Maybe We’re All Conspiracy Theorists

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Matt Ridley for the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic magazine, has never received so many angry letters as when he wrote a column for Scientific American debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Mr. Shermer found himself vilified, often in CAPITAL LETTERS, as a patsy of the sinister Zionist cabal that deliberately destroyed the twin towers and blew a hole in the Pentagon while secretly killing off the passengers of the flights that disappeared, just to make the thing look more plausible.

He tells this story in his fascinating new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance — the better to make sense of the world. Then, having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.

This is why, on the foundation of some tiny flaw in the evidence — the supposed lack of roof holes to admit poison-gas cans in one of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers for Holocaust deniers, the expectant faces on the grassy knoll for JFK plotters, the melting point of steel for 9/11 truthers — we go on to build a great edifice of mistaken conviction.

I say “we” because, after reading Mr. Shermer’s book and others like it, my uneasy conclusion is that we all do this, even when we think we do not. It’s not a peculiarity of the uneducated or the fanatical. We do it in our political allegiances, in our religious faith, even in our championing of scientific theories. And if we all do it, then how do we know that our own rational rejections of conspiracy theories are not themselves infected with beliefs so strong that they are, in effect, conspiracy theories, too?

There was a time, when I was younger, when I was confident that I knew how to tell a barmy belief from a rational deduction. I have lost some of that confidence…

[continues at the Wall Street Journal]

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  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    I’ve read Shermer and can appreciate what he has to say.

    Much of it is useful. Some of it’s just picking on retarded kids, though.

    He, like all of us, definitely suffers from his own set of beliefs.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    I’ve read Shermer and can appreciate what he has to say.

    Much of it is useful. Some of it’s just picking on retarded kids, though.

    He, like all of us, definitely suffers from his own set of beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    Shermer is the biggest asshole alive today, prolly because he made his living ‘explaining away’ any view that was unpopular enough to draw self-righteous readers. Vaccines are harmless and prevent disease, GMO foods are the only ‘sensible’ solution to the ‘food problem’, 6,000,000.00 jews were killed during the holocaust, JFK RFK MLK and 9/11 were random surprises. Disagree? You’re just ‘finding pattern where none exists’.

  • JoiquimCouteau

    Shermer is the biggest asshole alive today, prolly because he made his living ‘explaining away’ any view that was unpopular enough to draw self-righteous readers. Vaccines are harmless and prevent disease, GMO foods are the only ‘sensible’ solution to the ‘food problem’, 6,000,000.00 jews were killed during the holocaust, JFK RFK MLK and 9/11 were random surprises. Disagree? You’re just ‘finding pattern where none exists’.

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about Shermer.

      We’re all friends here, no need to hold back.  ;)

      • JoiquimCouteau

        Did I not do that?

    • Tuna Ghost

      Does the fact that he’s right about almost all of those make a difference?  ….Probably not, actually.  I’m right about a lot of stuff, and it doesn’t stop me from being an asshole.  In fact, it probably encourages it.  

      • JoiquimCouteau

        No, but the fact that he’s wrong about them does.

        • Tuna Ghost

          Hmm.  GMO foods are a sensible way to handle food shortage in overpopulated countries that don’t have many other options (GM rice that can grow much faster than normal rice has staved off major famines in many countries on a number of occasions), vaccines do prevent diseases, and while “harmless” may be not 100% accurate there is absolutely no evidence they cause autism or anything of the sort, 6,000,000 is as accurate a number as any to describe the jews killed by the Nazis from 1937 to 1945.  Which of these do you have problems with?  

          As for the assassinations, well, obviously they didn’t come as a surprise to whomever planned and executed them.  9/11 wasn’t a surprise, especially given that the CIA warned the Bush administration that there was a terror plot in the works involving commercial jets and NYC.  The US just doesn’t give a shit about terror attacks, especially ones that will give them enormous political leverage.  

          • Honu

            Hi Tuna

            The gm debate is hardly closed so your position that it does nothing but good is over reach.  Perhaps it’s staved off famines but aside from the philosophical debate about the ethics of mutating genetic material and the implications, there’s economic (businesses like Monsanto trying to corner the market on food production) and documented health concerns with gm products.  It makes more sense to promote local farming and smaller scale gardens for food production than rely on gm products.

            And 9-11…..nah, won’t go there…we’ve had enough of that go ’round.

          • Tuna Ghost

            You’re correct in that the GMO debate is hardly a simple one, I’ll cop to the charge of casting it in too-stark terms.  But the vaccines and holocaust numbers are not only mistaken, but can and do damage people’s lives.  

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      What can I say, man…we live in a country where a kid who grew up playing with and hanging out with the Bush family…put a bullet in the chest of President Reagan…nearly putting George the First into the Oval Office a few years early…and all we talk about is the movie Taxi Driver.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about Shermer.

    We’re all friends here, no need to hold back.  ;)

  • Tuna Ghost

    Does the fact that he’s right about almost all of those make a difference?  ….Probably not, actually.  I’m right about a lot of stuff, and it doesn’t stop me from being an asshole.  In fact, it probably encourages it.  

  • Tuna Ghost

    Hmm this is the latest in a number of articles that espouse the mainstream opinion on 9/11.  WHAT’S GOING ON HERE

  • Tuna Ghost

    Hmm this is the latest in a number of articles that espouse the mainstream opinion on 9/11.  WHAT’S GOING ON HERE

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      Shit like this is going on.

