Against conspiracy theories: Why our activism must be based in reality

Against conspiracy theories: Why our activism must be based in reality

The text of a talk given at Occupy Wellington, New Zealand, on October 27 2011. The talk was organised to try to counter the prevalence of conspiracy theories amongst the local wing of the Occupy movement.

Kia ora kotou, thanks everyone for coming. Firstly, a brief run-down of how this workshop will work: first, I'm going to give a brief talk, followed by an open discussion which anyone can contribute to. I also want to make it clear that I'm not here today to debunk or debate any specific conspiracy theory. I've got no interest in doing that, I don't think its particularly productive. What I want to be doing is talking about the title of the workshop is – why our activism must be based in reality. So we'll be talking about the whole conspiracy world-view, we'll be talking about what I think is a much better alternative to that, but I'm not going to sit here and argue with you over whether the Government is secretly poisoning us from the skies, or whether shape-shifting reptilian lizards are controlling our lives, or whether or not you can cure cancer with baking soda.

First up, who am I? For those of you who don't know me my name is Asher, I'm born and bred in Wellington, though I have also spent a few years recently living in Christchurch. I've been involved in activism and radical politics for around about 7 years, in a variety of different campaigns and struggles.

If we're going to talk about conspiracy theories, the first important question is obvious: what is a conspiracy theory?

Now, if you go by a dictionary definition, a conspiracy is just a group of people who get together to plan something, and don't tell others about it. If I'm organising a surprise birthday party for my friend, then I am conspiring with others. But that's not a particularly useful definition for the purposes of a discussion like this.

So, for this discussion, the way I'm defining a conspiracy theory is thus: a conspiracy theory is a theory based in supposition, one that flies in the face of evidence or science, often one that claims its correctness can be shown by the paucity of evidence in favour of it, in the sense that 'this conspiracy goes so far that they've even buried all the evidence that proves it!' Conspiracy theories often encourages an 'us few enlightened folk versus everyone else' world view. This creates an atmosphere where conspiracy theorists look down on people, or sheeple as they are often called, and ignores the fact that people, by and large, are actually pretty intelligent. In and of itself this world-view is hugely problematic for as I will discuss later, mass social change requires the participation of the masses and therefore, we have to have faith in the ability of people to decide things for themselves, to come to correct conclusions and ultimately to change the world.

Why am I interested in conspiracy theories, or at least arguing against them? Firstly, because I'm passionate about science and rationality, and I find it fascinating how and when these things are ignored.

Secondly, because I'm Jewish, and many conspiracy theories are antisemitic – whether directly and obviously (eg: Jews run the world, or the media, or the banks). Sometimes its more subtle – people might not talk about Jews explicitly but they may use Zionist as a code word, or talk about the Rothschilds, or an elite cabal of shadowy bankers who all coincidentally have Jewish surnames.

Lastly, I'm interested in conspiracy theories because I want radical social change, and to have radical social change, we need to have an understanding of how society actually works.

We are here at Occupy because we want to see change. What we want differs: some want new regulations on the financial sector, others want to change taxes or the minimum wage, while others still want to destroy capitalism and bring in a new form of production and distribution. Regardless of which of these boxes you fit in, if you fit in any of them at all, we all want change.

We're also here because we know we can't simply rely on Government to benevolently grant us the changes we desire. If we believed that, we'd sit at home and wait for the Government to give us these gifts. We're here because we know that those with power won't give it up lightly, and that it is only through our collective strength that we can win reforms, or create revolution.

But what do I mean when I say 'our collective strength'? I think it's important to clarify who is contained within the word 'our'. While people involved in the Occupy movements around the globe frequently refer to it as the 99%, I actually think that's a really imprecise term. So, instead, I refer to the working class. When they hear the term working class, some people think simply of male factory workers, but this is not what I mean. The working class is not limited to blue collar workers in factories, but instead it includes all of us who are forced to sell our labour power to survive. This includes people who are in paid employment, whether in a factory, office, café or retail store. It also includes those who are unable to find paid employment, or have chosen to refuse the drudgery of paid work in order to attempt to live on the meagre benefits supplied by the state, and who provide a vast potential pool of labour that enables the ruling class to further keep wages down. The working class includes stay at home parents, doing vital unpaid work to raise the next generation of human beings. It includes people who are too sick or unable to work for other reasons. In short, if you don´t own a business, if you aren't part of the Government, if you aren't independently wealthy (such as from an inheritance), then chances are you are a part of the working class that I'm talking about, this collective 'our'.

If we agree that we can't simply rely on Government to benevolently grant us gifts, and that we need to fight for it using our numbers and our power, then it becomes necessary to understand how society is structured and how capitalism actually functions, in order to know where our collective strength comes from, where we have the most power, and where we need to apply the metaphorical blowtorch.

So, why are conspiracy theories not helpful here? Why are conspiracy theories not useful for developing that understanding? There's a variety of reasons.

Some conspiracy theories, such as those around 9/11, even if they were true, which I don't believe they are, would only tell us “Governments do bad things”. That's not actually news to anyone. We know that the British Crown & the New Zealand Government stole vast tracts of land from Maori. We know that the Crown and the Australian Government engaged in genocidal acts against Australian aborigines. We know that Governments the world over have repeatedly sent people overseas to fight, kill and die in wars. There's so, so much more, but to cut a long story short, everybody knows that sometimes Governments do bad things. So theories that only serve to prove that, even if they were true, aren't actually particularly useful.

Some conspiracy theories are simply bizarre and the logical conclusions from them, don't fit with what their believers do. If you actually believed that the majority of people in power around the world was a blood-sucking shape-shifting reptilians from another solar system, then you wouldn't limit your activity to promoting one guy's book tours around the globe and chatting with other believers on the internet.

