Monday, September 11, 2006

Wha'ts Wrong with 9/11 conspiracy theories

There's lots in every media about the fifth anniversary of 9/11 not only today, but in the last week or so. What has caught my attention are a number of fine articles and resources debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Some of these go into detail refuting the extraordinary claims of the so-called 9/11 truth movement, and if you need that sort of thing check them out. I'm going to cite some of the interesting things said about the political and psychological function of the conspiracy theories.

Phil Molé "9/11 Conspiracy Theories: The 9/11 Truth Movement in Perspective" e-skeptic

Another reason for the appeal of 9/11 conspiracies is that they are easy to understand. As previously mentioned, most Americans did not know or care to know much about the Middle East until the events of 9/11 forced them to take notice. (The brilliant satirical newspaper The Onion poked fun at this fact with its article “Area Man Acts Like He’s Been Interested In Afghanistan All Along”).41 The great advantage of the 9/11 Truth Movement’s theories is that they don’t require you to know anything about the Middle East, or for that matter, to know anything significant about world history or politics. This points to another benefit of conspiracy theories — they are oddly comforting. Chaotic, threatening events are difficult to comprehend, and the steps we might take to protect ourselves are unclear. With conspiracy theory that focuses on a single human cause, the terrible randomness of life assumes an understandable order.
Debunking the 9/11 Movement Infoshop (anarchists)
The 9/11 movement also discredits activists and associates us with conspiracy whackjobs and religious nuts. Our views are not well-represented in mainstream discourse, so we cannot afford to associate with people who have a flimsy grasp on reality.
Scott McLemee, "All Plots Move Deathward" Inside Higher Education
The conspiratorial mentality or “paranoid style” — for which important events in public life are best understood as the product of hidden, malevolent forces controlling history — is strongly prone to assuming a scholarly form. As Hofstadter puts it: “One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for ‘evidence’ to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed.”

The charge that conspiratorial thinking is incoherent simply will not hold up. “It is nothing if not coherent,” writes [Richard] Hofstadter. The conspiratorial understanding of history is actually “far more coherent than the real world, since it leaves no room for mistakes, failures, or ambiguities. It is, if not wholly rational, at least intensely rationalistic....”
John Prados "9/11 Conspiracies and Cons"
The theories largely postulate that the Bush White House either made 9/11 happen, or this president knew all about what impended and let 9/11 happen. Neither is likely in my view.

There is no doubt that the events of 9/11 flowed from an immense chain of actions in many places by a host of actors. Orchestrating all this activity implies a level of skill that just does not track with the Bush administration’s demonstrated incompetence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israeli-Palestinian matters, or on selling democracy in the Middle East, detention and torture, domestic wiretapping, actually finding Osama bin Laden and on so much else. What the Bushies were good at was at capitalizing on the 9/11 tragedy to push their domestic and foreign policy agendas.

At the same time, it is not necessary for there to have been a Bush 9/11 plot to explain the extreme deceitfulness of the administration afterwards. Obviously there was a ton of blame to avoid and a political vulnerability that President Bush wants to evade at all costs.

Websites Critical of 9/11

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