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”.

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Anarchia
Oct 29 2011 04:29

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radicalgraffiti
Nov 7 2011 16:08

some one doesn't need to think "5) Still thinks that the official account is correct and that the official investigations were adequate." to think the collapses was caused by the planes and subsequent fires, and that the idea of controlled demolitions is fucking absurd

Salviati
Nov 7 2011 16:45
jonthom wrote:
...
In passing, though, I would echo Jason Cortez's sentiment that 9/11 theories tend to get so wrapped up in the minutiae of technical details and minor supposed inconsistencies in the "official story" that they have little to say about the bigger picture. In this case, how would one go about priming three enormous buildings with enough explosives to bring the lot of them down, without a: anyone noticing you doing it, and b: any of the people involved saying anything? And similarly, why you would need to destroy WTC7 in order to get rid of evidence when you could just, well...get rid of the evidence?

I've just got back from a weekend of real-world activism and it's simply not my job to answer everyone's questions about alternative 9/11 narratives. However, just this once I'll point you in the right direction.

You do seem like a genuinely rational and highly intelligent person, so you are more than capable of finding things out for yourself. However, you are not yet arguing from a fully informed perspective on 9/11. For example, there are literally dozens of whistleblowers, including controlled demolition experts who can explain to you how the 3 towers could have been rigged for demolition, under cover of routine maintenance work, with minimal disruption. First read this FAQ:

http://911research.wtc7.net/faq/demolition.html

Then look up Danny Jowenko (now deceased) and Tom Sullivan.

Then familiarise yourself with the testimony of various people who described suspicious activities taking place in the towers in the weeks preceding 9/11. Watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB2fHqnqZaE

Then follow this up by searching for more information about the testimony of Ben Fountain, Scott Forbes and any others you might find.

When you've done all that, you can come back to me from a better informed perspective.

Much the same goes for your question about why it was necessary to destroy WTC 7. First, one cannot simply destroy high-profile SEC case files without any excuse. Well, you can but it looks bad to say "we just shredded them." Sure, they probably did do just that, but it's better to say "they were destroyed when WTC 7 collapsed, along with lots of sensitive CIA and OEM files, coincidentally housed in the very same building."

It's better still when your name is Larry Silverstein and you make a huge profit on the insurance policy for all 3 buildings as well as landing the contract to rebuild the whole complex. I've given you enough clues. You are obviously clever enough: Investigate it for yourself (if you can be bothered).

Salviati
Nov 7 2011 17:15
radicalgraffiti wrote:
some one doesn't need to think "5) Still thinks that the official account is correct and that the official investigations were adequate." to think the collapses was caused by the planes and subsequent fires, and that the idea of controlled demolitions is fucking absurd

1) Number of steel-framed high-rise buildings which have completely collapsed in a matter of seconds due to controlled demolition: many.

2) Number of steel-framed high-rise buildings which have completely collapsed in a matter of seconds due to severe uncontrolled fires and / or partial structural damage (e.g. plane impact): none (or 3 all on the same day if you believe the official story - but remember that WTC 7 was not hit by a plane), despite the fact that many have suffered fires far worse than those in the twin towers or WTC 7:

The Windsor Building - Madrid

So you think that scenario 1) is 'fucking absurd' whilst scenario 2) is not. OK. There's no arguing with this logic.

radicalgraffiti
Nov 7 2011 17:47
Salviati wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
some one doesn't need to think "5) Still thinks that the official account is correct and that the official investigations were adequate." to think the collapses was caused by the planes and subsequent fires, and that the idea of controlled demolitions is fucking absurd

1) Number of steel-framed high-rise buildings which have completely collapsed in a matter of seconds due to controlled demolition: many.

