It’s a Conspiracy! No, It’s Not: A Debunking of the Classic Theories

Conspiracy

Image by quarkscrew via Creative Commons

The New York Times‘s Michiko Kakutani, so often the purveyor of eviscerating book reviews, for once truly loves something: an all-out mockery of a myriad of conspiracy theories, from 9/11 to Princess Diana, by David Aaronovich, Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History:
Voodoo History

The principle of Occam’s razor suggests that the simplest hypothesis is usually the correct one — or as the character Gil Grissom in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” succinctly puts it, if you hear hoofbeats, “think horses, not zebras.”In his lively new book, “Voodoo Histories,” the journalist David Aaronovitch uses Occam’s razor to eviscerate the many conspiracy theories that have percolated through politics and popular culture over the last century, from those that assert that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were actually a United States government plot to those that claim that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered at the direction of the royal family or British intelligence.

In most cases, Mr. Aaronovitch notes, conspiracy theorists would rather tie themselves into complicated knots and postulate all sorts of improbable secret connections than accept a simple, more obvious explanation.

Of those who claim that the Pentagon was not hit on 9/11 by a terrorist-piloted American Airlines Flight 77, Mr. Aaronovitch sarcastically observes: “But there is always the possibility, however extraordinarily remote, that DNA might have been planted to the exact specifications of the missing passengers, crew and employees, that wreckage might somehow have been placed at the scene within minutes of the crash, and that the real occupants of the missing Flight 77 might have been spirited away to some unknown place, there to be butchered or to live in the world’s weirdest witness protection program.”…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • WHATS YOUR PROBLEM DISINFO?

    ok my friends told me you guys have been posting bullshit. its true. you really are just discrediting yourselves now. completely changing the type of content on the site to this garbage? WHAT IF ITS NOT SO SIMPLE. idiots.

    • Anonymous 2

      They've been doing this a while now, saying that they're just 'giving both sides of the story'.

      • tonyviner

        If you want “Fair and Balanced”, I think you know where to go.

    • http://disinfo.com Majestic

      As the publisher of countless conspiracy oriented books by the likes of Jim Marrs and films by Alex Jones and a number of 9/11 documentaries, we feel that we give more than a fair shake to alternative explanations of controversial topics and issues.

      The reason we link to stories that bash conspiracy theories is the same reason we link to stories that bash establishment wisdom and dogma: you should consider everything out there and form your own conclusions. We don't want you to believe something just because you read it at disinfo.com. We want you to take on arguments pro and anti all sorts of issues, which is why you may have read conflicting stories about climate change on our site, as well as 9/11 and other controversies.

      We encourage our site's visitors to post comments with as much information as you can provide to support or refute any story you think it worth your time. It's always better to add references and links if you can – rants can be fun but rarely are very persuasive.

      We are also open to submissions of full stories by our visitors (just ask: http://disinfo.com/submit-story/).

      We do realize that some other alternative news sites only post stories that are consistent with their particular POV on any given issue. That's not our philosophy and never was, since 1996.

      Thanks.

      • 5by5

        “The reason we link to stories that bash conspiracy theories is the same reason we link to stories that bash establishment wisdom and dogma: you should consider everything out there and form your own conclusions.”

        I think that's fair.

        I think it's also fair to point out that the blackbox flight recorder (which presumably has no political agenda) ostensibly recovered at the scene which supposedly came from Flt. 77, recorded that the plane was on one side of the Citgo Gas Station where it could NOT have hit the lamp posts along the highway, while the 9/11 Commission Report has the plane on a flight path on the OTHER side of the Citgo Gas Station.

        One of these two things is wrong or incomplete.

        And it is not unreasonable for people to demand complete, succinct, and viable answers to such discrepancies.

        Personally, I'd also like to know how a plane flying at some 300 feet high at the moment of “impact”, hits a 70 ft high building, 'cause that's a nifty trick!

        I'd also like to know why a hijacker intent on destruction would not aim directly at the SecDef's office in order to kill the U.S. high command, and instead waste time going in a giant circle over his target knowing that with every passing second there's a greater chance he'll fail at his psychotic little “mission” by being shot down, in order to hit a newly reinforced section of the building nicknamed “The Catcher's Mitt”.

        Seems odd. Just sayin',

        • tonyviner

          Something is going on here. Now all we need is a group of people to investigate this, but can we get a better group than the one we see more often than not on this site? I respect what they are doing but the way these people present themselves only serves to lend credibility to the actual perpetrators of the big lie.