Conspiracy theories often feed on people's mistrust and their fear. They claim to provide simple answers to complicated questions, but actually when you examine them in detail they're highly complex themselves. For example, with 9/11, it seems like a simple solution to say 'it was an inside job by the US Government'. But actually, when you look into what would be required for this to be true, the thousands upon thousands of people who would need to be lying, it becomes incredibly implausible.

Some conspiracy theories, such as many of the shadowy financial cabal conspiracies, only serve to mystify capitalism and falsely suggest a level of control that doesn't actually exist. Additionally, they remove any sense of our own power, whether real or potential. A theory which suggests such overwhelming power and control over the entire way we live our lives is actually a catalyst for inaction – if a group has such a high level of control over everything, then there's not really anything we can do about it. On the contrary, capitalism is not a static system, it is dynamic and changing and constantly adapts in response to threats. The threat of working class power has resulted in a number of changes to the functioning of capitalism over time, including the introduction of Keynesian and Neoliberal economics in the late 1930s and 1970s respectively.

Even if conspiracy theories can sometimes seem relatively harmless on the surface, they play a role of absorbing us into a fictional world, somewhat like a dungeons and dragons enthusiast. Once you are in this fictional world, it becomes really easy to get lost in it and to be defensive when challenged, even when challenged on a logical, rational basis.

I'll quote British political blogger Jack Ray:

Quote:
The trouble with conspiracy theories is that they're all rendered pointless by one fundamental, unarguable element of capitalism. That it is, whatever else you have to say about, positive or negative, a system of elites. It has elitism coded into it´s DNA, from the smallest company, to the largest multinational, from the political system to the culture. It's purpose is to promote elites. It does this legitimately within the logic of the system. It does this publicly, lording super-capitalists like Bill Gates or even for a time, Enron boss Ken Lay. It lays its theories of elitism out for all to see, in policy projects, in university research, through political theorists.

It has no interest in secret cabals, or conspiracies. It has no need for them. It is a system openly, and publicly, run by elites. They might go home at night and secretly dine with their illuminati, lizard-jew, Bilderberg Group friends, and laugh about how they've taken over the world. It doesn't matter to me or you whether they do or not. They are the elite, and we can see who they are and how they live their lives. People know that we live in a system of elites, that acts in its own interests, according to the logic of the society they dominate. Everyone who looks around know this. We don't need internet documentaries to tell us that we're dominated, we just need to go to work, or walk through a posh neighbourhood or have a run-in with any politicians, big businessman or even a celebrity to know that. What we need are weapons, ways of challenging that domination, so maybe we don't have to live under it forever.

So what is the alternative to this conspiracist world-view? For that, we need to look at history. The history of how social change comes about is not always easy to find. It suits those in power to downplay the role of mass movements, so the dominant narrative is often one that ignores the long term grassroots organising that has happened, and simply focuses on legislative change enacted by the Government of the day. But a people's history is out there – often in the form of first hand accounts by those who took part in these movements, such as those for homosexual law reform, of the 1970s strike wave across New Zealand, of the movement against native forest logging and so on.

One thing, from looking at this history, is abundantly clear. Mass action is vital for mass change. If you look through history, time and time again, it is when large groups of people have got together and shown themselves to be a threat to those in power that concessions have been granted. This happens on a small scale as well as a big one – when all 10 employees at a small business go on strike and refuse to work until their boss gives them a pay rise, the boss is forced to listen.

From this example, it becomes obvious that it isn't simply numbers alone that allow us to exercise power. It is also using those numbers strategically to hit those in power where it hurts. As workers, we create wealth for the bosses each and every day at our jobs. Some of this wealth is returned to us in the form of wages, but much is stolen. This stolen wealth is often called ¨surplus value¨. It is the accumulation of surplus value, stolen by our bosses, that forms the wealth of the ruling class. But because the goods and services that create this surplus value ultimately come from our hands and our brains, through collectively withdrawing our labour, we can force the bosses to give in to our demands.

So taking collective action the workplace is one way we can impose our power on the bosses to help us better meet our needs and desires. And if we extrapolate this to larger numbers of work-sites, to larger numbers of people both employed and unemployed, then we can begin to see how we can make changes to the functioning of society as a whole.

I don't have all the answers, though I do have plenty more to say than I've had time to touch on in this talk. But I want to open things up to discussion soon, because I think that's one thing that is really important about this Occupy Wellington space, that we can talk through things, together, to come to new ways of thinking and working politically.

To finish things off, I want to emphasise that while it is important to have an open mind, this must be tempered with a commitment to rationality and the examining of evidence. Or, to quote Australian sceptic and comedian Tim Minchin, “If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out”.

Posted By

Anarchia
Oct 29 2011 04:29

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Salviati
Oct 29 2011 17:34

You say we need to look at history. On this I agree, in which case you will find that a great many 'conspiracy theories' turn out to have been correct: the Tonkin Gulf incident, MK Ultra, Operation Gladio, the Walsall anarchist bomb plot, etc etc. The list is very long indeed and, contrary to your stated belief, they do not require vast conspiracies of silence involving thousands of insiders - a few very powerful people is all that is required plus lots of bit part players who follow orders without questioning them. How many of today's 'conspiracy theories' will turn out to be tomorrow's declassified history? I'm not sure, but it's odds on that some will.

You are falling for the state and corporate media propaganda technique of stereotyping. The words 'conspiracy theory' are flung around with reckless abandon, mainly by those in power, solely in order to discredit ideas which are dangerous to the status quo. In truth, there are no 'conspiracy theories'; there are only various alternative narratives of history. Some are supported by evidence and others are not. Some have official state and media support whilst others do not. However, there is seldom any correlation between evidence and official support.

For example, the media often promotes climate change denial (despite the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming) whilst refusing to acknowledge the equally overwhelming scientific and eyewitness evidence for controlled demolition of 3 skyscrapers in Manhattan on 9/11. Over 1,600 verified professional architects and engineers have rejected the official explanation for those collapses but they are never interviewed in the mainstream media: their views always pompously and arrogantly dismissed, usually by journalists with no scientific qualifications, like David Aaronovitch.