2) Number of steel-framed high-rise buildings which have completely collapsed in a matter of seconds due to severe uncontrolled fires and / or partial structural damage (e.g. plane impact): none (or 3 all on the same day if you believe the official story - but remember that WTC 7 was not hit by a plane), despite the fact that many have suffered fires far worse than those in the twin towers or WTC 7:

The Windsor Building - Madrid

So you think that scenario 1) is 'fucking absurd' whilst scenario 2) is not. OK. There's no arguing with this logic.

you haven't don't much research if your using the windsor building in madrid to back up your point

http://www.911myths.com/html/madrid_windsor_tower.html

the construction was completely different from the WTC and the steal parts completely collapsed, despite having some support form the concrete parts .

WTC 7 was not hit by a plane but it was hit by bits from the twin towers.

edit to make correction.

jonthom
Nov 7 2011 20:20

Salviati: if I get time to read the links you've provided I will do my best to do so, though in all honesty I doubt they will make a great deal of impact on my point of view. Still, never say never, and I do appreciate your digging them out.

However, it also seems to me that the bulk of your responses have been aimed at discussion of 9/11 itself, despite the fact that some of the posts you're responding to - and, indeed, the original article being discussed - are not about any one particular theory, but rather, about the impact of conspiracy theories on our activity and analysis as anarchists.

Your comments on this have basically boiled down to the idea that "exposing" the "truth" should be a priority for anarchists simply because it should be, with your one-liner quoted from Orwell pretty much summing it up. This, for me, is the real point of contention - not the validity or otherwise of a given theory, but the way that impacts our activity and understanding of the world - and is IMO a much more interesting topic than the presence or non-presence of nano-thermite or whatever.

In terms of practice, the conspiracy theorist mindset strikes me as very close to the missionary position (no giggling at the back, there); that belief is what matters, and if we "spread the truth" to enough people, some sort of positive result will obviously ensue. I've yet to see much evidence that this would be the case, though.

On another note, this article from Shift Magazine seems relevant, though I can't help but think the author is over-emphasising the role of certain groups within Occupy:

Quote:
All progressive social movements have dark sides, but some are more prone to them than others. Occupy Wall Street and its spin-offs, with their populist, anti-elitist discourse (“We Are the 99%”) and focus on finance capital, have already attracted all kinds of unsavory friends: antisemites, David Duke and White Nationalists, Oath Keepers, Tea Partiers, and followers of David Icke, Lyndon Larouche, and the Zeitgeist movement (see glossary below).

On one hand, there is nothing particularly new about this. The anti-globalization movement was plagued with these problems as well.(1) This was sometimes confusing to radicals who saw that movement as essentially Left-wing and anti-capitalist; when the radicals said “globalization,” they really meant something like the “highest stage of capitalism,” and so from their perspective, by opposing one they were opposing the other. The radicals often saw the progressives in the movement as sharing this same vision, only in an “incomplete way”­—and that they only needed a little push (usually by a cop’s baton) to see that capitalism could not be reformed, and instead had to be abolished.

But for numerous others, “globalization” did not mean capitalism. Just as for the radicals, it functioned as a codeword: for some it meant finance capital (as opposed to industrial capital), while for others it meant the regime of a global elite constructing their “New World Order.” And either or both might also have meant the traditional Jewish conspiracy’s supposed global domination and control of the banking system. Whether they realized it or not, the many anti-authoritarians who praised this “movement of movements” as being based solely on organizational structure, with no litmus test for political inclusion, put out a big welcome sign for these dodgy folks. And in that door came all kinds of things, from Pat Buchanan to Troy Southgate.

Salviati
Nov 8 2011 19:38
radicalgraffiti wrote:
you haven't don't much research if your using the windsor building in madrid to back up your point

http://www.911myths.com/html/madrid_windsor_tower.html

the construction was completely different from the WTC and the steal parts completely collapsed, despite having some support form the concrete parts .

WTC 7 was not hit by a plane but it was hit by bits from the twin towers.

edit to make correction.

Needless to say, your link is not new to me. I have read dozens of websites purporting to 'debunk' alternative narratives of 9/11: I actively seek them out because I want to test my beliefs to the limit. Unfortunately, they either don't say anything interesting (like this one) or they repeat easily-refuted official misinformation or they tend to be completely batshit crazy - on a par with the Lizard Man claims from the other end of the spectrum.