        • paulatriedes

          Good points. Ive been wondering these same questions myself…. and asking others to wonder as well…

      • GoodDoktorBad

        I fully support the role of “devil's advocate” (he he!) on the part of Disinfo. If people want stories that only support their views, I would suggest they write or submit their own stories, or just contribute something more than lamentations about how Disinfo has let them down by featuring more than one view. Different viewpoints are, after all, what this site is about.

    • tonyviner

      Question everything. That even means the things you think you know. Question everything. Just because it is on Disinfo does not make it gospel and just because Disinfo posts something you do not agree with does not constitute bullshit.

      The truth is elusive, look for it far and wide and never lose sight of what you are doing or, more importantly, why you are doing it.

      Question everything.

  • Mok

    Ugh, not again…Sunstein, then Newsweek, now this. I guess it is what is selling these days.

    Though, I am still waiting to see all the videos from the Pentagon attack. Something weird about that mess….

    Plane hits World Trade Center, hours of footage. Plane hits Pentagon, all footage classified under National Security.

    Makes you, Hmmm…

    • WHATS YOUR PROBLEM DISINFO?

      yeah the pentagon thing was weird. there were other off site cameras set up (gas stations and such) that had a view of the pentagon. fbi took all the tapes within mins. you prob already know that though. it is weird that they wont let us see shit.

      • Tuna Ghost

        It's not that weird at all, it's very much keeping in line with security protocol in regard to the pentagon.

        You're not allowed to see it because, to put it simply, you don't need to see it. And contrary to popular belief, you most certainly do not have a right to see it, either under united states law or any other nebulous authority.

        • a pathetic

          What happens if you go to the pentagon and LOOK at the place? With your eyes? Is that allowed? Or do 'they' pluck out your eyes? I don't know what hit the pentagon (I wasn't there) but a single frame of whatever did would help clear up matters somewhat no? We've seen plenty of single frames of the aftermath.. smoking hole, People picking up debris etc..

          Regardless. Focus on one element and individuals from either camp can argue till faces are blue, obscuring the bigger picture. I want honest, open debate from people educated in relevant fields not the bleatings of uninformed individuals from either side. I'm not here to convince you of my current conclusion (that is open to change in the light of new/better information) but there are so many holes in the official story that thousands of people far better qualified than me (and probably you) have called the 'official conspiracy theory' (for that is all it is) a farce.. Including some of the official investigators for crying out loud! Perhaps they're all loopy tin foil hat wearers too though eh?

          For those of you who think 911 is no longer relevant take a look at the world you live in today.. hundreds of thousands of deaths in two wars.. dwindling public freedoms.. torture and unlimited incarceration without trial becoming the norm.. massive economic spending.. all based on the events of that one day. I'm unsure why you would even be reading articles on this website at all or even bothering to post.. Apathetic enough to disregard the emerging world around you based on recent historic events yet bothered enough to find and post on this subject here. Strange that.

          Anyway, back to topic.. I went to a discussion co-chaired by mr aaronovich in London a while back on the 'emerging police state in the UK'. Real or imagined? Discuss. Many people in the crowd (the middle aged, middle class woman sat next to me for one) rightly accused him of making light of serious public concerns, cheapening honest public debate. I for one am of the belief that anyone who disregards every theory challenging the official mantra in the light of WMD, or any 'gate' scandal from a great list of political wrongdoing and mistruth since time immemorial is at best a fool and at worst a part of that very system.

        • paulatriedes

          Way to goose-step to the official line, Tuna. We all understand arbitrary, patriarchal rules btw… the thing is they just dont make sense, especially in a situation like this. :]

  • WHATS YOUR PROBLEM DISINFO?

    well, you post articles on here calling people who dont wanna pay a carbon tax to the world bank crazy “deniers”. all im saying is everyone i know noticed that you guys just now started pushing weird issues. its weird for a site that was originally completely anti-establishment. and im not trying to just be an ass, it bothers me. its like you guys got bought out or something. and honestly, you guys havnt been anywhere near fair on the climate thing. its kind of a big deal that the ipcc has been busted like 4 times in 2 months. all ive seen on here is shit that it looks like al gore wrote. everyone is noticing too not just me.

  • WHATS YOUR PROBLEM DISINFO?

    and i dont need to rant, as fun as it is, people see what your doing like i said. its just annoying, mixing PROVEN lies in with credible conspiracy is a good way to make people just watch the news instead and be clueless, which is destroying the world. ignorance.

    • BoB

      I agree with you, it seems to me like they have an agenda with the pushing of climate change.

