Page Two: Conspiracy Theories

Can you handle the truth?

Page Two
Okay, this week's topic is loaded, offering any number of easy triggers. I am less of a conspiracy theorist than most Americans, if polls are to be believed, but this column is in no way intended to change anyone's mind. Instead, I offer my opinions, with none of the ideas here presented as objective "truths." The only purpose is to make clear my opposition to such theories and to the vehemence of those "exposing the truth" about 9/11. Obviously, there will be many who hate every word of this column, finding me at best a fool and at worst a conscious co-conspirator. So be it.

If there was an actual conspiracy, using history as a guide, almost nothing is likely to result from a massive effort to expose it. If there was no conspiracy, but instead the official version is reasonably accurate (even if in no other way than it correctly gets the gist of what occurred), consider what a vast misdirection of energy the "truth seekers" are engaged in. Just think of the amount of time and energy wasted by both those who believe and those who don't. To remedy this problem on my end, though there will be a part two, these will be my last words on the topic.

What is most upsetting is that, since conspiracy theorists rarely believe in direct political action, all their concentrated effort will result in few, if any, real-world consequences. While chastising nonbelievers for what they view as being afraid to confront the truth, they also imply that they are, by exposing the conspiracy, the only ones doing any serious political work in the country. Although I think they are accomplishing almost nothing, I also believe that their intentions are honest and in line with the responsibilities of every citizen. I just think they are terribly wrong.

1) There are, have been, and will be conspiracies – parsing them into the political, personal, economic, industrial, diplomatic, imperialistic, cultural, social, governmental, legal, religious, ideological, and tribal doesn't even really begin to cover their variety. There have been some very complex conspiracies. Some, like Iran-Contra, Aaron Burr, and Enron, have been uncovered as they unfolded. Others, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Dreyfus scandal in France, the CIA's involvement in overthrowing elected governments, Teapot Dome, and Watergate, were revealed only after significant damage had been done.

There are many historical events still very much in dispute; whether they occurred in the way they are often portrayed or, instead, as the result of a deliberate conspiracy is still debated. These include the Rosenberg case, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Lincoln assassination, the connection between Zionists and Bolsheviks (actually there is a virtual library of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories), The Da Vinci Code and offspring, the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Pearl Harbor, and many more.

The above list is abbreviated, more U.S.-centered than it should be, and basically floats a lot of names without any details. It is simply a way of acknowledging the truth of conspiracies.

2) The truth that there are and have been conspiracies in no way argues that any or all conspiracy theories are true. It is faulty logic to say, for example: Watergate was a conspiracy involving the White House. Lots of people were skeptical. They were wrong. Now, some claim 9/11 is a conspiracy involving the White House. Again, people are skeptical, but this doesn't mean they are wrong.

3) Conspiracy theorists are neither truth-seekers nor historians; rather, they are advocates. They don't offer a theory, then look at all the information that they can accumulate and see if the theory holds up. Instead, they offer a theory, then work hard at substantiating it. This approach does not serve the truth.

Almost invariably, they cite any source, authority, eyewitness, governmental record, media note, and the like that supports their position. They actively discredit or ignore any sources that disagree with them. Often they go further, actively discrediting and attacking those who have a different position, expressing unbridled contempt for those naive enough to buy into differing theories.

You can easily find theorists offering endless quotes from just such eyewitnesses, military personnel, professionals, and academics who agree with them about 9/11. Similarly, they ignore the many, many more who don't. If there is an eyewitness who swears it was actually bombs that felled the towers and a thousand who don't, well, we all know whom the "truth seekers" will regard as a valid source. Again and again, eyewitnesses and experts who think there was a conspiracy are held up as examples, while the thousands who don't are dismissed as just dumb or co-opted.

Arguing with conspiracy theorists is pointless. They will know far more than you do and will cite endless references while discrediting or mocking any source you cite. They will drown you in details that may well be correct but prove nothing in the service of the bigger vision to which they are offered as proof.

4) On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas. In the 44 years since, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of books written about it; thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people have been involved in investigating the assassination. There are new books being published and new revelations offered every year.

There has not been one concrete, political consequence as a result of all this activity. There is not a generally agreed-upon theory of what happened, but instead dozens of them, often in conflict with one another. It is likely that this case will never be solved because, to a significant extent, theorists have created an environment in which there is no certainty. No matter what evidence is produced, some significant segment of the conspiracy-theory community will dispute and attack it.