The Windsor Building is just one of many examples of steel framed skyscrapers which have survived much more intense, longer-lasting and uncontrolled fires than were present in any of the buildings to collapse on 9/11. Of course, no two buildings are exactly alike. The Windsor Building had 32 storeys, WTC 7 had 47. So what? The fires in the Windsor Building were much more intense and burned far longer. FYI, the cores of all 3 towers were encased in concrete, just like the Windsor Building. Also, concrete is far more vulnerable to fire than steel, because concrete expands, cracks and crumbles far more easily.

Now, you'll probably say "oh, but it was a slightly different make or thickness of concrete." So what? Just show me a single example of a steel-framed skyscraper collapsing completely due to fire. That's all I want: show me that it's possible. The burden of proof is on you to show how a completely unprecedented event can occur. This is why I read the official report, with great excitement. I wanted it to explain to me how a unique engineering event could happen. Sadly, I was disappointed.

WTC 7 suffered structural damage, yes, but the official report is very clear that the structural damage played absolutely no role whatsoever in its collapse, as it was fairly minor and limited to exterior supports. The collapse was entirely due to fire causing thermal expansion of a single beam connected to one of the core columns, according to NIST. Why don't you read the official report? It's quite interesting, as cover-ups go.

It fails because it cannot explain how 82 steel columns (not just one) can crumple with absolutely no resistance whatsoever through a distance of 25 metres or more. That is what free fall signifies (no net force on the steel, no resistance to compression). It means we are required to believe that it takes no energy or force at all to compress steel columns through a pretty large distance (remember Energy = Force x Distance). Even if you believe that all those columns were already buckled and weakened by fire (although there's no evidence for this), steel does not behave like string. It also doesn't matter if numerous columns were already severed due to structural damage. It doesn't change the physical argument one iota.

That's it, really. QED. No engineer who is appraised of these facts can possibly support the official explanation for the collapse of WTC 7, where as the controlled demolition hypothesis explains all the known data perfectly well. In the case of the twin towers, the evidence is less clear cut but it is still extremely strong and comes from several independent sources.

I know you'll never believe me, but now perhaps you understand that my views are based on well-established facts (officially recognised facts) and a correct application of physical laws, rather than some bizarre speculation springing from a paranoid mindset: I've never had much time for 'conspiracy theories', myself. The same is true of most people who are campaigning for a proper re-investigation of 9/11. This is a legitimate issue, which cuts across the old 'left-right' spectrum but it is an anti-authoritarian issue, which anarchists should at least be open-minded about.

radicalgraffiti
Nov 8 2011 20:07
Salviati wrote:
The Windsor Building is just one of many examples of steel framed skyscrapers which have survived much more intense, longer-lasting and uncontrolled fires than were present in any of the buildings to collapse on 9/11. Of course, no two buildings are exactly alike. The Windsor Building had 32 storeys, WTC 7 had 47. So what? The fires in the Windsor Building were much more intense and burned far longer. FYI, the cores of all 3 towers were encased in concrete, just like the Windsor Building. Also, concrete is far more vulnerable to fire than steel, because concrete expands, cracks and crumbles far more easily.

so what some facts are produced that show the exact opersit of what you claim you ignore them and claim they support it?

Salviati wrote:
I know you'll never believe me, but now perhaps you understand that my views are based on well-established facts (officially recognised facts) and a correct application of physical laws, rather than some bizarre speculation springing from a paranoid mindset: I've never had much time for 'conspiracy theories', myself. The same is true of most people who are campaigning for a proper re-investigation of 9/11. This is a legitimate issue, which cuts across the old 'left-right' spectrum but it is an anti-authoritarian issue, which anarchists should at least be open-minded about.

you absolute fucking troll

Salviati
Nov 8 2011 20:44

@ jonthom:

You've brought up some really interesting issues that probably deserve a whole new thread, because I agree that we've got a bit too much into the nitty gritty of 9/11 and that always generates more heat than light.