  • WTF Man

    I am a huge fan of Disinfo. A good mate shot me a copy of Abuse Your Illusions a while back before I shipped out to Kandahar, and now I'm even more fucked up and distrustful than I was while I was doin' Uncle Sam's dirty work! Thanks Richard and Gary. You're the shit!

  • Steve M

    the hunters thought farming was to hard so they went to farming the farmers thought farming was hard so they created manufactured food people then thought shopping and cooking food was too hard so they created quiznos and chilies . if everything was about a simple solution it sure looks like the de-evolution of mans consciousness and freedom if i accepted the easiest answers i feel that my life will be become very oppressed. either way conspiracies or not im not going to let some corrupt government order wage war on these countries and then monitor us and spy on us. OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ARE DISAPPEARING THIS IS FACT NOT CONSPIRACY. WE ARE PROTECTED UNDER AMENDMENTS WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO OVERTHROW AND RECREATE A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS BECOME TO UNJUST

  • http://disinfo.com Majestic

    I just discovered an article that Aaronovitch penned for the Wall Street Journal called “A Conspiracy-Theory Theory: How to fend off the people who insist they know the 'real story' behind everything”:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014240527487

    Meanwhile, his publisher just messengered over a copy of the book (fast response to my post!), so when I've had a chance to take a look, I'll post again, and risk the ire of those who think we should stick to a single POV on everything we post here ;-)

  • jon

    Don't get bent out of shape my fellow conspiracy theorists.
    Debunkers like to claim that CT's are a subculture and like to promote themselves by selling books and DVD's and whatever else.
    But don't forget, Debunkers are a subculture as well. They're selling DVD's and Books, too.

    For every Shark, there are more Remora Fish

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61016937 facebook-61016937

    It's a fabulous book – one I can't recommend highly enough. This and Arthur Goldwag's work are the best books on the subject matter.

  • drcasanovarousseau

    All i have to say in regards to this arguement against there ever being a conspiracy in the history of mankind are two things: 1 – it's not just naive it's patently ignorant to imagine large networks of people acting in self interest do not conspire to retain their power/money and 2 – It is only narrow minded western thought that would hear hoofbeats and think 'horse' – lots of animals have hoofs.

    also: Really? You're quoting CSI to build your case?

  • http://myspace.com/beattiger Jimi Jazz

    I used to be in the Navy, one would expect the highest intellect among the upper brass, secret clearance holders,wrong! Everybody is stupid, conspiracy needs believers just like religion. I still advise everyone to question everything due to the stupidity of the human race, but just remember to use your head.

  • dscof

    i contend that aircraft to not just “vaporize” on impact leaving behind pieces all of which could be conveniently carried by hand. such WAS INDEED the case at BOTH the pentagon and the Penn. crash (which was essentially just a big hole in the ground with “wing shapes” scraped out next to it (the debris field in Penn. covered less than a football field..suspiciously small for a commercial aircraft). you guys (editors/webmasters) also need to seriously ponder why the “wreckage” that was pulled from the Pentagon was conveniently covered by a giant blue tarp at all times to keep it from public view.

    sadly, you guys have fallen for the same knee-jerk dismissal type reaction that most people have when the hear the term “conspiracy theory.” it instantly conjures up pictures of paranoid wackos blowing things waaay out of proportion, but in this case, the latter is certainly NOT the case.

    do your research, view the evidence. we were not told everything there was to know about 9/11, and most of the official story DOES NOT match up with evidence captured (photo stills/video/tv broadcasts) on that day.

    don't be idiots, don't let the “conspiracy theory” label scare you away from serious investigation.
    obviously people knew about it (probly not Bushie), and they allowed it to happen to provide justification for an increased American military presence in the Middle East.

    It is EXACTLY like the Gulf of Tonkin: Staged.

  • paulatriedes

    No one can tell me that a plane struck the Pentagon, sorry. And fuck Occam. If people love his razor so much, then you could just as well use it to postulate an inside job. :]

  • the_illustrator

    i find it humorous that when something that doesn't fit the official story, it's called a consipracy theory, instead of journalism.

