Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Three flaws in conspiracy theories

Bloody 9/11. It's the time of year that we have to put up with all the conspiracy theories again, especially, but not exclusively, in the anti-war movement. Normally sensible people shun such horrors but today's Comment is Free has Peter Tatchell banging on about the flawed investigative commission.

Now, actually, his piece is alright with much to agree on in it, although I'm uncomfortable with anything that might give the CTs a warm glow of self justification. Anyway. Here are my three key reasons for thinking these theories do not hold water.

1/ Most 9/11 conspiracy theories require us to believe that a Western government was able to pull off, flawlessly, the most daring of all terrorist attacks ever seen - including getting their own operatives to commit suicide (hypnosis perhaps?) and for it to go absolutely seamlessly.

The operation was so water tight that not a single person regretted being part of it and spilled the beans, despite the fact that thousands were killed. This secret movement that extended from the very top right down to those who had to carry out much of the work would, by necessity, be the most perfect possible organisation. No leaks, no mistakes, no problems with the plan.

As they seem to cock everything else up this seems unlikely.

2/ This discourse relies on the premise that the only real active agent in the world is the government, and its inner cliques. It assumes that if something horrifying, large and spectacular is pulled off successfully then it must be the US government.

The fact is, and this may shock you, the US government does not have a monopoly on evil deeds. Ordinary human beings from every part of the world are capable of extra-ordinary feats of daring in unjust causes. Just because 9/11 gave the US government the excuse it wanted to invade any country it choose to does not mean they carried out the attacks, only that they made sure they were the beneficiaries of them.

In part I suspect this is partly down to the US obsession with themselves. Some (not all) citizens of that great country can find it difficult to remember that there are other people in the world, who may just be having thoughts of their own and acting on them. It also plays into this weird idea that the government is all powerful and all knowing. That might be true in the X-Files but it isn't true in real life.

3/ It's too convenient that the "real" series of events happen to conform to the ideological predisposition of the CTer and results in not having to deal with harder questions of a more complex nature. For the conspiracy theorist the world is simple. One evil power in the world who can be traced as the source of all terrible events from terror attacks to Falcon Crest.

Far from chaos and capitalist anarchy we have a power that controls all things and ranged against them just a few chosen people who can see the truth. If only everyone else was not so stupid-drugged up-alien!

It seems to me that governments, corporations, the military and the like are covering things up all the time. I believe there are conspiracies, absolutely, 100%. But that doesn't mean that you can simply make stuff up because it suits your prejudices. You need proof. Not mock proof that relies on a bizarre suspension of disbelief (like the idea that it wasn't a plane that hit the Pentagon) but actual proof that stands up to logical enquiry.

Sadly the conspiracy theorists are still with us. I blame the US government for planting them in the anti-war movement to discredit the rest of us and foster the idea that they are capable of anything. The fiends!


Jim said...

I am not a conspiracy theorist either, but there are a lot of unanswered questions about 9/11. All I want is to know why these questions are currently unanswerable or unanswered.

No one should confuse conspiracy theory with wanting to know some more about that day's many irregularities in official timelines, media reports and engineering analyses. Most people labelled conspiracy theorists just want some answers...

David Shayler, the ex-MI5 whistleblower, has made a pretty good film about such irregularities and their reporting in the media. Worth a watch:
911 and the British Broadcasting Conspiracy

Daniel S. Ketelby said...

Claiming that the U.S. government planned and executed 9-11 is ridiculous.

However, we all have conscious and unconscious motivations... and all power structures are coalitions, more or less muddled, more or less effective.

We know that a memo headed 'Bin Laden determined to attack United States' passed across George Bush's desk sometime in August 2001.

So were there people in the U.S. power structure who knew something like 9-11 was coming and - deliberately, or 'accidentally on purpose' - looked the other way, or looked forward to what they'd be able to make of such events? It's possible. In fact it's almost certain. Most of us do stuff like this all the time, for instance about climate change. We know something bad is coming. We know we should act. Maybe we'll just wait for the catastrophe and anyway, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

ejh said...

I recognise the book behind ther President's head. Do I win a prize?