In reality, this glorious age of reason and logic seems as far from our grasp as it ever has been. The particular brand of idiocy that has fueled my ire today is an old favourite of mine: 11 September conspiracists. Like creationists, pertual motionists and lunar landing conspiracy nuts, these simple cretins have chosen to discard common sense, evidence, probability, science and eye witness testimony in favour of a tale so utterly far removed from reality that you wonder how these halfwits muster up the cognitive capacity to continue breathing.
This movement of "freethinkers" and "radicals" has coalesced around the so called "Loose Change" video, an example of viral documentary making at its most effective. If you believe that this is a niche group with no real support, then you might be surprised to learn that a recent survey suggested that 45% of americans believe the government was involved in these events to some extent. The video is also currently the most popular film on google video. I recommend you have a look for yourself:
Loose Change: 2nd Edition
Loose Change is, on the face of it, extremely compelling. If you were willing to ignore most of the facts or you really, really miss the X-Files, it is easy to see how you could come away from it thinking "yes, they make some really good points, something is wrong here". But the very nature of its effectiveness is based in the utterly selective nature of the evidence it presents. You'll note that this is a similar tactic employed by creationists.
The basic jist of the documentary, if you're not willing to sit through it, is this:
- The events of the 11th September 2001 were orchestrated by the American government, presumably to ferment patriotic feeling and provoke the wars required in the Project For A New American Century documents;
- Planes hit the WTC but the ultimate collapse was caused by explosives placed in the structure by government operatives;
- No plane hit the pentagon, instead it was hit by a missile launched by the government;
Okay. It goes without saying that these claims are utter bullshit. It almost feels like an insult to your intelligence to go through them in any kind of detail. Besides, the Loose Change Guide does a far better job of it than I ever could. I recommend you read it.
Ultimately, the biggest failing of the conspiracist's view (when you ignore such trivialities as evidence, common sense and facts) is the sheer logistics of a plot of this scale. This isn't a shadowy cabal of a few men who know the truth - you'd need the cooperation of (at the very least) the military at every level, air traffic control, the fire brigade, the police, the FAA, the ambulance workers, the coroners, the media, the mobile phone companies and a large number of private citizens living around the affected sites.
Also, you'd need to fabricate a number of mobile phone calls to family members somehow, as well as potentially disappearing a plane load of people. You'd need to hope that all of the planes/missiles were succesful and destroyed sufficiently such that no-one could perform any kind of detailed analysis on them. Oh, and you'd have to make sure that no-one saw the cruise missile approaching the pentagon at very low level.
All of this in the country where selling your story for the TV movie-of-the-week rights is a national pastime and the closest thing to discretion and secrecy your average yank experiences is an intimate one-on-one with Oprah in front of a studio audience and 50 million home viewers!
The worst aspect of this though, in my opinion, is the danger inherent in this way of thinking. These fucknuts dream up bizarre notions, spread them with inpunity and somehow encourage the idea that anyone who questions the government is a lefty liberal nutjob fruitloop. Meanwhile back in reality we have a very real and very sinister situation developing: a government that has systematically revoked many of the freedoms and rights that Americans would claim defines them; a government that has demonstrably lied and fabricated evidence to act as a pretext for an illegal invasion; a government that has illegally detained and tortured unconvicted prisoners and ignored international agreements on their wellbeing; a government that has used superstition and myth to block legitimate scientific research.
All of these things are facts, they happened, and they are just as chilling as the fantasies of conspiracy theorists. I don't really understand why the alure of a flimsy conspiracy is more attractive than that of a real one?