Conspiracy theories on the Internet and on the loose


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Conspiracy theories on the Internet and on the loose

By Steve Clarke

Posted Thursday, 7 June 2007

In the days before the Internet (remember back then?) a jobbing conspiracy theorist would release the occasional book, appear in this or that public forum and maybe get a segment on a television documentary or two. All of this could be expected to generate a reasonable amount of publicity. But if our conspiracy theorist was after mass publicity and a global audience then things were going to be tough. The best bet would be to suck up to Oliver Stone, in the hope of persuading him to make a Hollywood blockbuster based on their favoured conspiracy theory.

It’s a new era for conspiracy theorists. Oliver Stone can’t be counted on. His film World Trade Center (2006) actually takes the official line that the Twin Towers collapsed as a result of fire damage caused by the impact of the aircraft which were flown into them. Fortunately for conspiracy theorists, though, they no longer need to rely on Olly. They can disseminate their views directly via the Internet and reach an audience of billions.

There are many conspiracy theorists taking advantage of the opportunities that cyberspace has to offer (see for a taste of most of these). The group that have made the biggest Internet splash are 9-11 conspiracy theorists, who have variously suggested, that the World Trade Center was actually destroyed by a controlled demolition, by “mini-nukes” and by energy rays beamed from outer space.

There are also conspiracy theories about Flight UA 93 (it was shot down, it didn’t crash) and about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon (it was actually a missile). And no doubt there are other 9-11 theories out there. I say suggested, because a lot of the 9-11 conspiracy theorists are strangely coy about committing to their theories. The theories are typically put forward as possibilities worthy of further exploration, rather than advanced as the correct explanation of the events in question.

The very popular Internet documentary Loose Change - which has been viewed by millions - is a kind of 9-11 conspiracy theories greatest hits, in which the controlled demolition theory, the missile into the Pentagon theory and the theory that UA 93 didn’t crash are all given an airing. The 2nd edition of Loose Change can be downloaded for free. A 3rd edition is in the pipeline and should be available online through pay-per-view.

The Internet has helped conspiracy theorists publicise their ideas, but the Internet can be an unforgiving place for the vulnerable conspiracy theorist. Loose Change has prompted the creation of the amusingly titled rebuttal documentary (and associated blog) Screw Loose Change, in which a slew of factual errors, logical fallacies and rhetorical ploys in Loose Change are gleefully pointed out.

Screw Loose Change has, in turn, prompted the creation of the somewhat less amusingly titled blog Screw Screw Loose Change. Also noteworthy are the editors of Popular Mechanics who have debated Dylan Avery, the director of Loose Change, along with one of his researchers on Democracy Now!, and have released the book Debunking 9/11 Myths. Loose Change has been parodied as Unfastened Coins, a website devoted to exposing a spoof conspiracy about the sinking of the Titanic.

Most 9-11 conspiracy theorists are simply concerned to maximise their audience. However, there are 9-11 conspiracy theorists who are also after academic prestige. It might seem that this would be very hard to get as they would have to try to place papers outlining their theories in stuffy academic journals and academics have traditionally been very dismissive of conspiracy theorists. Fortunately for the academically inclined conspiracy theorist, the Internet has enabled a shortcut. 9-11 conspiracy theorists have created their own online academic journal, the Journal of 9/11 Studies.

Unfortunately for them, this has prompted the creation of a counter-conspiracy theory journal, the Journal of Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.

Not only do online conspiracy theorists have to be on the look out for anti-conspiracy theorists attempting to debunk their views, they also have to keep an eye out for other conspiracy theorists online. Conspiracy theorists can be a paranoid lot and are apt to suspect that rival conspiracy theorists are decoys, encouraged by the conspirators to try to mislead people and prevent them from finding out the truth.

Eric Hufschmid, another 9-11 conspiracy theorist, voices concern that a “… criminal network is promoting Loose Change because they consider it to be the least dangerous to them”. He also suggests that Dylan Avery and the other creators of Loose Change may be part of the same criminal network. He notes that Loose Change has received much more exposure than his own 9-11 conspiracy video Painful Deceptions and asks the question “Am I jealous?” Strangely an answer to the question is not provided.

Perhaps because 21st century conspiracy theorists are exposed to relentless criticism from all sides, online, they appear to be much more cautious than their offline predecessors.

We used to hear conspiracy theorists confidently telling us that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by agents of the Mafia/J. Edgar Hoover/Fidel Castro and so on) or that Elvis faked his own death. The “old school” conspiracy theorist didn’t pussyfoot around asking if things smelt fishy, suggesting that all was not right, calling for further investigation and so on. They came right out with it. By contrast, most 9-11 conspiracy theorists are amazingly cautious. They are long on finding holes in the official story, but short on the details of their own positive story.

It’s something to do with the US Government and perhaps something to do with the Middle East is the most common line. So, they call for more information and for further investigation. This was a sensible reaction in 2002. But we’ve had over five years of further investigation and the release of more information. It’s high time for 9-11 conspiracy theorists to put their cards on the table.

