Once again proving that I’m in some sort of ‘sphere zeitgeist, Victoria blogged about trutherism showing up on TV as I was mulling over a post on conspiracy theories.
I love a good conspiracy theory. But the quality of conspiracy theories of late has dropped tremendously. A conspiracy theory has to be either plausible or entertaining. Paddy Chayefsky’s Network for example, features a marvelously entertaining conspiracy.
My favorite conspiracy theory ever is probably that the NFL framed OJ for the murders in order to preempt the first televised in America World Cup. Now, that’s the fever dream of an above average madman. When you hear that, you wanna say, “Wow! Wait, what?”
Let’s examine the ne plus ultra of conspiracy theories: the JFK assassination. Why does this work so well? Well, for one thing, there’s no way to ever completely disprove it. Even if you pin down every fact to the official story, there’s no way to prove that the mafia, CIA, the KGB or whatever didn’t hire Oswald to do the job.
It makes JFK a heroic figure, too. In The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Bill Curtis ties in Kennedy’s assassination with the withdrawal of troops in Vietnam who, according to the show, were sent right back the first week LBJ was in power. The whole thing ties in nicely with the Vietnam conspiracy.
Other things that make the assassination good fodder:
- There was lots of conflicting data on the ground. This is great because people who are not conspiracy theorists will be reinforcing your theories with utter conviction.
- There was a lot of incompetence from official sources and incompetence can always be interpreted as “showing the strings”.
- It was easy to marshal facts that sound impressive, even though they’re not true, because they involve things (like shooting a bolt action rifle, the reaction of a body when impacted by a bullet, etc.) people don’t have experience with.
- There was a clear motive. There were many clear motives, in fact. The President always has an abundance of people who want him dead.
- The conspiracy can be adjusted for size: You can shrink it down to Lee Harvey Oswald and one other person, or you can make it huge, as needed.
- Bullets are essentially invisible when fired from a gun.
Let me emphasize that last point: The generally agreed upon fact about JFK is that he was killed, presumably by bullets but perhaps by alien death beams. You can’t see the bullet. Therefore, arguments about where any bullet comes from and whether or not it was, in fact, a bullet, may be entertained.
This is the main problem with 9/11 Truthers: Everyone saw the planes crash into the buildings. Eyewitnesses number in the thousands. The second plane was filmed crashing by maybe hundreds of people. So, most of these guys have to approach this from an angle of, “Oh, no, planes didn’t actually crash!” which is quite literally insane or that the planes did crash but weren’t responsible for the buildings falling.
Now, I confess here, I was pretty sure at one point that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor in advance. It was disabused of that notion when I realized I couldn’t think of a motive for him to hide his knowledge. The standard conspiracy theory has it that FDR wanted us in the war, on the right side. (It’s actually a significant point in the Frank Miller Batman comic The Dark Knight Returns: That even if FDR did know, was it still wrong?) But in 1941, a deflected Japanese attack would have been sufficient. There would have been no need for him to sacrifice the bulk of the Navy. (Note the government incompetence angle, too: Those ships should’ve been at sea.)
While it’s true that the Clinton years saw us ignoring a whole bunch of attacks, I think it’s safe to say that a single airplane crashing into a single WTC tower would have been sufficient to get us pissed off. In other words, we have no motive to explain the additional complexity required to justify a second plane or a bunch of explosives. Even if you take it from the angle of, say, the WTC owner just wanting insurance money, one plane would be enough.
9/11 conspiracy theories are worse than the bogus moon landing conspiracies. They both involve a huge amount of expense and complexity and simply massive numbers of people, but at least the moon landing/space program theories have all this anomalous space phenomena that (most of us not having been to space) do seem puzzling.
The 9/11 Truthers have instead constructed an elaborate explanation for the towers’ collapse which insults everyone who saw the planes hit.
Worse, they do so in the face of an actual conspiracy: Of anti-American hard-line Muslim terrorists who left massive paper trails, who had ties all over the world, who had many co-conspirators, and who had a boss willing to take credit for it.
On a lighter note, another dumb conspiracy making the rounds is the “Obama wasn’t born in America” theory. This requires us to believe that the State of Hawaii is hiding something (apparently in a many-decade anticipation of Obama’s eventual Presidential bid) and that there’s not a single Republican or Hillary supporter able to sneak that evidence out.
Really, it’s just not up to snuff.
I hope to see better in the future from everyone.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments for the lamest conspiracy theory of all: Trig Trutherism.