The BBC programme about 9/11 nonsense and David’s link has introduced me to a horrible, horrible world of conspiracy and double-conspiracy of which I had hitherto had only an inkling.
Why do people need conspiracy theories? These are generally intelligent-seeming human beings: able to operate a computer, string sentences together, clothe and dress themselves and probably even use the toilet unassisted. And yet... such on-the-face-of-it, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face stupidity.
The BBC programme did touch on this wider question about the psychology of conspiracy theorists, with one interviewee suggesting that some people find it hard to grasp that something so appalling could have been committed by a small group of fanatics, so they need something else, something bigger, to blame.
That’s part of it, I’m sure. As is the paranoia created by this age of information-overload, plus real political spin and lies (Lewinsky, Watergate, all that other stuff ending in ‘gate’) and conspiracy-based TV shows like The X-Files.
But another factor is the ‘narrow-thinking’ trap. It’s like the family tree con we were talking about a few weeks ago. We have thousands of ancestors in incredibly bushy trees, yet people can be tricked into focusing on only one of these ‘lines’ of connection, in order to link themselves with a particular famous historical figure (when in reality, nearly everybody can trace a line to him). Likewise, the conspiracy theorist focuses so intensely on a particular series of events, such as the American Air Force’s ineffective response to the hijacks, or the puffs of air that precede the collapse of the WTC towers, that he becomes obsessed with it and is unable to see the wider picture or indeed, obvious explanations.
The other common link between these conspiracy nuts is staggering hubris. Their fragile egos need the boost of seeming smarter than their fellow citizens. They alone can see The Truth, while the rest of the sheep just follow the leaders. Consequently, they are far too far down the road to accept any debunking of their theories.
Dylan Avery, the spotty youth who made the Loose Change film, was pathetically proud of his achievements. Showing the cameraman his bedroom/studio, he boasted: “This is where the magic happens. Yes, sir.” He then went on to tell the tale of how he saved up to buy the laptop that “started the whole thing”. Having created a sick myth about an act of mass murder, he was now busy building a mythology about the Great Dylan Avery.