Conspiracy theories? Blame Western self-hatred and lousy teaching

I must confess I haven't seen the 'blame Western self-hatred AND lousy teaching' argument before. Bravo, Ed West, for your creative use of bastardized logic and random conjunction of unrelated concepts. This editorial has it all: cock-up theory, someone would have talked, 9/11 would have involved thousands of conspirators, the government is incompetent, anti-semitism, paranoia -- wow! Enjoy!

Conspiracy theories? Blame Western self-hatred and lousy teaching

Posted By: Ed West at Jun 1, 2009 at 21:20:10

I'm something of a fundamentalist non-believer of conspiracy theories, a follower of the cock-up theory of history (at least in free societies - conspiracies are easier in totalitarian countries where fellow conspirators can just be bumped off).

Journalists especially tend to shy away from believing these grand ideas, maybe because they know how hard it is to keep a secret, being so "garrulous" ie alcoholic loud-mouths. Even keeping a secret between two people is hard enough, which is why the Israeli security services have the saying - "1 + 1 = 11".

A big event like 9/11 would involve the expertise and labour of hundreds, maybe thousands of people, all of whom would have to be heartless enough to go along with such a scheme, and confident that no friend or loved one could be involved (or that the authorities would not kill them afterwards).

Another cause for scepticism is that these ingeniously hatched plots depend on a level of competence that the public sector rarely displays in real life. A large number of Britain's Muslims believe the Government had "some hand in" the July 7, but can you imagine the Labour Government, and the Home Office in particular, actually succeeding in not cocking that up?

Yet I find myself strangely out of tune with the times. As Nick Cohen writes in this month's Standpoint magazine, conspiracy theories have never been more popular.

For a decade after Diana's death, polls reported that between one-fifth and one-third of the British public thought she had been murdered - even though to sustain that conviction they had to accept that the conspirators must have known in advance that she would decide not to stay in Mohamed Fayed's Paris Ritz, what car she and Dodi Fayed would leave in once they had resolved to move on, who would be driving the car, where and by which route it would travel and - finally and bafflingly - that the poor woman would forget to put on her seatbelt.

A 2006 poll by the Pew Research Centre asked Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan whether Arab terrorists carried out the September 11 attacks. A majority in all countries - and a huge majority in Pakistan - replied that they did not. More than half of British Muslims (56 per cent) agreed that the hijackers were innocent stooges of a devilish plot, and one-quarter went on to say that "the British government was involved in some way" with the 7/7 atrocities on the London Transport system. More than 100 million people have watched Loose Change, a slick and mendacious documentary which opines that a missile, not an airliner, hit the Pentagon, and that a secret government agency faked the recordings of panicked calls from the doomed passengers.

Meanwhile, around the Middle East, and increasingly among western intellectuals, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that ascribe supernatural power to Jewish influence are so prevalent no one has found a way to measure them.

With the collapse in the authority of elected politicians in Britain, the first - and often, the second and third reaction - to the untimely death of a significant figure or unexpected disaster is to mutter "cui bono" rather than "how sad". The British Left thought in the 1980s that the Tory press kept Labour in opposition by brainwashing the gullible population. In the 1990s, the Right followed suit and decided that the liberal BBC stopped voters realising that the Conservative Party best represented their interests. All paranoid belief systems hold that a powerful conspiracy controls the media, turning the masses into the victims of what 20th-century Marxists called "false consciousness" and Noam Chomsky calls "manufactured consent". It is fair to say that the conviction that democracy is a sham because hidden forces control the flow of information to the electorate extends far beyond the old Left and the cultish disciples of Professor Chomsky. Most politically committed people would be lucky to get through their lives without slipping into this version of conspiratorial thinking in moments of despair.

The statistics from the Muslim world are depressing, yet predictable. In my experience many Arabs and Iranians seem to ascribe almost supernatural powers to Jews; there is simply no other way for 13 million diverse people to work in such a co-ordinated (and almost telepathic) way.

I don't blame people who form their opinions in unfree nations; I certainly have less sympathy for the childish westerners who feed the Islamic world's paranoia by conceding "there's something in" the mad theories doing the rounds.

It's comforting to pretend that radical Islam does not exist and that America and its underlings are the real cause of the world's underlying tension, a school of thought that was helped by the British Government's shoddy approach to the Iraq War. When European socialists say Amerikkka and the Joos are to blame for 9/11, what they're actually doing is declaring their neutrality in the great global struggle between the United States and its allies, both Christian and Muslim, and radical Islam, one which we'd all prefer didn't exist.

The problem may have been aggravated by Britain's failing state education system. Uneducated people are less likely to believe the official version of events (which in the free world are generally true, or at least more true than what the wackos of the internet say) than their educated peers, who can rationally assess the arguments involved.