      • Tuna Ghost

        One has to wonder why, if it was an inside job, the perpetrators didn’t leave evidence pointing to Iraq since the US wanted to invade it so badly.  Why leave evidence that points to the Saudis, our “friends”, evidence that US went to great pains to hush up and try to ignore?  

        • Anarchy Pony

          They invaded Iraq just fine without it didn’t they? And during the build up they convinced a significant portion of the US populace that Iraq was involved somehow.

        • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

          You as a debunker of sorts(and many others as conspiracy espousers) are assuming that the ‘inside’ part of the job was bringing the event into being in the first place…rather than merely making the after-fact choice to exploit it and rewrite it to suit familiar short term interests for a clique of people with serious clout and a vested interest in long term military involvement.

          In a question of people’s perceptions…how badly would it change our national dynamic if the consensus was that Saudi extremists, backed by Saudi donations, led by a Saudi from a wealthy family, attacked the US and murdered 3000 civilians? Would the flow of opinion against Saudi Arabia by sufficient to drive public demand for a change in our relationship as countries even at the cost of countless billions in regular trade? Would it further damage our regional plans to discover that extremists in Pakistani ISI acted covertly to funnel cash to said Saudi extremists? Are the relationships we have and have had with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and others important enough to certain folks that it would be worth rewriting the events and spinning them as the brainchild of some other nations? Is the refusal to follow key pieces of evidence more a matter of preventing backlash against favored long term ‘allies’?

          Occam’s Razor would suggest leaving aside the less likely in favor of the most plausible…until the truth is arrived at by default. So if you asked me “Did Mossad bomb the buildings to get America into Iraq and eventually Iran by making them seek revenge against Islam?” or “Did the Shrub, Rummy and Darth Cheney plan an attack on their own country?” I would call it extremely unlikely. But if you asked “Would they manipulate information to preserve valuable financial relationships and shift opinion toward a private, long held goal that used to be unsalable but can now be repackaged as vengeance?” 

          If you asked that…I’d say “Hole in one, champ.”

          • http://hitormiss.yolasite.com/hit-or-miss.php Trixie

            You say: But if you asked “Would they manipulate information to preserve valuable financial relationships and shift opinion toward a private, long held goal that used to be unsalable but can now be repackaged as vengeance?” 
            Is this a conspiracy theory? Isn’t that accepted as fact these days? It’s the same with the current economic crisis. We all know Wall Street and banks destroyed the global economy. And while we all focused on the $700B bailout, the true cost is $12.8T (yes, that’s Trillion) when you factor in loans, guarantees, and buybacks from the FedRes/Tsy (things that don’t have to go through Congress). And when Bloomberg sues the Fed under FOIA regarding the $12.8T, the Fed simply says ‘no’. Apparently that is “information” the public (taxpayers) shouldn’t be privy to. And no one in the MSM covers it.

            And like 9/11, this story gets repackaged, blaming teachers/nurses/street cleaners and programs like SS/Medicare as the sole source of our economic woes. Our attention gets diverted and we turn against each other. We can afford $12.8T in bank bailouts now, but when SS falls short by $1T in 25 years, we damn well better act NOW. Because you know, “we’re broke”.

            Did the government and Wall Street conspire to crash the global economy? No. Are they hiding information and using the 2008 financial crisis to dismantle New Deal programs and workers’ rights, things would otherwise never be on the chopping block? Hell yes.

        • Landy Man73

          It was an inside job and a very complex one almost as complex as the JFK conspiracy. If, in carrying out the act the perpetrators leave false trails and smoke all over the place whilst holding back information, it leaves those theorists trying to get to the bottom of it a very difficult task. Meanwhile the perpetrators can carry on with the multi-pronged planned actions to bring about their goal(s). I note from previous threads TG you put forward strong eloquent counter arguments on these subjects. I’m not trying to convince you, I’m telling you what my instincts, feelings and some research has led me to believe. There are still so many questions to be answered from a theorists POV like some of the phone calls from hi-jacked aircraft that day. But overwhelmingly it is almost as if the perpetrators were not that bothered on how well the false flag was organised, knowing that the shock and awe plus a mainstream media all selling the same viewpoint would win the day. Which it did, the wars are still trotting along nicely Iran, Pakistan, Syria are in the pipeline and a couple of South American adventures are just around the corner. Who profited most from 9-11? I’m pretty sure I know. It was not me or the American, Afghan and Iraqi peoples.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Debunking a specific opposing theory is fine…but it doesn’t do anything to make the ‘approved’ version of events any more plausible. Example: the grassy knoll could not have hidden a shooter. Okay…cool…I’m with you…but the window in the book depository from which a rifle was supposedly fired several times in quick succession…doesn’t even allow a view of the spot where the car was located when the bullets hit…so debunking the grassy knoll is great…but it still can’t make the magic bullet theory any less laughable or make a location with no line of sight an actual firing position for the shooter(s).

    Likewise 9/11…you can select a few of the most extreme viewpoints and easily punch holes in them. Great…they’re flawed and you’ve proven it…yay…but the 9/11 Commission Report is damned by even a few of its own authors for its lack of coverage on very relevant issues…and doubt remains precisely because the ‘approved’ version of events is so abysmally inadequate that most people with an urge to ask questions immediately notice the lack of answers.