There are clearly many groups in the world today who may generally be characterised as anti-authoritarian in some sense, although their concepts of what authority they are struggling against can be wildly different. I agree that there are certain groups who may well be delusional in their analysis of what they are fighting against: the old notion of a global Jewish conspiracy is clearly a dangerous delusion, whilst the vague notion of some 'New World Order' or Illuminati is extremely unhelpful.

'Conspiracy theories' often oversimplify enormously and this results in the creation of inappropriate scapegoats. Indeed, this is often the function of official conspiracy theories, like the great al-Qaeda conspiracy theory: the greatest conspiracy theory of all time, which effectively demonises Muslims and creates the deliberate illusion of a 'clash of civilisations'. Such a narrative serves an authoritarian agenda but alternative narratives are not necessarily better.

However, rather than simply dismissing everything that certain groups say, just because there are some inaccurate or unpleasant aspects of them, we ought to engage with some of their ideas. For example, I do want to know what gets discussed at Bilderberg and who goes there, even though I have no time for the wilder speculations with which some people like to fill the information void. I also want an open, independent and thorough re-investigation of 9/11, because the evidence and justice demand it, not because I think it will precipitate a revolution. It would also help to dispel the great al-Qaeda conspiracy theory and thereby loosen the grip our governments have on us.

Being engaged and open-minded is probably better than merely retreating to some insular anarchist position. For example, I don't really know what to make of the Zeitgeist Movement: they seem like utopian West-Coast hippies to me, but they have some interesting ideas about the sort of society they are trying to create and maybe we could learn something from that, even if they seem a bit flakey at first sight. They might also learn something from us, so dialogue could be fruitful.

The same could be said for engaging with progressive liberal-lefties. As much as some of them annoy me, they shouldn't be shunned. Until a couple of years ago, I think I was one of them, myself smile Anti-authoritarian lefties are a very diverse bunch and we need to be talking to at least some of them if we are to create a broad alliance capable of challenging the existing power structures.

Finally, I would say it's also worth engaging with some anarcho-capitalists or right-wing libertarians. They are as deluded as David Icke, in my view, and they may not be very open to persuasion, but some of them may change their minds and not all of their insights are necessarily wrong.

As long as we continue vigorously to oppose racism, misogyny and other forms of oppression, there are plenty of other ideas we can make some useful engagement with, even if they seem strange to begin with.

Jason Cortez
Nov 9 2011 13:01

Salviati can you please explain the purpose of 9/11 and who the beneficiaries were?

Salviati
Nov 15 2011 01:07
Jason Cortez wrote:
Salviati can you please explain the purpose of 9/11 and who the beneficiaries were?

Those are very big questions which have been more than adequately discussed elsewhere on the internet and beyond. There's no point getting further into specific 9/11 discussions on this thread but I have already alluded to the answers in previous comments. You are more than capable of doing your own research, I'm sure. One thing we know is that neither Osama bin Laden nor Muslims generally have benefited at all from 9/11: rather the opposite.

TimJM
Jan 1 2012 22:27

The difficulty with Roach and Salviati's chalenges to the official version of 9/11 is summed up nicely in the old article by George Monbiot:

http://www.monbiot.com/2007/02/20/bayoneting-a-scarecrow/

The 9/11 challengers to the official version conclude that these clever ruling class go to all the trouble of constructing a bunch of fictitious bogey-men from Saudi Arabia and then attack Iraq. Wouldn't it have been easier to construct a story with a direct link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein?
Then all the debates about legitimacy of the war and need for UN resolutions would have been unnecessary.
Instead the US/UK war-mongers had to deal with the well known reality that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were known enemies.

From Monbiot's article above:
"The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the “9/11 truth movement” is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward’s fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don’t have the stomach to engage in real political fights."

Khawaga
Jan 1 2012 22:30
Quote:
From Monbiot's article above:
"The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the “9/11 truth movement” is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward’s fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don’t have the stomach to engage in real political fights."

Yeah, that's bascially what all conspiracy theories lead to. It makes the only valid action searching for The Truth...

kosmogrrrl
Apr 15 2012 22:00

Very good article.