  • http://therulesovlife.blogspot.com/ SE7EN STAR

    Occam’s razor isn’t science! Science, the process that determines truth, usually establishes convoluted and counter-intuitive explanations of reality. Occam’s razor supports fundamentalist creationism (the simplest explanation for our existence being “God” created us wily nilly.) So we’re going to use the premise that “the simplest explanation is usually the right one” to debunk something that is by very design supposed to be convoluted?? Get real. Conspiracies are a fact of life – 9/11 was a conspiracy. Period. The “DEBATE” over 9/11 is if the conspiracy was carried out solely by terrorists or if there was assistance from US. Nixon conspired to wiretap Watergate. B.M. conspired to steal billions from his investors. Big Tobacco conspired to conceal the truth about cigarettes. So lets stop pretending conspiracies are fiction and rational people shouldn’t believe they exist. Furthermore, I subscribe to the cockroach theory that for every conspiracy you discover – there’s a hundred others still hiding comfortably. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO! If you knew they existed they wouldn’t be effective, would they? ¶ Even though the book aims to debunk specific theories – as far as i can tell, the subtext of the entire book is that Conspiracy theory in general belongs to the realm of lunatics. And what is that implying, really? That people aren’t smart or greedy enough to manipulate things secretly? …That it’s impossible to manipulate things secretly?? We split the god-damn the atom! I don’t think it’s out of line to believe someone in the government could cover up a money trail connecting him or her to a cell of terrorists. Now I’m not saying I believe 9/11 was an inside job – I actually have no opinion on that and I don’t pretend to be a demolitions expert like every other person in this country… I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING AND NO ONE DOES!!! But these so-called “debunkers” (and yes, some theorists) assume they do. And that line about believing in Conspiracy as a way to cope with a chaotic world cuts both ways – because NOT believing there’s a group of rich influential people acting without empathy on a global level MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER!!! The world is a chaotic place because some nasty people are making it that way!! The issue is one of control – just b/c YOU don’t have it doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t. Someone put all these laws into place, and considering those laws – I don’t trust the people who made them. In a perfect world TMZ would stalk politicians and people from the Forbes 500 list. But if we’re going to use Occam’s razor to analyze behavior then how in the world does it make any sense that believing a global spanning syndicate of criminals secretly controlling our governments would make anyone FEEL BETTER!?!? Hardcore “theorists” don’t strike me as people who are coping with the world at all. As far as the real Illuminati goes – they’re all psychotics in the future using advanced technology (magic) to confuse and bewilder IGNORANT people (that means you.) And they’re doing it just for FUN – because they CAN. Or maybe I’m just yanking your chain. It’s all explained in my blog.

  • http://therulesovlife.blogspot.com/ SE7EN STAR

    Occam’s razor isn’t science! Science, the process that determines truth, usually establishes convoluted and counter-intuitive explanations of reality. Occam’s razor supports fundamentalist creationism (the simplest explanation for our existence being “God” created us wily nilly.) So we’re going to use the premise that “the simplest explanation is usually the right one” to debunk something that is by very design supposed to be convoluted?? Get real. Conspiracies are a fact of life – 9/11 was a conspiracy. Period. The “DEBATE” over 9/11 is if the conspiracy was carried out solely by terrorists or if there was assistance from US. Nixon conspired to wiretap Watergate. B.M. conspired to steal billions from his investors. Big Tobacco conspired to conceal the truth about cigarettes. So lets stop pretending conspiracies are fiction and rational people shouldn’t believe they exist. Furthermore, I subscribe to the cockroach theory that for every conspiracy you discover – there’s a hundred others still hiding comfortably. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO! If you knew they existed they wouldn’t be effective, would they? ¶ Even though the book aims to debunk specific theories – as far as i can tell, the subtext of the entire book is that Conspiracy theory in general belongs to the realm of lunatics. And what is that implying, really? That people aren’t smart or greedy enough to manipulate things secretly? …That it’s impossible to manipulate things secretly?? We split the god-damn the atom! I don’t think it’s out of line to believe someone in the government could cover up a money trail connecting him or her to a cell of terrorists. Now I’m not saying I believe 9/11 was an inside job – I actually have no opinion on that and I don’t pretend to be a demolitions expert like every other person in this country… I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING AND NO ONE DOES!!! But these so-called “debunkers” (and yes, some theorists) assume they do. And that line about believing in Conspiracy as a way to cope with a chaotic world cuts both ways – because NOT believing there’s a group of rich influential people acting without empathy on a global level MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER!!! The world is a chaotic place because some nasty people are making it that way!! The issue is one of control – just b/c YOU don’t have it doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t. Someone put all these laws into place, and considering those laws – I don’t trust the people who made them. In a perfect world TMZ would stalk politicians and people from the Forbes 500 list. But if we’re going to use Occam’s razor to analyze behavior then how in the world does it make any sense that believing a global spanning syndicate of criminals secretly controlling our governments would make anyone FEEL BETTER!?!? Hardcore “theorists” don’t strike me as people who are coping with the world at all. As far as the real Illuminati goes – they’re all psychotics in the future using advanced technology (magic) to confuse and bewilder IGNORANT people (that means you.) And they’re doing it just for FUN – because they CAN. Or maybe I’m just yanking your chain. It’s all explained in my blog.