In fact, the main 'conspiracy theory' of 9/11 is the official story, which the media never questions: a conspiracy conceived by a shadowy elite 'global terror network' called Al-Qaeda, led by a 'Bond villain' called Osama bin-Laden, for which there is no proper evidence whatsoever. The only evidence for this conspiracy is assertions made by state intelligence agencies such as the CIA (a criminal organisation), backed up by supposed confessions elicited by torture in Camp X-Ray. If this is the conspiracy theory you choose to believe, then fine; but don't go accusing others of having a conspiratorial mindset just because they question this 'truth' handed down from on high.

Needless to say, this has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. The latter is another charge flung around with reckless abandon by those who would like to silence critics of the Israeli government, raising legitimate concerns about that repressive state and its actions.

You also ask why should it matter, even if some of these conspiracies were true? So what if 9/11 were indeed a false flag operation? Would that really tell us no more than that 'governments do bad things'? Yes, it would. Most people (including most anarchists) are still unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop. Mass murder of their own citizens is nothing more than collateral damage in their eyes. This naivety is potentially very dangerous and it also makes it difficult to confront the central lie at the heart of the 'War on Terror'. It becomes impossible to construct a coherent critique of endless foreign wars and domestic oppression if you accept the fundamental premise upon which they are based. The truth is a powerful weapon, especially when we are literally being assaulted by lies.

As you said, history is a good guide. If you want to know how elites and cabals subvert democracy, then start by studying Operation Gladio:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio

Gladio was a network of far-right groups funded and directed mainly by the CIA, which carried out a series of false flag terror attacks in Italy from 1969 to 1988. It involved many thousands of operatives and was kept secret for over 40 years. Their first major outrage was the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan, 1969:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_Fontana_bombing

This terrorist attack was initially blamed on guess who? An anarchist, of course: the media's favourite bugbear before Muslim 'extremists' took over the role. The anarchist was arrested and died in custody (this formed the basis for Dario Fo's famous play: Accidental Death of an Anarchist). It later transpired that the attack had been carried out by right-wing extremists with close connections to the CIA, who supplied the material for the bomb.

This is no longer a conspiracy theory, but an established historical fact, following investigations begun in 1990. Even the BBC produced a documentary exposing Gladio in 1992. This was a time when the BBC still did proper investigative journalism. Today, they only peddle pseudo-science and misinformation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fB6nViwJcM

The parallels between the Gladio network and the present day concept of Al-Qaeda are very obvious, if you study them and you have some grasp of geo-politics. Alternatively, just read and understand Orwell's 1984. Osama bin-Laden could easily have been modelled on the character of Orwell's Emmanuel Goldstein, with a delicious irony.

In summary, I would say that I'm 'against conspiracy theories' too, as long as we count official government-sponsored conspiracy theories among them. What I'm in favour of is the following:

1) Understanding history

2) Understanding geo-politics (in all its complexity and skullduggery)

3) Looking at all the evidence (there's actually plenty out there despite the best attempts of authorities to cover their crimes)

4) Using your own brain and making up your own mind, rather than believing any old crap the media or the government want you to believe.

tastybrain
Oct 29 2011 17:49
Salviati wrote:
How many of today's 'conspiracy theories' will turn out to be tomorrow's declassified history?

Well if most world leaders turn out to be reptilian aliens I will be very surprised...

mons
Oct 29 2011 17:54

Thanks so much for this article, really useful!

Salviati, OK, I disagree with you but like Asher I'm not interested in debating the conspiracy theories themselves (I used to spend far too much time doing that with friends who believed some of them).

But I don't think you have really explained how it shows us anything more than 'governments do bad things'. You said,

Quote:
Most people (including most anarchists) are still unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop. Mass murder of their own citizens is nothing more than collateral damage in their eyes. This naivety is potentially very dangerous and it also makes it difficult to confront the central lie at the heart of the 'War on Terror'. It becomes impossible to construct a coherent critique of endless foreign wars and domestic oppression if you accept the fundamental premise upon which they are based. The truth is a powerful weapon, especially when we are literally being assaulted by lies.

So you're saying that it is central to understanding the war on terror, and that's the only thing you've said it's useful for. If they were true, then it would alter the critique a bit, yeah. But I think you're still overstating massively the importance of the truth/falsity of these conspiracy theories. Nobody here believes that countries invade other countries for humanitarian reasons. I'd argue this is the more fundamental premise justifying invasions than 9/11, especially as it's used to justify pretty much all wars instead of being a specific incident.
More importantly, supposing these theories are true and our critique alters accordingly, then what? What concrete activity comes out of that? How does it change the way we should go about our efforts to stop war?

tastybrain
Oct 29 2011 17:56
Salviati wrote:
For example, the media often promotes climate change denial (despite the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming) whilst refusing to acknowledge the equally overwhelming scientific and eyewitness evidence for controlled demolition of 3 skyscrapers in Manhattan on 9/11. Over 1,600 verified professional architects and engineers have rejected the official explanation for those collapses but they are never interviewed in the mainstream media: their views always pompously and arrogantly dismissed, usually by journalists with no scientific qualifications, like David Aaronovitch.

Links plz.

Salviati wrote:
You also ask why should it matter, even if some of these conspiracies were true? So what if 9/11 were indeed a false flag operation? Would that really tell us no more than that 'governments do bad things'? Yes, it would. Most people (including most anarchists) are still unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop. Mass murder of their own citizens is nothing more than collateral damage in their eyes. This naivety is potentially very dangerous and it also makes it difficult to confront the central lie at the heart of the 'War on Terror'. It becomes impossible to construct a coherent critique of endless foreign wars and domestic oppression if you accept the fundamental premise upon which they are based. The truth is a powerful weapon, especially when we are literally being assaulted by lies.

