9/11 – New Revelations

Responding to my piece on 9/11 “Truthers“, reader Jeff Rubinoff had this to say:

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.

That’s also true. I was concentrating on the internal contradictions of the America-fearing American, but all conspiracists live with even deeper conflicts. As you say Jeff, they have a powerful faith which they think of as cynicism.

Apparently the official explanation is that WTC7 just blew itself up (Photo: Damon D’Amato)

I’ve said elsewhere, conspiracy theories seem to satisfy some of the same mental urges as religion. They are surprisingly like a mythos, in that they create exciting stories to explain the world about us. And just as religion, they provide the ultimate all-purpose explanation: Things difficult to explain can be seen instead as the manifestation of a powerful but invisible will. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the idea of unseen will may actually be innate to the the human species, a built-in default hypothesis for about anything.

The thing making them different from religion though – or at least, traditional religion – is that the actors are not gods or spirits, but human. Still, perhaps conspiracy theories should be considered new materialist religions, belief systems for generations that, while still credulous, draw the line at the supernatural. (We’ll leave aside for now conspiracies that involve the influence of alien civilisations. These are supernatural beings in every sense that angels and demons are, just dressed from a contemporary costume box.)

But though the conspirators are not explicitly supernatural beings, they still have superhuman powers. They consistently pull off the scale of operation that non-clandestine organisations and governments usually seem to screw up. They have secrets that are never left in taxis or revealed by Wikileaks. They have superhuman powers of planning, efficiency, and organisation. Modern-day superpowers.

Hmm. They just don’t make gods like they used to.

It’s All Meme Meme Meme

"O frly?", the (official) free softw...
This is a meme

Gawker have a point. (OK, I check out Gawker occasionally. I’m not proud.) Lazy television producers getting segments – sometimes whole shows – out of the latest Internet “craze”, which generally was over before the segment started and lasted about as long. The “meme“. (Whatever you think of Richard Dawkins, his concept did not deserve this ignominious end.) Here’s a rule which I think the producers needs to understand: If you hear about an internet meme via any medium except the Internet, it is already over.

These things were only really funny when it seemed like they were special, hidden from the rest of the world by a veil of shared cultural reference. But now the Internet is indistinguishable from other media. Everything blends together and becomes brown plasticine. It doesn’t feel like a separate and more mysterious world anymore. It’s as if the process started in September 1993, when the Internet was opened to the public, has finally reached completion.

This is what some people have said about Google+ in fact, that while it’s still in semi-closed testing (you need an invite to join) there is a standard of good behaviour and quality of discussion there that you just don’t get on other bits of the Net anymore. And as Google+ gives you more control over who you hear from and are heard by than other online social networks, there is some hope that it might stay that way.

But then you have the opposite problem. When the Internet was new it may have only been small, but it was global. Now, it’s fragmenting into a great many personal networks. By language, by country, by age, by interest, by taste. All of them separate.

And all of them of course policed – by commercial interest and by government – instead of being a self-policing community.

We need a new Internet. Anyone know anything about wiring?