    Are we all conspiracy theorists because we seek meaning in the seemingly random? Perhaps…but equally plausible is that the rational mind of a person who desires peace calm and order…will gear itself to find any means to preserve that peace calm and order until forced to do otherwise. The cuckold who tolerates the ‘gardener’s’ afternoon walks with the lady of the house…because saying “She’s fucking someone else!” would force action and unpleasantness. The dad who shrugs mildly when his son only shows interest in ice skating, cheerleading, and modern dance (and whose bedroom wall is plastered with sexy guys instead of girls…except for Judy Garland)…because saying “My child is not just gay…but flaming.” is too horrible to cope with easily.

    People do seek patterns that aren’t necessarily accurate from data that isn’t actually conclusive…and that trait cuts both ways. It allows a person to perceive what does not actually exist…because they want to see it…and it likewise allows another person to refuse to observe what could be made certain…because he desperately desires it to not be certain.

    9/11 is all things to all people…a black mirror held up to our individual worldviews. The Christian Dominionist sees the end times struggle between satanic islamists and godly christians…the neo-con sees the unenlightened barbarians lashing out against the corporations that desire ingress into every nation and lifestyle…the anti-Semite sees the hand of Zionists everywhere…the anti establishment character sees the establishment hip deep in the evil deed. Etc etc ad infinitum. 

    And at the end of the day I still hold to the same tack I took immediately afterwards: if there’s nothing to hide…turn over the confiscated tapes and pertinent documents…and give serious explanations for the leads that weren’t followed up. It’s been ten years…releasing most of the information will not hamper any investigation…and more relevant than ‘how’ it happened is ‘what’ was allowed to happen afterwards. In large part due to the alternating hysterical breast beating and sniveling cowardice…the US did away with the last vestiges of restraints on search and seizure, privacy, due process and more. Then…to top it off…we managed to invade the only places that our supposed foe couldn’t be found…and give away enough combined loot to solve our deficit issues overnight if we could take it all back today. A cabinet made up of neo-cons who begged to invade and occupy Iraq  back in 91…suddenly find justification for same a decade later because…a group made up almost entirely of Saudi men allegedly committed an act of terror against the US…and there are still people who buy the rationale for all this…

    …and a lot of those people…take the WSJ seriously…but probably shouldn’t be considered mentally competent enough to qualify for voting status.    

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Debunking a specific opposing theory is fine…but it doesn’t do anything to make the ‘approved’ version of events any more plausible. Example: the grassy knoll could not have hidden a shooter. Okay…cool…I’m with you…but the window in the book depository from which a rifle was supposedly fired several times in quick succession…doesn’t even allow a view of the spot where the car was located when the bullets hit…so debunking the grassy knoll is great…but it still can’t make the magic bullet theory any less laughable or make a location with no line of sight an actual firing position for the shooter(s).

    Likewise 9/11…you can select a few of the most extreme viewpoints and easily punch holes in them. Great…they’re flawed and you’ve proven it…yay…but the 9/11 Commission Report is damned by even a few of its own authors for its lack of coverage on very relevant issues…and doubt remains precisely because the ‘approved’ version of events is so abysmally inadequate that most people with an urge to ask questions immediately notice the lack of answers.

    Are we all conspiracy theorists because we seek meaning in the seemingly random? Perhaps…but equally plausible is that the rational mind of a person who desires peace calm and order…will gear itself to find any means to preserve that peace calm and order until forced to do otherwise. The cuckold who tolerates the ‘gardener’s’ afternoon walks with the lady of the house…because saying “She’s fucking someone else!” would force action and unpleasantness. The dad who shrugs mildly when his son only shows interest in ice skating, cheerleading, and modern dance (and whose bedroom wall is plastered with sexy guys instead of girls…except for Judy Garland)…because saying “My child is not just gay…but flaming.” is too horrible to cope with easily.

    People do seek patterns that aren’t necessarily accurate from data that isn’t actually conclusive…and that trait cuts both ways. It allows a person to perceive what does not actually exist…because they want to see it…and it likewise allows another person to refuse to observe what could be made certain…because he desperately desires it to not be certain.

    9/11 is all things to all people…a black mirror held up to our individual worldviews. The Christian Dominionist sees the end times struggle between satanic islamists and godly christians…the neo-con sees the unenlightened barbarians lashing out against the corporations that desire ingress into every nation and lifestyle…the anti-Semite sees the hand of Zionists everywhere…the anti establishment character sees the establishment hip deep in the evil deed. Etc etc ad infinitum. 

    And at the end of the day I still hold to the same tack I took immediately afterwards: if there’s nothing to hide…turn over the confiscated tapes and pertinent documents…and give serious explanations for the leads that weren’t followed up. It’s been ten years…releasing most of the information will not hamper any investigation…and more relevant than ‘how’ it happened is ‘what’ was allowed to happen afterwards. In large part due to the alternating hysterical breast beating and sniveling cowardice…the US did away with the last vestiges of restraints on search and seizure, privacy, due process and more. Then…to top it off…we managed to invade the only places that our supposed foe couldn’t be found…and give away enough combined loot to solve our deficit issues overnight if we could take it all back today. A cabinet made up of neo-cons who begged to invade and occupy Iraq  back in 91…suddenly find justification for same a decade later because…a group made up almost entirely of Saudi men allegedly committed an act of terror against the US…and there are still people who buy the rationale for all this…

    …and a lot of those people…take the WSJ seriously…but probably shouldn’t be considered mentally competent enough to qualify for voting status.    

