October 3, 2001
The official story about the WTC attack is a conspiracy theory.
A mysterious Muslim religious sectarian, holed up in a far
valley in distant Afghanistan, sends teams of suicide terrorists
halfway around the world to destroy the nerve center of world
trade. This tops Professor Moriarty, Fu Manchu, and Rasputin
all put together. But are the conspiracy theorists happy?
NO! They want another, different conspiracy!
On the other hand, in mainstream political circles anyone
who talks about conspiracies at all is ridiculed. This smug
habit is either ignorant or dishonest, since even a little
study shows us that there have been many conspiracies in human
history, and that some of them had a major effect. Almost
everyone immediately suspects a conspiracy when an assassination
occurs in foreign countries: for example, Anwar Sadat in Egypt,
or Indira Gandhi in India. But in the USA assassins are all
supposed to be crazed loners.
An action can be called a conspiracy if it involves more
than one person and is secretive (or deceptive) and malevolent.
If even a single person knowingly helped James Earl Ray or
Lee Harvey Oswald do what they did, then it was a conspiracy.
You do not have to have the KGB, CIA , Mossad, Bavarian Illuminati,
or Knights of Malta involved. Just a second individual. (Six
people were hanged for conspiring with John Wilkes Boothe
to kill Lincoln. Probably they were only guilty of knowing
what he was thinking of doing and failing to try to stop him).
Here are my guidelines for sorting out conspiracy theories:
1. Some things are conspiracies and some are not. EVERYTHING
is not a conspiracy. The minute someone says "There are no
coincidences", head for the door. If they block the door,
go out the window.
2. Pay attention to who was able to do what; who had a reason
to do what, who misunderstood the situation, who was delusional,
what unexpected events occurred, what was just dumb luck,
etc. Never underestimate the power of stupidity and bad luck.
3. Ask how many people knew about the conspiracy and how
they kept security.
4. Check out the details and forget the ones that don't pan
out. Don't keep wild rumors alive by saying things like "Some
say so-and-so, though others deny this". You have a responsibility
to use your best judgement, and exclude the bad links.
5. Look for consistency in what you're saying. Don't push
every theory in the kitchen sink even though they are all
contradictory. (For example, the all-purpose legal defense:
"I wasn't there; but if I was there I didn't do it; and if
I did it it was an accident".)
6. Small local specific conspiracies are the most likely.
Global centuries-long conspiracies are doubtful. Conspiracies
are usually pickup teams which dissolve after the event, choosing
sides later for new battles between completely different pickup
teams, often involving many of the original members in different
configurations. (For example, the Afghan anti-Soviet pickup
team dissolved some time ago, and two of its key members,
Osama Bin Laden and the USA, are now bitter enemies).
7. Conspiracies are not under central control. Usually you
have various players at cross purposes doing their worst to
get what they want, forming shifting alliances and hoping
for the best.
8. The big players in this game do NOT tell everyone else
what they are doing. They are all secretive, and thereby conspiratorial.
They are tough-minded guys who often have dirty hands and
who never, ever shun another big player simply because he
is an "evildoer". So it's no surprise that Bin Laden, Noriega,
and the Argentine colonels who invaded the Falkland islands
were all, at one time or another, allies and clients of the
US. Or that the Bin Ladens and the Bushes have had many business
contacts. Or that Grandpa Bush (and even more so, Henry Ford)
had friendly relations with Hitler up to a point. And so on.
It is a big mistake to underestimate the cynicism and cruelty
of the big-time players. (Many conspiracy theorists seem to
be recently-naive people who have only just discovered how
cruel the system can be).
9. "Who benefits?" is a good but tricky question to ask.
Because sometimes unexpected things happen, especially in
multi-player games, and the one who ends up cashing in may
not even have been a player at the beginning of the game.
10. "Follow the money" is a better question, but it's usually
hard to do. The international banking system we have is designed
to help people with lots of money to shift it around freely
and secretly. (Bin Laden happens to be one of the near-billionaires
the banking system is designed to protect.)
The big flaw of anti-conspiracy-theorists is insider smugness.
The big flaw of conspiracy theorists is outsider paranoia.
Anti-conspiracy-theorists, as insiders, are only too happy
to enlist themselves in cover-ups and, you guessed it, conspiracies.
Conspiracy theorists tend to bark at ghosts in the closet
and to magnify the scope and drama of their conspiracies until
almost the whole known universe is involved. (Lyndon LaRouche
implicates Aristotle -- a Persian agent and subverter of Western
civilization!) Both of these take pride in the secret knowledge
they have that no one else has.
There are many conspiracy theories floating around these
days, and we will probably see more of them. Some of these
theories are insane, some of them are reasonable but false,
and some of them are true. We should make every effort to
distinguish between the three.