Patriots And Paranoids

WTC antes9-11
They weren't much to look at but they were full of people

The 9/11 attack was brilliantly simple in its planning. All it required was a little organisation, and the mental capability to slaughter thousands of innocent strangers. Brilliantly successful too; its objective, to foster conflict between the West and Islam, seems to have been largely realised. Yet ten years on, a significant proportion of people insist on believing a far more complex explanation: That 9/11 was faked, not an attack but an inside job.

I say a significant proportion; it’s far from a majority, though any time at all spent on YouTube might persuade you otherwise. (One wide-ranging poll did find that less than half respondents thought that Islamists were responsible, but that survey included many people in Islamic countries naturally unwilling to be associated with the atrocity.) A 2007 Zogby poll (PDF) sponsored by conspiracy theorists themselves found that something approaching a quarter of Americans thought that elements within their government were complicit in the attack. This figure has probably dropped somewhat since Bush and Cheney left office peaceably, but there is still a sizeable minority – of Americans – who believe the US government was complicit in or even responsible for the most deadly attack on America in its history. Why?

I say ‘insist on believing’ because it takes an effort of will to decide that America was responsible for the attack on America. Even the ‘moderate’ version – that forces within the US government were merely complicit in the attack – asks us to believe that members of a Republican administration were willing to stand by and allow a devastatingly effective attack by genuine terrorists on the heart of America’s commercial interests, because they believed they could gain by it in some way. More ambitious theorists would have us believe that they blew the towers up with carefully set demolition charges, then flew planes full of passengers into them merely as a distraction.

Why do so many people, both Americans and their enemies, persist in this? Well, they have one telling thing in common: Both need to believe in the strength of America. For its enemies, the idea that a tiny terrorist outfit can wreak such destruction simply doesn’t fit with the image of a Great Satan.

By the same token, the Americans who think their own government destroyed the World Trade Center in order to make war and profit are patriots. They still believe that the one power on Earth capable of inflicting such terrible damage on the US could only be the US itself. These conspiracy theorists are not cynics. On the contrary, they have faith in America.

3 thoughts on “Patriots And Paranoids

  1. I still think that the psychology of conspiracy theorists has a lot to do with it, probably because of the Truthers I know with no skin in the game (Brits, Irish, Slovaks…). A particular kind of (extreme) credulity that thinks it’s worldly cynicism. A sense of superiority that one has the “real truth” while the sheeple haplessly accept the official lies. And a complete lack of either the necessary knowledge to evaluate claims or a consciousness of this ignorance.
    I have one friend who insists that WTC and the Pentagon were bombs, that the planes were generated by CGI, that a few bits of wreckage were planted in front of the Pentagon but clearly not enough and in too good a condition to come from an actual airplane attack: the most Byzantine, inconsistent and improbable pile of donkey dung imaginable. Of course, last time I met him he was telling me how he read on the Internet that the Pyramids were designed as chemical reaction chambers to send microwave signals into space, and how he found this “very persuasive.” Oh, and he’s a Holocaust denier.
    He also told me once that University education only limits ones mental horizons, whereas the LSD he ingested daily over a similar period of time expanded his.

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