Are you joking? Even if you turned out to be right, the mass murder of 3000 people is a drop in the ocean for the American government. You are the one who seems to be "unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop". As Asher said, were you correct, it would tell us nothing new.

mons
Oct 29 2011 18:00

tastybrain, I think that is a pretty bad example as most people who believe 9/11 was an 'inside job', and even believe in the 'illuminati' and stuff don't think the world leaders are reptiles.
And for the evidence of the over 1600 scientists I imagine this what salviati means: http://ae911truth.org/en/home.html

radicalgraffiti
Oct 29 2011 18:08
tastybrain wrote:
Salviati wrote:
You also ask why should it matter, even if some of these conspiracies were true? So what if 9/11 were indeed a false flag operation? Would that really tell us no more than that 'governments do bad things'? Yes, it would. Most people (including most anarchists) are still unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop. Mass murder of their own citizens is nothing more than collateral damage in their eyes. This naivety is potentially very dangerous and it also makes it difficult to confront the central lie at the heart of the 'War on Terror'. It becomes impossible to construct a coherent critique of endless foreign wars and domestic oppression if you accept the fundamental premise upon which they are based. The truth is a powerful weapon, especially when we are literally being assaulted by lies.

Are you joking? Even if you turned out to be right, the mass murder of 3000 people is a drop in the ocean for the American government. You are the one who seems to be "unaware of the depths of iniquity and criminality to which our governments are willing to stoop". As Asher said, were you correct, it would tell us nothing new.

this^ "our" governments do much worse stuff all the time, quite openly.

Salviati
Oct 29 2011 18:30
Quote:
Well if most world leaders turn out to be reptilian aliens I will be very surprised...

Err ... so would I. On the other hand, it would explain a lot smile

Salviati
Oct 29 2011 19:20

I don't especially want to get drawn into a very detailed discussion of 9/11, but tastybrain asked for links, which is fair enough. The best film on the scientific evidence is undoubtedly the latest offering from Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, called Explosive Evidence: Experts Speak Out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw-jzCfa4eQ

There is also a peer-reviewed scientific paper which shows beyond reasonable doubt that explosive residues were present in 4 independent dust samples from 9/11. Far from being 'debunked', the paper has never been challenged in a proper scientific forum. In fact, its findings have now been replicated by two other independent researchers, including an American Chemical Engineer. A layman's discussion with a link to the original can be found here:

http://911research.wtc7.net/essays/thermite/explosive_residues.html

If you want a lengthier discussion of the evidence and why it does matter, I've blogged about it here:

http://sodiumchorus.blogspot.com/2011/09/911-still-matters.html

David Chandler's videos explaining the physics of collapsing towers are also excellent. He forced NIST to acknowledge that WTC 7 was in absolute free fall after they had initially denied this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVCDpL4Ax7I

If you want a really well-researched, well-sourced website presenting evidence for alternative narratives about 9/11, then the best is probably 9/11 Research, maintained by Jim Hoffmann:

http://911research.wtc7.net/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Hoffman

This website is meticulously cross-referenced and every assertion is supported by citations of original sources and primary evidence.

I acknowledge the points made here that none of us (as anarchists / left libertarians) are that surprised that governments commit monstrous crimes. In that case, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to ensure that the evidence of those crimes is exposed in public, so that the majority of people (who are not necessarily lefties or anarchists) can better understand why government and hierarchy are potentially so dangerous?

It isn't just foreign wars which are justified by reference to terrorism; the more important aspect for us is domestic repression, in the name of 'security'. We had six 'terrorism' acts in the UK in the 8 years following 9/11. They have turned the UK into a police state - if it wasn't already - and if it was already then it's a million times worse now, all because of a big fat lie which most people still believe. You cannot effectively attack the police state without attacking the lies which sustain it. Orwell knew this.

Another reason to be concerned with the truth about history is that history tends to repeat itself and we need to recognise the underhand methods of the state, if we are not to fall victim to them ourselves. Anarchists have been the target of false flag operations and agents provocateurs for over 100 years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walsall_Anarchists

This will inevitably be the case again and it is already happening in a more minor way. The next 9/11 will not be blamed on Muslims. It may well be blamed on us.

radicalgraffiti
Oct 29 2011 20:51

Right i'm not going to go into what you said in great detail but several things about what you said stand out.

First a scientist who has studed one subject can only be considered to know what they are talking about when they are talking about that precise subject, a physicist that specalises in magnetism is not necessary any good when it comes to fluid dynamics etc.

Secondly thermite is not an explosive, it is something that burns hot and can be uses to cut metal, no one moderately informed about chemistry would make this mistake.

Thirdly “Jim Hoffman has a background in software engineering, mechanical engineering, and scientific visualization[5] and co-published a paper on "Computer graphics tools for the study of minimal surfaces“ he is not any kind of engineer or physicist

Fourthly David Chandler appears to start timing the collapse of the wtc7 sever second after the collapse begins, he doesn't explain in any way why he chose the start point that he did, but it is clear that parts of the building had began to collapse before he stared to time it, this makes his claims about the speed that at collapsed invalid.

Boris Badenov
Oct 29 2011 21:27

As someone who has recently watched and enjoyed the movie ANONYMOUS, I am all for conspiracy theories. I mean FULL WHAT IF etc. That said, to base your politics on something like that is just plain stupid. Class war, and nothing but, baby.

jonthom
Oct 30 2011 09:37
Boris Badenov wrote:
As someone who has recently watched and enjoyed the movie ANONYMOUS, I am all for conspiracy theories. I mean FULL WHAT IF etc. That said, to base your politics on something like that is just plain stupid. Class war, and nothing but, baby.

This, basically.

