From Thu Oct 12 22:00:23 2006
Mailing-List: contact; run by ezmlm
Date: 13 Oct 2006 01:33:50 -0000
Subject: imap Digest of: get.17785

Conspiracy theories twist facts, speculation

By Kenneth C. Blanchard Jr., Aberdeen News, Friday 6 October 2006

In graduate school I spent a couple of weeks cloistered in a dank library basement reading volumes of testimony about the disaster at Pearl Harbor. At the end I came to the same conclusion as the Congressional committee: The Japanese did it. You probably think so too, but just ask yourself: How much do you really know, and will all the facts ever be known? Maybe the whole thing was staged by President Franklin Roosevelt using our fighters painted to look like zeros.

A lot of Americans think much the same thing about 9/11. More than a third of us believe that the Bush administration either participated in the attack or deliberately sat back and allowed it to succeed. Some conspiracy theorists believe the planes that struck the Twin Towers were not airliners but other planes modified for a destructive impact. Others think there were no planes involved, but cruise missiles, mysteriously wrapped in holograms to look like planes. Many believe that the World Trade Center was planted with explosives.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Stories of Gov. Bill Clinton involved in drug running and murder were dusted off and circulated with gusto when he arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The 36 percent who buy into 9/11 conspiracies seems like a pretty big slice of the American pie, but it isn’t really. Almost twice as many people believe that the Kennedy assassination was “part of a larger conspiracy” despite the utter absence of evidence.

For conspiracy theorists, the relationship between evidence and conclusions is the reverse of what it is for more sober investigators. The Warren Commission reviewed whole truckloads of documents, including testimony from thousands of witnesses and a few famous pieces of film. It boiled that down to a simple but inescapable conclusion: that Lee Harvey Oswald, a skilled marksman and certifiable nut, got off a few lucky shots. The 9/11 Commission had a lot more physical evidence, as well as photos and footage, to work with. The mountain of evidence converged on a single story: an elegantly simple plot executed by a handful of zealots, backed by a terrorist organization operating from the soil of Afghanistan. All responsible investigations work that way.

Conspiracy theorists practice a different method. They comb the available facts for the few bits that excite their already over-excited imaginations. They string these bits together and pad them with volumes of idle speculation. Because their imaginations run on idiosyncratic lines, they produce dozens of irreconcilable stories. It was the Russians who killed Kennedy. No, the Cubans. No, the CIA. In the delicious movie “Bubba Ho Tep,” Ossie Davis plays a black man who believes he is Jack Kennedy, and is waiting for Lyndon Johnson to come around and finish the job. When his friend Elvis, who turns out to actually be Elvis Presley, advises him that LBJ is dead, he replies: “You think that's gonna’ stop him?”

A black JFK allied with a geriatric Elvis is more plausible than the multitude of 9/11 conspiracy stories. How do you make four whole airliners and their passengers disappear without a trace? Can you really mine one of the busiest skyscrapers in the world without anyone noticing and later reporting on the activity? Consider the thousands of people who would have to be involved and know what they were doing. Yet not one of them has let the story leak. Surely an administration that could pull this off could have kept its wire-tapping program a secret from the New York Times. Surely these demonic men in black could have easily manufactured a chemical weapons industry in Iraq.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories are not just loony, they are morally detestable. One of the doomed passengers of Flight 93 informed his mom by cell phone that they were about “to do something.” Conspiracy nut Dylan Avery denies that this conversation ever took place. It was faked by, well, “them.” Avery apparently doesn’t find his own life or God's world interesting enough. He entertains himself by trying to erase the heroism of Flight 93. What a wonder that such a large imagination can fit within the compass of so small a man.