Cheap shot at Dungeons and Dragons players - have you been reading right-wing Christian comics? The enemy isn't the imagination, it's lack of self-awareness and being delusional. I know more than a few anarchists and marxists who also play D&D. It's good to avoid lazy writing, even when it's a minor point.

jrtayloriv
Jun 21 2012 19:52

This article makes several good points, and I agree that Reptilians, Freemasons, and Jewish Cabals need to be left out of our dialogue altogether.

However, I think it's also important to take into account the following, from Michael Parenti's "Dirty Truths":

"Almost as an article of faith, some individuals believe that conspiracies are either kooky fantasies or unimportant aberrations. To be sure, wacko conspiracy theories do exist. There are people who believe that the United States has been invaded by a secret United Nations army equipped with black helicopters, or that the country is secretly controlled by Jews or gays or feminists or black nationalists or communists or extraterrestrial aliens. But it does not logically follow that all conspiracies are imaginary.

Conspiracy is a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal or immoral end. People go to jail for committing conspiratorial acts. Conspiracies are a matter of public record, and some are of real political significance. The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy, as was the Watergate cover-up, which led to Nixon’s downfall. Iran-contra was a conspiracy of immense scope, much of it still uncovered. The savings and loan scandal was described by the Justice Department as “a thousand conspiracies of fraud, theft, and bribery,” the greatest financial crime in history.

Often the term “conspiracy” is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against “overheating” the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, “Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed?” In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.

At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, “Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent?” I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that “free-market reforms” are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, “more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies” (New York Times 11/25/95).

Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: “Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?” For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together – on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot – though they call it “planning” and “strategizing” – and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.

Yet there are individuals who ask with patronising, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups.

The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world."

baboon
Jun 25 2012 15:12

I generally support the position above which shows how the bourgeoisie conspires to defend its class interests and imperialist agendas.
The 9/11 "truthers" and various other conspiracy theorists join up with those who deny that the bourgeoisie is a conspiratorial class par excellence and thus greatly underestimate our class enemy.
Once again, I salute the sense of the position above which takes the discussion on to a different level for understanding the organisation of the ruling class.

Ambrose
Jun 26 2012 16:20

I agree with the two above. There are even declassified false-flag operations out there: Operation Northwoods (Wikipedia)

It was declassified in 97 along with 1521 pages of other military information between 1962-64.

Ramona
Oct 23 2012 17:59

Thought this excellent article could do with a bump following today's anti-Semitic shite from Occupy Wall Street/not Occupy Wall Street/who the fuck knows/maybe this is a fundamental problem with Occupy as a form in the first place, where caricatures of Jews full controlling the government appeared on facebook.

Joseph Kay
Oct 23 2012 18:31

Actual full WTF territory:

Which is why ultimately I think there's some merit to the 'structural anti-semitism' charge against truncated critiques of finance capital (in the West at least), despite its culturally-specific German origins. When people rage against finance in lieu of capital, the puppeteering Jew conspirator is never far behind.

Joseph Kay
Oct 23 2012 19:28

OWS have disavowed the image. Though given Adbusters' prominent role in OWS, Adbusters of 'Why won't anyone say they're Jewish?' fame, who knows. The reaction of near-universal condemnation is heartening though.

frillneck
Jul 6 2013 14:23

I am an uneducated person and spent a lot of my time in and around the ocean when not working in the construction industry, But the obvious misinfo spread here by some, especially the likes of roach is appalling, how stupid are people that cannot see through his lies especially how heat can transfer through metal, yes it happens, but never at great distances, (AND ESPECIALLY IN A DOWNWARD DIRECTION) you could heat a 6 meter large section steel beam redhot at one end for a week, but still be able to touch the other end without burning your hand. My conclusion ( and very obvious even to me) is that these people are defending the zionist criminals, but for what reason i do not know, either they are being paid or are actually related to zionist criminals.

Salvanti! you are correct on all counts related to the twin towers and building seven, i am amazed at your energy dealing with these disinfo merchants, there should be more people like yourself to save this planet.