    • Alis

      I just got a completely heterosexual hard-on for you after reading this, Vox.

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        That’s okay dude…’bro-ners’ are 100% socially acceptable occurances.

    • Nuggett

      Who has time to read this comment when college football is on?   *goes back to hypnotic state*

    • Mastermx

      Awesome post. Completely agree, it’s just a shame that Shermer is falling for the same dogmatic ideology as the people he accuses. Just as RAW said, once dogma enters the brain, all logic dies.

      Ironically Shermer just fuels further conspiracy theories, it would be to easy to accuse him of working for the government. 

      • ….

        thus proving his point

    • Yith

      Debunking a specific opposing theory is fine…but it doesn’t do anything to make the ‘approved’ version of events any more plausible. Example: the grassy knoll could not have hidden a shooter. Okay…cool…I’m with you…but the window in the book depository from which a rifle was supposedly fired several times in quick succession…doesn’t even allow a view of the spot where the car was located when the bullets hit…so debunking the grassy knoll is great…but it still can’t make the magic bullet theory any less laughable or make a location with no line of sight an actual firing position for the shooter(s).

      And yet, the `approved’ version of JFK, as you might call it, hasn’t been debunked, and is currently the best theory in that it is consistent with the evidence.

      Likewise 9/11…you can select a few of the most extreme viewpoints and easily punch holes in them. Great…they’re flawed and you’ve proven it…yay…but the 9/11 Commission Report is damned by even a few of its own authors for its lack of coverage on very relevant issues…and doubt remains precisely because the ‘approved’ version of events is so abysmally inadequate that most people with an urge to ask questions immediately notice the lack of answers.

      Would you include the “WTC7’s collapse was a controlled demolition” among the “most extreme… flawed and you’ve proven it.”?  Careful! — answering `yes’ might damage your rapport with people on here who believe in it.  

      And about the 9/11 Commission Report being damned:   Well, yes, there are lots of unanswered questions.  But that’s not what this is about.  This — Shermer’s work — is about belief in conspiracy theories.  And, the incompleteness of The Report, and people’s natural urge to seek answers, doesn’t absolve them of creating and aggressively promoting conspiracy theories; and I’m not accusing you of implying that… I’m just saying…

      ..

      I don’t subscribe to Shermer’s ideas about conspiracy theories.  I don’t think belief in them is a passive activity, where people continually seek meaning and pattern, and then fool themselves.  Rather, I think it is more like this (somewhat like Jonathan Kay’s analysis):  you have a group of leaders, many of whom treat 9/11 like a giant puzzle to which they apply their considerable analytical skills.  Some do it just out of curiosity; some are deeply troubled by the lack of answers provided by the government; and some just want the world to be deeper than it really is, baroque and with layers of intrigue.  These individuals marshal their facts and assemble their explanations with monomaniacal focus, and lose all sense of proportion — “thousands of CIA agents drilled holes in the columns of WTC-7 to plan a controlled demolition… Well, why not?”  They write books; they make films; they lecture; they appear on TV; they organize people… and the word gets out… and amplified by people like Alex Jones.  The people who pick it up are those who WANT to believe in something like it:  they are soldiers who fought in a pointless war, who want answers; they are college kids or counterculture-types looking for a cause to fight for; they are anti-government, anti-establishment types who always believed government was evil to the core; and many others.  I don’t see Shermer’s patternicity and agenticity in much of this — I see puzzles and resonances.       

      And at the end of the day I still hold to the same tack I took immediately afterwards: if there’s nothing to hide…turn over the confiscated tapes and pertinent documents…and give serious explanations for the leads that weren’t followed up. It’s been ten years…releasing most of the information will not hamper any investigation…and more relevant than ‘how’ it happened is ‘what’ was allowed to happen afterwards. In large part due to the alternating hysterical breast beating and sniveling cowardice…the US did away with the last vestiges of restraints on search and seizure, privacy, due process and more. Then…to top it off…we managed to invade the only places that our supposed foe couldn’t be found…and give away enough combined loot to solve our deficit issues overnight if we could take it all back today. A cabinet made up of neo-cons who begged to invade and occupy Iraq  back in 91…suddenly find justification for same a decade later because…a group made up almost entirely of Saudi men allegedly committed an act of terror against the US…and there are still people who buy the rationale for all this…

      …and a lot of those people…take the WSJ seriously…but probably shouldn’t be considered mentally competent enough to qualify for voting status. 

      There’s where we agree.

    • sonicbphuct

      99.999% impressed with this comment – very well reasoned. However, “…the anti-Semite sees the hand of Zionists everywhere”, I’m not sure Zionist is interchangeable with “Semitic Ethnicity” anymore than the aforementioned “Christian Dominionist” is interchangeable with “those professing a belief in the teachings reportedly by a man called Jesus” (that’s a long unhyphenated adjective because I know of no “ethnic” Christians). The Rabbis that oppose a “Zionist State” are not anti-Semitic.

      Other than that – spot on. I always have to laugh when people are “debunking the conspiracy theory” that is 9/11. As far as I can tell there’s ONLY conspiracy theories offered on all sides – The ‘official’ “19 hi-jackers for al-queda” conspiracy theory, and the others. [i like to paraphrase] debunking one theory does not “prove” another.

