Society's conspiracy against conspiracy theorists


Society's conspiracy against conspiracy theorists

By: Brian Feltch

Posted: 4/2/07

Last week, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thrust himself in the public's crosshairs when he announced that his production company, Magnolia Pictures, will distribute Loose Change, an incendiary documentary claiming 9/11 was an inside job. While the public loathing and countless gallons of op-ed ink dedicated to crucifying Mr. Cuban does not come as a surprise, it illuminates an important and pervasive trend in our modern global society. When issues that make people squirm are brought to the fore, debate is hastily labeled conspiracy theorizing and those engaging in that debate are considered foolish fanatics. This is poisonous to the free flow of ideas and, ultimately, the quest for a truthful and complete account of history. For scholars to come to any sound conclusion surrounding important historical events, any reasonable debate should be addressed fairly.

This is not to say that the academic community should labor to dispel the suggestions of outright lunatics. The existence of the holocaust is not an important research topic, but proving that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK certainly is. There are certainly inconsistencies surrounding Kennedy's assassination, and they are well documented. The fact that anyone who looks into questions like this one is perfunctorily labeled a conspiracy theorist - a term synonymous with loony - is what prevents this type of research from being viewed by objective, sober eyes. Questions raised by the producers of Loose Change had them - and now Mark Cuban - labeled heretics. Raising such questions in the context of a nefarious government plot may not be the most comfortable or acceptable way to look into the topic, but until the questions are answered, government schemes and inside jobs seem just as probable - if not more so - than simple coincidence or dumb luck.

Ideas that are absent-mindedly discredited as lunacy can lead to important discovery. Galileo was placed under house arrest by the Catholic Church for going against its Biblical interpretation of the Earth as the center of the universe. The church was extremely frightened that if one of their claims was refuted, the rest would be suspect to scrutiny. Much like the Catholic Church in the days of Galileo, modern society in general - and the government in particular - is dreadfully apprehensive toward any suggestion that its comfortably held ideas are bogus. The process of examining claims that go against the comfortable status quo is seen as giving the caustic claims credit. Instead, we should consider the process an examination of their merit. The knee-jerk reaction of rubber-stamping curious citizens as maniacal is an effective silencing mechanism because it is a de facto invalidation of any unpopular claims. Instead of settling for unnecessary labels and hasty name-calling to disprove such claims, society should demand a satisfying probe into the offensive assertions.

Questions that never get asked never get answered. The freedom of speech granted by the Constitution affords us the opportunity - albeit a limited one - of contributing to public debate and setting the agenda for that debate. By silencing those with important questions to be asked - no matter the extent to which they stand against the status quo - with hasty labels, closed minds and deaf ears is to ignore the already negligible amount of agenda-setting power we have as citizens. Allowing only those in power to set the agenda of debate is a crucial mistake and results in a revolting state of revisionist reality. Mark Cuban's distribution of this controversial documentary should not be seen as his attempt to prove that 9/11 was an inside job, and he should not be condemned because of it. The release of the film is nothing more than an offering to the continuing dialogue surrounding the events of that tragic September morning.