To any that are thinking to reply to this comment, i have to say that it is impossible to change the reality that 911 was an inside job and that it was for the obvious purpose of controlling humanity. The only way i would say i am wrong would be at the point of a gun and if what i hear and see ,even in the mainstream media, those that are holding a gun for a living are pointing and firing rounds at an ever increasing rate, doing the dirty work for these elite criminals who are fearing that their agenda of world domination is in peril.

I can not believe that anyone that even researched 911 for only a day can not see the many obvious lies, discrepancies and disinfo on that day. The obstacles would be fear, culture programming, living and believing in the nanny state, or a badly degraded pineal gland.

911 cannot be undone as goes the same for seeing the truth through all the lies.

sanspareille
Jul 7 2013 19:16

First of all, to Asher, thank you for a wonderful talk/article, in which you're saying a lot of things that are long overdue being said.

There's only one thing in it I'm not sure about, and that is your comfortable notion that people are 'actually, quite intelligent'. I'd like to believe it but when I see where the comments to this piece immediately go, I wish I could be so assured...

Ernestine
Jul 8 2013 01:25

If people are not actually intelligent, then there's not much hope for us anyway, so I'm going to try and describe a few aspects of the role of conspiracy theories and their interaction with developments in mainstream politics as they occur to me, and hope it doesn't all come across as completely stupid. Please forgive my lack of detailed references and dates, I am trying to make broader points than arguing exactly who did what and when.

Part of the role of the media corporations over the last few decades has been to replace religion as the 'opiate of the people' - as religion was losing out to popular entertainment in the ratings. Investigative reporting was revealing a lot of the cracks in western democracy, particularly post Vietnam. Political corruption was becoming obvious. Time for a message from the sponsors?

Some of the posts here have already indicated that by smearing protest movements by association with conspiracy nutjobs good evidence can be sidelined, as has been done on the issues surrounding climate change.

jrtayloriv's quote from Michael Parenti's "Dirty Truths":above is very pertinent. I can think of quite a few examples of underhand state intervention that would have been labelled as conspiracy theories, if they hadn't been so blatant - the CIA drug pushers undermining the Black Power movement for example. Pinochet probably could not have held onto power without western governments' support. Then there were the cover-ups - one scandal that didn't come to light for many decades was the current of paedophilia in privileged UK circles, which we have come to associate with Jimmy Savile, but was a more or less open secret among a wider media and political cabal. Now we have the recent revelations of police infiltration into campaigns for justice for Stephen Lawrence and Greenpeace, among others. Surely Edward Snowden's revelations reveal a conspiracy between state and corporate powers on a massive scale? - something many people suspected all along, but still ostensibly secret. I am not quite sure why this discussion has concentrated so much on 9/11, when the spectrum of conspiracy types and motivations is much wider. This one issue taking dominance seems to be the kind of focus that the article's author is warning against.

What seems to me to be most important is that we up our level of sophistication in predicting the ways in which the politicians and corporations will try to pull the wool over our eyes next, and reach out with information to people who have so far been comfortable enough with the system up to now. It's got to the stage now where the mortgagees are finding they are increasingly unsafe, and our city environments are being rendered inhumane. When you look at the last 30 years of UK politics it is pretty obvious that there has been a concerted political/corporate/media strategy to damage public education as a precursor to destroying the social gains made since World War II. This is some kind of conspiracy, creeping, massive and increasingly effective. Manufacturing Industry, Education, then Public Housing and Health Services gradually and carefully undermined to make the people ripe for exploitation.

People are not as stupid as they are fearful, and starved in spirit. Conformity is being programmed into us as never before, though in a variety of superficial styles. We have to show where the biggest danger lies - a couple more generations of this and we will be too stupid to even fix the gadgets of the rich.

Steven.
Apr 12 2014 10:30

On a related note…

ddatzbach
Mar 14 2018 08:31

This is a classic case of getting lost in the technical details and finding supporting 'evidence' for theory, despite it making no logical sense.