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        No worries mate , when I wrote that sentence…you have to think of anti-Semite screeds…When an anti-Semite goes on a Jewish hate screed…they ALWAYS include ‘Zionism’ in there somewhere. I don’t personally associate the one as synonymous with the other…but as a general rule…the whackjobs online always do.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    What can I say, man…we live in a country where a kid who grew up playing with and hanging out with the Bush family…put a bullet in the chest of President Reagan…nearly putting George the First into the Oval Office a few years early…and all we talk about is the movie Taxi Driver.

  • Andrew

    Everything’s a conspiracy, and we’re all in on it.

  • Andrew

    Everything’s a conspiracy, and we’re all in on it.

    • Anarchy Pony

      More or less. Everybody has a conspiratorial agenda in one way or another.

  • Anonymous

    No, but the fact that he’s wrong about them does.

  • Anonymous

    Did I not do that?

  • Tuna Ghost

    Hmm.  GMO foods are a sensible way to handle food shortage in overpopulated countries that don’t have many other options (GM rice that can grow much faster than normal rice has staved off major famines in many countries on a number of occasions), vaccines do prevent diseases, and while “harmless” may be not 100% accurate there is absolutely no evidence they cause autism or anything of the sort, 6,000,000 is as accurate a number as any to describe the jews killed by the Nazis from 1937 to 1945.  Which of these do you have problems with?  

    As for the assassinations, well, obviously they didn’t come as a surprise to whomever planned and executed them.  9/11 wasn’t a surprise, especially given that the CIA warned the Bush administration that there was a terror plot in the works involving commercial jets and NYC.  The US just doesn’t give a shit about terror attacks, especially ones that will give them enormous political leverage.  

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Shit like this is going on.

  • http://profiles.google.com/adrixshadow adrix shadow

    And so two tools agree with each other that they are both tools.
    And he wonders if the hyperbolic nonsense he accuses other of saying might not be his own hyperbolic nonsense.
    Which it is since his head is so far up his ass he can only speak in bullshit.

  • http://profiles.google.com/adrixshadow adrix shadow

    And so two tools agree with each other that they are both tools.
    And he wonders if the hyperbolic nonsense he accuses other of saying might not be his own hyperbolic nonsense.
    Which it is since his head is so far up his ass he can only speak in bullshit.

  • Alis

    I just got a completely heterosexual hard-on for you after reading this, Vox.

  • Alis

    I just got a completely heterosexual hard-on for you after reading this, Vox.

  • Tuna Ghost

    One has to wonder why, if it was an inside job, the perpetrators didn’t leave evidence pointing to Iraq since the US wanted to invade it so badly.  Why leave evidence that points to the Saudis, our “friends”, evidence that US went to great pains to hush up and try to ignore?  

  • Guest

    I don,t believe in conspiracy theories, except on the ones that are true
    I wonder if they already have a credible explanation for what happened to building Nº7 in the WTC…do they?

  • Guest

    I don,t believe in conspiracy theories, except on the ones that are true
    I wonder if they already have a credible explanation for what happened to building Nº7 in the WTC…do they?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    That’s okay dude…’bro-ners’ are 100% socially acceptable occurances.

  • Wanooski

    They invaded Iraq just fine without it didn’t they? And during the build up they convinced a significant portion of the US populace that Iraq was involved somehow.

  • Wanooski

    They invaded Iraq just fine without it didn’t they? And during the build up they convinced a significant portion of the US populace that Iraq was involved somehow.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    You as a debunker of sorts(and many others as conspiracy espousers) are assuming that the ‘inside’ part of the job was bringing the event into being in the first place…rather than merely making the after-fact choice to exploit it and rewrite it to suit familiar short term interests for a clique of people with serious clout and a vested interest in long term military involvement.

    In a question of people’s perceptions…how badly would it change our national dynamic if the consensus was that Saudi extremists, backed by Saudi donations, led by a Saudi from a wealthy family, attacked the US and murdered 3000 civilians? Would the flow of opinion against Saudi Arabia by sufficient to drive public demand for a change in our relationship as countries even at the cost of countless billions in regular trade? Would it further damage our regional plans to discover that extremists in Pakistani ISI acted covertly to funnel cash to said Saudi extremists? Are the relationships we have and have had with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and others important enough to certain folks that it would be worth rewriting the events and spinning them as the brainchild of some other nations? Is the refusal to follow key pieces of evidence more a matter of preventing backlash against favored long term ‘allies’?

    Occam’s Razor would suggest leaving aside the less likely in favor of the most plausible…until the truth is arrived at by default. So if you asked me “Did Mossad bomb the buildings to get America into Iraq and eventually Iran by making them seek revenge against Islam?” or “Did the Shrub, Rummy and Darth Cheney plan an attack on their own country?” I would call it extremely unlikely. But if you asked “Would they manipulate information to preserve valuable financial relationships and shift opinion toward a private, long held goal that used to be unsalable but can now be repackaged as vengeance?” 

    If you asked that…I’d say “Hole in one, champ.”

  • Wanooski

    More or less. Everybody has a conspiratorial agenda in one way or another.

  • Okarin

    if there is no conspiracy i find it odd that incompetent leaders never made things consistently worse for themselves

  • Okarin

    if there is no conspiracy i find it odd that incompetent leaders never made things consistently worse for themselves

  • Jacob Newton

    LOL.  Thats all.  Seriously LOL.  People are so boxed in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheJakeyl Jacob Newton

    LOL.  Thats all.  Seriously LOL.  People are so boxed in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheJakeyl Jacob Newton

    LOL.  Thats all.  Seriously LOL.  People are so boxed in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheJakeyl Jacob Newton

    LOL.  Thats all.  Seriously LOL.  People are so boxed in.

