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Written by Andrew Puhanic
Published on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
The term “conspiracy theory” can be described in two separate frameworks. One is a truth-seeking enterprise in which theorists hypothesize the truth based on what facts they can uncover using inductive reasoning. The other is what we might call a marginalized conspiracy theory based on half-truths and kooky rumours circulated by “Nuts” and “Crazies”.
Conspiracy theories such as “Aliens helped build the pyramids” and “the X-Files are true” are not primarily significant because of their non-political motivation and the lack of belief from most rational thinking people. However, they do help to understand the way conspiracy theories are transmitted, how they change over time, and what effects they can have on perception and social consciousness in both micro and macro-social and political contexts.
One of the most recent and notable events, the terrorist attacks on September 11 in New York, has been heavily analysed by conspiracy theorists. This single incident is now referred to as “9/11” and is still far from having been relegated to a distant collective memory. 11 years later, It is still present in American political and social circles, and will continue to be for an ongoing period in American politics for an indefinite period.
While it might be comforting and somewhat palatable to insist that 9/11 happened (as a conspiracy theory that is), social scientists and political philosophers have argued that it truly is still happening (The perpetrators of conspiracy theories believe those who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks are from within the government), which is evident in the strenuous debate that is still ‘alive and well’ regarding what people see as the truth behind 9/11 itself and how politicians for an against the 9/11 conspiracy use it to their advantage.
The paranoia that is evident in conspiracy theories regarding covert and dark government action can be seen as a way to interest people (for political gain) and open the conversation. This would facilitate a discussion allowing for certain arguments to be made. On the one hand, certain conspiracy theories have been later found to be true: Watergate, Iran-Contra, and MK Ultra as examples. These proven conspiracy theories can give some political weight to a discussion regarding 9/11 conspiracy theory. The danger we face is when politicians and religious leaders continue to believe that all conspiracies are true, or are true to an extent, because a handful of conspiracies have been proven correct.
On the other hand, the argument against this reasoning also uses paranoia. However, somewhat conversely, sceptics ask the question, sometimes rhetorically, “How have these conspiracy theorists become so paranoid, that they will accuse officials of the state of having some sort of responsibility for 9/11?” This further involves a fairly important conversation regarding responsibility for the 9/11 attacks: if an official of the state makes a mistake (i.e., the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq using faulty intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction), will they always be destined to carry those implications with them.
If one has paid attention to media coverage of personal and professional mistakes made by our political leaders, it could be argued that no politician wants to be measured by the stench of their dirty laundry. However, most pragmatic leaders and academics alike know that past endeavours give others comparative data with which to judge potential future decision-making integrity. For example, Bush and his administration authorized the capture of Saddam Hussein as part of the war on terror, and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because of perceived threats to United States security. There was an implied connection between Hussein and 9/11; the direct connection was dismissed, yet brought in the back door of the argument.
This lack of responsibility is what some 9/11 conspiracy theorists point to as some evidence for the “inside job” theory, that no matter the larger truth, the agenda has always taken precedent for officials of state. In contrast, supporters of the mainstream 9/11 theory could argue that while the intelligence may have been found to be faulty, the necessity of American military involvement in Iraq would have been justified regardless of the eventual merit of Intelligence gathering efforts. “The depths of depraved hatred against the United States would justify our actions through military might.”
In conclusion, at the end of the day It’s easy and mostly acceptable for ordinary Americans to make claims for and against the 9/11 conspiracy theory. However, the danger of politicians who promote theories similar to 9/11 conspiracy theories is fraught with danger and could lead us all on a path of destruction. What we want our politicians to do (especially those is opposition) is to represent their electorate as they promise under the guise of the laws of the land.