Conspiracy theories can be a lot of fun, many of them are just silly (moon landing), some are bizarre (OMG MASONIC JEW LIZARDS!!!), a handful turn out to be true (MK ULTRA). But ultimately I really don't see what impact they have on our understanding of politics or political activity, much less why we should "be doing everything we can to ensure that the evidence of those crimes is exposed in public". The latter attitude often seems to lend itself to an almost missionary view of the rest of society, as though all that would be needed for social change is for "the sheeple" to "wake up" and understand the evil machinations of the ruling class.

Of course the ruling class conspires. They do so all the time. But even if the 9/11 claims had any validity - and I really don't think they do - that wouldn't really change a great deal IMO.

Salviati, since you listed several examples of real conspiracies being outed, I'm curious - what positive social changes or damage to capitalism or the state do you feel have resulted from the exposure of "the Tonkin Gulf incident, MK Ultra, Operation Gladio, the Walsall anarchist bomb plot, etc etc"?

roach
Oct 30 2011 17:22

Though i agree with the sentiment of this speech/ article/ whatever, i think it unnecessarily complicates the issue.

A conspiracy is when more than one person gets together to plan something and act on it. In the english language conspiracy has a negative connotation to it, so what is being planned is implied to benefit the planners at the detriment of others.

So a conspiracy theory is a theory about some people who have conspired to make something happen that will benefit themselves at the detriment of others.

what is implicit in conspiracy theories, necessarily, is that whatever system that the theory is discussing (the u.s., italy, capitalism, etc) would not act this way if it were not for said conspirators. This carries with it the assumption that it is individual actors, and not the system itself, that is the problem.

We are anarchists. From an anarchist perspective, these actors would be tossed aside and replaced if they acted in any way that challenged the system itself. A president or CIA director is a replaceable cog in the death machine that is capitalism and the state, the individual name does not change their role.

A conspiracy theory focuses on bad actors in a decent system, Anarchism focuses on a system of domination that would attempt to dominate no matter who the actors are.

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 00:02
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Right i'm not going to go into what you said in great detail but several things about what you said stand out.

First a scientist who has studed one subject can only be considered to know what they are talking about when they are talking about that precise subject, a physicist that specalises in magnetism is not necessary any good when it comes to fluid dynamics etc.

Secondly thermite is not an explosive, it is something that burns hot and can be uses to cut metal, no one moderately informed about chemistry would make this mistake.

Thirdly “Jim Hoffman has a background in software engineering, mechanical engineering, and scientific visualization[5] and co-published a paper on "Computer graphics tools for the study of minimal surfaces“ he is not any kind of engineer or physicist

Fourthly David Chandler appears to start timing the collapse of the wtc7 sever second after the collapse begins, he doesn't explain in any way why he chose the start point that he did, but it is clear that parts of the building had began to collapse before he stared to time it, this makes his claims about the speed that at collapsed invalid.

I guess I need to clear up some misconceptions. Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth have over 1,600 professionals, including structural engineers, architects who design steel-framed buildings and chemists including explosives specialists. All have very relevant expertise.

Thermite is indeed not an explosive but a very effective incendiary capable of cutting seel, especially with the addition of sulphur, to make thermate. However, what Prof Niels Harrit's research team found was not thermite per se but nanothermite, which is a much more refined version of thermite. Nanothermite has similar power to a high explosive but generates much higher temperatures:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nano-thermite

Chandler's analysis is superb and NIST was in fact forced to agree with him. They had to retract their earlier claim that WTC 7 was not in free fall. The end points for the timing are irrelevant, since what matters is the instantaneous acceleration, as this tells us about the forces involved (since F = ma). WTC 7 was in free fall for over 2 seconds, which means that none of its 82 steel columns was offering any resistance to collapse during this time. That is impossible, unless nearly all those columns were simultaneously severed.

I have a PhD in applied maths myself, from an engineering department, together with post-doc experience. You don't really need that level of qualification to understand the physics involved here, as it's pretty simple stuff, yet NIST wilfully got it wrong and failed to draw the obvious conclusions. I've read the NIST report on WTC 7 and I can assure you that it is unadulterated bullshit, full of errors and omissions, which would not even pass muster as an undergraduate engineering project.

CornetJoyce
Oct 31 2011 00:48

Speaking of omissions, the most formidable critic of the "official explanation" is surely Steven Jones- a physicist known for his cold fusion thesis. On his site- which seems to no longer be online- he posted the Request for Study sent to scientists and engineers including himself,
The base - the first 14 floors I think- of the first 2 towers was excluded from the study, as of course was the third twin tower.
Dr Jones has recently concluded his testing of materials from the site and has found nanothermite.

roach
Oct 31 2011 02:03

Salviati-

number of engineers registered as employed in the u.s. in 2006-
1.5 million

number of architects registered as employed in the u.s. in 2008-
233,000

^easily obtainable random data from google.

if there are roughly 1.7 million engineers and architects in the united states (and there are definitely more than that), then your "1,600 engineers and architects" is equivalent to less than 0.001% of people in those fields. not really an impressive number when you look at it that way.

also, as someone who blows glass and does metal work, i've gotta tell you that steel is a conductor, and any heat introduced at the top will necessarily weaken the bottom, because the heat will transfer very quickly if its a lot of heat. am i a scientist? no. am i into math? not really. but as someone who as played with fire his whole life and is now employed to play with and manipulate fire and heat, i've gotta tell you, a giant fucking impact and explosion of an extremely large plane at the mid-top of the buildings is a pretty damn reasonable explanation for structural failure.

finally, why not bother responding to what i said before? conspiracy theory is about blaming individual bad actors. anarchism is about understanding and dismantling a bad system filled with cogs that couldn't do what they are doing without said system. even if conspiracy theories 'break the blinders' on people, they still leave up the most important blinder to break, that the whole system is a fucking sham. blaming bad actors definitely exonerates the system.