  • Honu

    Hi Tuna

    The gm debate is hardly closed so your position that it does nothing but good is over reach.  Perhaps it’s staved off famines but aside from the philosophical debate about the ethics of mutating genetic material and the implications, there’s economic (businesses like Monsanto trying to corner the market on food production) and documented health concerns with gm products.  It makes more sense to promote local farming and smaller scale gardens for food production than rely on gm products.

    And 9-11…..nah, won’t go there…we’ve had enough of that go ’round.

  • Nuggett

    Who has time to read this comment when college football is on?   *goes back to hypnotic state*

  • Anonymous

    You say: But if you asked “Would they manipulate information to preserve valuable financial relationships and shift opinion toward a private, long held goal that used to be unsalable but can now be repackaged as vengeance?” 
    Is this a conspiracy theory? Isn’t that accepted as fact these days? It’s the same with the current economic crisis. We all know Wall Street and banks destroyed the global economy. And while we all focused on the $700B bailout, the true cost is $12.8T when you factor in loans, guarantees, and buybacks from the FedRes/Tsy (things that don’t have to go through Congress). And when Bloomberg sues the Fed under FOIA regarding the $12.8T, the Fed simply says ‘no’. Apparently that is “information” the public (taxpayers) shouldn’t be privy to. And no one in the MSM covers it.

    And like 9/11, this story gets repackaged, blaming teachers/nurses/street cleaners and programs like SS/Medicare as the sole source of our economic woes. Our attention gets diverted and we turn against each other. We can afford $12.8T in bank bailouts now, but when SS falls short by $1T in 25 years, we damn well better act NOW. Because you know, “we’re broke”.

    Did the government and Wall Street conspire to crash the global economy? No. Are they hiding information and using the 2008 financial crisis to dismantle New Deal programs and workers’ rights, things would otherwise never be on the chopping block? Hell yes. 

  • Mastermx

    Awesome post. Completely agree, it’s just a shame that Shermer is falling for the same dogmatic ideology as the people he accuses. Just as RAW said, once dogma enters the brain, all logic dies.

    Ironically Shermer just fuels further conspiracy theories, it would be to easy to accuse him of working for the government. 

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Majestic is a troll

    Maybe Majestic is a disinformation agent

  • reubenavery

    Maybe Majestic is a troll

    Maybe Majestic is a disinformation agent

  • Landy Man73

    It was an inside job and a very complex one almost as complex as the JFK conspiracy. If, in carrying out the act the perpetrators leave false trails and smoke all over the place whilst holding back information, it leaves those theorists trying to get to the bottom of it a very difficult task. Meanwhile the perpetrators can carry on with the multi-pronged planned actions to bring about their goal(s). I note from previous threads TG you put forward strong eloquent counter arguments on these subjects. I’m not trying to convince you, I’m telling you what my instincts, feelings and some research has led me to believe. There are still so many questions to be answered from a theorists POV like some of the phone calls from hi-jacked aircraft that day. But overwhelmingly it is almost as if the perpetrators were not that bothered on how well the false flag was organised, knowing that the shock and awe plus a mainstream media all selling the same viewpoint would win the day. Which it did, the wars are still trotting along nicely Iran, Pakistan, Syria are in the pipeline and a couple of South American adventures are just around the corner. Who profited most from 9-11? I’m pretty sure I know. It was not me or the American, Afghan and Iraqi peoples.

  • http://strictlyapathy.comoj.com/ SoulArbiter

    So long as people have opinions and the Internet to publish them, everyone has the potential to be a conspiracy theorist.

  • http://strictlyapathy.comoj.com SoulArbiter

    So long as people have opinions and the Internet to publish them, everyone has the potential to be a conspiracy theorist.

  • Yith

    Some of it’s just picking on retarded kids, though.

    This is probably true of how some skeptics treat truthers, say.  But I think what’s really going on is that they (we) say to themselves (ourselves), “Ya know… those people aren’t so bad.  Perhaps under different circumstances we could have been just like them.  We like the people.  We want to talk to the people.  But the people repel.  They repeat the same asinine theories over and over and over again, no matter how many times they are confronted with facts and solid arguments.” (I’m sure truthers would think the same of skeptics.)

    He, like all of us, definitely suffers from his own set of beliefs.

    A serious mistake that Shermer makes is in misperceiving those he accuses of being denialists or conspiracy theorists.  His characterizations of what they believe and who they are, are often too blunt and ultimately inaccurate… which sometimes makes him an easy target when he gives convocations.  Someone who has what I consider to be a far more nuanced approach is Jonathan Kay… at least as far as getting at the psychology of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. 

    • Yith

      strange… I had intended this to be a response to something zenc had written, but it was not posted under his/her comment.

      • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

        No prob.. I found it anyhow. 

  • Yith

    Some of it’s just picking on retarded kids, though.

    This is probably true of how some skeptics treat truthers, say.  But I think what’s really going on is that they (we) say to themselves (ourselves), “Ya know… those people aren’t so bad.  Perhaps under different circumstances we could have been just like them.  We like the people.  We want to talk to the people.  But the people repel.  They repeat the same asinine theories over and over and over again, no matter how many times they are confronted with facts and solid arguments.” (I’m sure truthers would think the same of skeptics.)