5) What is offered in general is overwhelmingly circumstantial evidence that proves nothing beyond a shadow of a doubt. Since theorists are believers, accepting their theories as truths, they feel they make a convincing, indisputable case. This is true only if you accept their premise. Instead of considering conflicting information, they discredit it, often attacking the source. If information is offered by individuals, they are quick to demonize them, viciously challenging their motivations and intentions.

6) As a variant of the Heisenberg principle: Looking at any major human incident in extraordinary detail is more likely to distort the picture than to clarify it. Say there was a 10-car pileup on I-35. Some might believe that it was maliciously and intentionally staged. Guided by this notion – that evil has been deliberately done – they begin to research every single detail, no matter how small, of the crash. They examine to the extreme the lives of each and every person involved, as well as everyone who responded to the crash – including police, fire, and EMS. They look at the life of every reporter and media corporation that covers the crash. They investigate the drivers caught immediately behind the wreckage, as well as trying to track down those who were driving right in front of it.

Their basic premise, the "truth" they all believe, is that this wreck was intentional – not only that, but it was a deliberate, malicious act and definitely connected to the government.

In this context, they research. They cherish and catalog all and any items that indicate they are right. They discredit much of the available information that contradicts their position, knowing it is corrupted and misleading. Sometimes this is because it is intentional misinformation offered by the government, while other times it is because researchers are naive and/or intentionally mislead.

Even when accepting information, such theorists point out that it has been presented in a false and misleading context. They are probably even correct about this point most of the time, as official reports on major incidents tend to be politically manipulated, carefully spun, incomplete, and sometimes intentionally misleading. Many observers just assume official governmental reports should never be trusted, because the government inherently is not interested in the untainted truth. Granting these distortions calls into question the validity of official reports but does not necessarily in any way validate alternative theories.

Now, think of the amount of circumstantial, relevant, and/or coincidental information they will acquire toward proving their point. If one knows in his or her heart that this was a deliberate, planned act, then the proof will seem crystal-clear, especially as more and more is gathered. If one's heart is more questioning, it could very well seem to be much ado about not very much.

7) Conspiracy buffs are not political. If you really believe there is a handful of powerful people ruling the world, intent on doing evil, why concern yourself with a congressional election? In their assault on government veracity, the theorists are ignoring the very real history of progressives, liberals, and radicals in this country who have always questioned the government. Unless they buy conspiracy theories, this line of thinking goes, they are complicit.

A caller to Alex Jones' show once asked him what actions should be taken. Since both political parties are corrupt, he quickly brushed off the notion of political action. Instead, research and study to amass more detail on the conspiracy was recommended.

8) Theorists routinely and condescendingly dismiss those with opposing views. Here are comments from Chronicle readers on 9/11-conspiracy doubters.

Know the Truth and Ye Shall Agree With Us!

"The only thing preventing you from becoming more informed is you."

"Just remember the lies and deceptions kid only you."

"More people need to forget their alliances and prejudices and just look to the facts."

"Americans have been exposed to a massive litany of lies and warped thinking led by a neocon supporting media. You live your 1984 now."

"To those that think who cares, well I want to know how credible the president is and this would be a test of that – so if you don't care than that is ok, but I kinda want to know."

"[T]here is plenty of government corruption and mismanagement to address, true, but it all seems trivial in comparison to the criminality and evil evidenced by the home-grown perpetrators of 9/11."

"It is difficult to get a man to consider something when his salary depends upon his not considering it. Are the implications scary? Yes, in fact they are so scary by design, few are willing to consider them."

9) Grand conspiracy-theory veterans and those still wet behind the ears contemptuously dismiss progressive activists, as well as those belonging to the hardcore, radical right, as being too dim-witted or scared to handle the "truth." Theorists often have no history of any kind of real political activity. Why should they bother? Their mission is more important than anyone else's – especially activist groups, progressives, radicals (of both the left and the right), and politicians who are simply participating in the high school play of reality being staged for the masses by the powerful few who run the world. More radical than any radical, they are militant scholars finding and connecting facts, innuendos, and bits of information that fit their preconceived notions: In this way, they will expose the conspirators and free the world. They are heroes, freethinkers, and the only ones whose eyes are completely open; just ask them.

Those who have spent their whole lives fighting for unpopular causes and against the government are dismissed as being in denial or just afraid of the truth. They ignore the entire history of progressives and conservatives in the U.S., who have challenged the government and the status quo, in many cases successfully.

This is not "truth." This is ignorance.

Sooner or Later: Part Two – More of the Same. end story

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