But academia probably hasn't helped either, at least its obsession with denying empirical "western" concepts of fact in favour of cultural relativisim and the equal value of every opinion - even the barking mad ravings of the paranoid - as equally "subjective".

Back at university in the mid-Nineties I briefly studied social anthropology, a subject created by racist Right-wing cranks but which, post-Holocaust, has been colonised by almost equally ghastly self-hating Left-wing cranks.

During our first class the tutor insisted the notion that the heart pumps blood around the body was a "subjective western idea", no more true than the Australian Aborigine belief that the organ held the spirit (or something similar). Neither "belief" was "right". I protested feebly that, well, actually we're right on this one and they're wrong, and so are you for teaching this. Perhaps the most succinct response would have been to stab her through the heart, Dr Johnson-style, and see whether she called for the western cultural imperialist doctor.

It was first experience of what my colleague Damian Thompson later christened "counterknowledge", the pervading belief in the irrational and the unscientific, the growth of fake history, bad science and junk medicine, fed by western cultural cringe.

And while health scares and dubious medicinal cures are no doubt a menace to those taken in by them, the growth of irrational beliefs in the world of politics is perhaps even more dangerous.

the punch line

"Uneducated people are less likely to believe the official version of events (which in the free world are generally true, or at least more true than what the wackos of the internet say) than their educated peers, who can rationally assess the arguments involved"

Rational, "educated" people believe the "official version of events".

“On the altar of God, I swear eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man."--Thomas Jefferson

I see grasping the Truth to be like an IQ test

"Rational, "educated" people believe the "official version of events". I know this is a sick joke.

"Conspiracies are easier in totalitarian countries.......

where fellow conspirators can just be bumped off, says", says Ed West.

"Many witnesses died in the thirteen year period following the assassination - mostly of unnatural causes. Many rumours crawl around about the high death rate during these years. They are supported by the mostly suspicious circumstances the victims died under. For a unknown shooter or even shooters, all these deaths have one thing in common: they are very convenient to those assassins since these witnesses took their knowledge with them into the grave. But see yourself and decide whether these deaths are purely coincidently:"

Actually it's good that the OCT shills and supporters in the media are coming out with articles, blog posts etc. knocking the 911 Truth movement. It means they are starting to feel the heat burning their seats, and in their efforts to douse the flames and cool things down again, I think they are going to find they are actually fanning the flames as even more people will become aware of all the lies and obfuscations surrounding the government and mainstream media promoted OCT.


Isn't it....It's interesting how these writers always attempt to prove conspiracies do not exist at all, citing flaws in conspiracy theories as proof.

In other words: A is a weak theory, so B must be as well. The only thing they have in common is that they imply a conspiracy. What kind of logic is that?

Furthermore, 9/11 was clearly a cock-up, and people did talk, people who weren't even involved, but stumbled upon information of the pending attack.

Incompetence theory requires reprimands instead of promotion, and coincidence theory requires probability. Furthermore, coincidence, incompetence
and conspiracy frequently occur together, as one does not rule out the other. How else but by a combination of the three would one explain the discovery
of the team of burglars at the Watergate?

Well put

We should just frame your last paragraph somewhere where these lazy hack journalists can see it.


We do need some sort of centralized antidote to this kind of flawed logic and fearful/wishful thinking. We have tidbits of refutation by George Washington, Ken Jenkins, David Ray Griffin, Jim Hoffman, but we would be well served with a rather large Frequently Asked Questions site, combining all of these into one place. Such a site could deal with all the repetitiveness in the (rather weak) attacks and objections. I don't think we all realize just how powerful the 9/11 truth movement has become..and how easily attacks of such nature can be dealt with. George Washington's blog demonstrated this recently.

Excellent resource

Thanks. I recommend anyone reading this exchange to read simuvac's tip.

Conspiracies exist...

...but only in totalitarian countries.

You see, America and England are FREE countries.

That is absolute fact.

I was grilling Johnsonville Brats on my barbeque on Memorial Day, setting off fireworks, with my flag flying high, and I was having a veritable orgasm of red, white and blue, that's how much I could just feel the uniquely American freedom baby!

Hitler bombed his own Parliament building in order to gain power? Of course, that's easy to believe, since Nazi Germany was a dictatorship.

But you're cuckoo if you think a similar thing could happen here.

Ergo, the 9/11 truth movement must be all wrong.

Because it's simply irrefutable that in this wonderful, open, free society we live in, the plot would have leaked.

Oprah or Larry King would have JUMPED at the opportunity to have Sibel Edmonds on if she was correct.

And I know all this, because, you see, I read the posts of the sane, sober critical thinkers at the James Randi Educational Foundation!


From now on, 9/11 Truth

From now on, 9/11 Truth should coin the term "Conspiracy Hypothesis?" Connotes scientific method.