    He, like all of us, definitely suffers from his own set of beliefs.

    A serious mistake that Shermer makes is in misperceiving those he accuses of being denialists or conspiracy theorists.  His characterizations of what they believe and who they are, are often too blunt and ultimately inaccurate… which sometimes makes him an easy target when he gives convocations.  Someone who has what I consider to be a far more nuanced approach is Jonathan Kay… at least as far as getting at the psychology of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. 

  • Yith

    strange… I had intended this to be a response to something zenc had written, but it was not posted under his/her comment.

  • Frankensteinmoneymac

    Although I’m much more skeptical than in my youth….I can’t fully identify with those who call themselves “Skeptics” for the same reasons outlined in this article…..they always default to a skeptical position, because they see that as a position of strength, and proof of their intellectual superiority. Generally it is a fairly good bet to be skeptical…but occasionally otherwise ‘safe’ bets don’t pay off, and the odds turn on you. Anyone who always takes the same side  in an argument is engaging in a belief system….plain and simple. A true skeptic will be skeptical of always taking a skeptical stance, just as a truly open minded person will always be open to a skeptical viewpoint. 

  • Frankensteinmoneymac

    Although I’m much more skeptical than in my youth….I can’t fully identify with those who call themselves “Skeptics” for the same reasons outlined in this article…..they always default to a skeptical position, because they see that as a position of strength, and proof of their intellectual superiority. Generally it is a fairly good bet to be skeptical…but occasionally otherwise ‘safe’ bets don’t pay off, and the odds turn on you. Anyone who always takes the same side  in an argument is engaging in a belief system….plain and simple. A true skeptic will be skeptical of always taking a skeptical stance, just as a truly open minded person will always be open to a skeptical viewpoint. 

  • Frankensteinmoneymac

    Although I’m much more skeptical than in my youth….I can’t fully identify with those who call themselves “Skeptics” for the same reasons outlined in this article…..they always default to a skeptical position, because they see that as a position of strength, and proof of their intellectual superiority. Generally it is a fairly good bet to be skeptical…but occasionally otherwise ‘safe’ bets don’t pay off, and the odds turn on you. Anyone who always takes the same side  in an argument is engaging in a belief system….plain and simple. A true skeptic will be skeptical of always taking a skeptical stance, just as a truly open minded person will always be open to a skeptical viewpoint. 

  • Toggle

    I will take the word of the well over a 1000 or so professionals whose job it is to design and construct the multi-story buildings that a lot of us work and live in before I will believe somebody like shemer, whose living depends on his being a skeptic.  He has founded a magazine dedicated to being a skeptic.  He’s doing his job.  It’s his job to be an asshole.  The government version of what happened on 9/11 is a shabby fabrication.  Another investigation into 9/11 at this stage may or may not turn up any villains for hanging, but it would be a tonic for all the people who can still recognize truthful facts and who know when somebody is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

  • Toggle

    I will take the word of the well over a 1000 or so professionals whose job it is to design and construct the multi-story buildings that a lot of us work and live in before I will believe somebody like shemer, whose living depends on his being a skeptic.  He has founded a magazine dedicated to being a skeptic.  He’s doing his job.  It’s his job to be an asshole.  The government version of what happened on 9/11 is a shabby fabrication.  Another investigation into 9/11 at this stage may or may not turn up any villains for hanging, but it would be a tonic for all the people who can still recognize truthful facts and who know when somebody is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

  • Yith

    Debunking a specific opposing theory is fine…but it doesn’t do anything to make the ‘approved’ version of events any more plausible. Example: the grassy knoll could not have hidden a shooter. Okay…cool…I’m with you…but the window in the book depository from which a rifle was supposedly fired several times in quick succession…doesn’t even allow a view of the spot where the car was located when the bullets hit…so debunking the grassy knoll is great…but it still can’t make the magic bullet theory any less laughable or make a location with no line of sight an actual firing position for the shooter(s).

    And yet, the `approved’ version of JFK, as you might call it, hasn’t been debunked, and is currently the best theory in that it is consistent with the evidence.

    Likewise 9/11…you can select a few of the most extreme viewpoints and easily punch holes in them. Great…they’re flawed and you’ve proven it…yay…but the 9/11 Commission Report is damned by even a few of its own authors for its lack of coverage on very relevant issues…and doubt remains precisely because the ‘approved’ version of events is so abysmally inadequate that most people with an urge to ask questions immediately notice the lack of answers.

    Would you include the “WTC7’s collapse was a controlled demolition” among the “most extreme… flawed and you’ve proven it.”?  Careful! — answering `yes’ might damage your rapport with people on here who believe in it.  

    And about the 9/11 Commission Report being damned:   Well, yes, there are lots of unanswered questions.  But that’s not what this is about.  This — Shermer’s work — is about belief in conspiracy theories.  And, the incompleteness of The Report, and people’s natural urge to seek answers, doesn’t absolve them of creating and aggressively promoting conspiracy theories; and I’m not accusing you of implying that… I’m just saying…

    ..