CornetJoyce
Oct 31 2011 05:12

Well no, "a giant fucking impact and explosion of an extremely large plane at the mid-top of the buildings" is not "a pretty damn reasonable explanation for structural failure," which is why the government patched together a theory about the "pancake effect" presumably worked out by pancake engineers. No plane either fuckiing or extremely large hit the third twin tower so all of Manhattan should be evacuated before it's brought down by old stogies in the wastebaskets. .

roach
Oct 31 2011 06:48

like i said, as someone with a lifelong experience with heat and fire and it's effects, i personally think it is a reasonable explanation. because all understanding must stem from personal experience. if you don't understand or have any respect for personal experience, that is your problem.

steel become malleable at a certain point. all of the support beams and rivots holding up the towers were steel, and they were all inter connected, allowing rapid heat transfer. the center of each tower is a hollow shaft which created a large thermal draft. if you take any decent industrial torch and quickly introduce the flame to the top of a hollow steel shaft at a hot enough temperature, the whole bar (not just the top) will sag and begin to bend under the heat. the bottom moves much slower than the top, but it still moves. that is because the medium (steel) is a heat conductor, not a heat insulator. while the melting temperature of steel is somewhere above 2,000 degrees (F), the temperature at which it "softens" is actually pretty low, somewhere shortly below 1,000 degrees (F) (i don't know what those temps are in celsius). this is a small scale version of what happened. i know this because i've tried it. because i have access to the proper equipment to do so. it's not just a refutable theory found in a paper to me. but, once again, if you have no respect for personal experience, than that is your problem.

as for the "third twin tower" (wtc 7), there were two industrial sized illegally placed active diesel generators in opposite sides of the basement that nj trans is being sued over. whether these brought the building down or the building was "pulled" because those generators would have been an extra danger does not matter to me.

it doesn't matter to me,because of what i have said about the focus on bad actors versus a needed focus on the bad system we live in. The u.s. government commits crimes every day. and it lies every day. and it conspires in order to achieve both. it does so because "war is the health of the state". it would not matter if 9-11 happened or not, the u.s. was going to let out a viscous primal scream as it's hegemony faded (one could even argue that the fade happened far more rapidly because of the war on terror), and people were going to die because of it. they will continue to die under the boot of the state until we overcome the state, once again, because war is the health of the state. that is the anarchist understanding of state power. and this is an anarchist site.

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 14:45
roach wrote:
... the center of each tower is a hollow shaft which created a large thermal draft. ...

I have to stop you there, because you are just repeating a piece of official misinformation which is very commonly believed. This is absolutely typical of those who believe the official version of events: they just uncritically accept factually erroneous statements from official sources. Here is some correct information about the construction of the twin towers:

http://911research.wtc7.net/wtc/evidence/blueprints.html

The core of both buildings was supported by 47 huge steel columns running from the base to the top and protected by concrete. There is no evidence that the cores of either building were affected by fire or damaged by plane impacts in any way whatsoever. But why let facts get in the way of a good evidence-free official conspiracy theory?

This is why I don't want to get involved in detailed discussions on the evidence that 9/11 was a false flag op. It almost certainly was, but those who argue against it are armed with a great deal of misinformation (which they call 'debunking'), which always turns out to be wrong. I could debunk the 'debunkers' all day long, but I really can't be arsed any more. If you're genuinely interested in the truth, you'll do your own research, maybe starting with some of the links I've provided, then make up your own mind, remembering that official government sources are seldom to be trusted unless independently corroborated.

However, roach correctly points out that the most important question now is not whether false flag ops are real (history shows they are even if you don't think 9/11 was one) but whether this is important politically for us, as anarchists. I'll address this in a separate comment.

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 16:11
roach wrote:

also, as someone who blows glass and does metal work, i've gotta tell you that steel is a conductor, and any heat introduced at the top will necessarily weaken the bottom, because the heat will transfer very quickly if its a lot of heat. am i a scientist? no. am i into math? not really. but as someone who as played with fire his whole life and is now employed to play with and manipulate fire and heat, i've gotta tell you, a giant fucking impact and explosion of an extremely large plane at the mid-top of the buildings is a pretty damn reasonable explanation for structural failure.

I have plenty of respect for your skill and personal experience as a glass-blower / metal worker. You're right in saying that the steel frames of these buildings act as a massive heat sink. Far from making them more vulnerable, this actually protects them from the effects of fires by dissipating the heat safely. The steel would not reach anywhere near the temperatures required for complete structural failure.It is not your personal experience that I'm questioning: you are just misinformed about the facts of the case, as I pointed out in my previous comment. Now to the more important question:

roach wrote:

finally, why not bother responding to what i said before? conspiracy theory is about blaming individual bad actors. anarchism is about understanding and dismantling a bad system filled with cogs that couldn't do what they are doing without said system. even if conspiracy theories 'break the blinders' on people, they still leave up the most important blinder to break, that the whole system is a fucking sham. blaming bad actors definitely exonerates the system.

I totally agree with all of that. Conspiracy theory is indeed about blaming bad actors, but I'm not talking about a 'conspiracy theory': I'm pointing out the systematic use of false flag operations by state institutions; especially intelligence agencies. What THEY (the corporate media) call 'conspiracy theories' are just the tip of a very large iceberg, which includes day-to-day surveillance and infiltration of anarchist groups by informers and agents provocateurs, for example.

The whole point is that I'm not blaming 'bad actors': that's what the government wants you to do and that's why they label alternative narratives as 'conspiracy theories'. Damn it, that's why they even promote official conspiracy theories of their own, like the great Al-Qaeda conspiracy theory that we're all supposed to believe in: It's all about a very bad man with a beard controlling a global terror network. Watch out! Your beardy Muslim neighbour could be one. It's not safe: we need more power for the police ... and so it goes on.

