back out of China. I do know that Americans seem determined to be ignorant on very similar counts with respect to our power-elite and their attachment to an empire which is draining away American wealth and destroying American moral character. I also know that this American ignorance is enabled by the desire to pretend there is no such thing as an American power-elite. It isn’t a Matrix but it was a club of those who went to the old Northeastern prep-schools and then on to Yale and Harvard and so on and is likely still something similar. This desire to pretend we are a nation of people equal before the law is common to members of both the power-elite class and of all other American classes.
That American power-elite, once productive (probably) of more great men than drug-smugglers and slave-traders and not yet productive of assassins operating on the whole-sale level and regime-changers destroying entire regions of the world and dooming generations to poverty or struggles out of poverty, wasn’t really so bad by the standards of history. And then Europe tried to destroy itself in the Great War of 1914-1945; with China and India prostrate for various reasons including British imperialism, the United States found itself in 1945 as the only great power in the world. The Dulles brothers and Rockefeller brothers, the Harrimans and Walkers and Bushes, the Fords and Watsons, the remaining Roosevelts, even the newly recruited business or military `experts’ such as McNamara and Odom, the intellectuals such as Kissinger and Brzezinski who provided an ideology glorifying American Hegemony as something different from and infinitely superior to mere empires, all led us on a crusade not to spread democracy and goodness but to turn the world, including the American homeland itself, into a plantation to be ruled by the American power-elite.
All of this is hidden because nearly all American citizens, members of the power-elite and servants of those and nearly all others, feel a need to pretend we’ve instituted forms of equality not possible in this world. It’s led us into a pretense describable as a dark and morally sick joke. “They” occupy positions of wealth and power, grabbing more wealth and power; at the same time, “They” pretend they are just like us and want to be just like us. For a couple centuries, the ordinary folk of the United States have demanded this pretense and have brainwashed themselves to believe it. The ruling elite have gone along with the game, committing the crimes all such classes do in hidden, conspiratorial ways. They have raised some of their sons to form conspiratorial groups not so much different from such criminal groups as the Mafia and the Latin Kings and MS-13, partly through such institutions as Skull and Bones and CIA. Over the past two centuries, they have made or increased fortunes for various families of a bluish caste by whatever provides the highest rate-of-return. They pushed oil exploration in Texas and Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico at times when that provided that all-important highest rate-of-return and at other times destroyed the governments and societies and condemned millions in Southwest and Central Asia to death or to lives of poverty and victimhood at the hands of misused American troops or Sunni terrorists. At times, they invested in pharmaceutical research and at other times they engaged in drug-smuggling in East Asia or Southeast Asia or in Mena, Arkansas.
We have a ruthless and fundamentally amoral ruling class going for the highest rate-of-return in legitimate business or in smuggling drugs or weapons and a large body of citizens who are determined to be oblivious to all this unless it impacts them immediately and personally. When something goes terribly wrong or terribly right depending on the perspective, it stinks to outsiders of a sci-fi sort of conspiracy when it is nothing more than the same-old thuggish behavior of power-hungry and money-hungry men. It’s true that the technology of the modern world allows for spectacular crimes, but they are spectacular crimes possible to the likes of CIA or Israeli paramilitaries and other similar operatives and not really possible for the typical Salafis who have learned a little about fighting on the modern battlefield but otherwise are at the limits of their capabilities when they drive a vehicle loaded with explosives into a building.
I’ll backtrack a little to note there there is a Matrix-like conspiracy: it is the agreement of the criminals in the American ruling-elite and the rest of the American people to pretend we have no powerful criminals among us of the type found in unexceptional countries such as Russia and China and Medieval France and Renaissance Italy and so on. And so it is that much is obscured though it is blindingly obvious to those who simply look at the American ruling-elite with the same skepticism appropriate for understanding the rulers in the days of William Tell or Robin Hood. (Not that we have solid historical information about the clearly historical Tell or the probably historical Robin Hood, but books such as Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror relate the historical truths about the brutality of a ruling-elite, bishops and abbots as well as kings and dukes, when instability threatens their power and wealth.)
A warning: the Swiss at the time of William Tell and Portuguese peasants about the same time defeated their exploiters from Austria and Spain only because they developed weapons and fighting techniques which could overwhelm those knights on horseback. Our situation is much different because of modern technology in weapons and communications technology and transportation and so on, but the principle remains that an exploitive and criminal overclass can only be tamed over many generations or upon some sort of bloody battlefield. Even with the conversion of the German warriors to Christianity, it took many centuries to mold them into somewhat moral aristocracies in Western Europe despite the fact they willingly participated in that conversion to a (partly) Christ-centered life. Historians will likely find those German warriors of violent impulse were more easily converted than would be an amoral ruling-elite devoted to the abstraction of rate-of-return even in their materialistic greed.
I sadly predict we Americans will pretend that ruling-elite doesn’t exist even as we grind our way toward relative poverty and powerlessness and probably fragmentation into a number of smaller states.