    I don’t subscribe to Shermer’s ideas about conspiracy theories.  I don’t think belief in them is a passive activity, where people continually seek meaning and pattern, and then fool themselves.  Rather, I think it is more like this (somewhat like Jonathan Kay’s analysis):  you have a group of leaders, many of whom treat 9/11 like a giant puzzle to which they apply their considerable analytical skills.  Some do it just out of curiosity; some are deeply troubled by the lack of answers provided by the government; and some just want the world to be deeper than it really is, baroque and with layers of intrigue.  These individuals marshal their facts and assemble their explanations with monomaniacal focus, and lose all sense of proportion — “thousands of CIA agents drilled holes in the columns of WTC-7 to plan a controlled demolition… Well, why not?”  They write books; they make films; they lecture; they appear on TV; they organize people… and the word gets out… and amplified by people like Alex Jones.  The people who pick it up are those who WANT to believe in something like it:  they are soldiers who fought in a pointless war, who want answers; they are college kids or counterculture-types looking for a cause to fight for; they are anti-government, anti-establishment types who always believed government was evil to the core; and many others.  I don’t see Shermer’s patternicity and agenticity in much of this — I see puzzles and resonances.       

    And at the end of the day I still hold to the same tack I took immediately afterwards: if there’s nothing to hide…turn over the confiscated tapes and pertinent documents…and give serious explanations for the leads that weren’t followed up. It’s been ten years…releasing most of the information will not hamper any investigation…and more relevant than ‘how’ it happened is ‘what’ was allowed to happen afterwards. In large part due to the alternating hysterical breast beating and sniveling cowardice…the US did away with the last vestiges of restraints on search and seizure, privacy, due process and more. Then…to top it off…we managed to invade the only places that our supposed foe couldn’t be found…and give away enough combined loot to solve our deficit issues overnight if we could take it all back today. A cabinet made up of neo-cons who begged to invade and occupy Iraq  back in 91…suddenly find justification for same a decade later because…a group made up almost entirely of Saudi men allegedly committed an act of terror against the US…and there are still people who buy the rationale for all this…

    …and a lot of those people…take the WSJ seriously…but probably shouldn’t be considered mentally competent enough to qualify for voting status. 

    There’s where we agree.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    No prob.. I found it anyhow. 

  • Tuna Ghost

    You’re correct in that the GMO debate is hardly a simple one, I’ll cop to the charge of casting it in too-stark terms.  But the vaccines and holocaust numbers are not only mistaken, but can and do damage people’s lives.  

  • Anonymous

    99.999% impressed with this comment – very well reasoned. However, “…the anti-Semite sees the hand of Zionists everywhere”, I’m not sure Zionist is interchangeable with “Semitic Ethnicity” anymore than the aforementioned “Christian Dominionist” is interchangeable with “those professing a belief in the teachings reportedly by a man called Jesus” (that’s a long unhyphenated adjective because I know of no “ethnic” Christians). The Rabbis that oppose a “Zionist State” are not anti-Semitic.

    Other than that – spot on. I always have to laugh when people are “debunking the conspiracy theory” that is 9/11. As far as I can tell there’s ONLY conspiracy theories offered on all sides – The ‘official’ “19 hi-jackers for al-queda” conspiracy theory, and the others. [i like to paraphrase] debunking one theory does not “prove” another.

  • Anonymous

    99.999% impressed with this comment – very well reasoned. However, “…the anti-Semite sees the hand of Zionists everywhere”, I’m not sure Zionist is interchangeable with “Semitic Ethnicity” anymore than the aforementioned “Christian Dominionist” is interchangeable with “those professing a belief in the teachings reportedly by a man called Jesus” (that’s a long unhyphenated adjective because I know of no “ethnic” Christians). The Rabbis that oppose a “Zionist State” are not anti-Semitic.

    Other than that – spot on. I always have to laugh when people are “debunking the conspiracy theory” that is 9/11. As far as I can tell there’s ONLY conspiracy theories offered on all sides – The ‘official’ “19 hi-jackers for al-queda” conspiracy theory, and the others. [i like to paraphrase] debunking one theory does not “prove” another.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    No worries mate , when I wrote that sentence…you have to think of anti-Semite screeds…When an anti-Semite goes on a Jewish hate screed…they ALWAYS include ‘Zionism’ in there somewhere. I don’t personally associate the one as synonymous with the other…but as a general rule…the whackjobs online always do.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    No worries mate , when I wrote that sentence…you have to think of anti-Semite screeds…When an anti-Semite goes on a Jewish hate screed…they ALWAYS include ‘Zionism’ in there somewhere. I don’t personally associate the one as synonymous with the other…but as a general rule…the whackjobs online always do.

  • Micho_rizo

    “In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see
    patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents
    rather than to chance — the better to make sense of the world. Then,
    having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that
    confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.”

    The irony within that statement is so thick, I can’t stop gagging on it (i.e. Mr. Shermer has formed a belief and has sought evidence out to confirm it, thus reinforcing his belief.).

  • Micho_rizo

    “In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see
    patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents
    rather than to chance — the better to make sense of the world. Then,
    having formed a belief, each of us tends to seek out evidence that
    confirms it, thus reinforcing the belief.”

    The irony within that statement is so thick, I can’t stop gagging on it (i.e. Mr. Shermer has formed a belief and has sought evidence out to confirm it, thus reinforcing his belief.).

  • ….

    thus proving his point

  • Anniejrs

    I just want to hear what is on the four black boxes. 

  • Anniejrs

    I just want to hear what is on the four black boxes. 

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