Yes, blaming bad actors does exonerate the system. If they get you to think in terms of 'conspiracy theory', then they've won. That's why I don't advocate 'conspiracy theories'. The phrase is empty and meaningless: designed to make you stop thinking. Next time you hear it blandly spouted in the corporate media, try deconstructing it. Instead, there are alternative narratives of history. Conspiracies are actually quite commonplace in history, but they arise out of systemic necessity. Elites (plural) are secretive and they exercise power largely in secret, not in public, since it is necessary to maintain some illusion of popular accountability.

For example, ten years ago, if you even mentioned the existence of Bilderberg, you would have been labelled a 'conspiracy theorist'. Now, thanks to the efforts of 'conspiracy theorists' (actually 'political activists'), the existence of Bilderberg can no longer be denied. Instead, they will now call you a conspiracy theorist if you suggest that anything important actually gets discussed at this annual shindig of the world's most powerful people.

Sure enough, the results of that power are clear for all to see: massive inequality, injustice, war and repression. Yeah, the system sucks, but unless you fully understand exactly how it sucks, you'll never defeat it.

Another vital point to understand is that the term 'conspiracy theory' is used as a state tool to divide and rule us, in exactly the same way as the terms 'deserving poor' or 'illegal immigrant'. Oh, you're not a 'conspiracy theorist' are you? You might be an anarchist but at least you're not one of those 'paranoid conspiraloons', are you? You're not one of those 'Truthers'? Goodness, you'll be suggesting that the police spy on innocent people and concoct false evidence next - what a ludicrous 'conspiracy theory'.

The thing is this: 9/11 Truth Activists (just for example) are legitimate political campaigners, fighting to expose systemic corruption and suppression of the truth within governments (plural) and intelligence agencies. Now, I do not believe that there is some single over-arching global New World Order conspiracy: that would be a massive over-simplification.

However, to characterise any particular group of activists as 'conspiracy theorists' simply plays directly into the hands of the media and political elites. Instead, why don't we try to understand what they're really saying by actually talking and listening, rather than rushing to judgement on the basis of media disinformation? Some may turn out to be mistaken, but others could have a valid point which impacts on the wider struggle against capitalism.

Articles like this one, by Asher, really don't help at all.

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 17:44
jonthom wrote:
...

Of course the ruling class conspires. They do so all the time. But even if the 9/11 claims had any validity - and I really don't think they do - that wouldn't really change a great deal IMO.

Salviati, since you listed several examples of real conspiracies being outed, I'm curious - what positive social changes or damage to capitalism or the state do you feel have resulted from the exposure of "the Tonkin Gulf incident, MK Ultra, Operation Gladio, the Walsall anarchist bomb plot, etc etc"?

I missed this comment earlier, so maybe I should respond.

First, I'm not waiting for 'the sheeple' to 'wake up': hell will surely freeze over before that happens. Still, it would certainly be nice if a few intelligent and perceptive anarchists (such as I know I can find here) would stop swallowing corporate media propaganda. If nothing else, a study of false flag ops and the propaganda efforts which accompany them should enable activists like ourselves to recognise bullshit when it's being fed to us. That would surely be useful, wouldn't it? I'm not saying we fall for it all the time, but I have to admit that I've also fallen for it in the past. I'm much less likely to do so in future because now I'm more familiar with the tricks played on us.

It's about understanding the methods of the enemy. It's also about understanding history in general and how hegemony sustains itself through lies. This helps you to avoid repeating past mistakes or falling for the subtle misdirection practised by governments and security agencies.

For example, if the Walsall anarchists had been better able to recognise that they'd been infiltrated and fitted up, they could have stayed out of prison. If anti-war activists had exposed the Tonkin Gulf incident earlier, the Vietnam War could have been curtailed. If Italian anarchists had recognised Gladio for what it was, they could have countered it. There's also the need to show solidarity with other activists coming under a propaganda attack. By legitimising the use of the phrase 'conspiracy theorist', you are handing an easy victory to the corporate media and giving them a weapon they will use against you, tomorrow.

OK, these things don't necessarily lead to global awakening and revolution but greater understanding always enables you to fight more effectively. To argue otherwise is like saying that history just doesn't matter. Of course it matters.

CornetJoyce
Oct 31 2011 18:12

The unexplained collapse of the third twin tower " does not matter to you" but it matters nevertheless, as does the truth in any criminal matter.

roach
Oct 31 2011 18:24

the measurements of the twin towers were 208 ft x 208 ft. the length of a 767 is is 160 ft. if the planes did not go into the buildings enough to penetrate the cores, pretty much the entire core, then the whole plane would have fallen out and landed on the street. if you really are into math, that should be kind of obvious. the core shaft takes up roughly a third of the mass of the building according to the diagram in your own link. so if by sheer numbers the planes had to have penetrated the cores, they would have ploughed through the concrete and exposed parts of the steel. and the entire core shaft was certainly not filled with concrete, so it did most likely create a thermal draft. and the blueprint page you sent me to does absolutely nothing to refute anything i have said. also, another thing i have to tell you from experience, concrete does not take rapid temperature fluctuations well. only solid and steady temperature shifts. a giant inferno created by burning jet fuel, computers, office materials, and dry wall would definitely create rapid heat shifts, not a steady rise. but why let math and the experience and knowledge of flameworker who is from nj, watched the whole thing go down with his own eyes, not a camera lens, and has thought about this plenty and is not being exposed to these ideas for the first time get in the way of a fun conspiracy? i have done research on it man. i'm sorry, but my own eyes and my own experience definitely means more to me than papers written by people who weren't there but believe they hold the (T)ruth.

on your other post, yes, you are talking about and advocating a conspiracy theory. it is not empty and meaningless. it's actually really precise. you have a theory about a grouping of people who have done something nefarious in secret to benefit themselves, a conspiracy. That makes it a conspiracy theory, by definition and by description. and yes, the blowback theory involving militants the u.s. previously armed and trained is also a conspiracy theory. i don't even think conspiracy theory is an inherently negative term. that's just you projecting that onto what i say. i merely think that conspiracy theories never get to the damn point, the system, because they are inherently geared towards blaming only the actors (conspirators).