  • http://therulesovlife.blogspot.com/ SE7EN STAR

    Occam's razor isn't science! Science, the process that determines truth, usually establishes convoluted and counter-intuitive explanations of reality. Occam's razor supports fundamentalist creationism (the simplest explanation for our existence being “God” created us wily nilly.) So we're going to use the premise that “the simplest explanation is usually the right one” to debunk something that is by very design supposed to be convoluted?? Get real. Conspiracies are a fact of life – 9/11 was a conspiracy. Period. The “DEBATE” over 9/11 is if the conspiracy was carried out solely by terrorists or if there was assistance from US. Nixon conspired to wiretap Watergate. B.M. conspired to steal billions from his investors. Big Tobacco conspired to conceal the truth about cigarettes. So lets stop pretending conspiracies are fiction and rational people shouldn't believe they exist. Furthermore, I subscribe to the cockroach theory that for every conspiracy you discover – there's a hundred others still hiding comfortably. THAT'S WHAT THEY DO! If you knew they existed they wouldn't be effective, would they? ¶ Even though the book aims to debunk specific theories – as far as i can tell, the subtext of the entire book is that Conspiracy theory in general belongs to the realm of lunatics. And what is that implying, really? That people aren't smart or greedy enough to manipulate things secretly? …That it's impossible to manipulate things secretly?? We split the god-damn the atom! I don't think it's out of line to believe someone in the government could cover up a money trail connecting him or her to a cell of terrorists. Now I'm not saying I believe 9/11 was an inside job – I actually have no opinion on that and I don't pretend to be a demolitions expert like every other person in this country… I DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING AND NO ONE DOES!!! But these so-called “debunkers” (and yes, some theorists) assume they do. And that line about believing in Conspiracy as a way to cope with a chaotic world cuts both ways – because NOT believing there's a group of rich influential people acting without empathy on a global level MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER!!! The world is a chaotic place because some nasty people are making it that way!! The issue is one of control – just b/c YOU don't have it doesn't mean someone else doesn't. Someone put all these laws into place, and considering those laws – I don't trust the people who made them. In a perfect world TMZ would stalk politicians and people from the Forbes 500 list. But if we're going to use Occam's razor to analyze behavior then how in the world does it make any sense that believing a global spanning syndicate of criminals secretly controlling our governments would make anyone FEEL BETTER!?!? Hardcore “theorists” don't strike me as people who are coping with the world at all. As far as the real Illuminati goes – they're all psychotics in the future using advanced technology (magic) to confuse and bewilder IGNORANT people (that means you.) And they're doing it just for FUN – because they CAN. Or maybe I'm just yanking your chain. It's all explained in my blog.

  • Dan

    Occam’s razor is often misused, and is misused in this article. It means that if the facts fit and support two or more possibilities, then the possibility that makes the least assumptions is correct. You cant use Occam’s Razor to ignore the facts and pick out a simplistic story that you like.

    Since you wanted to bring up the pentagon, we can rule out a Boeing 757. The hole is too small, and there is no evidence of the engines hitting the sides of the pentagon either. Plus, there was no wreckage of planes, and if the bodies of the passengers were burnt to a crisp, then it should be impossible to determine the dna of the passengers (to add, how would the government have a dna database of civilians? The only way they they should have their DNA on record is if they commited a crime, and even then it is very difficult to get that data transfered between the police between state lines).

  • Dan

    Occam’s razor is often misused, and is misused in this article. It means that if the facts fit and support two or more possibilities, then the possibility that makes the least assumptions is correct. You cant use Occam’s Razor to ignore the facts and pick out a simplistic story that you like.

    Since you wanted to bring up the pentagon, we can rule out a Boeing 757. The hole is too small, and there is no evidence of the engines hitting the sides of the pentagon either. Plus, there was no wreckage of planes, and if the bodies of the passengers were burnt to a crisp, then it should be impossible to determine the dna of the passengers (to add, how would the government have a dna database of civilians? The only way they they should have their DNA on record is if they commited a crime, and even then it is very difficult to get that data transfered between the police between state lines).