Even when 9-11 conspiracy theorists advertise positive views, these often turn out not to be as positive as their advertising suggests. Loose Change advocates the controlled demolition theory of the collapse of the World Trade Center, as do Steven E. Jones (PDF 4.77MB) and David Ray Griffin. However, the vast majority of their respective discussions concerns alleged problems with the al-Qaida-flew-planes-into-the-towers-causing-fires-and-causing-them-to-collapse theory.

All of these sources have much to say about problems with the received view, but they actually have very little to say in support of controlled demolition. Their main point is that the collapses look like a controlled demolition (or at least they do up until the point that you consult a demolitions expert (PDF 56KB) such as Brent Blanchard, when a variety of differences become apparent. Apart from that the controlled demolition theorists have produced nothing. Not a skerrick of evidence of preparations for a demolition, despite the fact that preparations would have to have taken weeks and would have to have been observed by many thousands of people.

It’s all very well to find fault with the official story. This is a useful exercise to conduct, to an extent. But rational people can’t actually be expected to accept a conspiracy theory unless they are presented with a clear version of that conspiracy theory backed up with evidence in favour of that conspiracy theory (as opposed to mere evidence of flaws in the official story).

This is something that old style conspiracy theorists understood. Internet conspiracy theorists seem to be so caught up in fights with officialdom, counter-conspiracy theorists and other conspiracy theorists that they have lost sight of this basic point. The truth may be out there, but telling us what it isn’t is no substitute for telling us what it is.

Steve Clarke is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Canberra as well as a Visiting Researcher in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, Oxford University, UK.

How many times... the phrase "conspiracy theorist" (or variant thereof) used in this piece?

I'm too irritated to count.

we know they are full of crap, but...

It's hard when they are right about so much! How easy to use Loose Change and the boys, plus Eric Hufschmid, and references to Uncle Fetzer's space beams. What a misrepresentation of what the truth movement is! But hey, at least they got the fact that some of the "conspiracy tehorists" are suspected by others of being limited hangout plants. Now remember, no one voted for anyone mentioned in this article as representative of their beliefs, yet they are routinely cast as the characters involved in this drama. It seems more and more clear that the MSM will only deal with a particular perception of what the truth movement is. They will focus on Loose Change, presented as sloppy and made by kids (it is), the "anti-semites" like Hufschmid, Eric Williams, and Bollyn, and the obvious disinfo shills' "theories" holograms, no planes, space ebams, mini nukes, etc.

If I was just finding out about 9/11 and all I heard was about this crowd I probably would run the other way. What motive could the media possibly have in so selectively depicting 9/11 Truth? Well, it's obvious--they deal in FICTION! Their job is to take at face value the efforts at deception by the controlled movement to present 9/11 truth in a poor light. Instead of mentioning the latest book, for example, they mention a two year old online movie. We are supposed to cheer on our "heroes" while our "heroes" go around making us look like fools.

Understand that this IS the attempt to keep us down, and fight it. DON'T play along with some narrative that seems to be pushed if it is not in our best interesting. Don't feed into the "Loose Change phenomenon"--if asked about 9/11 films, suggest 9/11 Mysteries or something else people may not have already heard of.


Real Truther a.k.a. Verdadero Verdadero - Harvard Task Force

NEW---> check out our revamped site!


That's a very shill-like post, Verdadero. The LC guys & Eric

Hufschmid have nothing in common with Fetzer & his space beams.

My only fault with Hufschmid is that he doesn't seem to differentiate between Jews & Zionists properly--two very different terms. Zionist support that artificially-created state of endless war, Israel. Not all Jews are Zionists, & not all Zionists are Jews.

Hufschmid's controversial politics aside, his video, Painful Deceptions, is a masterpiece of fact upon fact that clearly demonstrates that 9/11 was an inside job. (You could use Painful Deceptions to educate yourself & the other bright boys & girls up at Harvard regarding 9/11.)

The sad fact is that 98% of

The sad fact is that 98% of the people only know about "conspiracy theorists" what has been presented to them by the mainstream media. Thus, the MSM has control of how we are defined to the rest of the public.

That's a disaster for us.

The main tenet of what they want the world to believe that WE believe is that THE US GOVERNMENT DID IT, or some variation thereof. The truth is that what we believe can be summed up in the phrase, 9/11 was an inside job. However, through the filter of the MSM, that is transmogrified to "Bush did it"...... "the government did it".......... "the military/CIA did it"..... -- and in general, "WE did it to ourselves."

The people will reject this message, and they should, because it ultimately is false. 9/11 was indeed an inside job, but it was perpetrated by an outside party with extensive contacts within the government and military. That's quite a bit different than we did it to ourselves.

But until we can be more successful delivering our message directly to the people, and bypassing the MSM, we will continue to be defined by the MSM, and will continue to be perceived by the masses as a bunch of crazed, America-hating traitors.