but i am an anarchist. i am concerned with the system of state and capital. not just one of the recent fucked up things that this or that political actor was involved in, but the whole damn system. i know that states do fucked up things and that those things create waves which come back to haunt them. repression of anarchists back in the day led to the gallianisti age here in the u.s. that was blowback too. the important thing is to understand it from a systems level. to not simply blame the politician who started funding and training the muhajadeen or the judge who hanged the people from haymarket (though we should curse their names), but understand why the state acts the way it does and attempt to overcome the state itself and all of its torturous and repressive bullshit, not just get bogged down on one specific incident of the state acting like a state. engaging way too much time on minutiae of 9-11 is a waste of goddamned time. sure i understand "how it sucks". but by your above comment on how this was a bigger travesty than most things the u.s. does makes me think that maybe you don't really understand "how it sucks". you don't seem to get that this is typical behavior, that no individual citizen really matters to any government, and certainly not to the most powerful state. this is one of the first times i've bothered allowing myself to openly discuss anything about it in years, because i think its a waste of time. it was an excuse for the war on terror, which was really just an explosive microcosm of the state acting like an unbridled state. nothing more. the u.s. participates in the murder of people all over the world, including here in the u.s., every damn day. some days have higher death tolls than others, but the death toll will not stop until the state and it's apparati are dismantled. end of story.

and on your stuff about 'spouting mainstream media lies', i'm sorry man, but you have no idea who you are talking to. you shouldn't make such assumptions. i haven't had cable since 2002. i barely used it before that. mostly for cartoon network. you are on a radical's site. try to not assume that the people you interact with are just 'sheeple' or whatever who have never bothered thinking about the influence of corporate media or the big bad government or never read any of the things you cite. it doesn't do any of your ideas any good to start off sounding like you're talking down to people.

on articles like this one, my first comment was on exactly that. the one you didn't respond to. so i'll paste it below. vv

>>>>Though i agree with the sentiment of this speech/ article/ whatever, i think it unnecessarily complicates the issue.

A conspiracy is when more than one person gets together to plan something and act on it. In the english language conspiracy has a negative connotation to it, so what is being planned is implied to benefit the planners at the detriment of others.

So a conspiracy theory is a theory about some people who have conspired to make something happen that will benefit themselves at the detriment of others.

what is implicit in conspiracy theories, necessarily, is that whatever system that the theory is discussing (the u.s., italy, capitalism, etc) would not act this way if it were not for said conspirators. This carries with it the assumption that it is individual actors, and not the system itself, that is the problem.

We are anarchists. From an anarchist perspective, these actors would be tossed aside and replaced if they acted in any way that challenged the system itself. A president or CIA director is a replaceable cog in the death machine that is capitalism and the state, the individual name does not change their role.

A conspiracy theory focuses on bad actors in a decent system, Anarchism focuses on a system of domination that would attempt to dominate no matter who the actors are.
<<<<

roach
Oct 31 2011 18:29

Cornetjoyce -

if you think that the u.s. is responsible for 9-11, do you actually think that the u.s. would investigate any criminal matter relating themselves to it? would a judge convict himself of a crime? that's is just nonsense. and i'd once again remind you that this is an anarchist site. it's not about reforming the state through litigation and court proceedings. it's about abolishing the state and it's courts. having one arm of the state interfere with the another is called reform. the only purpose of reform is to help the state survive longer.

roach
Oct 31 2011 18:36

historians get lost in history and don't come back all the time. the pure sounding world of books seems to be a lot more pleasant than reality. people obsessing over 9-11 have the same exact problem. you get so locked up in all these idiosyncratic details that you don't notice that the state's tactics have changed over the past 10 years. understanding how they did it back then, or how they did it in italy, or where ever and when ever, does not help as much as you think. military theorists refer to it as "fighting the last war", when you prepare for your next battle as though reality was static and it will be no different from your last one. its a bad mistake.

Caiman del Barrio
Oct 31 2011 18:41

Bo-ring!

Back on topic please! Truthers and their debaters, go somewhere else!

roach
Oct 31 2011 18:59

caiman-

the article is called against conspiracy theories. it is about conspiracy theories. i'm arguing against conspiracy theories. exactly how is any of what's happening not on topic?

Arbeiten
Oct 31 2011 20:03

to be honest, if you mention Bilderberg now, my conspiracy theorist approaching alarm still goes off...

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 22:30
roach wrote:
caiman-

the article is called against conspiracy theories. it is about conspiracy theories. i'm arguing against conspiracy theories. exactly how is any of what's happening not on topic?

Funnily enough, I'm also arguing against conspiracy theories: especially the ones concocted by the state, which both you and Caiman appear to believe in.

As for Bilderberg: that's not a 'conspiracy', it's just an organisation of the world's most powerful political and corporate leaders which happens to meet in total secrecy every year to discuss major global issues and go skiing. Obviously, nothing of any importance, which is why the corporate media denied its existence until recently and still doesn't attempt to cover what goes on there. OK, so let's go back to pretending it doesn't exist, because we wouldn't want someone to call us 'conspiracy theorists', would we?

Because asking questions about hierarchies is obviously a total distraction from what anarchism is all about, isn't it? Look, I'm all for smashing the system, but first don't you have to know what the system is?

Salviati
Oct 31 2011 22:39

OK, I'll tell you what: you want a conspiracy theory to argue against? Try this one for a start:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuC_4mGTs98

Arbeiten
Oct 31 2011 23:25

yeah sorry, that was a bit of a cheap shot. I believe powerful people get together, why not? That much is obvious. I'm happy to admit that. I'm just not happy with the amount of chaff there is in the wheat pile of information on 'Bilderberg'. It isn't always 'conspiracy' per se just the dodgy analysis. Often accompanied by some strange 'bad actors' theory that has been discussed above...