It Must Be A Conspiracy

By: Michael M. Bates

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, there’s a collective sigh of relief that, at least so far, we’ve avoided a repeat of that tragic day. Some will attribute this muted victory to efforts by the U.S. government. A not insignificant segment of our citizenry, though, thinks that the 9/11 catastrophe was actually a conspiracy orchestrated by government officials.

At least that’s one of the conclusions derived from a recent Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. More than a third of the respondents stated their belief that it was either very likely or somewhat likely that “people in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.”

No doubt a good portion of folks who see things that way are apt to blame George W. Bush for everything bad, including yesterday’s thunderstorm. Moreover, the survey noted that individuals who regularly use the Internet are more prone to believe in a 9/11 government conspiracy.

The Internet disseminates an incredible amount of information. It also disseminates an incredible amount of misinformation.

The moon landing in 1969 was faked. The Ku Klux Klan has ties to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Or maybe it’s Snapple. Or perhaps it’s Marlboro cigarettes.

President Kennedy was killed by the CIA. Or the Mafia. Or anti-Castro Cubans. Or Lyndon Johnson. Or Nazis.

The survey’s 9/11 conspiracy advocates tended to be young adults, many of whom have evidently been amply indoctrinated by the nut cases holding tenure on college campuses.

The same Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll found that an even bigger percentage of folks believe there’s a government conspiracy to withhold evidence of intelligent life on other planets than believe the 9/11 scheme.

Seeing results like this makes me wonder about any evidence of intelligent life on this planet.

I’m not saying that there are no conspiracies. I think there have been some in the past and very probably are some right now. The word “conspiracy” comes from Latin for “breathing together.” It’s natural that people with similar values and objectives are drawn together.

But to think that “the government” could pull off something of the magnitude of 9/11 in total secrecy is to attribute to the bureaucracy a level of proficiency that is completely uncharacteristic of bureaucracies.
Generally, a bureaucrat’s job is nothing more than just a job. The burning desire much of the time is to stay out of trouble and stick around long enough to pick up the next cost of living raise. Risking one’s life or freedom to destroy fellow citizens isn’t in the job description.
If the U.S. government were involved, how many people would have been needed to accomplish the task? Dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands. Yet we’re to accept that every single one of them, and their families and friends, have managed to keep what would be the biggest secret in history? They’ve turned their backs on the fame and fortune their disclosures would generate.
The lack of credible evidence of a plot doesn’t deter conspiracists. Indeed, that deficiency is viewed as another example of how extraordinarily successful and wide ranging the conspiracy is.

We saw the results of a conspiracy on 9/11. A relatively small number of al Qaeda operatives joined together to murder thousands of people. These men weren’t merely doing a job that included suicide as an ancillary duty. They thought of themselves as warriors doing God’s work.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the State Department and Popular Mechanics are among the entities that have produced reports refuting assorted 9/11 conspiracies. Their efforts and others will fall on deaf ears.

There will always be people who embrace conspiracies, no matter how loopy. When the world has seemingly gone insane, some individuals find comfort in theoretical explanations, even explanations that are outrageously convoluted, that help to make sense of the insanity. Replacing the rational with the absurd fills an emotional need.

I once had dinner with the late Congressman Larry MacDonald, a Democrat from Georgia. He said something worth remembering. If a man walks up to you and says that he’s just seen a purple elephant strolling down the street, don’t waste your time trying to convince him that he didn’t. There’s absolutely nothing you can say or do to persuade him otherwise, and he’ll only become more adamant about his vision. He’s simply too detached from reality for intervention to make a difference.

That’s how I feel about individuals who are so positive that the U.S. government orchestrated the killing of thousands of our own countrymen. It doesn’t make any sense, but convincing them of that isn’t possible. Having a new grassy knoll to hug is reassuring to them.
This Michael M. Bates column appeared in the September 7, 2006 Reporter Newspapers.

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